“She probably had other things to do (such as drilling for Olympics again). And I was neatly dressed (Read, I didn’t look like a hippie.). So, she seemed satisfied with my reply and decided that I was no trouble.”
In the Buenos Aires airport, the immigration agent walked a little too fast and, I tried to match her stride for stride, in vain. Clutching on to my passport, she walked like the airport was the only place where she could go on with preparing for the 50-mile walking competition in the Olympics. I struggled to catch up with her the whole time, even though I, myself, get this all the time when walking: ‘man, slow down!’
I was about to catch my flight to Bolivia in 3 hours, and she could make it or break it. You see, I knew that as an Indian citizen, I could transit through Argentina. What I didn’t know was this: it’s not gonna be a piece of cake.
Calm down, I told myself when I finally reached the security. She gave my passport to the guy inside, and asked me: “ok, show me your return ticket from Bolivia.”
I surely didn’t expect to get this question in Argentina. I went through my documents and fish out the flight ticket that said I would leave from Bolivia to Ecuador in 2 months.
“Ok, so when do you return to India from Ecuador?” She pressed.
Now, that’s the kind of question you would get only if you don’t carry an awesome passport like me or haven’t traveled at all, I presume. Thankfully, I was geared up for this scenario too. As per my flight ticket from Ecuador, I would fly back to India after 5 months, even though I myself didn’t know if that would really happen. I just didn’t have a printout. I could turn on my MacBook, and show it to you, I said.
She probably had other things to do (such as drilling for Olympics again). And I was neatly dressed (Read, I didn’t look like a hippie.). So, she seemed satisfied with my reply and decided that I was no trouble.
WHAT EXACTLY IS THE PROOF OF ONWARD TICKET? AND WHAT IS THE CATCH?
It’s a sore spot in your journey, especially if you are part of the long-term travellers’ club. But it’s for the countries to make sure that you don’t just fly as a tourist, and overstay or immigrate illegally. It does happen, and even though just having an onward ticket doesn’t guarantee the fact that you are not gonna do something like that, it’s their way of telling themselves: “sure thing.”
And, in most cases, rather than taking the responsibility themselves, they pass the ball on the airlines. So, the airlines with which you are flying, could, turn into the bad guy and not let you board the flight if you don’t meet the requirements. If you are in a pickle, and you have to fly, they could force you to buy a return ticket from them, which could end up making a very big hole in your pocket. The reason is, if the airline doesn’t enforce all this, and actually fly you without the onward ticket, and the immigration hawks pick your ass out, that particular airline would be the one to fly you to your country of origin.
The rule sucks because if you are planning to just take buses overland, like I do in South America, you wouldn’t need an onward ticket. The rule sucks if you really don’t know when you go back. It sucks when you are on a budget, and you have to buy the onward ticket just so you are allowed inside.
WHAT ARE THE COUNTRIES THAT NEED IT?
There might be more but some countries that are famous for making more than just a big fuss about it are United States, Brazil, Indonesia, Costa Rica, Peru, Philippines, New Zealand, Thailand, United Kingdom and Panama. Japan and Guatemala are also known to be fussy at times.
WHAT IS THE WAY AROUND?
1. RENT A TICKET WITH Flyonward.com
Using this website, you can rent a real flight ticket with 24-hour validity for 10$ or the one with 48-hour validity for 17$. The ticket will be auto-cancelled after the time limit expires. This option is super cheap and, if the airline wants to look up your reservation online, they will find you. If you use this option, there is no reason for you to be on tenterhooks.
2. BOOK A TICKET WITH schengenvisaflightreservation.com
Even though the title might suggest it could be only for Schengen countries, you can actually rent any ticket for any part of the world through this. For 15$, you would receive your ticket in 24 hours. And, this ticket is authentic and, the airlines website would have a real reservation for you, just like Flyonward.com.
The advantage you have with this one is, the ticket doesn’t get auto-canceled in a stipulated time period. It’s valid until the date of flight. If you book a multi-country flight and plan it well, you can use parts of the same ticket in different countries.
3. BOOK A REFUNDABLE TICKET
There are a number of booking platforms like Orbitz, Expedia that allow you to book a ticket and cancel it within 24 hours for a full refund. So, if you want to save this 10$, and opt to book a refundable ticket, you would have your onward ticket and you can cancel it once you make it to your destination.
Sometimes cancellations can be tricky, especially if you don’t have internet when you arrive at your destination. And, sometimes, depending on your booking, you might not even get the option to cancel it online and you have to make international calls and probably spend quite a bit of time cancelling the flight. One time, this happened to me on Expedia for a 1300$ flight, and boy, did I have my heart in my mouth!
4. COME UP WITH A FAKE TICKET
Now, this option may not always have the happy ending. I have read accounts of people who had tried this, and asked to book real tickets after the ticket they showed turned out to be fake when their reservation was looked up. In principle, this is immigration fraud and it might get you in trouble.
The websites like Returnflights.net or omatic.musicairport.com allow you to book flight tickets that look real. It’s not too hard to edit an old ticket although you must be really careful not to leave out any little detail.
5. USE AIRLINES MILES
If you have piled up a lot of miles, you can use those miles to buy a refundable ticket and cancel it later. Mostof the times, you would have the option to find something that’s refundable.
6. TICABUS IN CENTRAL AMERICA
This international bus service operates in most of the central-american countries, and you can buy a ticket and use it as the proof of onward travel. You can’t buy it online, and it’s not actually that cheap.
There are a lot of cheap airlines, and you could buy a cheap ticket too. But, I personally don’t see a reason why anyone would do this, considering the fact that no flight ticket in the world would probably be less than 10$.
In most cases, they wouldn’t care where you are flying out, as long as you are leaving the country. Of course, I would again emphasize that, if you don’t have the awesome passport and haven’t traveled much, you are probably much better off booking a ticket to your country of origin.
If you are traveling for long, you just have to remember to be a little organized so that you are not in a catch-22.