March 9, 2006

Faux Onward Tickets
Sandy Bay (St. Vincent), St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Immigration control for some nations insist you to show them when and how you'll be leaving their country—an annoyance for many backpackers who intentionally travel without an itinerary.

Proof of onward travel is a safeguard used to keep a host nation from absorbing the deportation costs of a tourist/visitor who has depleted their funds while visiting the country. A simple and reasonable request for most travelers, this requirement can add stress and unnecessary expenses for an independent, budget-conscious backpacker.

Those travel guides that touch on the subject seem to hint (ever so subtly) at buying refundable tickets from a trusted airline, leaving the traveler to reclaim their cash once across the border. This always seemed like an awful headache to me, so I devised a simple alternative that should work most of the time.

Imagine yourself at the Customs and Immigration checkpoint of a typical developing country. There's a queue behind you of more than a dozen people, all waiting to get their entry stamps. These officials don't have access to flight reservation databases, and even if they did, verifying onward travel would only mean that much more work.

A fake onward ticket

What would you want to see if the roles were reversed? Probably just a simple, legitimate-looking piece of paper with your name and flight information on it. There are two quick ways of producing this.

A brief stop into a travel agency can yield you an unpaid reservation/flight itinerary for the airline(s) of your choice. Simply tell the agent that you need to free up some funds (or whatever), and leave the office with an official looking, printed copy of your flight information. Walk back or phone later to cancel it if you're so inclined.

If you don't feel like manipulating a travel agent—which you probably shouldn't—the Internet provides the same opportunity for deceit. Create an account on Expedia and compose your own itinerary. Push ahead with the purchase until you see the credit card field you won't be filling out. Look around for a good screen to print out—just make sure you name's on it someplace.

In this age of electronic tickets, everyone is used to seeing shoddy inkjet printouts of travel arrangements, government officials included. If your ruse doesn't work, apologize for your lack of acceptable paperwork and get ready to for whatever awaits—remember, it's all a part of the adventure!

Update: Expedia.com Creation Tutorial

Fake Expedia ticket

  1. Create an account on Expedia with the name indicated on your passport (note: this single account can be used to create profiles for more than one traveler)
  2. Search for a one way flight that will take you out of the country with the onward travel requirement. Some governments will not accept an onward ticket to a neighboring country as proof of onward travel, while others insist it must return you to your home country—so it's best to pick a destination that's very recognizable (such as Seattle, London, Berlin, Melbourne, etc). A recognizable destination will also aid in the manipulation of the airline/immigration official, as discussed later. Additionally, research the maximum number of days you can be granted upon arrival and push your fictitious departure ticket out to that future date.
  3. Select a flight path that works for you—regardless of the cost. I personally select flights with more connections, as they fill up a printed page with more detail (but don't select the wildly overpriced fares simply because they have more connections).
  4. Agree to the terms and conditions and proceed to the booking/payment screen. This page allows you to review your itinerary before payment, and is what will ultimately be printed out. You won't be entering any credit card information, as you won't actually be purchasing this ticket.
  5. Under the second numbered bullet, entitled "Review the charges," click on the hyperlink labeled "Show Flight details." This will expand the box containing the link, revealing the details of the itinerary you won't be buying.
  6. Check to make sure your name is listed next to the "Traveler name" field, and that the departure date and airports are those desired.
  7. Use the mouse to highlight the section of the page starting with bullet number two, and ending after bullet number three.
  8. Print just the highlighted selection, and only the selection—on a PC this will be an option on printing dialogue box that is displayed before printing. Printing in grayscale (black and white) is recommended. Note: I've found the the Firefox browser needs some tweaking when printing—under Setup, adjust the document to print at 88% (instead of shrinking to fit).
  9. Use a bright highlighter (not yellow, which can be lost under florescent lights) to accentuate the most important areas of the document (such as the traveler name, departure date, departure airport, arrival airport, and the cost of the flight—reinforcing the illusion that you've paid for the ticket). Drawing the eye of the airline/immigration agent to what you want them to look at is a crucial part of this process. It's a subtle manipulation tactic, but very effective.
  10. Finish up by folding up the document and putting it in a pocket before checking in at the airline counter or passing through an immigration checkpoint on the ground. If you're at an airport and have a real printout that you're going to hand to the airline agent, be sure to highlight and store the legitimate document in a similar manner for consistency.

Comments:

carrie

March 21st, 2006

sneaky, sneaky

Jonathan Mahoney

April 6th, 2009

I love it man. This is one of those unknowns I hadn't found information for before but that was always in the back of my head as I'm in there very early, mostly conceptual stages of planning for my trip.

I'm glad I don't have to worry what the solution is for this problem anymore. :)

I somewhat speculated this before when I once got a Brazilian visa in Moscow, reflecting on the fact the my itinerary printout didn't seem very official (straight from GMail), but I didn't have any problems.

Thanks again.

Anonymous

September 17th, 2009

Ah! This is a jewel! This is my key into Colombia!

Awesome! You Rock!

Anonymous

December 8th, 2009

well here is the thing

90% of the time it's not the immigration official that has the issue it's the airline

why? because they can be a subject to pay a hefty fine to the country as it's them who need to follow some rules (they have their own specifications…)

so once an airline will request a ticket before boarding they can verify it in one minute using Amadeus - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amadeus_CRS - which links most airlines to one database and they can look up the info

also check look here http://www.lonelyplanet.com/th.....;#16525258

Sarah

January 13th, 2010

I have been using this technique sucessfully for years, and know others have as well.

I have provided this type of "proof of onward ticket" to both immigration officials (at land crossings) as well as flight attendants when checking in for a flight (showing an "onward ticket" for a different airline). Never had a problem, though I have sometimes been sweating when faced with a determined airline attendant in front of a large computer (WHO KNOWS what they have access to with that thing!)

Well, ammadeus apparently, as Anon has pointed out. But, as mentioned above, this trick has not failed me yet. Is ammadeus very widely used?

I would be interested to hear any stories.

Sarah

January 13th, 2010

P.S…. in response to Anon's assertion that "90% of time it is the airline that has the issue" - well, yes, when travelling by air. I have been told that the airline who allowed you entry on to a flight without proof of onward ticket can later be fined if you don't leave the country (would be interested to hear when/ if that had actually happened).

In any event, Craig's technique will often be used at land border crossings, where in many countries there doesn't even seem to be internet access, so I doubt amadeus would be much of an issue.

(I love all the snarky replies in the Thorn Tree post…posters seem to relish informing the OP that his "vacation will be cancelled" if he tries this trick").

Europe

Wayne

February 28th, 2010

Another trick that I use for my company (that requires proof of hotel res. and airline res before I leave on R&R) which work well is to keep an old copy of another res. I keep a real hotel res or airline res in my email account and when I need one I pull up the old one forward it to myself and just change the dates to match the one I need.

Also on the note of the airlines checking, because I work here in the middle east I am always checked when leaving another country to return to work. They have to fly you back to your country at their cost if you get there and don't have a visa for entry. One my last flight to Sao Paulo the lady next to me was being flown back from Dubai (and the Emirates staff had her passport) because she couldn't get into Dubai.

Greece

Greek

August 6th, 2010

i am in greece and i want to go to the philippines, will this work with the one from expedia or they will fry my ass? :P

thank you in advance

Peru

Craig | travelvice.com

August 7th, 2010

I've used this technique dozens of times: at airports, border crossings and with embassies. My experiences would say 'yes,' it will.

The United States

johnflyer

August 25th, 2010

Brilliant idea, however what is the risk of the airline agent checking the validity of the ticket? Do they have access to a universal reservation system where they can validate the ticket to see if it is legit?

Peru

Craig | travelvice.com

August 25th, 2010

@johnflyer:
If you're outside the USA (as in not flying out of it) I'd say your risk is next to zero.

I thought my goose was cooked when I used this technique at the airport in Panama City when the woman collected my printout and disappeared behind the scenes. She returned later with a smile and a photocopy of the never-purchased Expedia itinerary. No questions asked.

The biggest risk you run is having to purchase a refundable ticket on the spot at the counter if you're flying. Few have the time, manpower, systems or willpower to actually do more than look at your piece of paper and proceed to check you in or allow you to cross into their country (if at an overland border crossing).

These are merely formalities for governments that don't want to foot the bill for deporting visitors that turn penniless on their tourist visa.

Canada

Lars D. K.

August 28th, 2010

Thank you so much for posting this… it'll be a huge relief for my upcoming southeast Asia travels.

The United States

Dayna

March 20th, 2011

I'm headed to London (LHR) in a week or so, and I know you mentioned 'developing' countries… does this strategy also work in Europe? If all else fails I'll just buy a cheap Ryanair ticket and not use it I suppose.

Peru

Craig | travelvice.com

March 20th, 2011

Howdy Dayna. What makes you think you need an onward ticket for Europe?

For what it's worth, yes, this will work. Have yet to hear of a failure. No need to purchase a real ticket.

New Zealand (Aotearoa)

Raf

March 28th, 2011

Im curious, can an embassy actually validate a ticket? i would have thought it was confidential?

Bolivia

Dtailfreek

April 22nd, 2011

Don't they search the document for the reference number which you wont get in this printout?

Peru

Craig | travelvice.com

April 22nd, 2011

You've got to put yourself in their place. Most of the time they want to appear to be doing their jobs without having to do actual work. Presenting them with a piece of paper that looks like you've made an effort to meet entry requirements is enough, and better than the person who comes to their desk with nothing at all.

Thailand

rob

April 24th, 2011

a friend of mine had his faux ticket checked in australia and was returned to kuala lumpur. i think however when visiting less developed countries it wont be as much of an issue

Peru

Craig | travelvice.com

April 24th, 2011

Interesting. Of course, may variables are involved here (appearance of your friend, the competency of his creation, etc).

Note: When flying, it is the airline's responsibility to ensure you've got the proper visa and onward ticket (if necessary) before boarding. Your friend might have been re-screened more intensely for other reasons.

The Netherlands

Flyer11

August 17th, 2011

Just checked the amadeus website. Air Asia is not in their system. I guess it would be safe to show a fake Air Asia ticket.

Pakistan

Tanzeel

July 2nd, 2012

It will be the first time I llbe booking tickets through expedia from Karachi to Kualalumpur - I wont have any problem in bookin procedure and presenting ticket at the airport etc.

: )

Shots & Visas | The Path Less Chosen

Pingback on September 11th, 2011

Shots & Visas | We Go Round the World

Pingback on October 13th, 2011

Note: Comments are open to everyone. To reduce spam and reward regular contributors, only submissions from first-time commenters and/or those containing hyperlinks are moderated, and will appear after approval. Hateful or off-topic remarks are subject to pruning. Your e-mail address will never be publicly disclosed or abused.