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how strict are SE Asian countries and LCCs re: proof of onward travel?

how strict are SE Asian countries and LCCs re: proof of onward travel?

Old Oct 13, 19, 10:18 am
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how strict are SE Asian countries and LCCs re: proof of onward travel?

Iím heading to SE Asia in a few days and planning to visit several countries for the first time. Since I donít know how long Iíll want to stay in any particular city or country until I get there, and since LCCs are so cheap, Iíve been hoping/planning to basically plan as I go.

I have a return flight in J on Finnair (BKK-HEL-JFK), but was hoping to not always have departure flights booked for other countries until after Iíve arrived.

How strict are the countries and LCCs over there when it comes to showing proof of onward travel? Are certain countries and/or LCCs known to be more (or very) strict? If I fly into, e.g., Indonesia or Vietnam or Myanmar and they ask for onward travel, will showing them my ~$1,500 BKK-HEL-JFK ticket likely to be good enough?

Thanks very much.
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Old Oct 13, 19, 10:22 am
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It just depends on the country and airline. Having the return from BKK is likely to solve most potential problems. At worst, buy the cheapest ticket out of a country if you get a hassle.
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Old Oct 13, 19, 11:10 am
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Philippines and Indonesia are known for being strict. AirAsia can be strict especially if you draw the wrong check-in clerk. Your ticket out of BKK is not going to be any help at all in Manila.

Truth is, anywhere anytime can suddenly become a problem so you have to have in mind a back up, keeping in mind that the two countries I mentioned apart, the problem is almost always at check-in.

A lot depends on how you handle it. Sweet-talking the check-in clerk can be effective. If push comes to shove, you can offer to sign an indemnity, in which you agree to bear all expense if there's a problem with immigration on arrival. Not all carriers accept this, though.
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Old Oct 13, 19, 11:10 am
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Originally Posted by joe_miami View Post
Iím heading to SE Asia in a few days and planning to visit several countries for the first time. Since I donít know how long Iíll want to stay in any particular city or country until I get there, and since LCCs are so cheap, Iíve been hoping/planning to basically plan as I go.

I have a return flight in J on Finnair (BKK-HEL-JFK), but was hoping to not always have departure flights booked for other countries until after Iíve arrived.

How strict are the countries and LCCs over there when it comes to showing proof of onward travel? Are certain countries and/or LCCs known to be more (or very) strict? If I fly into, e.g., Indonesia or Vietnam or Myanmar and they ask for onward travel, will showing them my ~$1,500 BKK-HEL-JFK ticket likely to be good enough?

Thanks very much.
If Timatic tells the airline that your destination requires proof of onward travel, then you'll be required to show that proof to the airlinr. Doesnt really matter if its LCC or a legacy carrier: one-way travel spells trouble for them.
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Old Oct 13, 19, 11:26 am
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Originally Posted by IAN-UK View Post
If Timatic tells the airline that your destination requires proof of onward travel, then you'll be required to show that proof to the airlinr. Doesnt really matter if its LCC or a legacy carrier: one-way travel spells trouble for them.
This is what Iím trying to get at: Dozens of countries require proof of onward travel, but enforcement is highly lax here in the Americas. Are people (Americans in particular) routinely asked to show proof of onward travel when hopping around SE Asia? Iíve booked dozens of one-way flights in the Americas over the past decade and Iíve only had proof of onward travel verified one time, when checking in with Copa at CUN for a flight to PTY.

Iíll take note and plan accordingly re: the Philippines and Indonesia. Any other places known to be strict? Thanks.
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Old Oct 13, 19, 1:28 pm
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Originally Posted by joe_miami View Post
This is what I’m trying to get at: Dozens of countries require proof of onward travel, but enforcement is highly lax here in the Americas. Are people (Americans in particular) routinely asked to show proof of onward travel when hopping around SE Asia? I’ve booked dozens of one-way flights in the Americas over the past decade and I’ve only had proof of onward travel verified one time, when checking in with Copa at CUN for a flight to PTY.

I’ll take note and plan accordingly re: the Philippines and Indonesia. Any other places known to be strict? Thanks.
It's got nothing to do with being American. If arrival immigration ask you for proof of onward travel, and you don't have any, you could be refused entry and the carrier that delivered you there would be in hot water. Now, it's unlikely that scenario would develop, but it could: and for that reason the agents of most carriers are instructed to follow rules about documented onward travel if you check in on a one-way ticket.

The man or woman on the desk is unlikely to be able to move from this line, but a supervisor might have the authority to relax the restriction, find a way around it. All in all, a hassle best avoided.

At the end of the day, it's simpler and more effective for carriers to implement a blanket ban on passengers without documented onwards travel plans. Low cost carriers might be more vigilant, more hardline, because of the number of backpacker-type tourists they carry: the types likely to attract the attention of border officials.

You might, in any case want to revisit your plans for ad hoc last minute booking. It can be very expensive. Or, as an alternative, you could consider making a cheap speculative onward booking in advance, then change it (or ditch it and buy a new ticket) if you need another travel date.
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Old Oct 13, 19, 1:34 pm
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The truth on the ground is that it's just not that black and white. Unless you're from a disfavoured country or pretty unlucky, being asked for a ticket out when flying into HK or Singapore or KL say would be rare. Not to say it never happens, so the OP should as I've suggested be prepared with a backup course of action. But you can't paint a true picture in such absolute terms.
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Old Oct 13, 19, 2:08 pm
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Whether you are traveling in F as a high-level elite on a legacy carrier or in steerage on an ULCC, the air carrier personnel look to TIMATIC and you should presume that you will be denied boarding if you do not meet the documentation criteria.

The fact that, if you make it to passport control / immigration control at your destination, that they may be more forgiving is not really relevant.
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Old Oct 13, 19, 2:37 pm
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Thanks for the feedback.

I'll be traveling mostly on Air Asia and will only have a carry-on, so I'll probably have mobile boarding passes most of the time. Does anyone know if checking in on the mobile app for a one-way on Air Asia triggers a b.p. denial and a "see agent" type of thing for a document check? I flew on them last year between SIN and KUL but don't remember if I booked r/t or one-ways, but I'm sure I wasn't asked for proof of onward travel by immigration at either place.

Anyway, I definitely understand the letter of the law here. But just so I'm clear, is proof of onward travel a standard part of arrival immigration in any or all of the following, more like a 50-50 thing, or more a case of only happening if an agent is a stickler or having a bad day?

- Philippines
- Indonesia
- Cambodia
- Vietnam
- Thailand
- Laos
- Myanmar

I won't be visiting all of the above; just trying to cover my bases. With day-before fares often $50 on the LCCs and without knowing if I want to spend one day or six days in, e.g., Luang Prabang, since I've never been to any of these places before, making non-refundable plans seems like a poor idea unless absolutely necessary. In some places, it seems hard to decide on plane vs. bus vs. boat until I'm there and see for myself.

Thanks again to all.
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Old Oct 13, 19, 2:57 pm
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Yes, checking in online with AirAsia can trigger a Document Check requirement: it certainly will if you are travelling to a country which requires a visa for your nationality, which is what they seem to be usually looking for, in my experience.
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Old Oct 13, 19, 3:03 pm
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Thanks. I have, or will have, the visa situation covered for the four countries in the list that require Americans to have a visa.
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Old Oct 13, 19, 3:12 pm
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You'll note the three places I specifically mentioned as usually no problem are ones that don't require visas for Americans and which have very active land borders where vast numbers cross each day with no questions asked as to "ticket out."
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Old Oct 13, 19, 4:10 pm
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Originally Posted by 889 View Post
You'll note the three places I specifically mentioned as usually no problem are ones that don't require visas for Americans and which have very active land borders where vast numbers cross each day with no questions asked as to "ticket out."
Right, it makes sense that island countries would be tougher. Planning ahead shouldn't be too hard for the Philippines, Brunei, and/or Indonesia, none of which I plan to visit for more than a few days (if I go at all), but I'm hoping to have more flexibility with Cambodia, Vietnam, etc. Thanks.
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Old Oct 13, 19, 5:56 pm
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I flew two segments on Air Asia and Air Asia X last week and they didn't ask for proof of onward travel in KUL and DMK. They routinely perform document checks but mainly for passport and visas, if required. I've also flown Air Asia from HKG -DMK and SGN-DMK a couple of years ago and have not been asked for proof of onward travel. JL, in GMP and NRT, asked for proof and were interested in my final destination. I haven't been asked by passport control officers either but that may be due to my travel pattern and may not apply to others, especially first-time visitors.
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Last edited by Peregrine415; Oct 13, 19 at 6:09 pm
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Old Oct 13, 19, 6:42 pm
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IME (based on several hundred experiences)

1. Airline personnel frequently ask if I have a return ticket, but rarely ask to actually see it.

2. I am never asked by immigration personnel if I have a return ticket.

3. If you are a) young, b) dress sloppily, c) look poor, d) have an incoming boarding pass that is not J or F, or e) have an passport from a non-OECD country; the odds of being asked to show a return ticket increase dramatically..... probably 100% if you meet all these qualifications.

4. All of the big three US domestic carriers have flights or code share flights to/from nearly all international airports in SE Asia. They also all have apps you can use to book a ticket in less than 30 seconds, and they all allow you to cancel your reservations within 24 hours of booking for no charge. (I also notice the OP is UA Gold, so you can also easily book and then cancel an award ticket to use as proof of onward travel.)
CAVEAT - This won't work if you don't have internet connectivity when you try to book a ticket in front of the immigration officer while pretending that you're just looking for the reservation, which like a good obedient traveler you properly booked before embarking on your journey.
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Last edited by 5khours; Oct 13, 19 at 6:52 pm
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