Should you travel without a return ticket?

Why would you fly without a return or onward ticket?

Lots of globe-trotters rarely book return tickets when travelling for the simple reason they haven’t decided when they’ll be returning home and do not like to be constrained by time. They usually prefer to wait last moment to book a return flight. A convenient yet rather risky practice. It is often compulsory to have proof of onward travel to pass immigration controls.

  • Is it risky?

It’s normally part of Airlines’ job to verify that you fulfill the immigration requirements in terms of visa and length of stay in accordance to the country regulations. If you arrive and get denied entry to a country by immigration, your airline will be held accountable and will have to fly you back, depending on their policy, they might have to pay for it. In practice, very few airlines actually take the time to check if you meet the immigration requirements of the country you’re visiting. There are exceptions, depending on the airline and where you’re going. If you’re travelling to the US with an US airline, you’ll be asked to provide a return ticket. In some cases, if you’re travelling without a return ticket, you may also be obligated to buy one to be allowed to board the plane.

National authorities seek to prevent illegal immigration and ensure that you won’t be overstaying past the legal length of stay. If you cannot provide proof of your intended length of stay, you may be denied entry to the country at borders.

  • Frequency of controls

According to many travelers, controls are quite frequent but rather random. Especially if you’re travelling to Latin America, Africa, Mexico and Thailand. When travelling by air, it’s highly recommended to have a return flight, other means of transportation may not be deemed a valid proof of onward travel. You can try at your own risk, but be sure to keep low profile and that everything is in order not to attract unwanted attention at control.

If you do not have a return ticket, you can present a hotel booking you’ve made in an another country as proof of onward travel, but there is no guarantee it’ll work.

Some travelers use fake airline tickets they’ve created themselves and sometimes manage to fool immigration. This is a very ill-advised alternative; airlines and customs services have access to highly preforming systems, which allow them to verify very easily the authenticity of a flight ticket.

Buying a ticket at the last moment remains a possibility, even if you won’t use it. Low cost companies offer tickets at a fairly decent fare. You can check their fares through comparators.

Now there are websites which allow you to legally rent airline tickets for a limited duration, they are usually cancelled within twenty or forty-eight hours.

Note that you may be denied boarding on a flight for many other reasons: invalid visa or passport, forgotten vaccinations, insufficient funds... Certain countries such as Russia and Cuba also require a proof of insurance. Always make sure to check the immigration requirements for the countries you plan on travelling to.

In addition, assistance companies expect their clients to have return ticket. If it is not the case, you may be charged for the equivalent fare of a return ticket, should you need to be repatriated for medical reasons.

This article was first published by Europ Assistance Belgium. Discover more insight here: http://blog.europ-assistance.be/