Proof of onward travel is always such a tricky one for overland crossings, especially if like us, you have no official itinerary and certainly no onward travel planned as of yet.
There are simple ways around this. Some may cost you a little, others that may be risky and one of which has a 100% success rate (we’ve used it multiple times without fail). For example, from Nicaragua to Costa Rica, from Costa Rica to Panama, and from Panama to Colombia (via Viva La Colombia airlines) to name but a few.
We have not been asked for onward proof of travel in any other Latin American country, however, we have yet to visit Belize or Honduras. For countries such as Mexico, we used the below method to ensure we got the full 180-day visa. Just as a little extra document to hand over to immigration officials.
Right, let’s get stuck in!
#1 Reserve Flights with CopaAir
We’re pretty sure the team over at the Panama airline has no idea just how helpful their ‘Price Lock’ feature is for the free-spirited, or better yet, disorganised backpackers such as ourselves. Thankfully, Copair allows you to “price lock” your flight to allow you some time before making the decision to complete payment. In a nutshell, both a seat and your quoted cost will be reserved on their system for 24 hours!
No credit card and only some personal information is required. After 24 hours, when no payment is received, your “reservation” will be cancelled and seats released.
So, at least 1-2 days before your planned border crossing; log on and reserve a legit flight. Receive an email with the flight itinerary attached and just print or screenshot – but always check and crop out anywhere that states it’s reserved. Just in case you have an immigration official with a known eagle eye and the ability to spot this!
Step #1: Search Flight
Visit Copair.com and enter both the departing and arrival country.
If you are not sure what to enter, you can visit Flight Connections, add the departure airport from the country you need to provide onward proof of travel to and leave the ‘To’ section empty to find a selection of countries and airports you can try.
Step #2: Select Price Lock
Via CopaAir’s booking portal, search for your “flight” but ensure the dates are not beyond the visa expiry date of the country you are trying to enter (i.e. within the 30, 60 or 90-day limit depending on the country and your nationality!).
You will then be brought to a ‘selection’ page. Here, click any option i.e. ‘Economy’, ‘Business Class’ etc. You will find your flight summary and total price on the next page.
Scroll down to find the free 24-hour ‘Price Lock’ option. When you click this option, the price will show Pay Now: $0.00. Click ‘Continue’
Step #3: Add Personal Details
On the next page, fill out your details as you would if genuinely booking a flight. Ensure your name and date of birth match those on your passport! Click ‘Continue’.
You will be directed to the ‘Review and Pay’ page, scroll down and click ‘Continue’.
Step #4: Review
Next, is your ‘reservation’ page. Screenshot the entire page including your reservation number and name, plus the full flight itinerary. It should look something like this:
Step #4: Edit
Finally, if you are concerned about the word ‘reservation’ found across the screenshots, edit the image and select the marker or pen tool. Use the colour picker to choose the background colour and then write/draw over the words ‘reservation’, removing it.
This onward proof of travel method costs nothing, there are no risks involved and continues to work successfully for us. If immigration officials search for your flight there and then in the office (which some of them do depending on how hi-tech that border crossing is) they can see it’s a genuine reserved flight!
And if said officials remark on the fact it’s a reserved flight (which they didn’t and most likely won’t!), just explain that your credit card was scammed/lost, and you’ve spoken to the airline who confirmed you can pay with cash on arrival at the airport. So you need to get there ASAP.
Keep scrolling for alternatives that have worked for many people we’ve spoken to along the way but the above is #1 for us.
#2 Book & Cancel Flights with Expedia
A safe yet somewhat stressful option, first search for the flights you can find on Expedia. From the top filters, select ‘More options’ and select ‘Refundable’.
Also, scroll down this page a little to find a filter on the left-hand side panel called ‘No cancel fee’. Select it (see highlighted below)
When selecting flights, make sure you see the following ‘Refundable’ option under ‘Flexibility’:
And again just as you pay for the flight:
We have used this method, mostly in Asia and the heart-pounding moment is real as you click ‘Pay’. But once the flight itinerary landed in our emails (or you can retrieve them from airlines with your booking reference), we immediately cancelled our flight. If you have a credit card, use it to book. these flights.
Make sure to save/screenshot the itinerary before you cancel your flights. You should be fully refunded within 24-48 hours. But in our case, because we cancelled as soon as the money never left our account, to begin with.
As another Ungraceful head up, we have heard whispers that at certain borders, such as Costa Rica, border officials are now checking booking confirmations. We didn’t come across this ourselves, but at the most efficient border crossings, officials have better facilities i.e. computers, so this could very well be true.
For full details on how to book and cancel flights via Expedia, please follow the following link. We have used this method to travel through Southeast Asia and again, it has worked a charm and never let us down!
#3 Use Third Party Sites
Ah, the internet! What would we do without you?! There are a number of third-party websites where you can purchase an ‘onward proof of travel’ service. For a flat fee, the company will book genuine flights, buses etc. and provide you with a genuine booking confirmation. With more and more options popping up, below are the most reliable:
Offering a flight booking service only, OnwardTicket.com comes at a slightly lower price of €16. And for that, you will receive a genuine PDF flight reservation within 2 minutes of booking with a 48-hour validity.
What we like about this service is there are no flights to select, or extra steps to complete making it a very simple and very quick choice. The flight search isn’t detailed whatsoever, and if no flights are available for your locations and dates, no other options are offered.
So as a little tip to save you time, search for genuine flights via Skyscanner (for example) and input actual dates and destinations into OnwardTravel. Make sure to select ‘Multi-stop’ for more flight options.
Since flight reservations are only valid for 48 hours, you can select to ‘receive later’ by choosing to receive the flight itinerary closer to your departure.
Costs: $19 – $30
OneWayFly is a reliable platform that offers genuine flight and hotel reservations catering to the needs of digital nomads and travellers. It’s particularly handy for travellers who need booking confirmations for visa applications or visa extensions – as well as onward proof of travel.
OneWayFly offers flight tickets, which allow customers to reserve a one-way flight ticket for 48 hours without any special requests at a cost of $19.00. Alternatively, customers can opt for a round-trip reservation for 48 hours without any special requests at a price of $30.00. For accommodation bookings, expect to pay $25.
Customers can reserve a ticket for either 48 hours or 14 days (which is very handy for visa applications and extensions)!
A flight reservation made through OneWayFly includes a unique PNR code, which can be verified on CheckMyTrip and some airline company websites, allowing you to keep track of your reservation details easily.
Price: From $12
Another option, at an even cheaper price of just $12, is BestOnwardTicket.com offers a no-frills service where you only input your departure destination and some personal information. The flight is selected and emailed to you.
There are extra costs if you want to add a destination ($4.99) or purchase a ticket with a 14-day validity ($10). If you want either of these options, the above Onward Proof of Travel websites are cheaper!
#4 Buy a Bus Ticket
For overland crossings, while this is definitely our least favourite option, and the most expensive, for around $20-$30 you can buy an official bus ticket at any border crossing.
Usually touts will sell them prior to leaving the current country you are in. For example, from Nicaragua to Costa Rica, there are an overwhelming amount of touts selling tickets at both Rivas and Penas Blancas.
Personally, we think this is a hassle, it’s expensive and quite possible you won’t ever use this ticket. So we’d exhaust all the above options first.
So now you are armed with the information, we wish you a successful border crossing and as always, if we can help further, feel free to pop us an email to info [at] theungracefulguide.com or comment below.