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Proof Of Onward Travel for Southeast Asia

While many whisper the four most dreaded words the disorganised backpacker never wants to hear: “proof of onward travel” – we felt quite lucky to have travelled to over five countries without having come up against such a burden.

Now, maybe it was due to the fact that four out of five of those countries were via land crossings but still, there is no denying that such a pain in the arse causes a few extra pumps of sweat and an increased heart rate as you approach any immigration official.

Becoming way too casual in our ways of travelling the Southeast Asian part of the world, it wasn’t until we flew into Indonesia’s North Sumatra airport, Medan, that we were hit with the reality of needing those… shhh… four eye-rolling words.

You see, while our golden Irish ticket (passport) has been a Godsend throughout our travels, in order to enjoy our 30-day visa exemption in Indonesia i.e. not have to pay the $35 visa fee, (although if you want the option to extend your visa for another 30 days in Jakarta you should opt in for this visa cost), all we needed was our valid Irish passport, a cheeky charming grin, and… shhh… you know what.

A little panicked, we remembered a few tricks from our Latin America days, where onward proof of… shhh… is necessary for a number of countries such as Costa Rica. Again, we travelled mostly via land but we have heard some airlines in Central and South America do request it as a standard requirement. We had a few more options when it came to Latin America and onward proof of travel, including one where we didn’t need to spend a penny but only reserve flights. Anyway, you can read all about that here.

Thankfully for us, as in most international airports, there was free WiFi that we were able to connect to. And so plumped our tired asses down on the floor under the watchful and curious eyes of the very friendly immigration folk while we booked ourselves refundable flights just to bag that flight itinerary.

All that is needed to achieve this quick and painless method are WiFi, a debit or credit card, a few spare minutes and the steps below.

Table of Contents

#1 Book Refundable Flights

There are a number of websites that will allow you to book refundable flights, for example, and, the two sites we are comfortable suggesting that you guys use!

Having personal experience using Expedia ourselves. Just note that with, you need to check and select the “refundable” box when searching for flights.

Since it can be such a nerve-wracking process, especially when you are up against flights that could cost up to more than $500, here we will share a quick step-by-step guide to help you through the process using – screenshots included.

Step #1: Search Flights

Visit and search for flights taking note that (although an obvious one we feel we should still point it out!) you have to select the country you are trying to gain entry to, as your departure country i.e. we were trying to get into Indonesia and so we searched flights from Indonesia to the Philippines.

Also, it is really important that you pick a departure date within your visa limit, the day before is usually the best and latest you should pick, just to avoid any further questions and perked eyebrows. Again, for example, we arrived in Indonesia on the 17th of January and so we picked the 16th of February as our departure date.

Step #2: Filter Flights

When your search returns results, at the top of search results, under ‘More Options’, select ‘Refundable.

Proof Of Onward Travel for Southeast Asia

Step #3: Select No Cancel Fee

Before selecting a flight, scroll down to find the ‘No cancel fee’ box under ‘Travel and Baggage’ and select it. If you don’t find this option, you might need to select different flights.

Proof Of Onward Travel for Southeast Asia

Step #4: Review

Before you do continue with your booking, make sure to review your booking to ensure that, under ‘Flexibility’, it confirms you have selected a refundable flight! If it states ‘Cancellation fees may apply’, select a different flight and follow the above step.

Proof Of Onward Travel for Southeast Asia

Step #5: Book and Pay

Once happy out with your “flights”, enter all your personal info and details as you would normally, triple checking that your email address is entered correctly as you will need it to receive your cancellation link.

Although it really doesn’t matter what kind of card you use, if you do have a credit card handy we always suggest booking flights with a credit card instead of a debit as it leaves a better paper trail, and your bank should offer payment protection.

Once again, you should see “Free cancellation There’s no fee to cancel within 24 hours of bookingdisplayed, and this time it will be on the right-hand side of your cart page. Don’t click Check Out until you see it!

Proof Of Onward Travel for Southeast Asia

Before you hit ‘Complete Booking’ you should have another confirmation that you can cancel the flight for free!

Proof Of Onward Travel for Southeast Asia

Step #6: Save and Cancel

So, your flight is booked by now you will have received a flight confirmation and a follow-up email with your “E-ticket”. All you need to do is download/screenshot this email and flash it to the immigration officials.

You can cancel it straight away, but in our own experience, we waited until we had the stamp on our passport. Although the Indonesian officials were such sounders and barely glanced at the itinerary, some border officials in other countries may not be so relaxed. This is also slightly risky as you are up against that 24-hour clock, and you can never predict flight or immigration delays. Just make sure you have mobile data or ensure the airport has free WiFi.

In both your ‘Expedia travel confirmation’ and ‘E-ticket’ emails, if you scroll down to the flight overviewyou will see the ‘cancel this reservation’ link Note that you can also cancel the flight via the Expedia website under “account > my trips”.

When we originally booked our onward proof of travel flight, we did it facing immigration. Using the airport WiFi, we had the flight booked, received our itinerary, got our stamp and had the flight cancelled within 8 minutes. Now that has to be a record!

Anyway, the point being is that if you are still connected to the WiFi as you walk away with a visa in hand, definitely cancel it there and then. We noticed that the money hadn’t even left our account at all as it was all done so quickly.

Make sure you receive that “booking has been cancelled” email but don’t panic if it doesn’t come through straight away. For peace of mind, the easiest way to ensure it has been cancelled is to log onto Expedia and check under “my account > my trips” If your flight is no longer displayed there it has been cancelled.

Also, check your spam folder!

Proof Of Onward Travel for Southeast Asia

Hello Guinness? Yeah, we set a new record!

#2 Use Third Party Sites

You might have heard that there are a number of third-party websites where you can purchase an ‘onward proof of travel’ service. For a flat fee, you book a genuine flight or bus via any of the below and receive a genuine booking confirmation.

With more and more options popping up, below are the most reliable:

Costs: €16

At a very reasonable €16, book a one-way or return flight on and receive a genuine PDF flight reservation within 2 minutes of booking. All flights have a 48-hour validity.

This is a really simple and quick service, there are no overwhelming flight options to select from, and you only need to add your name and contact information. A few searches returned no results, so to save yourself on time, first search flights via Skyscanner (for example) and then 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

The advantage of OneWayFly, another reliable platform that offers genuine flight and hotel reservations, is that it is particularly handy for travellers who need booking confirmations for visa applications or visa extensions.

You can reserve a one-way flight ticket for 48 hours for $19.00. Or select a round-trip reservation for 48 hours for $30.00. If you need a genuine accommodation booking in your desired location for visa applications, expect to pay $25. You can also reserve a ticket for up to 14 days (which is very handy for visa applications and extensions)!

Price: From $12

At the cheaper price of just $12, is another quick, no-bullshit service where you only have to include your departure destination and some personal information. The flight is selected for you.

If you need to add a destination, you will need to pay an additional $4.99. For tickets with a 14-day validity, you will have to pay an additional $10. These add-on costs make the above options much cheaper!

And there you have it, like we said – not every country will expect or even ask for this. In fact, we flew out of Indonesia and back in thinking we would be asked again, and we weren’t so you might have one of those lucky days.

The best thing you can do is to prepare beforehand by researching all country requirements. Reach out and ask in backpacker groups on Facebook such as “Southeast Asia Backpackers” to see if anyone else was asked. You could book a backup flight just to be sure, or risk it and book when you arrive at immigration, and only should they ask you.

Search Sleeping in Airports to check that the airport you are arriving at has free WiFi (most airports do!).

We hope this is of some help and allows you to travel a little more freely and without any huge concerns. There really is nothing worse than being forced to be organised adults!

Happy travels, you lot!



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2 Responses

  1. Literally just discovered your Instagram page & website & all I can say is THANK YOU!! I’m planning a road trip with a friend, from Canada to California in Oct & then maybe fly into mexico. We’ve never done anything like this before & we’re not really ones for planning so we’re just gonna winging it & see where the road takes us. This whole onward travel thing was something I was worried about though, but now after reading your blog I think we’ve got it sorted! 😉 so thank you again!

    Jennie 🙂

    1. Jenny,

      Thank you so much for you very kind words. Sorry we’re only getting the chance to reply now. Hope you’re having/had an absolute ball on your adventures x

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