In order to obtain a visa on arrival in Thailand you need to present a fully paid ticket which is usable within 15 days since the date of entry (source: Royal Thai Embassy). Visa on arrival currently allows you to stay in Thailand for up to 15 days. And that’s why here is this rule – you must provide a proof of onward travel, showing that you are going to leave the country not later than at the end date of your visa.
Rules are similar also if you don’t need a visa to enter Thailand. For example, most of Europeans can stay in Thailand for up to 30 days without visa. But even then you need to have an onward ticket. Or you can have a ticket back to the country you are coming from. Of course, if you are allowed to go back without obtaining a visa.
Foreigners entering Thailand by any means under the Tourist Visa Exemption category are required at the port of entry to have proof of onward travel (confirmed air, train, bus or boat tickets) to leave Thailand within 30 days of the arrival date (otherwise a tourist visa must be obtained) – Royal Thai Embassy.
It’s just one of the rules, but actually it’s also the only one causing problems to quite a few people. Thailand is one of the top tourist destinations worldwide. And there are more and more people coming to Thailand who don’t know for how long they will be staying in the country. They want to make that decision later.
But Thailand is not the only one. There are many more countries traveling where you may (or will) be asked to provide a proof of onward travel. You should be ready for that. It’s not that big problem after all. There are several legal solutions, how to provide a proof of onward travel without spending hundreds or thousands and ruining your travel plans.
Read about our experience in Thailand (Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport, Chiang Mai Airport & Tammalang Port, Satun).
Do I Need an Onward Ticket Out of Thailand in Order to Get a Visa on Arrival?
Yes, you need it. But… only if they will ask you for it. We have had different experience.
1. When we were traveling from Hong Kong to Thailand they asked us to show an onward ticket before even letting us to board a plane. We had tickets, and everything went well.
2. When traveling by ferry from Langkawi island (Malaysia) to Thailand we have never been asked to provide anything else except for filled forms and arrival cards, one passport sized photo and visa fee in Thai Baht. Once, though, we were asked to pay more. It was illegal, but as we didn’t have onward tickets we didn’t want to argue and so we just paid those extra dollars.
3. When our friends came by plane from Latvia to Thailand, in Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport they were asked to show a proof of an onward travel. However no one bothered to ask them anything, when they were entering a plane from Kiev to Bangkok (they had 2 flights).
Kaspars, they are’t giving us a visa on arrival. Because we don’t have an onward ticket…
It happened in February 2017. We were at the airport. Waiting for more than an hour already. Plane had landed in time, but guys, with whom we were about to start a 2 week overland trip from Bangkok to Singapore, weren’t coming. We didn’t worry about it, because we knew, that obtaining visa on arrival in Bangkok can take also 2 hours.
And then I received a Facebook message: Kaspars, they are’t giving us a visa on arrival, because we don’t have an onward ticket from Thailand. What should we do?
We knew the rules. And we had talked about that before. Our recommendations were as following:
- If you feel sure about yourself, that, if it will be necessary, you will be able to persuade immigration officers, that you aren’t going to stay in Thailand forever, then just write down our itinerary and take a reservation for a flight from Singapore back to Latvia with you (that’s how we were planning to return; from Singapore). And if asked about the return/onward ticket, explain the situation. Explain that on that date you are going to leave Thailand for Malaysia. And that you will take a ferry from Satun to Langkawi, which can’t be booked in advance. Show your tickets from Singapore Latvia. All of what was 100% truth.
- Rent an onward ticket for some 10 dollars and travel hassle free.
- Obtain a visa in advance and travel hassle free.
Guys felt sure about themselves and they did just like we most probably would do in their situation (see number 1). But that didn’t work out. They could show our itinerary, how we were planning to travel from Bangkok to Singapore overland. They could show also hotel reservations in Malaysia and a plane ticket from Singapore back to Latvia within 15 days of the day of arrival to Thailand. But that wasn’t enough.
You need a ticket showing that you will leave Thailand, is what they were told.
Solution: Renting an Onward Ticket
Luckily there was free WiFi in Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport.
What did our friends do – they just opened FlyOnwards.com and “rented” an onward tickets from Bangkok to Amsterdam for the next week. What does it mean to rent an onward ticket? In this case, with FlyOnwards.com, it means, that for a small fee this company is buying you real plane tickets, which they themselves cancel after 24 – 48 hours (you can choose between 24 and 48 hours).
But for these 24 (48) hours it’s a real flight reservation under your name. Which is exactly what they needed. And what you will need in a situation similar to this one.
Note, that it will take some time until you will receive your rented ticket. In our situation it took about half an hour. In this situation it wasn’t a big deal. But if you are trying to do that because otherwise you aren’t allowed to board a plane, than it’s another story.
*I’m not sure if it would work out every time, but immigration officers also offered them to buy a bus ticket from Thailand to Malaysia. This, they said, also would work as a proof of them leaving Thailand.
*Another 100% safe and easy option – buy the cheapest plane ticket away from the country. In situation with Thailand and using one of the Southeast Asia’s low cost carriers, like Air Asia, it may cost you also as low as 10 – 20 dollars.
You May Be Asked to Provide an Onward Ticket When Boarding a Flight to Thailand (or Any Other Country Requesting Proof of an Onward Travel)
And that’s the situation you really don’t want to get into.
Because while getting an onward ticket, when you are already in Thailand and you have plenty of time to sort this out, is a relatively easy task. Of course, if you have reliable WiFi connection. Doing the same in a rush, when you need to solve that thing as fast as possible to make it to your flight – well, that’s not how anyone would want their journey to start.
Remember that! And if you are going to try out your luck – and travel without an onward ticket, be one of the first ones at the boarding gates. To have more time in case it doesn’t go as smooth as you would want it.
Buying the cheapest ticket away from the country in this situation might be the easiest and fastest solution. You can even do a research in advance or even better – to make a booking without paying for it.
Have you ever been asked to provide a proof of an onward travel? What was your experience?
Author: Kaspars Misins
Kaspars is a long term traveler and a travel blogger from Latvia. He loves going on long walks, reading non fiction books and spending time outdoors. Together with his girlfriend Una they have been traveling – volunteering – working abroad since 2013. On We Are From Latvia they share their experience and things learned along the way.