Flying on a one-way ticket? Here’s how to avoid problems.

“I intended to fly to Bali on a one-way ticket from Australia. But, this was before I encountered a commonly unknown issue.”

Bali has grasped a reputation for itself as a haven for simple and inexpensive travel. Backpackers and budget travellers alike embrace this quality and often start their journey here or ensure that it’s on their itinerary. I am a backpacker and I recently ran into some issues in Bali originating from my preferred style of travel.

If backpacking be your intended form of travel, you will undoubtedly be purchasing a one-way ticket at some stage of your journey, just as I did. Unfortunately, if you are intending to do so in Bali you will likely be barred from entering the country. You may be able to enter other countries on a one-way ticket, but Indonesia is notably strict on its visa applicants and excessively harsh with its penalties.

But, why?…

In the mind of the Indonesian government, coupled with a less than positive track record, people travelling on one-way tickets have a higher chance of getting involved in clandestine or illegal operations. Specifically, this kind of travel was akin to people coming to live in Bali indefinitely without becoming a citizen or engaging in the countries prolific drug trade. While the issue is nowhere near as severe as it once was, the mentality has persisted into modern times. And now, they simply do not allow people to enter the country on a one-way ticket without proof of onward travel (PROF).

People who have been barred from accessing a country are required to return to their country of origin immediately and possibly face legal costs. The airline is liable for these costs.  Naturally, this has resulted in many airlines being stringent abiders of this rule, as well as its biggest enforcers. Now, many airlines will not allow you to fly on one-way tickets without PROF either.

The extent of this rules application is quite fluid. Some countries in Asia and throughout the world will turn you away if you’re travelling on a one-way visa, while others will not even raise a finger in deterrence of your entry. It is best to do a bit of research on your intended country of travel before purchasing a ticket so you don’t run into this commonly unknown issue.

If you do find yourself in this issue or just wish to be informed for future preference, there are some things you can do before you fly to another country, in this case Bali, that will alleviate any hassles you might otherwise encounter.

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Pre-book your tickets… 

Before you enter the country, ensure that you have a ticket purchased to leave the country. This does not have to be a return ticket to your country of origin. Simply a ticket that confirms you will be leaving the country in your prescribed amount of time. This can be the country directly adjacent to the one you are in. All that matters, is that you can show boarder control you will not be in their country.

Of course, this means that the essence of freedom that comes from not knowing where you will be in the next month will be gone and the constant impediment of a schedule will be pressed unto you. For some of you this may not be a big deal. For others, it may just not work.

If your travels allow you to plan ahead, pre-booking your tickets will ensure that you are never barred from entering a country on a one-way ticket. As frustrating as it can be to forego that essence of complete randomness that comes with not knowing where you will be in a month, this is the option we resorted to in order to get us out of the slight bind we had been caught up in.

 

Purchase a refundable ticket

It can be a hassle to pre-plan your travels and the previous option may not be suited for you. There are other things that can be done. If you consider the legal jargon, all that is required is to show border security that you have planned your exit from the country. Once you’re in the country it is at your own discretion if you follow this plan.

Similar to the previous option, you book a ticket out of the country. Any country will do. Just try and find the cheapest flight you can. But, ensure it is refundable. Use this ticket to persuade boarder security that you are intending to leave the country. Once you are in, it is as simple as cancelling your ticket and waiting for the refund. And when you know where you want to travel to next, then book your next ticket.

I haven’t had an issue with this option. However, it can take a significant amount of time to get your refund. In one instance, over a month. If you can afford to spare a few hundred dollars for several weeks you will be fine. Just make sure it is a fully refundable ticket and there is no clause in the fine print, such as only refundable with an airline-specific voucher.

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Purchase a visa

There is really only one other way to get into Indonesia on a one-way ticket – purchase a visa. Specifically, a visa that will confirm you will be staying in Indonesia indefinitely for a prescribed amount of time.

A visa will allow you to enter Indonesia and most other countries without having to display a ticket of exit. If you can afford the cost of a visa, which can be in excess of $200, and you accept the forced schedule and conformity required by a visa, then this will allow you to enter a country on a one-way ticket and also allow you to stay in said country for a much longer time than an individual on the ‘standard’ 30-day visa.

 

Proof of onward travel… by air

There is one important point that needs to be understood. Proof-of-onward travel really means proof-of-onward-travel-by-air. Border crossings by bus, ferry, trains or something of the kind will not be considered proof of onward travel. The only way to use this type of border crossing will be to enter the country with one of the two latter points addressed above.

I’ve always found that if you are in anyway unsure about your ability to access a flight, arrive to the airport early to ensure there is time to sought out any issues should they arise.

Hopefully, you will never have to deal with this issue. But, should it arise, at least you can now consider yourself slightly more informed. Good luck!

 

Have you ever flown one-way to a country without any proof of onward travel?

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