Today let’s discuss some strategies for dealing with that bane of the meandering traveller: the Proof Of Online Travel that many countries require before issuing a visa and/or allowing you entry, as a minimal level of insurance that you’re actually planning to leave and not settle permanently.
This can be particuarly annoying when you’re planning to exit Country X by land transport, be that bus train car or whatever, that you can’t easily get tickets before entering … and they won’t accept your eventual flight home from Country Y as proof that you actually mean to go from X to Y overland. So even if you’re thinking “But I always plan to travel onward!” well it’s still worth reading this, just in case your plans ever end up not to be in a form provable in advance.
Speaking personally, we always carry printed copies of our paid reservations with us, but we’ve never in 100 countries been asked for them so far at embarkation or arrival; always just showing our trip schedule in TripIt has been fine. So that’s our first hack for arriving at a country:
#1: Manually Add A Fight to TripIt
We thoroughly recommend TripIt as the schedule manager we use when travelling, and it allows you to add any flight you like; so simply put in your real arrival details, then add any plausible outbound flight you feel like. Showing that has always worked for us so far, so actually buying the ticket has been superfluous, as far as entry goes; and if anybody ever asked for proof of payment, we’d try bluffing through with “well, that’s the flight I intend to take, soon as I get around to buying it…”
However, there is a chance you’ll need something more than that, particularly for places like China that take their visa application seriously; so you could consider
#2: Print A Fake Ticket
We really don’t recommend this option at all, because getting caught flat out faking something never goes over well with Immigration. Or any other authority, for that matter.
But if you do feel like living dangerously, you don’t even have to brush up your Photoshop skills for this option, there’s a site that’ll buff up that fake ticket for you with these handy tips:
- Do not fly back to your country. The person at the check-in counter might be suspicious because return flights with the same air carrier are normally cheaper.
- Do not choose the same airline for your onward ticket. They might check it at the check-in counter..
- Make sure you enter a valid flight and flight dates/time. Check here for valid flight dates.
- Once you printed out your flight ticket. Highlight your name and flight destination with a marker. The person on the check-in counter will appreciate it and will not check further details.
That is probably true … but again, we never recommend active deception except as a measure of absolute desperation. But hey, if you’re absolutely desperate, keep it in mind.
#3: Buy And Cancel A Real Ticket
This is a particularly good option if you live in the USA, or at least can book through a US based OTA, where travel agencies are required by law to cancel bookings made in the last 24 hours for any flight more than a week away. If not, find some option that will let you cancel the booking; then buy it, print out the receipt to submit with your visa application or show at embarkation, and immediately cancel.
This is a big step up from a completely fake ticket, but it doesn’t take that much suspicion for them to check your booking and find it’s not there. So we don’t recommend this one either.
#4: Pass Immigration With a Refundable/Cancellable Ticket
Finally, we’re up to a hack that’s actually safe enough for us to recommend. The strategy is simple: as in #3, buy a real refundable ticket … but don’t cancel it until you pass through Immigration.
Of course, getting that refund can be an extreme hassle — if you can even get a refund instead of vouchers — so there are “Flight Rental Services” that have sprung up to address that for a price.
FlyOnward is the best known; for $10 you’ll get a ticket valid for 24 hours, $17 for 48 hours. There’s another couple we just googled up called Rent a Ticket here and BestOnwardticket here. These all have a like time limitation, which isn’t the greatest if you’re trying to apply for a visa in advance.
But we stumbled across this recent post from a Filipina blogger:
I took steps to partner with an accredited travel agency in the Middle East catering to OFWs or Filipinos abroad. They don’t normally do services like this with random people but only with their regular clients; most of the time, they’ll only do it if the person will guarantee to pay the full amount of the ticket. BUT in our case, I explained to them that by partnering with me, we can help travelers with the visa requirements and for those longing to travel long-term and become Digital Nomads.
After you pay the reservation fee of $30 (USD) or Php 1,500 (Philippines Pesos) below, they will make a LEGITIMATE AND UNIQUE FLIGHT BOOKING RESERVATION /PNR for you which can be verified. You can visit respective airlines website, plugin the airline reservation code and your name under manage my bookings. After the hold period of usually 3 weeks for visa applications, we will handle to automatically cancel it and you will NOT be asked to pay the full amount of the flight ticket. Then that’s time you can look for the cheap flight options going to the country you intend to visit.
If you’re not certain your visa will be approved, then $30 for a 3 week reservation is a pretty prudent investment. So, although we haven’t used her service personally, we definitely recommend you check it out if you’re in that kind of uncertain situation.
#5: Find The Cheapest Possible Throwaway Ticket
This is the one that we wholeheartedly recommend, because you’re actually following the rules perfectly; nobody’s going to check up on you that you actually take your flight out, just that you have one.
So, dig around all the airports near borders in your country of choice, and find the smallest little puddle-jumper airline with the cheapest bunny hop of a ticket across an international border, and just buy it with every intention of throwing it away if it turns out to not be convenient to actually use it.
In most countries you’re going to be able to do that for not much more than the cost of renting a ticket anyways, although it may take a bit of time to hunt down the low cost and/or local carriers that aren’t big enough to show up on the big Internet search engines.
(Pro tip: Kiwi.com is a good place to find small airlines that aren’t in most OTAs — and they’re the only big OTA we know of that will let you book multiply ticketed itineraries, which can save you lots of money if you’re willing to take chances on missing your transfers!)
So there you go; pick your level of risk tolerance, and there’s how to go about getting around POOT requirements. And if you try any and they don’t work for you, be sure to let us know, because that’ll be a good story!