Traveling with a One-Way Ticket: The Ultimate Dos and Don’ts

Traveling with a one-way ticket can be tricky, but it's not impossible.

As someone who holds a weak passport like I do, I know too well that traveling without a return ticket can come with a lot of restrictions that may jeopardize my travel plan.

The thought of becoming a digital nomad seems like something impossible to achieve, which is probably something that people with strong passports like Europeans or Americans will never be able to relate to.

However, with the combination of being a frequent traveler and years of experience working at airlines, I've come to understand one thing: I can travel with a one-way ticket if I know how to play the game. 

So in this post, I'm going to share some tips about the dos and don'ts if you want to plan a trip overseas with a return ticket. So, let's dive in! 

Planning for a long-term trip without a return ticket? You may need to save these platforms for planning your trip!
  • Onward Ticket for booking a temporary return ticket without paying full for the actual ticket price. 
  • SafetyWing with its Nomad Insurance to ensure you're protected for your whole trip – no matter how long!
  • Wise or Revolut for easy access to your money, in case airport staff or immigration ask for proof of travel funds. 

Can you travel with a one-way ticket? 

traveling without return tickets

Like it or not, the travel industry is still full of prejudice. That's what I've learned the hard way when I started working for airlines in the early stages of my career. 

As an Indonesian citizen working as ground staff whose responsibility was to check all the necessary documents for all passengers flying international flights, I learned the hard way that sometimes I had to do some random check to ensure some passengers actually have return tickets on their hand. 

It's thanks to the Indonesian reputation in countries like Singapore, Malaysia, or even Saudi Arabia, where it's common to find cases of illegal immigration that involve my countrymen. Because of this, the chance of traveling with a one-way ticket for Indonesian passport holders like me is pretty slim. 

One thing that most people with stronger passports will never really understand is that for those with weak passports like mine, having a return ticket when traveling is almost always mandatory no matter where we go. More often than not, it's even the first thing on the list for the visa application requirements. 

But despite that, traveling with a one-way ticket is not impossible if you know the tricks – even for those with weak passports like mine. 

So yes, technically you can travel with a one-way ticket. But you also need to understand that traveling overseas without a return ticket can also come with the risk of getting rejected for your entry into the country. And this exact risk is often the reason why the airlines typically ask for proof of an onward ticket upon check-in. 

What to Do When Traveling with a One Way Ticket

traveling with a one way ticket

The first time I tried traveling without a return ticket was when I decided to go on an Indochina trip right before the pandemic. From Indonesia, I only got a flight ticket to Kuala Lumpur before heading to Vietnam with Vietnam Airlines

As expected, the staff asked for a return ticket when I checked in for my flights. However, I managed to convince them that I was traveling as a tourist with no intention to work or anything.

So, here's what you need to do so you can travel with just a one-way ticket!

1. Verify with the airlines

Many airlines are strict about their passengers having a return ticket upon check-in. The reason is that they will have to pay a fine if they end up having a not-to-land passenger on their flight, and they don't want to risk it. That's why some airlines may refuse to check you in if you only have a one-way ticket with you. 

Because of this, it's advisable to check with the airlines first to see if it's possible for you to fly without a return ticket.

Some airlines can be pretty strict, as they may only allow check-in only if you have the return ticket with the same company. So it's important to verify with them before your departure date. 

Another alternative in this situation is to use websites like Onward Ticket to book a dummy ticket from airlines – without having to pay the full price. For less than $20 USD, you can book a flight ticket confirmed by the airlines for this requirement. 

2. Check your visa requirements

Another thing you need to consider is the visa requirements, depending on your destination country.

Keep in mind that some countries are very strict about the proof of return tickets to minimize the risk of illegal immigrants there, so you need to do your own homework to know which one applies to you based on your nationality. 

In my case, since I need to get through a long list of requirements even to just apply for a visa to enter some countries, I know I will need to prove a return ticket for Schengen visa applications or countries like the US or Australia. It's just not negotiable for me. 

However, since I'm Indonesian and I can travel through the Southeast Asian region without visa, I know my chance to travel with a one-way ticket was better when I did my Indochina trip. 

Apart from Brunei and Myanmar, I can travel to any country in Southeast Asia without a visa for at least a month, so it's convenient for me.

And I think it wouldn't be possible if it wasn't because I worked for airlines before, so I know what kind of requirements they need if I can't provide a return ticket upon check-in in my case. 

passport stamps

3. Make sure you have enough money to support your trip

If you think money doesn't matter, think again. 

The truth is, the least you can do if you want to travel abroad without a return ticket is to prove that you have enough money to support your trip. It's that simple. 

When I was working for airlines, I usually asked passengers for proof of funds if they traveled with a one-way ticket. While some people will intimidate you to have a certain amount of money in cash – it's not always the case. 

More often than not, even being able to prove that you have debit or credit cards will suffice. I recommend requesting either Wise or Revolut card for easy transaction overseas.

In addition, I also recommend having at least $100 USD (or the equivalent in your destination’s local currency) in cash just to prove that you know what you're doing when you decide to travel overseas with a one-way ticket. 

4. Have a rough plan for your travel itinerary

After working for airlines for a few years, I've come to understand the difference between “shady” travelers (who are likely to stay illegally for work at their destination) and the real one who just wants to have more flexible time to explore their travel destination. And it's to do with their travel plan

Most of these potential illegal workers are usually clueless about what they're going to do in their travel destination, and it's pretty easy to decide that it's a no-go for them. 

So even though you travel with a one-way ticket, you will need to have a rough plan to explain to either airport staff or immigration to ensure them that you're there to actually travel as a tourist – not anything else. 

A lot of immigration officers are pretty strict about it, and you're likely to be interrogated when traveling without an onward ticket

travel plan

5. Be presentable upon check-in

This might be a controversial take on how to travel with a one-way ticket, but being presentable at the airport upon check-in actually helps. 

Again, the travel industry often relies on prejudice and as much as I hate the idea of it being right, there's no wonder why people from certain race groups are often targeted when it comes to random checking at the airport. 

You can't control anyone's perception of you, but making an effort to look presentable will ensure them that you're not there for doing illegal things like working or begpacking. 

What You Shouldn't Do When Traveling with a One-Way Ticket

Before deciding to do one-way ticket travel, it's important to understand that traveling without a return ticket is more of an exception than the norm. 

The safest way to travel abroad, especially if it's your first time traveling overseas, is to do it with a confirmed onward ticket. Otherwise, you will need to prepare yourself with all the risks that come with it. 

So, here's what you should do if you plan to travel without a return ticket! 

1. Don't expect guaranteed entry when you arrive at your travel destination

It doesn't matter whether you can afford to stay in your travel destination for years with the cash you have, your entry to the country will all depend on the three entities at the airport: customs, immigration, and quarantine. 

If any of these entities refuse your entry to the said country, then there's nothing much you can do about it except to respect the law and follow their rules. 

More often than not, they usually have a good enough reason to refuse entry – so honestly, if you don't do anything wrong, it shouldn't be an issue. 

You may be granted permission to travel from your point of departure, but your entry to your travel destination is never guaranteed – especially when you don't have a return ticket on hand.

In fact, if the authorities in your travel destination refuse your entry into their territory, the airlines may force you to purchase a return ticket immediately, as you will likely have to leave the country as a not-to-land passenger on the next flight back to your point of departure.

2. Don't come unprepared for potential interrogations from both airline staff and immigration

When you travel with just a one-way ticket, it will likely raise questions – both from airlines and immigration. And when you do, you'll probably get randomly checked for further investigation. 

I've been randomly checked by both immigration and airline staff way too many times – both with and without return tickets. Thankfully, I never got to the point where they got suspicious and refused my travel because I was always ready for any potential for further investigation like this. 

First, I know I never do anything illegal. And I always have a rough itinerary to convince them that I know what I'm doing.

I almost always have a detailed itinerary about what I'm going to do at my destination, and I don't mind them checking all the necessary document (or even my money!) if they have to. After all, I understand that they have the right to do so. 

visa application

3. Don't rely on last-minute travel

Last-minute travel without a return ticket is definitely a no-go because that kind of action is just plain suspicious – which isn't what you want when it comes to international travel. 

Besides, last-minute travel is not practical to begin with.

For instance, if you buy the ticket on the spot, some airlines are likely to refuse credit card payment – unless you purchase it online. Not to mention that last-minute flights can be quite expensive too!

4. Don't forget travel insurance

Having travel insurance can actually make a difference when either airport staff or immigration doubt your intentions about your travel plan. 

The truth is, not so many people are aware of the importance of travel insurance. Getting coverage for your travel shows your preparation as a traveler who's prone to any potential incidents. Coming from someone who had an experience of getting sick during traveling and even got my wallet stolen, it's definitely a necessity when you travel.

Traveling with a one way ticket can be tricky when choosing travel insurance though, since most insurance companies usually require having an onward ticket to purchase their plan.

Not many companies offer flexible travel insurance because even those that offer an annual plan usually have a maximum number of days for its validity per year. However, SafetyWing offers monthly plan where you can get coverage – no matter how long you're planning to travel outside your home country.

5. Don't be ignorant

Being respectful can go a long way, especially if you plan to travel for a long time. And the first thing to do is gain more insights about the dos and don'ts in the country that you're going to visit. 

As a foreigner, you may not become familiar with the local law overnight. But it will tremendously help your case if you familiarize yourself with the local customs before you arrive. 

You can join some online forums, like Facebook groups or even Reddit forums, to learn from other travelers who have been there. You can use your destination as the keyword to join the forum and ask questions if you're not sure whether it's allowed to travel there without a return ticket. 


Do you need proof of an onward ticket when traveling overseas?

Preferably, yes. Most countries will require visitors on tourist visa to have proof of an onward ticket to guarantee entry to their territory. 

However, in some cases the regulations about return tickets can be pretty lenient, so it is still possible to travel internationally with a one way ticket. 

If you're still not sure how long you're going to travel in your destination country, a lot of people also use platforms like Onward Ticket to temporarily book a return ticket without having to pay the full price of the flight. 

How much do you need to have as proof of travel funds when traveling abroad?

It may differ depending on the destination, which is why it's important to do advanced research on the regulations before you travel there.

Most destinations don't really require proof of travel funds, but they typically need to make sure that you can actually afford your stay during your holiday there. 

The bare minimum to prove it is to show your accommodation booking, and you can also show them that you have debit or credit cards that you can rely on when traveling there – if not cash. 

How long can you stay in a foreign country when traveling with a one-way ticket?

It all depends on your nationality and the destination. 

Even if you can travel to a certain destination with a free visa, you need to know the maximum number of days you can stay there with your tourist visa. If you stay longer than that, most likely you'll get fined for overstaying your visa. 


a woman waiting for the flight at the airport

One-way ticket travel is possible, although sometimes it's just a matter of luck since most countries and airlines usually require return tickets to allow entry for visitors. 

Traveling without advanced planning is also pretty risky, since if you have to apply for a visa then it's prone to visa rejection – even if you plan to travel with a return ticket!

The best way to travel with a one-way ticket is to have a brief plan about what you're going to do at your destination, and even better if you have everything in place, including accommodation and monthly travel insurance

So, are you ready for your one-way ticket trip?

marya the beautraveler author profile
Marya The BeauTraveler

I am the founder and main editor at The BeauTraveler. I spent 4 years working in the aviation industry but ironically got to travel more right after quitting the industry in 2015. Born and raised in Indonesia, I started working remotely in 2017, and while I stay at home most of the time, I also regularly spend 2-3 months living a semi-digital nomad life elsewhere every year.


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