Proof of onward travel needed for one-way ticket to Thailand? In our experience: no.

I’d read conflicting reports on the issue of “proof of onward travel” while prepping for this trip.  To obtain our 30-day visa on arrival at Bangkok’s Don Muang airport, some sources online said we might need evidence of a flight within thirty days of our arrival.

Headed for an immigration adventure …

Minah and I had considered getting a fully refundable ticket, or maybe a cheap one-way to Saigon or Yangon, but in the rush and confusion of moving out of my apartment last week, it totally slipped our minds.  That is, until we were asked about our travel plans at the AirAsia counter in Incheon airport.  Flagged because our tickets were one-way, the airline service staff asked us if we could provide an onward plane ticket.  We replied that our plans were to exit northern Thailand into Laos at Huay Xai, but he insisted that at Thai immigration, that explanation wouldn’t help us.  We said, pretty noncommittally, that maybe we could buy a ticket out of Thailand online, before we boarded the flight.

He rummaged around in an old suitcase behind the counter and produced a document in Korean for us to sign.  He would check us into the flight, but whether or not we bought a ticket out of Thailand we’d need to sign this to release AirAsia of any responsibility to foot our bill back to Korea, should we be denied entry in Bangkok.  My first reaction was to not want to sign it, since he only had a Korean copy and didn’t have a translation.  But Minah assured me it was alright, and we both signed and checked in.

AirAsia flight XJ709, where everything is for sale, even the water.

In the next couple of hours before our flight we mulled over what we should do.  We couldn’t find a fully refundable ticket with less than a $50 refund “service charge”.  We want to visit Myanmar at some point, and found tickets for about $93 total for the both of us – not bad.  Should we buy them?  We finally decided we’d rather not change our Thai/Lao border crossing plans quite yet.  Why not have a little immigration thrill to start out our journey?

We cued up an almost-purchased screen on my laptop for immigration, and thought that, worst case scenario, if we were refused entry we could complete the purchase using the airport WiFi in Bangkok.

Turns out we didn’t need to.  The line for immigration was lightning fast, just down the hall from our arrival gate.  The immigration official looked at our arrival cards and passports for a second or two, stamped our passports, and away we went.  We picked up our bags and were in a taxi 20 minutes after landing.

Legit for another 29 days at least.

I’m not saying that Thai immigration will never ask to see proof of onward travel, but for us and a lot of other people online, it hasn’t been a problem.  Could also be that our passports (S Korea & USA) afford us cursory treatment at the immigration counter.  At any rate, if you’re on the fence as to whether you should buy that onward flight ticket, I’d say save your money.

But don’t blame me if you get caught.  ;-P


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