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My question is related to / inspired by Does Colombia require proof of onward travel? but isn't quite the same.

I'm thinking of a trip around South America (from Europe) such that:

  • I would not arrive and leave the continent at the same country. Instead, I'd arrive somewhere in the south of the continent and leave from the north, or vice versa.

  • I wouldn't buy flights or overland journeys for within South America in advance (because I'd prefer leaving exact travel dates and routes open).

For example, say I have (only) two flights booked in advance: one from Europe to Argentina, and then, 2-3 months later, another from Colombia back to Europe. When arriving in Argentina, or any of the subsequent countries (e.g. Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador), would the return ticket to Europe from Colombia be enough to prove onward travel, or would they require a ticket out of that particular country?

In other words, is a return ticket to Europe from another country sufficient proof of onward travel in most South American countries?

NB: I'm interested in South America generally, not only in Argentina or Colombia. But of course, if there are countries that are more strict about this than others, that would be good to mention in an answer!

How do people normally do this? I mean, it's a very common type of (backpacker) trip to make, right?

I guess the main alternative is to book all border-crossing flights / buses before going to South America, but that limits your flexibility a lot (or is a waste of money if you buy them but don't use them).

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travel.stackexchange.com/questions/7708/… is also somewhat related. Is Brazil more strict about having a ticket out of Brazil when entering? –  Jonik Jan 15 '13 at 11:26

4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

My answer does not reflect official rules and laws, just my own experience.

I visited over 80 countries and many of them officially require proof of onward travel, ten of them are in South America.

The only time anybody ask me about onward travel was when checking in for a flight to New Zealand in Sydney. In some other cases I had return flights with the same airline, so they could see this on their screen anyways.

I've never been asked at border crossings.

I arrived in South America overland (by boat) and did not have any plane tickets whatsoever.

The fact that you actually hold a return ticket to Europe within a few months should put you on the safe side.

I did have a fake printed e-ticket and the html file for it. I changed the dates and places every few months and printed it again, just in case. Whether I would have actually used it would have depended on the situation, but I was never asked.

A bank statement is also helpful showing that you have some funds in your account. In worse case you go get this via online banking, or keep it in secure cloud storage.

I would just go ahead without booking any transportation within South America, if they really refuse entry, you can always get a ticket they require, but in opinion that's very unlikely.

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Thanks! I guess one critical point might be checking in on a flight from another continent to South America. If you don't have onward ticket and turns out the airline requires it, at least make sure there will be enough time to buy something there and then! –  Jonik Jan 17 '13 at 9:55

When flying to Brazil the airline who checks your ticket at the departure airport will make sure you have onward travel arrangements. You will be checked before you even leave.

I was checked when flying out of France, but luckily I had my expired Brazilian passport.

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This is just anecdotal info, or something deduced from several sources (will update later if I learn more).

Some friends recently travelled:
Finland -> Ecuador -> (flight) Peru -> (overland) Bolivia -> (flight) Chile -> (overland) Argentina -> Finland.

In some cases they actually had an onward ticket (flight) already and in other cases not, but the main point is that in none of these countries they were asked about onward tickets.

It looks like Brazil may be more strict than others. Or at least airlines flying into Brazil, as evidenced by this question by Tschareck. So if the intention is e.g. to start the trip by flying from Europe to Brazil, maybe you indeed should have a ticket out of Brazil.

On the other hand, Wikitravel Brazil article says:

By law you are required to produce your outbound ticket upon entry, but this is only enforced in exceptional cases. Even if you are asked, you could often get away with explaining that you are taking the bus to Argentina, and couldn't buy the ticket in, say, Europe.

Or maybe Brazil is not a special case, as Mark mentioned he had to prove return/onward travel when flying NZ—Argentina.

Perhaps good general advice is to have a pre-purchased ticket out of the first country you visit, to make sure you get on the flight to South America in the first place! Later on, it's less likely to be an issue, especially when crossing overland (or it if does come up, you can buy tickets as needed).

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So, this is a problem I have faced as well (although I had a solution - a return ticket, just no proof of it - had to go to the upstairs office of Aerolineas Argentinas in Auckland Airport to print it out as proof!!). I've often wondered since then, and after seeing your question, did some research on it.

The weasel solution

The first solution comes from WanderingEarl's blog, and is nefarious at best, although I'd pretty much guarantee it would work.

Basically he says to take a previous booking document from travelocity or similar, find a flight out of the country you're going to, and on to say...its neighbour, find the flight numbers and cost, and edit the ticket to reflect this. Then save it as a pdf for cleanliness and print. Voila, a document showing that you have an onward ticket. There's basically NO WAY that they will ever look it up. Most of them can't. Why would they?

Of course, it is technically a 'lie', and IF you got in trouble for some other reason (I dunno, get caught with drugs or something dumb) and they start investigating you, lying to an official or forging a travel document might not paint you in the best light.

The safer solutions

So then I found LivingTheDreamRTW's post, which nicely outlines several legal justifications you could use to argue that you have it covered. Essentially:

  • Get your bank to give you a notarized form before you leave illustrating that you have sufficient funds of a few thousand dollars. This shows border agents that you have enough money to cover your stay and will not be seeking work. (Likely not to work as well with airlines)

  • (I've done this one for Canada - showed them a bus ticket to the US - Mark) Have an official looking itinerary printed out in full with dates and maps of where you are going to go. A planned route takes time and shows that you have no intention of staying. (Again, likely not to work well with airlines)

  • Book a cheap bus ticket to a neighboring country from a city close to the border from a major company online. It is cheap if you decide not to take it, and could possibly be changed if you decide to stay longer.

  • Book a refundable plane ticket to a neighboring country and then attempt to get all or some of the money back when you arrive in the country. This is the best way to have proof if you are caught at the last minute without any documents and need to book something quick. Be warned that you will have several hundred dollars sitting on a credit card for a few days while you wait for a refund if the ticket is completely refundable.

  • If you attempt to cross required borders without proof dress somewhat nicely, be polite, and do not give the agent any reasons to deny you entry. It might be common sense, but if you look and act responsible you will get less hassle.

  • When you get your visa at an embassy ask what their entry requirements are. If it is something other than a plane ticket, such as proof of sufficient funds only, get it on an official letterhead to use as leverage with any airlines that might give you hassle. Being stopped by an uneducated gate agent that is afraid of losing their job would make for a bad day if you had all of the official proof you need and they did not know any better.

  • If you have a ticket leaving from another country within the period of your visa activity (say 90 days later on a 90 day visa) then this should be sufficient proof in most cases as you have to be out of one country to catch a flight in another.

  • (wahey, they suggest WanderingEarl's trick as well!) One final attempt, if you have no problem lying through your teeth, is to try and pass off a sample plane ticket itinerary as a booked one. My one suggestion would be to do this on an airline that is not in the same network as the flight you are taking into the country so it makes it harder for the airline agent to try and confirm the reservation if they so choose to try.

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The second last point is most interesting for me (indeed, it's what I mainly asked)... But when you say "should be sufficient proof", is there any specific evidence of whether it actually is sufficient in different South American countries? –  Jonik Jan 17 '13 at 8:58
1  
Yeah, I was considering this too: "cheap bus ticket to a neighboring country from a city close to the border". But e.g. for Brazil, I'm not sure if you can find such a ticket cheaply (e.g. Porto Alegre to Montevideo costs 160 USD)... –  Jonik Jan 17 '13 at 9:00
    
Well my friend flew into Santiago on a one-way ticket, and just detailed that he was headed to Mendoza, Argentina to meet me straight away. That was enough and he didn't even have evidence! –  Mark Mayo Jan 17 '13 at 15:40

protected by Mark Mayo Dec 27 '13 at 14:25

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