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I've been to South Korea a few times already and always enjoy it but I've always had an onward ticket before.

Now I need to fly home from a trip that's lasted over a year, but I still want to take my time and keep my options open.

There's a good choice of cheap flights from Istanbul to Seoul and from Seoul I can't decide yet whether to fly straight home or take a ferry to China, hitchhike to Guangzhou, and get a cheap flight home from there.

I can't really just buy the China-Australia flight now because I'm not sure yet whether I'll be able to get the Chinese visa easily enough or how long my remaining money will last.

I know Korea, like most countries, has rules saying you need an onward ticket, but in my experience many countries never try to verify that you have this ticket unless you fit some profile. So in this instance I would find first-hand knowlegde much more informative that pointers to a government website.

In practice does South Korea admit tourists with one-way tickets?

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Even if South Korea would not be particularly worried, the airline taking you there will check your documents, and may deny you passage without proof of onward travel. On the off chance that you were denied entry at ICN, the airline would be responsible for returning you to your point of origin on the next available flight, and face a hefty fine, and airlines hate both of those things. To avoid trouble, you can always book a refundable ticket for onward travel and claim the refund once you have figured out your actual itinerary. – choster Aug 30 '12 at 16:44
@choster: I would be flying into Korea on Etihad. I have a feeling the wondercheap fares I've found are all nonrefundable. And with the amount of money I have left I don't have a lot of options. But I don't want to wimp out either d-: – hippietrail Aug 30 '12 at 16:58
You can still book your cheap non-refundable flight into the ROK. I'm saying you can then book a refundable flight out of the ROK— it doesn't have to be back home, it can be to Japan or Taiwan or wherever is relatively inexpensive. Once you are in Korea and your plans are settled, just refund it. It will cost you nothing more than the nominal booking fee. – choster Aug 30 '12 at 17:30

According to TIMATIC (the Visa processing system use by most airlines/travel agents since 1963) the requirements for an Australia citizen visiting South Korea are :

Passport required.

  • Passport and/or passport replacing documents must be valid on arrival.

Visa required, except for Those traveling to attend conferences, exhibitions, meetings or for touristic purposes:

  • for a max. stay of 3 months for nationals of Australia;

Additional Information:

  • Visitors are required to hold proof of sufficient funds to cover their stay and documents required for their next destination

There is no description as to what "documents required for their next destination" means. This is NOT the wording generally used to state that you require an onward ticket - "documents" normally refer to Visas/etc, but asking you to show a visa for your next destination doesn't make much sense if you don't have a ticket there! In your case if your next destination is Australia then technically no additional "documents" would be required beyond your Australian passport. However without an onward ticket that may or may not be sufficient.

As with all Visa questions, the final decision is up to the immigration officer at the border. This may be a situation where emailing the local South Koreans embassy/consulate and asking this question would be a good idea (I would email rather than call so that their response is documented).

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I'm going to publicize this question on Facebook too where some of my expat friends in Korea will see it... – hippietrail Aug 30 '12 at 17:05

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