As we know, most countries require that visitors have a return or onward ticket as a condition of entry.

But often, depending on where you're from and which country you're visiting, you won't be asked to show such ticket.

Now many backpackers like to travel without exact plans made in advance, including buying all one-way tickets when they are finished with one country and have decided where to go next.

But what happens when you're travelling this way and they actually do ask you for proof of return/onward passage?

  • Are you sent back on the next plane at your own expense?
  • Will you have some opportunity to buy a ticket at this time?
  • Will this be unlikely to happen in the first place because the airport where you board will tell you whether you'll need a ticket?

To make it all specific, I'm asking about my friend travelling on an Iranian passport who wants to fly into Malaysia with a one way ticket and travel around Southeast Asia.

Personally I've never been asked to show this proof in an airport but I have at land borders after visa runs and in immigration offices when getting visa extensions. But a friend who travels on a British passport was asked for this proof when she flew into Malaysia about two years ago. Lucky for her it was a rare occasion where she actually did have a return ticket.

What will Malaysia do if you are asked to prove onward/return travel but only have a one-way ticket?


I can't answer what Malaysia would do if they asked for such proof because when I arrived they did not ask.

However, when I was checking in for my flight at the Air Asia X desk in Sydney they did ask me. And they did accept my $10 e-ticket for the train to Singapore as proof.

  • 1
    related travel.stackexchange.com/questions/19031/…
    – Adriano
    May 20, 2015 at 7:56
  • and 6 months later while traveling the world...I just launched a blog & wrote an article about that very topic: Proof of onward travel or how to avoid it. I hope it helps a few of you!
    – Adriano
    Nov 24, 2015 at 5:22
  • Some places will absolutely require proof of onward travel, but others may use it as part of a wider assessment as to whether you should be admitted (they will consider various factors to judge if you are likely to overstay).
    – Stuart F
    Oct 9, 2023 at 12:15

3 Answers 3


When proof of onward travel is required, it is always the job of an airline to check whether your documentation is in place. If not, and if you have to be deported, I believe in this situation the airline has to bear the cost of flying you back; this is standard practice around the world.

Malaysia implements these requirements pretty unevenly. Citizens of countries which do not require a visa in advance (like Iran) may or may not be checked strictly, the real requirement for onward travel in case of transit is for those who require visas / transit visas (Indians, Chinese, ...)

The simplest thing is to show you will be leaving the country, and for that I don't think an airline ticket is required. Get a cheap bus ticket with Malaysia's national bus operator Transnasional - from Kuala Lumpur (listed under 'Wilayah Persekutuan') to Singapore costs only roughly $15 - a cheap price to pay just to tick a box if you're stopped at all.

Alternatively, buy a ticket from anywhere in Malaysia to Singapore with a low-cost airline like Tiger Airways or Air Asia. Don't pay more than $20-40 including taxes for it. The tickets are non-refundable but compared to cancellation charges of full-service airlines with refundable tickets are usually much higher.

  • Obviously it's easy to buy a plane ticket over the internet from across the world, but what about in the case of the bus ticket? (Also your very last sentence reads strangely. You might have an extraneous "compared" in there.) Nov 23, 2011 at 17:11
  • 5
    Oh yes, you can buy Transnasional tickets online and get a receipt for it. You're expected to collect the actual ticket at a counter on day of travel but for purpose of onward travel the online receipt should be enough, just like e-tickets for planes. Nov 23, 2011 at 17:42
  • 3
    You can get a legit flight reservation (which expires after 3-5 days) at zero cost with any friendly travel agent. Make sure the reservation is with a different airline. You could also cut out the middle-man and create a fake reservation yourself (both for flights and bus tickets). I've done both and they've worked. However, it tends to be less stressful when the reservation is legit.
    – coldfused
    Sep 25, 2014 at 20:39
  • As @coldfused said, last time I got a free reservation from the Malaysia Airlines and it worked. They have a counter at the airside. Aug 15, 2016 at 10:09
  • 1
    You can take a train ticket from Johor To Singapore for just 5$ though Jan 17, 2019 at 8:47

I have a friend who once try to travel on a one-way ticket to a Southeast Asian country which requires you to have an exit ticket. He was initially prevented from boarding the flight but easily solved it by simply buying his exit ticket on the spot and showing the proof on his phone to the gate staff.


The part about airlines checking ahead of letting you board, because they can be held financially responsible if you are denied entry, has been well covered. But, from extensive personal experience, I'd like to add one bit of information: considering this friend is planning to travel around Asia, quite a few countries have become – or always have been – very strict on the verification.

Airlines in Japan, first and foremost, from my long-lost backpacking days to my business-trip days, are VERY strict; Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Myanmar regularly check. Surprisingly, Singapore, not so much (and they try hard to get you checked in on a kiosk, not a manual counter). Airlines in Thailand & Laos, NOT surprising, don't often check. They're either asleep at the wheel, or too busy watching their mobile phones.

So depending on the countries after Malaysia your friend will be visiting, an onward ticket might be required, or not. Some countries may be a little more relaxed with Westerners (Japan is definitely NOT relaxed on the matter), but with an Iranian passport, I would say expect enhanced scrutiny...

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