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I'm hoping to fly from China to Mexico to escape the winter for a couple of months on this trip, and as I prefer to have no plans, would like to do so by buying one way tickets in each direction for maximum flexibility.

I know that legally any airline may ask for proof of onward travel if I'm on a one way ticket. But I know from experience that it is very likely for some countries/airports/airlines/destinations and not very likely at all for others.

Does somebody have experience or inside knowledge if this flight is one where checking for my onward ticket would be likely?

What cheapest throwaway ticket or booking would work if I really do need to have one?

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    A bus from Mexico to the US would probably work. No ESTA is needed for overland trips. – JonathanReez Oct 22 '16 at 7:36
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    Is this a concern in practice? I've never been asked by airline personnel for proof of onward travel – davidvc Oct 22 '16 at 10:04
  • @davidvc: I've been asked twice now. Once when boarding a flight from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur, and on this trip when boarding for the second leg of my Sydney-Singapore-Taipei flight. You'll find many questions on our site about this topic. In both cases I did have proof to offer them. But every other time I've flown on a one-way ticket I was not challenged. When this does happen the airline uses a service called TIMATIC. – hippietrail Oct 22 '16 at 10:13
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Funny you should mention Timatic, because there's something that occasionally appears in Timatic which causes airlines to absolutely insist on an onward ticket.

It is:

Visitors not holding return/onward tickets could be refused entry.

Which is further explained as:

Immigration authorities may request visitors and transit passengers to prove that they will depart from the country within the prescribed period, by showing a return or onward ticket to their next international destination.

Unless stated otherwise, return/onward ticket is defined as:

a. International airline ticket (i.e. any types of airline tickets, reservation confirmation, booking code etc.); or

b. Evidence of departing from the country by other means of transportation (e.g. confirmation of joining a cruise, train, bus or ferry tickets, proof of departing by private boat or plane, etc).

And, when we enter your itinerary into Timatic, these magic words appear.

Of course, because the airline has to transport you back, and may be fined, if you're refused entry, they take this warning very seriously, and will almost always deny boarding or require you to buy an onward ticket on the spot.

Speaking of which, the cheapest onward air tickets are likely to be to the United States (e.g. MEX-IAD), though of course nothing requires you to board the plane or travel there... If you have an idea of where you'll be going next, you can simply book that onward ticket.

  • I'll almost definitely go back to China from Mexico. But I don't like to plan things in advance that I then have to stick to. – hippietrail Oct 23 '16 at 10:29
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    @hippietrail There's flexible tickets, but of course that will be expensive. Even the cheapest bus ticket out of Mexico seems to be over $100. But I didn't look very hard. If you have the cash to hand, a fully refundable ticket will do. – Michael Hampton Oct 23 '16 at 15:07

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