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?

  • 1
    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
    Commented Aug 30, 2012 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-: Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 16:58
  • 4
    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
    Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 17:30
  • 1
    In four years, I have entered countries other than my own about two dozen times. Ten countries. Usually with no ticket out. I have never had an airline ask about a return ticket. Once in three entries into U.K., the border force asked but let me in anyway. I am now in Seoul, and I do have a ticket out but it is not with the airline I cam in on, and they did not ask.
    – WGroleau
    Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 12:53
  • 1
    Thus, the experiences of two of us suggest the answer is “probably not, but no guarantee.” Which is a pity—when you want to stay a long time, you don’t want to tie yourself down to a particular date and next destination. But if you don’t, you might have an unpleasant surprise at the gate.
    – WGroleau
    Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 0:16

5 Answers 5


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).

  • I'm going to publicize this question on Facebook too where some of my expat friends in Korea will see it... Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 17:05

A couple of things, based on experience.

  1. I have more than 100 entries in Korea, and I never was asked once by Immigration for a plane ticket leaving Korea. Even back in the days or red carbon copies tickets.
  2. Every single time I flew to Korea from Japan I was asked for an onward ticket, or a residence card by the airlines. Never fails. As a long-haired backpacker, as a bald businessman, every single time. Never happened from any other country. So depending on the airline, as was mentioned in the comments, it's more the airline than immigration that's an issue.
  3. Good luck trying to get a Chinese visa in a country where you're not a resident. Don't even bother trying in Seoul, it won't work. Korea is probably the worst place to try. Your only serious option would be to do it in HK, where they're more lenient (and I'd recommend doing it through a big travel agency, like CTS or Travel Expert).
  • 2
    Either I'm missing something or something is typed wrong. In #1 you say you were never asked. In #2 you say they asked every time.
    – WGroleau
    Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 12:56
  • You're missing something.
    – user67108
    Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 23:55
  • Then perhaps a clarification or edit would be worthwhile.
    – WGroleau
    Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 0:19
  • Thanks for the edit. Interesting to compare with my experience. I have never flown out of Japan and never been asked by any airline. But I have been asked (only once) bu U.K. Border force. I wonder whether that’s a general Japanese thing, or is related to lingering hostility from WW2.
    – WGroleau
    Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 5:06

You will need some form of onward ticket. Korean immigration doesn't even enter into it: Without the ticket the airline will not even let you board the flight to Korea.

The Airline will check the TIMATIC system mentioned in the other answer, and make sure you have all the necessary documentation. The reason is that if the don't and you fail to get through immigration, it becomes the airline's problem, and they really want to avoid that.

You can of course buy some refundable (or very cheap) onward ticket and not use it.

Personal experience: When we went to Korea on a one-way ticket (via HK on Thai) they would not let us check in online. They checked the onward ticket at the counter before we could get our boarding passes. Going from Korea to Japan it was the same thing.


You can DEFINITELY get a Chinese visa at the Chinese Embassy in Seoul. You must simply prove that you have legal status in Korea and are not within 6 months of the expiration of said status. If you ARE within the six month window but have an old, expired Chinese visa, show it and they should waive the six-month rule. If all else fails, it’s quite possible (for my fellow Americans anyway) to fedex your passport and visa documents to a visa courier company in the US and they can apply for it for you there.

  • 1
    Hi, and welcome to Travel.SE. Can you provide any references for this information?
    – VMAtm
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 7:14

What I've done in the past when immigration might require a departing ticket but I didn't have a pre-determined departure date: Book a separate departing ticket but don't pay for it. Print the reservation with your information (name and whatever else) showing. Show that if asked, then if pressed, tell them your plans have changed and you haven't booked your new ticket yet.

I don't recall every actually having to show the departing "ticket".

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .