One way or return trip to Southeast Asia?

by Erica

Question: Hello! I'm planning to go to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam for about 3 months. This is my first backpacking trip so I am super excited!

I want to fly into Bangkok first but I've heard the airline companies have very strict policies regarding having a return flight out of Thailand. In your opinion would it be better to book a return flight and change it, or book a one way and hope for the best? I just want to save as much money as possible.

Thanks so much! You're site has A LOT of useful information :)

Answer: Hey Erica, yes the airline companies are stricter nowadays.

Since you're flying from Canada I'm guessing that you have to make a stop-over some place. If I was you I would try to find a flexible return ticket -- a ticket where you can change the dates. Check around for flexible tickets and how much they charge for change of dates (if they charge at all). According to Lonely Planet many people still get in on one-way tickets but it's getting harder.

You can also buy a very cheap regional ticket. If you buy them in advance, you get them pretty cheap!!!

If you only find expensive regional tickets I don't think I would bother buying one -- especially if you're not planning on using it, but only as a formality. In these cases you can probably save more money on flexible tickets than expensive regional flight tickets.

Try Air Asia -

Thanks for the comments :)



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One-way ticket to Southeast Asia and India - possible?

by Amanda/Backpacking Tips Asia
(Oslo, Norway)

Backpacking requires flexibility. That's one of the beauties of backpacking.

These days, a lot of travelers are considering a one-way ticket to Asia because they don't know when or from where they're going to leave Asia. While you're traveling for months on the road, anything can happen.

You might love India and decide to stay there for 3 more weeks, but wait a second. Crap, you have an onward ticket to China next week... See my point?

I received an email from a reader in UK who wanted to know if it was possible to travel on a one-way ticket to India. I realized that I haven't covered this topic before, so onto the answers ;-)

The information below is not an attempt to convince you to buy a one-way ticket, but to give you insight on personal experiences and alternatives ;-)

Will you get into trouble at the immigration?
In theory, you should have a valid ticket out of for instance, Thailand, but in reality it's seldom checked. Indonesia and the Philippines are known to be stricter on onward tickets though.

If someone does asks about an onward ticket, it's the airlines that might ask, and not the immigration. If the airlines ask and you don't have an onward ticket, you won't get on board. In India, there have been reports on Kingfisher and Jet Airways asking for onward ticket from Colombo (Sri Lanka) to Chennai.

The first time I traveled to India (2007), I had a one-way ticket, and a return ticket from Bangkok five months later. No one (as the Indian immigration in Mumbai) asked me about onward ticket when I arrived in India. The Indian embassy in Oslo asked about the itinerary, but you can just fill out one, but no need to follow it to the tee.

When I later flew from Delhi to Bangkok, no one at the immigration desk at Suvarnabhumi airport bothered to ask me about anything. The same happened when I later returned to Thailand in 2010 (flying from Norway). The immigration at Manila airport and Hong Kong airport didn't bother to ask when I traveled there in 2008/2009. Neither did the Malaysian immigration when I arrived at the airport in Kuala Lumpur in 2009.

Second time I was in India in 2011, the immigration at Trivandrum airport didn't ask me about any onward ticket, itinerary or whatever. They were more occupied about my passport. While they were looking at my Norwegian passport, they glanced at me (what does an Asian-looking girl doing with a Norwegian passport?!) I booked some domestic flights with Indigo from Kochi to Delhi, and the airline didn't ask. Neither did Jet Airways when I flew from Delhi to Varanasi. None of my fellowship was asked either.

But then again, I might have been just lucky. There have been other travelers who have reported that they were required to have a onward/return ticket when boarding the aircraft to Asia, to for instance Thailand. This really depends on which country you're flying from, who's at the check-in and what the staff are told to do.

What about border crossings?
When I traveled around Southeast Asia (2007, 2008, 2010), no one at the border crossings asked about onward tickets. They were busier with handling visa applications and trying to squeeze another dollar out of me, but no questions about itinerary or anything.

I think that if the immigration suspects you for being a over-stayer, they can just take a look at your passport. If you have been traveling for a little while and already have stamps/used visas in your passport, this means that you actually have and are going to travel around in the region, which is a huge advantage for you.

Just don't give the immigration any reasons to reject you; like dressing poorly etc.

What if you're asked about an onward ticket?
Tell them about your plans, try to go in details, like "I'll be staying in Bangkok for a couple of days, a week in Chiang Mai, then I'm off to Laos in 13 days."

If that doesn't work, make your way to the nearest internet stand and do an emergency online booking. Try to find the cheapest ticket. Cheapest tickets are common on routes with frequent flights; like Jakarta to Singapore. Just make sure you arrive early at the airport so you have time to complete a potential emergency booking.

Want to be on the safe side?
If it makes you sleep better, you could buy a full flexible ticket which you can alter for a small fee. So, whenever you feel like changing your plans, you can just call the airline and make the adjustments.

Also have in mind that in some cases, buying a round-trip ticket is cheaper than buying two one-way tickets. Do a bit of research and make a decision then.

Good luck,

Posted: Oct 27, 2012

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