How to Avoid Onward Ticket Costs

When you travel internationally, some countries require you to show them that you're leaving the country eventually. You could show them the bus route you're going to take. But here's the deal: customs and immigration officers are humans, and some are picky. There are customs agents out there who want to see something that's paid.

If you're concerned about this, you should have a plane ticket or reservation. But what if you don't want to buy your plane ticket because you don't know when you're going or don't have the cash yet? You want your plans to stay flexible, so how do you do that?

Option 1: Buy Your Next Flight Ticket

The first option is to go ahead and buy the next ticket. But that doesn't work if you're like us and you're super flexible. It only worked for us when going from America to Bogota to Quito. When we bought our tickets to Bogota, we also bought our tickets to Quito.

But when we came to Quito, I did something sneaky. I bought a ticket from Quito to Lima at the airport, then when I landed in Quito, I canceled it and got a partial refund. 

If you’re wondering why I didn’t get all of my money back, here’s why. In America, there's a federal statute that they have to give you 24 hours to get a full refund, but that's not the case in the rest of the world. I didn't know that so I had to lose that money.

This time I thought, “I want to stay flexible, and I don't want to buy a ticket ahead of time, so what are my other options?” 

Again, you can buy a ticket and cancel it so the reservation is valid at the airport. Or you can buy the ticket and hope that your plans work. You could also show your bus route to the customs officer, but some of them might not accept that.

Option 2: Use is a website that makes and manages flight reservations for you. It's a valid, live reservation, but you don't have to buy the ticket. You only have to pay for their service in managing your reservation.

For example, I want to go from Quito to Lima. From Lima, I need to go somewhere else within 30 days for the customs agent to let me through or for the flight person to let me onto the plane. I go to and fill out my details: my name, where I'm starting from, and my actual destination. 

How Works

What they’ll do is create a live reservation in the airline system. It's $12 per person, and you get a confirmation. It doesn't look official, but when you get to the airport, you hand it to the person who requested it.

And if you have an overzealous person, they might check it because it looks shady. They’ll look it up on their computer to check if the reservation is legitimate. It’ll show your name, and that's what you're paying the $12 for. You haven't even paid for the ticket yet, but the reservation is live when you get to the airport.

Optional Fees

There's also an extra $1 fee to reserve direct flights only. For example, you don't want them to reserve a flight from Quito to Brazil to Miami because going through Brazil causes headaches down the road. Instead, you want to pick a direct flight only.

Next, you need to decide whether or not you want the reservation to be managed for longer than 48 hours. That’s a $17 upgrade, and your reservation is good for 14 days. I chose this option because I like to have everything ready a week before we head to the airport. If I were to use OnwardTicket for just 48 hours, I'd be doing everything last minute and I don't like that. 

So in our case, our total was $43: a reservation for Sam and I, a direct flight, and a valid reservation for 14 days. Now the question is, did it actually work?

Is Legit?

Yes, absolutely worked. When we got to Quito, the administrator who was doing my check-in looked at it weirdly and he did something on the computer. Then he called somebody on the phone and confirmed if it was okay that it was just a confirmation.

Even though I paid $43, which is a lot due to my specific situation, you could do it for much cheaper. And I know it will work, so yay for you and yay for me - this is an excellent resource for those of us traveling internationally.

However, I had some problems picking my destination. So do yourself a favor: if you're traveling in South America, just pick Miami. I kept trying to choose another South American country, but it kept coming up with an error message. Instead, pick a destination within the US if you encounter any problems when making your reservation.

So I can attest a hundred percent: is an excellent option.