Proof of Onward Travel for Thailand. Do You Need It?

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This is the question I’m asked most in our Facebook group – Living Differently. Do I need onward flight tickets, a return flight ticket, or other proof of onward travel, to fly into Thailand. It’s not always Thailand, sometimes it’s Bali, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, but we’ll address Thailand in this post. First I’d like to say that I’ve flown into Thailand maybe 25 times and never been asked for proof of onward travel, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen, it does, it happened to my husband, but it’s not so common.

Thailand Proof Of Onward Travel

I’m writing this post today just so that I can give people an instant response and stop repeating myself but this post does have some useful information on Thai visas and onward travel from Thailand too. It was correct at the time of writing, we checked every Thai government website we could find, but things change, so check and double-check everything for yourself. Visas, health requirements, insurance, and other legal matters are important, so research thoroughly.

Proof of Onward Travel Thailand

onward travel from Thailand bus
This bus allowed us to travel from Bangkok Thailand to Cambodia. Onward travel by land from Thailand is very common.

As so many people travel from Thailand to neighbouring countries by bus, train, taxi or minivan, visitors to Thailand do not always have onward flights booked, this post is for them.

Onward travel from Thailand by train.
For onward travel to Laos from Thailand, you can take the sleeper train north, then cross the border by road or by boat, there are multiple crossing points. You can also take a train down to the Malaysia border.

Short hop flights within Thailand and into neighbouring Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia and Myanmar should be easy to arrange and very cheap on Air Asia. If you have one of these booked prior to arrival, you have your proof of onward travel.

Onward travel from Thailand on AirAsia
AirAsia will get you almost anywhere from Thailand, cheaply. AirAsia is fine for short flights, but anything over about 6 hours gets uncomfortable. Be aware that their baggage regulations are smaller/lighter than those you may be used to. See our guide to AirAsia carry-on here.

To book trains, minibuses, or buses in Thailand (or even flights), use 12 Go Asia, this is the simplest way to do it we’ve found, and if you book in advance, this proof of onward travel should be accepted.

Your Airline Will Ask You For Proof of Onward Travel – Maybe

International flight proof onward ticket Thailand
Desk staff when you check in for your international flight to Thailand, may ask you for proof you have a ticket to leave Thailand. Thai is a great airline, by the way.

It is your airline that is most likely to ask for proof of onward travel or to see your onward flight tickets from Thailand. If they deliver you to Thailand and you can’t get in, they’ll be footing the bill for flying you out – this is what I’ve heard, I don’t know if it’s true, but this is the standard traveller reasoning.

It’s highly unlikely you’ll be refused entry to Thailand so I think, a lot of the time, the airlines don’t ask. I’d be a little more concerned if I was flying out of the US, Australia or New Zealand. These countries have a reputation for being more inclined to be sticklers.

I have a friend who was asked when flying out of Bali to Thailand. I have never been asked, but my husband, when flying solo out of Australia to Bangkok on Jetstar, was asked for proof.

Everyone Travels Overland From Thailand

Not everyone, obviously, some people are just on short vacations, but we long-term travellers or gap year family travellers or backpackers are more than likely to travel overland.

You can travel overland from Bangkok or Thailand to Myanmar, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, these are well-worn tourist routes and normally easy to arrange in Thailand.

Of course, you can also fly. Air Asia and plenty of other local and budget airlines make short-hop flights around Southeast Asia. Simply download the Skyscanner app for free, or, if you’re on your laptop, visit Skyscanner here to see what onward flights are possible. They’re super cheap these days.

Onward Travel From Thailand to Laos

You can normally cross by road and boat into Laos from Thailand. Laos is located northeast of Thailand and borders a large area. Even so, there are really only two main overland ways into Laos.

The most common is at the Nong Khai border crossing which links up Laos’s capital Vientiane with Thailand. Trains usually run directly from Bangkok to Nong Khai where you’ll need to change trains to take you towards Vientiane. Thanaleng station in Laos isn’t actually in Vientiane but is approximately 15km southeast and you’ll still need to arrange either private transfers to Vientiane or catch the shuttle.

Visas can be bought on arrival at Thanaleng and Thai immigration is taken care of at Nong Khai where you’ll have to change trains.

Crossing by river in North East Thailand will take you to Huay Xai in northern Laos. From here you’ll still need to travel south on the Mekong towards Luang Prabang. Visas were also available on arrival for approximately $30 USD. Each side of the river has respective customs and immigration offices. Just be aware they shut early, especially if you’re arriving from Bangkok or further afield. 

With borders being shut in recent years, we don’t know if these two routes are currently possible.

Onward Travel From Thailand to Myanmar

You can cross by road into Myanmar from Thailand, normally. There were numerous crossings but not all are open to foreigners and some required more paperwork than others. Also, travel times to and from each main town on opposite sides of the border will vary.

Mae Sot border crossing is our pick and you can normally do all of your visa requirements here. Both Thailand and Myanmar had immigration and customs located here. There was even a separate foreigners booth to avoid waiting in the often long lines.

Onward Travel From Thailand to Malaysia

You can cross by road into Malaysia, or by train. You may even be able to go by boat. There are approximately seven road crossings  that lead into Malaysia from Thailand. Bukit Bunga is the largest of the crossings and follows highway 4 from Thailand down into Malaysia becoming the AH2. Customs and immigration were open on both sides of the border. Bear in mind they aren’t 24 hour crossings.

We don’t know if these border crossings have reopened yet.

Numerous trains normally run from Bangkok to Malaysia and some even continue on towards Singapore. There is another train line that crosses the border but itwasn’t in use at the time of writing.

If you’re lucky enough to be on a cruise ship or have your own boat then you can head from Thailand to Malaysia via the Gulf of Thailand. Normally border formalities are conducted at Phuket and Langkawi but this is subject to change and other options may arise.

We’ve always flown over this border because of political unrest locally.

Onward Travel From Thailand to Cambodia

You can usually cross by road into Cambodia. There is talk of a train line and Cambodia has made great progress in resuming their trains but at the time of writing there was no through way. This train line may now be open but we don’t know if this border is open to foreigners.

Both crossing are on the East of Thailand with the main crossing being Krong Poi Pet which links up Bangkok and Siem Reap, the city next to Angkor Wat. It has been very busy when we’ve used it and can be quite chaotic. Both Thai and Cambodian customs and immigration are located along the border crossing.

Cham Yeam border crossing in the bottom corner of Thailand and Cambodia’s border isn’t as big nor used as frequently. It did still have all the customs and immigration facilities but wasn’t 24 hours and services getting to and from the border weren’t as frequent nor as good.

Honestly, this road journey is pretty ordinary and unless you have a major want to do it by road, fly. Check prices on Skyscanner here.

Onward Travel From Thailand to Vietnam

You’ll need to go through Laos or Cambodia but yes, you can normally cross by road and boat into Vietnam. It’s undoubtedly quicker and easier to fly but this journey is rather an interesting one. Check flights on Skyscanner and see what comes in cheaper.

You’ll need to check that Vietnam is accepting foreign visitors and what visas you’ll need.

Showing Proof of Onward Travel Thailand

If you have a plane, bus, boat or train booked you should have no problem. Either print proof or have your booking available to be seen on your phone.

If You Don’t Have Onward Travel Booked

Get to the airport in good time. If you are asked and you can’t satisfy the check-in person with your plans, you may have no option other than to book a refundable flight on the spot, on your credit card.

Once you’ve arrived in Thailand just cancel your booking for a full refund. I’ve never had to do it, I don’t know which airlines offer refundable flights and I don’t know under what circumstances they offer refundable flights, but that’s always been our backup plan. We have never needed to do this.

I have seen people have to do this for Bali, often.

When my husband was asked he just said yes, he had it and they didn’t even check. 

Are You Likely To Be Asked At Immigration in Thailand?

We have never heard of anyone being asked at Thai immigration for proof of onward travel. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen, but we’ve never once heard of it or seen it happen.

What About Providing an Address in Thailand ?

There is a section on the immigration form asking for your address in Thailand. They don’t seem to check your bookings. Just enter the rough address of wherever you’re staying. We may put something like Mile Map Hostel Silom, for instance. Or Holiday Inn Krabi. Don’t leave it blank.

We have seen people questioned over this in the immigration lines at airports. If you book a hotel for arrival in Bangkok, this should be very easy for you. Just go to Agoda or Booking dot com and book a hotel for your arrival date.

There are, or have been, regulations around which hotels you can book in Thailand in recent years. You’ll need to check with Thai government advice.

Are You Legally Required to Have Proof of Onward Travel For Thailand?

I don’t know. Reading up on Thai laws isn’t easy and we’ve never been able to find a definitive answer. Rather like the whole debate over whether or not you need an international driver’s permit in Thailand to hire a car or scooter, it seems to be a bit open to interpretation. Best to assume you do.

The word from the Thai government is mixed. If you’re just going to get your visa exemption (this is different from a visa and only allows 30 days at a time. This is what most people get when they arrive in Thailand) on arrival then you need to have proof of onward travel.

See this information from Thailand here. Whether they ask or not as mentioned above, is another whole debate.

Knowing whether proof of onward travel is required by law or not. can be your best friend. We always check if at all possible. Knowing that it was not required did once save us. A check-in desk operative did ask us for proof for El Salvador, we knew it wasn’t needed and showed them the law on our phone. She backed down.

So be ready for ground staff not to know the law, be sure you do. But as I said, for Thailand, we’re still not really sure.

For Australian passport holders, there was a capping of entering Thailand overland of 2 times per year without a visa. See here for information. If you have a visa already this shouldn’t apply.

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These laws and requirements do change all the time, there may be different laws in place now. Please check everything for yourselves, these are just our experiences of entering Thailand prior to 2020. In 2023 we were back to see what border and entry regulations were like now in this strange new world.

We weren’t asked for proof, but we had straight-through flights booked to London with a lay-over in Bangkok. Customs is all electronic now, you need a QR code onyour phone.

Thailand Proof Of Onward Travel flights entry

So is that enough info for you on this? We’ve done it so many times and never had a problem, just try not to look like an undesirable, be polite, smile, and don’t annoy anyone. Particularly not in Thailand, they like good manners.

You should be OK, but have a charged phone and a credit card ready in case you need to book a flight. Back to our main Thailand travel guide page. Don’t forget we’re always here to help if we can, either in the comments section below or on social media. Sign up to follow and check out our related posts. You could also save this post to Pinterest. Once this crisis is over, we’ll be back out there ASAP!

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About the author
James Long
James Long, we call him Chef because he was one, an executive or head chef, is the organiser and tech-head at World Travel Family. He was unable to write coherently until fairly recently but somehow, in his 40th year, he became a writer. If it's food, computers, visas, or how to get from a to b. He's your man. He's been getting our family around the world successfully since 2012. James is an Ironman triathlete, ultra runner, cyclist, scuba diver, and supportive homeschool dad. James also has his own site, World Travel Chef.

12 thoughts on “Proof of Onward Travel for Thailand. Do You Need It?”

  1. I’ve used ” book onward ticket” for the last 3 years mostly in Central America + Colombia, it was essential!
    Costs about $10, you get it by email in a few hours and it has always worked for me

    • It’s not for El Savador! We had that arguent with the girl on the desk, and won! Yes I know of them, they’ve been asking me to promote them.

  2. I’ve been to thailand many times and have never been asked for this. A few years ago I was on a United flight to BKK. The lady at the gate was not going to allow me to board without a flight. My thai wife was able to convince them that I was going to covert my standard to visa to a Type O once I got there. A supervisor needed to get involved to give approval. I’ve never had trouble since but I always have a train ticket from Had Yai to Malaysia ($2) just in case.

  3. Found this blog as I was preparing to travel to Thailand in December 2022. I had booked a O/W into BKK from US, as I was planning to enter via visa exemption and extend beyond the 30 days (turned out they were giving 45 days – policy through March 2023 I believe). Based on this blog and asking around in other forums, I decided to book a O/W using mileage points just from BKK to Tokyo on January 15, as my proof of onward travel. At immigration I was not asked for any evidence of onward travel (nor was anyone required to fill out the tourist entry form, I think that has been abolished now??). So from my experience it was also a “moot requirement”.

    • My husband has been asked when he was flying through solo without us. Obviously a single male raises more eyebrows than a dad with a wife and kids. I’m landing in BKK in less than a week, (about the 40th time) so I’ll be able to tell you if the entry forms are still a thing or have been done away with very recently. As it says in the post, proof of onward travel is normally asked for when you BOARD your plane, not on arrival in Thailand.

    • @Alyson for World Travel Family, hi, so did you have to fill out the entry forms when you did your recent travel info BKK?

      • No, they’ve gone, there is a new electronic system, no more bits of paper. Bali is completely different now too with electronic customs declaration via QR code etc. A lot of airports we’ve used recently have a lot more automation on arrival and departure. But the rules are different for visa examption (typical tourist) and an actual visa, we went in on visa exemption last time.

  4. I would say travel to Thailand’s neighboring countries are best by plane
    No train, buses or by boat it’s lengthy of time to travel in such way.

    Gulf of Thailand and Phuket or Langawi is the opposite (Andaman Sea)I. Order to reach that point you must travel by a cruise ship around Malaysia ,Singapore

    • Or you can just get the ferry to the mainland from the Gulf islands and cross by road. Phuket isn’t an island, there’s a road connection. We try to avoid flying because of the environmental impact as much as we can. There are buses to all neighbouring countries although we’ve never taken the land crossing into Malaysia because my husband thinks we might be in danger on that one. I’d do it, he won’t.

  5. You are not getting into Thailand now. If you can it is 3-5 can$ to quarantine for 2 weeks


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