If you are new to traveling, the title above probably won't mean much to you. If you have traveled for a while, on the other hand, you will definitely know what I'm talking about. It's the dreaded "Hey, you need a flight ticket to apply for this visa!"-requirement that comes with every visa application you will ever launch. If you belong to the first category and don't know what I'm talking about, though, I'll give you a run down:
- wants to stay in a country for longer than the permitted 30 days
- comes from a country that isn't eligible for Visa On Arrival
- is applying for an internship, student visa, work visa, or submitting any other type of application that requires a trip to the embassy needs a flight reservation or flight booking for their visa application for either a tourist visa, Schengen visa, or any other visa application.
You may have noticed that I didn't write flight tickets? That's because there's a difference. For example, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Denmark notes on their website in the United Arab Emirates:
Flight reservation to be shown upon submission. Original return ticket must be shown upon collection of the visa. E-tickets are accepted.
I have researched the visa application requirements for countless countries, and all the embassies request the same;
"present proof of a confirmed round trip ticket, but do not purchase the ticket until your visa is granted".
Present a ticket, but don't buy the ticket? What gives?
I am actually personally in the middle of applying for an extended tourist visa for Indonesia (the Social Buddaya Visa) at the time of writing this, for which I also need to present a valid return flight booking.
In case you think this is a requirement you can get around, I can guarantee you it's not. Not only is it mandatory for any visa application in order for it to get accepted, you might also be asked to present an onward ticket at the airport. This is because it's the airline itself that's liable should a passenger cause trouble and refuse to leave the country. Because of this, almost all airlines will now ask you for a proof of onward travel every time you check in.
I was a personal witness at BKK airport in Bangkok when my girlfriend at the time who was an American Citizen and a permanent resident of Norway got refused to check in to her flight to the Philippines because she didn't have a return ticket. She was completely taken aback, and at a loss of what to do. Her flight was leaving in less than two hours, and she was being refused check-in.
The solution? I had to hotspot her my mobile data at the airport, and told her to go on to a flight comparison site and book (and pay) the cheapest flight she could find (that she later of course didn't use). She went back to the check-in counter, showed them the flight reservation; and they checked her in with no more questions.
What if I hadn't been there? Would she have had to go to the nearest airline counter at the airport and shell out thousands on a ticket she would never use, and wouldn't get refunded?
My own solution for a long time was doing it the same way; using flight comparison sites to find the cheapest tickets I possibly could out of whichever country I was going to, and then throwing them away. It usually meant waving good-bye to at least $60, which is money I could have definitely spent on other things!
The fact is I spent the first 8 years of my traveling doing it this way, but what else could I do? My Google research came up with nothing. Other travelers on forums recommended just buying a full priced ticket, and cancelling it within 24 hours. I don't know what airlines you use, but the low cost airlines I use certainly don't offer me any 24 hour cancellation with a full refund. I searched this as well, and if you want a flexible or refundable ticket, the only airlines offering this option were the "big guys" (e.g. Delta, American Airlines, United, British Airways etc), and their refundable tickets came at a price 4-5 times higher than the low cost tickets I was getting (especially because I was usually traveling long-haul to countries on other continents). I don't care HOW refundable those tickets were. Not only did I not even remotely possess that kind of cash, but even if I did, I would never have the stomach to spend it in the hopes of getting it back. Who knows what kind of rules in small writing these airlines may have?!
Even if my buying-and-throwing cheap tickets (through AirAsia, Ryanair, Jetstar etc.) was the best option I had, it was definitely not a great one.
My Secret Tip To Avoiding the Flight Booking Requirement For Visa Applications
I shouldn't really call it a "secret" tip, because the truth is I want every traveler to know about it, so it will be easier for everyone to apply and get visas, travel across borders, experience other cultures and discover who they truly are. I would never be where I am today without my travels, and I have met people from the other side of the world who would never have developed into who they are today had they not had the possibility to travel to "my side" of the world. I have seen the immense joys and benefits of traveling; it nurtures understanding, patience and an open mind.
So back to the day I finally figured it out ...It was a cold winter night back in Europe, and I was again applying for an extended tourist visa for Indonesia, and I had to come up with another return flight for the application. As a last attempt to see if the Almighty Google had finally come up with a solution, I found it; Schengen visa flight reservation: a company that promised to give me a valid, authentic, genuine flight reservation, especially for visa applications, without the need to actually purchase an entire ticket.
I was skeptical. What a very long name, I thought, but I decided to check them out. Reading through their page I found that they
- process through PayPal (ok, ok, means my payment is secure at least, and I can get my money back if it's a scam) and
- would deliver it in a matter of hours. That was good for me, because - me being my usually late self - I was a little pressed for time.
I had never heard of this type of service before; one that would book the ticket for me for a small fee, and keep it valid until a day before the actual flight, and then cancel it. I was reassured it was absolutely risk free.
I was facing the choice between doing it the way I always had, and throw away another $60-70, or taking my chances with a small one-time fee with Schengen visa flight reservation. I decided to go for the latter, and I am SO glad I did! I entered my desired dates and countries, and paid easily through PayPal. The itinerary was in my inbox the next morning, and when I checked the flight, it was confirmed on the airline's website. I submitted it with my visa application (which was granted 3 days after), and I never thought of it again. It was perfect!
Since then I have used this company for all of my visa flight booking requirements. I gave them a rave review on Facebook, and I am hoping their company will grow even more. It's a small company run by a group of very nice guys based in the US. There are actually some competitors (and hey, competition is healthy!) but when I researched them I came across a lot of negative reviews about some of the other providers giving fake tickets. And the other providers I found were just charging to much for a budget traveler, to be honest.
So there you have it! I am happy I could share my best travel tip with you, and I hope you will get as much benefit out if this as I have, saving money and getting visas granted!!
Have fun traveling!!!
This is a contribution from one of our contributing writers.
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