This is the question I’m asked most in our Facebook group – Living Differently. Do I need onward flight tickets, 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, but it’s not common.
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.
Onward Travel From Thailand and Proof of Onward Travel
Your Airline Will Ask You For Proof of Onward Travel
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 also have a friend who was asked flying out of Bali. I have never been asked, but my husband, when flying solo out of Australia to Bangkok, was.
Everyone Travels Overland From Thailand
Not everyone, obviously, some people are just on short vacations, but we long-term travellers or gap year families 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 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 South East 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 cross by road and boat into Laos. Laos is located North East 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 Viantiene with Thailand. Trains 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 approximately 15km south-east 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 Probang. Visas are 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.
Onward Travel From Thailand to Myanmar
You can cross by road into Myanmar. There are numerous crossing but not all are open to foreigners and some require 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 do all of your visa requirements here. Both Thailand and Myanmar have immigration and customs located here. There is 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 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 are open on both sides of the border. Bear in mind they aren’t 24 hour crossings.
Numerous trains run from Bangkok to Malaysia and some even continue on towards Singapore. There is another train line that crosses the border but it currently isn’t in use.
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 cross by road into Cambodia. There is talk of a train line and Cambodia has made great progress in resuming their trains but as of yet there is no through way.
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 is very busy 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 still has all the customs and immigration facilities but isn’t 24 hours and services getting to and from the border aren’t as frequent or 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 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.
Showing Proof of Onward Travel
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 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 back up plan. We have never needed to do this.
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.
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 drivers permit in Thailand, 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 the Thais 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 is now 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 won’t apply. Please share to Pinterest by clicking in the middle of this image or using the red Pinterest buttons at the end of the post. Thanks.
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. Back to our main Thailand travel guide page.