Onward Ticket Required: You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here.


"You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here."

The first time I heard this phrase, it was likely yelled by a behemoth of a man, a bouncer at a bar, about five minutes after the ugly lights came on. Another welcome overstayed.

This phrase came to mind when I was at the Beijing airport, ready to check my bag in to my flight to Manila.

"We can't let you on this flight."

These are not really words one wants to hear in Communist China. Even though I had an awesome time there, still, it was time to go home. Well, home to the Philippines.

After some internal freaking out, sweating, trying to remain calm, texting my friend Please come back to the airport, this is not a joke because I don't speak Mandarin, things sorted themselves out.

As I was busily telling the airline employees that I didn't need a visa to enter the Philippines, this, of course, wasn't a visa issue. US citizens can purchase their 21-day tourist visas upon arrival at the airport, but, to be able to get on the plane to the Philippines in the first place, tourists need an onward ticket, AKA a ticket to leave the country. Resulting from a new law in 2012, the Philippine government will fine the airline if they let passengers on planes bound for their country who do not have onward tickets.

So the lesson today, kids: Check those foreign affairs departments for places you're traveling to, even if it's a country you've traveled to DOZENS OF TIMES. Rules do change.

P.S. I got on the plane to Manila by buying a ticket on-the-spot in Beijing. I bought the cheapest, one-way, fully refundable international-destination ticket, and have kept changing the date as I've extended my stay.

Other good-to-know information about visiting the Philippines:

  • How to extend your tourist visa while in the Philippines. By the way, make sure you don't wear shorts when you head down to Intramuros to the Bureau of Immigration. They won't let you in. 
  • If you're a balikbayan, or traveling with one of your parents who is one, visits to the Philippines are a lot easier for you. You can travel into the country without being taxed on a free, full-year visa... though you probably still need an onward ticket.
  • On this blog: More practical travel tips and more about travel to Asia, too.