It was just a few weeks prior that I was raving about the freedom felt by escaping the United States. I was to spend a year at least using Thailand as a base to teach English and devise a way to sustain long term vagabonding.

So why am I 30,000 feet in the air over puffy white clouds on a flight to Indonesia?

I was forced out of Thailand, that’s why.

Forced may be a tad bit of a powerful word. Let’s say I was inconvenienced out of Thailand.

When I arrived at LAX airport eager to depart for my indefinite adventure, I figured Visa runs were always going to be happening.

I had asked around for advice on Thai Visas from fellow travelers and whether I should drop the money for a 60 days tourist Visa so I wouldn’t have anything to worry about for a couple months.

After a few opinions, I decided to forgo the 60 day Visa. I figured I would land and feel out Thailand for a month. Maybe after that I would know which area best suits my goal and my personality. Maybe after that I would hopscotch over the border quickly on a cheap bus.

That was the plan.

When I approached the ticket counter and presented the smiling attendant of EVA Air with my passport, she then told me something completely unexpected.

You must have onward ticket

Wait, need an onward ticket?

I was pretty sure in my research before the trip that I wasn’t required to have an onward ticket when entering Thailand. I went on travel forum and spoke to backpackers who had recently flown in as United States citizens. I asked expats who had been there for a while. The consensus was the same — there was no onward flight needed.

After a split second of being taken aback by what the attendant said, I quickly and confidently replied.

Oh, it’s fine, I am taking a bus out of the country

I’m sorry, you must have it booked before you board

I do have a bus ticket across already for the 10th” I said.

I’m sorry, you must have onward flight, no bus

At that point I was confused.

Sure, I was telling a small lie when I assured her I had a bus ticket out of Thailand within the 30 day window, yet it shouldn’t matter what mode of transport I have across the border.

Time was ticking and I knew I had to get through security and have time for lunch since I hadn’t eaten the entire morning. She was repeating her statement and the line behind me was grumbling, so I decided to just book a cheap onward flight.

The attendant lead me into a side room behind the check-in area which was a little strange. It was an office with more employees at desks. Two other American fellows were at a computer I’m guessing being forced to do the same thing that I was.

I’ve never had this happen before man” one looked up and said to me.

Just found a flight on Skyscanner for $90, I’ll leave the site up”

Being on a budget mindset and having to book a literal last minute flight made a vein bulge in my forehead because I knew I was going to just have to take a pick of the cheap flight litter without actually meaning to go to that destination yet.

After they were done an older tiny Thai lady walked me to the computer.

You book now. Fast, fast. Just get confirmation and print

After browsing for only a few minutes she was back over my shoulder and pointing at the screen.

Just book any flight, fast, fast.

I took a deep breath and clenched my jaw. Airports are stressful enough and this was sapping my pre-adventure mojo.

I finally found the cheapest flight which was to Surabaya, Indonesia and I booked it. I printed the form and got through check in.

Something struck me as even more odd though.

When she verified my onward flight confirmation, she was shocked I didn’t book with EVA and even asked me why. Kinda’ fishy.

I waddled through security, and I was finally ready to depart.

Except that wasn’t the end of the unexpected onward flight.

While browsing through and the tiny Thai lady breathing down my neck, I failed to see that Tiger Airways pre-checks pretty much every freakin’ add-on and display them small enough to miss if you are rushing…

…which is exactly what happened.

Oh, thank you for being psychic and pre-checking that I had hockey or sports equipment to bring onboard! Except I don’t.

And thank you for making me order a meal on a 3 hour flight that will most likely taste like rubbish!

Aha, I did need to check my backpack when I preemptively knew I could carry it on instead!

Lastly, you are amazing that you knew I wanted to pay extra to board first! When I don’t give a damn when I board.

All tallied up, those pre-checked add ons added nearly 25% of my ticket cost or close to 1,000 baht.

I noticed this in my confirmation email once I had a moment to collect myself.

Of course it is ultimately my fault for missing those tiny boxes that no other airline I’ve been on has pre-checked whilst being rushed.

Now I know thatch these Southeast Asian airlines for every detail.

So after nearly a month traveling around Thailand to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Koh Phi Phi islands, Krabi Town, and back to Bangkok I am leaving for a few weeks.

Originally I booked for Surabaya (I didn’t even know what that city was) for the 8th, but since plans sometimes change with those last minute forced ticket purchases, I had to change the date to the 11th (another $85).

Jakarta is also the new destination.

Derek of The HoliDaze blog has settled in and set up a base for himself in Indonesia and I figured I’d go kick it with him for a few weeks and have someone who knows the ropes show me around.

I will say I am quite excited to see Indonesia. Thailand is becoming better for me, and it definitely has to grow on you from my experience.

I’ve heard there is a bit less of a punch-in-the-face when it comes to the chaos and tourist centric overflow happening in some parts of Thailand. Other travelers said it’ll be a nice breather and a more prominent culture experience right from landing. We shall see!

With that, I don’t know a single thing about Indonesia so I have my headphones in practicing greets and phrases as I write this.

All the while, my laptop is dead.

If you’ve been on my social media pages, you would have read about my dear MacBook Pro dying of some unknown disease that even a techie couldn’t figure out. Even though I am headed to Indonesia, I’ll still be posting plenty about Thailand as I figure out a good method using my iPad.

You know me friends. I’m a stickler for design aesthetics and posting from apps is extremely restricting on photos and personal touches. But I will get caught up!

I’ve sent my laptop to the United States with a friend, to have another take it into Apple for repair. They’ll bring it to Thailand fixed for me when they come visit in January, and hopefully I’ll be back to posting regularly!

Cross your fingers for me.

Looking past the debacle of this last minute ticket, onward to another country and another adventure.

Saya mau kembali ke Indonesia!


  1. Oh wow! What an ordeal! You’re right though – it does kind of seem fishy that she was pushing the onward flight. Almost makes you wonder if whether you just got the 60day visa if that could’ve all been avoided.

    Also – poops about your laptop! I hope they’re able to fix it!

    Enjoy Indo!

    • Yeah it totally sketched me out Melly. The 60 day would have saved me the money in the end, but had I not had to go through this it would have been fine.

      Thanks, I’ll definitely try to enjoy it!

  2. That sucks, but I’m sure you’ve learned to not sweat stuff too much after being on the road. If you’ve ever been to Europe and booked a Ryan Air flight, it’s very similar. All you want is a flight but they pre-check every possible add-on. Safe travels bro.

  3. You’ll love Indo. Not sure about Jakarta but the islands are dope. Go to Bali and Lombok and the Gilis. Super chill and super fun times. I like Thailand but it’s not my fave. Plus you’ll be with Derek, who seems to be an honorary Indonesian these days. Haha.

    Take care buddy!

  4. I guess, Ryan, you can chalk this up to just another travel adventure. It made for good reading but then I didn’t have to live it like you did. Will miss you at Christmas time. Do you have any idea where you will be at that time and how I can get in touch with you?

    • Hey Sandy, I just sent out some postcards do hopefully you’ll get it soon! I don’t know where I am for Christmas but you can always reach me on Facebook. The experience was just another learned on the road.

  5. http://smartraveller.gov.au/zw-cgi/view/Advice/Indonesia Traveller’s advice from the Australian government page (dept of foreign affairs and trade) which may interest you.
    Pleased you’re with someone who knows the place rather than you innocently roaming around.by yourself. As ever, perhaps I sound a worrywort and know that there is good reason for me to feel that way, you have an adventure on your own road and I want it to be all good for you.

  6. Sheesh! That’s a pain in the ass, man. When Heather and I went last year I was super paranoid and booked our onward flight out of Cambodia so they knew we intended to leave, but I had no intention of doing that for my ‘indefinite visit’ next year.

    After reading this, I’ll be sure to book something and make a vacation of it. I’ve always wanted to visit Malaysia…

  7. A good trick is before getting on the plane, making a fake reservation. Go on Orbitz/expedia/whatever and go to the final page before submitting payment for a flight. Print that out, then go and make a copy of it while ‘whiting out’ the ‘click to pay next’ part with a blank piece of paper. That’s how I got my Chinese visa in Mongolia without flying in or out (in from Mongolia, out to Laos).

    At many Thai embassies, they will give you the visa without an outward flight because they are aware of the Southeast Asia circuit. Eva air was probably just hoping you’d book another flight with them.

  8. Oh man I could have told you that Ryan! You always need an onward ticket for Thailand and visa runs cost way more than the $30 for a 60-day visa anyways over time.

    Next time just print out a fake ticket for the ticketing agents. Change the details of a previous flight in a word doc and presto. As long as it’s not the same airline they have no way of verifying.

    • Really Kristin? I’ve heard the exact opposite — that Thai immigration is extremely lax about not having an onward ticket. I didn’t. Literally bought my ticket from Indonesia to Bangkok at the Surabaya airport one morning and then hopped on a plane two hrs later. After landing immigration just waved me through after a cursory five-second glance at my form and a quick photocopy of my passport. Took all of 20 seconds and the immi officer never even said a single word to me.

    • Selamat datang di Indonesia teman saya! We’ll have a blast exploring Indonesia and getting some work done at the same time. As you’ve already seen from your first night here I’ve got a great group of friends and they’ve already welcomed you in as well šŸ™‚

      It will be interesting to see how you feel about Thailand after a month in Indonesia for comparison.

    • I’ve heard it all comes down to the airline. I certainly didn’t get asked for mine when I flew to Phuket from Nanjing (although I *had* booked one in case), while my ex was harassed into buying one when she tried to fly out of KL.

  9. Wow! Visas are such a pain in the ass. I had no idea I could only stay in Europe for three months before being forced to leave for three months before I could return. Obtaining an entry visa for Ghana was another nightmare. Still, makes things more adventurous and gives us writing material! Have a safe flight and enjoy Indonesia!

  10. this has never happened to me before either. Ok, I always go on the 30 day permit, but they never ask for the onward flight.
    I have 12 months multipule entry visa at the moment and will be travelling to Bangkok in 10 days – I wonder if they’re going to ask for any onward flights.
    Thai immigration system is so rubbish!

  11. Sorry to hear about your ordeal, I travelled to Thailand in 2012 and had to either show a visa or onward ticket from Manchester airport before they would let me pass, I had a 90 day tourist visa as I was going there to teach so it wasn’t a problem but I don’t think I was made aware of it before i got to the airport. Either way, visas = highly important, even if you don’t think they’re necessary.

    • It’s okay Sally. Thanks for the insight though, definitely learned a lesson. I had just asked around a ton before hand and searched their forums on the Thai website and didn’t read anything about it.

  12. This is the tip I got once… go to American Airlines and you can reserve a ticket for 24 hours for free. That’s what I did to show the Los Angeles Thai Visa office that I had onward flight. You make the rsvp, print out the confirmation and get on your way. No charge at all.

  13. That’s why Justin and I got ourselves a two month single entry visa, as I had read that you could be denied entry onto the plane without proof of an onward flight. I’d read about it in the forums a few months before our departure and didn’t want to risk it. Especially since based on our arrival date, we’d be forced to leave Thailand by the 24th of December and having to leave so close to my birthday (21st) and xmas was something I didn’t want to have to worry about.

  14. Hey, it’s not all airlines that do this. Some of them do, it all depends on what airline you’re flying with. When i flew in earlier this year on Air Asia from Hong Kong i didn’t need an onward flight, coming from the UK with jet Airways i was told i either needed a visa or onward flight, but i’d already gotten a 60 day visa as i was aware of the rules and didn’t wanna risk it as before was a spur the moment situation.

  15. That sucks! it’s interesting that you had received a lot of advice about not needing an onward flight… I have always been asked for proof of an onward flight when flying into anywhere in Asia (from the UK). They don’t tend to ask you when you are flying from an Asian country however.

    At least you get to see a bit of Indonesia now.

    I assume you are aware that the overland border (visa free entry stamps) time period has recently changed. I can highly recommend the Mae Sai border when you need to do a run from Chiang Mai in future: as i did this recently: http://tiggerbird.blogspot.com/2013/12/changes-to-thai-visa-rules-on-1.html

  16. I have always found it really inconsistent when asked for an onward travel ticket. Sometimes I have not been asked at all, sometimes I have been asked and lied about a bus trip and that has been enough, then other times they have demanded to see the printed itinerary. I had a similar case in LAX. I had just flown from Sydney to LA, on my way to Colombia. I was only in LAX for 6 hours, so not really visiting USA. When I went to check in with Avianca in LAX to fly to Colombia, I was asked for a ticket showing what date I would be leaving Colombia. I was a bit shocked… I thought to myself “this is LA, not Colombia…. I am an Australian citizen, not American…. Why does an airline in LAX need to know my future travel plans from Colombia? Isn’t that the job of the Colombian Customs Officers once I arrive in Bogota? I didn’t have a return ticket from Colombia, but my ticket from LA back to Sydney seemed to be enough for them to let me check-in… Once I arrived in Bogota, i was not asked for an onward travel ticket, not asked how long I was staying, not asked my reasons for visiting… The lady seemed more interested in asking me about koalas haha.

    • Ha, Luke, what a wild story. Yes, you would think it is the job of the immigration a officer! When I got into Thailand and also Indonesia the immigration officers are so pleasant. They just smile, and stamp me in. Unlike US customs with their own citizens… I guess I need to have a fake itinerary ready!

    • Ah, Brian, everyone told me about the Gili Islands! I’m back in Thailand now, I wanted to get back and start looking for teaching jobs ASAP. I only spent time in Jakarta but I’ll return to see more after a little work

  17. Hahahaha! “Saya mahu kembali ke Indonesia”!!! Come on down to Singapore, we have good food here, I swear! Hit me up when you’rein the neck of my woods. Will be in Cali from 31st Jan to Feb 26th though. Have fun in Indonesia! You gotta try their Soto and Bakso and Ayam Panggang!

    • I loved the Soto Ayam and the Bakso! So delicious! At some point I’ll come to Singapore for sure, you live there? Most likely the second half of the year after I start teaching a little bit!

  18. If you were on EVA the lady was more likely Chinese than Thai.
    In fact by their attitude I am willing to bet on it.
    Bad luck on that as Chinese are generally arrogant assh0les if they think they have found a little power, and they will abuse it.
    Try fly Air Asia as much as possible, decent planes, the usual low cost carrier stuff, but more professional and more lenient. For good international prices Emirates or Qatar, really greatr airlines, Thai Air and Singapore are good too, but more pricey.

  19. We had a similar weird issue with EVA Air when we flew to Vietnam a few months ago. They were really really difficult to work with and very pushy.


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