PSA: Visa Free Countries & Return Tickets?

I’ll admit this one I probably should have known. We were in Hong Kong and heading to the Philippines. We arrived at the airport and went to check-in with Cathay Pacific. After taking our passports and looking up our flight details, the agent said she could not find return tickets for us and asked if we had one. At this point, I had not booked a return ticket, but knew we would be coming back to Hong Kong to start our journey down to New Zealand. I explained this to the agent – insisted that we have a ticket from Hong Kong to New Zealand so we obviously would be leaving the Philippines. She wouldn’t budge. She said she could not give us our boarding passes without a return ticket from the Philippines.

Luckily, the Hong Kong airport has great free wireless internet everywhere. We huddled up against a wall and I opened up my laptop to get booking…it was dead. Hoping for the best, Brittany opened up her laptop and bingo! We were back in action. I looked up award availability using British Airways Avios to fly on Cathay Pacific from Manilla to Hong Kong. There was availability for a flight that would be perfect for us. I quickly transferred some Chase Ultimate Rewards points into my British Airways account and booked the ticket. Then the waiting game began. We needed the confirmation email from British Airways that had our E-Ticket numbers. It felt like an eternity, but it finally arrived in our inbox. We were able to check-in and make our flight. Luckily we had factored in a bunch of cushion time for the airport.

A similar situation happened when we got to Hong Kong and were about to fly to New Zealand. We were unable to receive our boarding passes until I showed them our flight information from New Zealand to Australia to prove we were going to leave the country before our visas would expire.


Some countries allow you to visit them for free for a certain amount of days. It’s great that it’s free, but just remember you may need to prove you will be leaving the country before your visa free period expires. However, this is not true for all countries. We were able to fly to Japan without proving that we would be leaving before our free 90 days was up. Some countries must be more strict than others when it comes to letting people into their country. From now on, I will be booking a ticket out of any country I am going to that is visa free for a certain period of time. I hope you don’t make the same mistake as us!

Have you run into this before? Is there any way to tell what countries require you to have a return ticket? If you know I’d love to know!

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