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Not booking return flights for 4/5 month travels

Posted by jimbojh on 14/11/2015 at 06:00


I will be travelling to SE Asia from UK in June, but am undecided how long I want to go for as yet. I will be returning between October and November but the question is does anybody have any experience booking the return long haul flights whilst over in south east Asia. This would give me ultimate flexibility and also mean that I don't have to dish out as much now for both legs of the journey.

Any suggestions...

#1 jimbojh has been a member since 9/12/2014. Posts: 10

Posted by exacto on 14/11/2015 at 09:24

Hi Jim,
A couple of ideas. First, if you are over 50, you might look into a retirement visa for Thailand that would give you up to a year to stay in Thailand. As I understand, this means a multiple entry situation, so you could use Thailand as a hub for visiting other countries in the region.
If not that old yet, you could look into the new 6-month tourist visa that has been the topic of much discussion here on Travelfish. The visa looks like a pain to obtain, but at first glance, it looks like it might fit your situation.
If you decide those options don't fit your needs, I would at least apply for a 60-day tourist visa. As long as you look reasonably presentable when you arrive, the Thai Immigration folks are usually pretty lax about stamping folks into the country, even when you don't have a return flight booked. However, airlines can be a bit stricter, since if you are refused entry, the airline is on the hook to fly you back to your point of origin. The 60-day tourist visa will give you much better standing with the airline and with immigration. It will also cover the first two months of your trip, so you can work out the specifics of visas and on-arrival exemptions for the other countries you plan to visit for the rest of your time.
In any case, I would definitely check with your airline to see what their policy is for visa requirements, and it might not hurt to check with the Thai Embassy or Consulate in your area to see what they recommend too.
I hope that helps. Good luck and let us know how things turn out. Regards.

#2 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,840

Posted by daawgon on 14/11/2015 at 12:29

Since one way flights are considerably more expensive than round trips, you should also consider booking a round trip, and then paying the fee to reschedule the return flight. I believe my carrier, Asiana Airlines, charges about $300. to reschedule flights - probably all a little different.

#3 daawgon has been a member since 17/4/2007. Location: Vietnam. Posts: 1,159

Posted by DLuek on 14/11/2015 at 20:58 TF writer

Good advice above... As exacto says it could be a problem boarding the flight in the UK if you have no proof that you'll be leaving the country that you fly into... As he says this could be surmounted by getting a visa (although my experience has been that a two-month Thai tourist visa doesn't always suffice), or by booking a cheap one-way flight (look at Air Asia, Jetstar, etc.) out of that country, so for example, from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur or Singapore to HCMC -- just to show proof that you intend to leave the first country (ridiculous, I know).

The latter would obviously be good if you actually plan to travel from one country to another and you know when, but some people book it as nothing but a "throw away" ticket just to pass the airline's requirements. I had to do this once when traveling one-way to Thailand, and I did indeed have to show the Air Asia ticket that I'd bought to Vietnam before being allowed to board the flight in New York, despite the fact that I had a Thai tourist visa.

Also, in my experience, what an airline phone rep says about country entry requirements isn't always accurate, as the rep in, say, Chicago, is not always up on the requirements for entering, say, Malaysia, and my experience has been that country-specific requirements are not readily available to these reps (or they're too lazy to look for them), so they just end up saying whatever they want. I once had an airline rep insist that I had no choice but to book a return flight back to my home country, which was complete BS. Unfortunately the whole airline-not-letting-you-board-without-proof-of-onward-travel-or-long-term-visa thing is a grey area; it seems that some airlines are stricter than others. Cathay Pacific and Qatar Airlines have been strict, in my experience, while China Eastern and ANA didn't seem to check at all. In Thailand's case it's all rather silly since Thai immigration basically never checks for proof of onward transport before stamping people into the country on 30-day visa exempt stays. But it seems that they don't tell the airlines this, or rather they rely on the airlines to sort out these situations so that they don't have to.

Okay that was a bit of a ramble... One more thing: daawgon makes a good point that one-way flights are nearly always a lot more expensive than round trips... To get around this you might look into Norwegian Airlines, which is a budget carrier that charges by the leg, so it's exactly the same price no matter if you book one-way or round trip. Of course the problem is that their prices go up the closer you get to the travel date, so you shouldn't expect a low fare if booking a couple weeks in advance. But they now use Bangkok as a hub and operate quite a few flights to/from there and Europe.

Also, paying the fee to reschedule a flight doesn't always work either, especially if you book the lowest possible fare... It all depends on seat availability so if all of a given airline's flights are full when you want to fly, you're out of luck. This happened to me when a family member passed away... I already had a flight to New YOrk booked with Cathay Pacific but when I tried to change it to something sooner, they said it wasn't possible. So I had to cancel that flight completely (and pay a hefty fee for doing so) and then book a much more expensive flight from a different airline altogether.

#4 DLuek has been a member since 19/6/2008. Location: Thailand. Posts: 1,346

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