Entry Requirements For The Philippines – One Way Tickets

Entry requirements for the philippinesI’ve been a fan of one-way tickets for some time now, mainly because of the flexibility they lend to my travels, but this buy and fly method doesn’t always work, as I discovered this morning when I was introduced to the stringent entry requirements for the Philippines.

Booking A Flight To The Philippines

I booked my ticket to the Philippines for two reasons – with over 7,000 islands to explore, there was surely some sand-based fun to be had and, equally importantly, a one-way ticket cost me under $50 from Kuala Lumpur.

Air Asia confirmation received, I flew just over one week later, courtesy of their partner airline, Zest Air. (Verdict on Zest Air: although I’d not previously heard of them and there was no soap in the toilet – shock horror – we didn’t fall out of the sky).

Dealing With Entry Requirements

Now, I like to consider myself reasonably diligent when it comes to getting my legal entry formalities in order. I’ve heard enough nightmare tales from other travellers resulting in refused entry and expensive tickets home to focus my mind (ESTA seems to stump more people than it should).

So, before I head to any destination, and even before I book, I check out the visa situation and make sure I comply, even if that means spending 2 of my 4 week visa in China stalled in Beijing waiting  for my India visa to be processed (tip – get it in Thailand in a smidgen of the time).

For the Philippines, British passport holders are granted a 21-day tourist visa on arrival with the possibility to extend it later for a fee.

Perfect (actually, perfect would have been a 90-day visa on arrival, together with a nice, thirst-quenching slice of watermelon, but we can’t have everything). Otherwise pleased with the ease of entry, I booked my one-way ticket.

Update: the Philippines has since extended it’s Visa on Arrival period to 30 days for UK passport holders. It’s also 30 days for US citizens and my distant relatives in Australia.

What I failed to research in any detail (read: at all) was the onward ticket requirements. This was for two reasons.

First, although it’s not uncommon for countries to require evidence of onward travel before you are allowed enter, the practical reality is that most countries rarely check. I’ve travelled to over 50 countries now and with the exception of Panama and Costa Rica, I’ve never been asked for evidence of my onward ticket despite many countries stipulating this in their entry requirements.

Second, and perhaps most important, thanks to Japan’s crazy high one-way ticket rates, on this occasion I do have an onward ticket, leaving from Bangkok to London in July. Thus far (including in Panama and Costa Rica), any onward travel has been sufficient even when, for Panama, my outbound ticket was from Mexico to Singapore several months in the future.

Much to my frustration, stress and expense, the rules for the Philippines are apparently much more strictly enforced.

Entry Reqirements For The Philippines: Prove You’re Leaving Or You Won’t Be Arriving

“How long are you staying in the Philippines?” the lady at check-in asked, all smiles and hidden agenda.

“Not sure yet,” I answered honestly, not having had my second cup of coffee that usually sharpens my wits. Naive travel error.

“So you don’t have a ticket leaving the Philippines?”


“Yes,” I bludgeoned the truth – I had a ticket to London at some point in the future. Same, same, but different, right?


After being asked, I handed over my iPad showing my e-ticket with a flight to London as I simultaneously whistled in the air, hoping to spread an air of nonchalance.  But it didn’t work.

I was hardly going to the Philippines to start a business and ultimately retire in breach of every visa entry requirement they’d ever written, I politely explained. My biggest offence is that I’m just a flake with no idea where I’ll be next week, let alone the week after, I appealed to the ladies inner free-spirit.


After several minutes of friendly negotiation, the lady pulled out her Ace card – no return ticket. No flight.

Double damn.

The Quick Fix: Buying A Ticket At The Airport

A while ago I wrote about how to turn up at the airport and taking the next flight out…my morning felt a little like that except my task in hand was to buy the cheapest ticket back (not out) at some point within the following 21 days.

Ascertaining there was wi-fi at the airport, I set up my mobile office and using internet with speed from the 80’s (1880’s, that is) and across three devices (they separately kept timing out in a race to get something booked before check-in closed), I bought a ticket online. I did think about a counter sale, but after being completely screwed over financially the one time I did this with an low-cost airline, I took my chances with the web.

Ordinarily, if I’m booking a flight, I like to cruise across a few sights, checking deals and comparing routes and extra charges. Normally, I’m a flight booking ninja. However, with no time to spare (I hardly wanted to miss my flight to Manila after booking a return), I hopped onto the Air Asia website, the airline in the region with the most consistently cheap flights. With a world map in one hand to check the closest countries to the Philippines and the Air Asia search function in the other, I sped through the website.

First I checked places that have been on my ‘next potential destination list’. If I was being forced to book a ticket, it made sense to book one I might actually take.

Taiwan –  no flights. South Korea – same. Vietnam (for a return visit) – no better luck…and there was the Visa issue with Vietnam anyway.

I was starting to get desperate as time flashed by. Return to Kuala Lumpur – too expensive (around $100)…argh…Kota Kinabalu – bingo! As the only flight under $50 leaving in the following 3 weeks it was as close to perfect as the bad circumstances would allow.

Biting back my frustration, I booked, paying a small admin charge and taking care not to book baggage for a flight I probably won’t take, I returned to the check-in desk with minutes to spare.

Entry Requirements For The Philippines: Box Ticking Over Common Sense (Or A Boost To Air Asia’s Profits?)

My morning was defined by frustration and stress and by the time I boarded the flight I felt exhausted (that second cup of coffee still notably absent). Although I was annoyed at myself for my complacency about the entry requirements for the Philippines, I was more frustrated with the failure of common sense.

How can it possibly make more sense for me to show a cheap (some might say disposable) ticket to another jump point in Asia as evidence of my intention to leave the Philippines, particularly when I purchased it under duress at the airport? Surely the better indicator of my intention to leave the region is my much more expensive flight back home – one I actually intend to take.

Was I requested to show my return ticket on arrival at Manila? Of course not, which left me pondering the fact that the heavy enforcement of the rules at Kuala Lumpur (incidentally the home hub for Air Asia) are coincidentally beneficial for the company.

I’ve been to Kota Kinabalu before and with over 7,000 islands to explore in the Philippines, it’s unlikely that I will be taking my freshly booked flight, or indeed any flight before 6 June.

Can I cancel my flight – no.

Can I amend the destination – no.

Can I change the date – with a fee.

I may be letting out a huge sigh, but the more I move around, the more I come to accept these kind of road bumps as the cost of regular travel. I could spend my time lamenting the wasted cost, but I think my time will be much better spent putting the morning behind me and sipping a cold beer as I watch the day come to a close over Manila’s impressive skyline.

For more travel planning tips and stories about Asia, see:

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Article written by

Jo Fitzsimons is a freelance travel writer who has visited over 60 countries. www.indianajo.com is the place where she shares destination details, travel itineraries, planning and booking tips and trip tales. Her aim: to help you plan your travel adventure on your terms and to your budget.

56 Responses

  1. Nishant Singh
    Nishant Singh at | | Reply

    Good afternoon mem , I want to ask you can I apply for visa with hold tickets.

  2. Glenda molino
    Glenda molino at | | Reply

    Can i get a ticket one way my visa is intry visa asap pls

  3. 101 Tips for Cheap Flights | Indiana Jo
    101 Tips for Cheap Flights | Indiana Jo at |

    […] Why One-Way Tickets Don’t Always Work […]

  4. Robert Mark
    Robert Mark at | | Reply

    I am planning to go to the Philippines to do some missionary work I was going to purchase a one way ticket but I was tell the Philippines airline will not give me a boarding pass for their airline without it is there a way not to purchase a round trip ticket because I planning to stay in the Philippines

  5. rt
    rt at | | Reply

    It’s a foreign country and it is up to you as an adult to know what you are doing. If you travel around ignorant and arrogant you will always have troubles. I have gone to Philippines 4 times. And lived there 6 years. Best thing I learned is to use a good Philipine travel agency to deal with renewing imigration visa’s and exit paperwork. I have them keep my passport in their safe and basically never go to imagration for visa updates or exit paperwork and when I must go to imigration they set up an appointment on the spot and I wait almost zero time to get anything done while a large unhappy group waits and waits. Once you travel hours by bus to renew your visa and the computers at imagration dont work requiring you to return the following day you learn the valuse in this. And dont forget to wear shoes, pants and a shirt. when dealing with imagration or any goverment offical in Philippines.

  6. Zadig
    Zadig at | | Reply

    Working in; or living in; or traveling to Philippines as a tourist, since 1990. What a mess !!! The Philippine Government is responsible for confusion and aggravation of travel to the Philippines. The Airlines are following the instructions given by Philippine Government, which includes a $5,000 fine if they allow a passenger to arrive in PI without onward ticket.

    Foreign spouses of Philippine citizens (or former citizens) get a one year BB “visa” upon arrival from the airport immigration and do not need onward ticket. However, Philippine immigration has not made this clear to the airlines who, under threat of fines, enforce the immigration rules. So a “catch-22” situation.

    Seems as if the Government is actively discouraging tourists, but the immigration folks treat the Philippine citizens tourists much worse. They get interrogated, need to show bank book and many refused permission to leave. If accompanied by a foreigner, the foreigner is questioned and has to sign an affidavit that he will be held responsible to return Philippine citizen home. Crazy.

  7. Richard Selby
    Richard Selby at | | Reply

    Interesting story.I want to travel to the Philippines.what are the right things I should do?

  8. Bill
    Bill at | | Reply

    I have lived in the Philippines for the last 2 years, and will never travel to this country again! The country’s immigration regulations make no sense, and are not clearly advertized. I to had to but a ticket out (bought a ticket to Vietnam lost 100$) even though I was married to a Filipina and planned on living there until I got her out of the country. Here is another example of a foreigner that got harassed for his infants exit visa: (yes you will need to ask the government permission to leave the country if you stay longer than 6 months)

    Just want to share the experience of my friend. She and her whole family including an 11 month old child born here but with an American passport were about to the head to the US this morning but they got held up because they weren’t informed they need the ECC for the baby! So after rebooking their flights and paying for high fees, they went to Intramuros today only to find out that they had to pay 6K for the ECC and they can only get it after 3-4 working days. There’s a separate ‘rush’ fee of 1500 but it does not guarantee a definite date of getting it! It was such a crazy experience for them.

    I hope the BI would have a kiosk that could handle these cases at the airport. Their information dissemination is ridiculous for their policies that causes so much hassle!

    Do yourself a favor, and avoid this country, unless you are ready to deal with surprises and get stressed, cause in this country nothing ever goes right!

  9. Alex smith
    Alex smith at | | Reply

    All Philippines immigration want is proof of onward travel.
    This ticket does not have to be the same length of your tourist visa it can be say for in 6 months time, as they know you will just pay to extend your visa up and until you depart.
    I usually get a return ticket for 3 months which is normally the time i leave the Philippines, but if you don’t know when exactly you are leaving just get a ticket you can change the return date on it.

  10. David
    David at | | Reply

    I’ve been to the Philippines many times and have never been asked to show my return ticket but often asked at check-in. This time I’m arriving on the 29th and leaving the following month on the 28th so I’m just inside the 30 day no visa period.

    Worst experience I had was flying to Bangkok from Melbourne when Jetstar wouldn’t let me board as I did not have 6 months validity on my passport (why this stupid rule anyway). They then said maybe Thai airways will let me fly. So I checked with Thai and they looked at my passport and all was fine. Of course I had to buy a last minute ticket on Thai which was more than twice the price of the ticket I’d just thrown away on Jetstar. Of course when I arrived in Bangkok immigration made no mention that my passport had less than 6 months validity assuming they even looked.

  11. gsk
    gsk at | | Reply

    I have purchased one way ticket and one way confirm reservation(not showing any thing like reservation but same as the ticket) i saw your post damm m kinda scared now. i purchased it bcos last time agent run away with my return ticket money. so i lost no refund were issued.

    I m married to a filipina have my wife and son in manila. I m holding an expired resident permit visa on my passport as well as ACR ( couldbe used for special return permit but expired already). its expired due to my mom illness i couldn’t able to travel back . i took another entry visa from embassy. but m bit confused do i need to buy a ticket to back home again or one way is enough with reservation ?

    Thanks in advance

  12. Trevor Howard
    Trevor Howard at | | Reply


    Great article.

    I live in the Philippines on a tourist visa and have this all the time when I travel on business. Kota Kinabalu is my favorite option too. Seem to be all the Philippine operators that in force it and I am certain it is a scam to get you to book a ticket with them! I have lived there for 4 years and been in and out the country over 50 times, not once have I been asked by immigration to show a ticket.

  13. Parrotfish Journey Blog
    Parrotfish Journey Blog at | | Reply

    I was recently flying to Philippines and they made me buy return ticket , so would recommend to get you return ticket sorted .

  14. Zivah
    Zivah at | | Reply

    Hi, my boyfriend and I, we are from USA, will be traveling to the Philippines next month. We are planning to buy 1 way tickets to Manila as we decided to travel to Cebu then Zamboanga and leave from there to Sandakan, Malaysia by boat. Do we need any onward tickets?
    Thank you.

  15. pete giffard
    pete giffard at | | Reply

    btw…..her initial flight was with air asia…who would not let her board unless the immi poeple thr ok,d it….u know that story!

    her rebooked flight(4 hours later) was with philippines airline…..they also demanded to see her return flight ..or no board,..so the disposable flight WAS nessesary.
    even though she had flight confirmation no..(but no printed ticket)as i had sent in a text,,they would book her only to manila where she had to go to the counter of phil air to confirm her onward flight out of the country.

    in short…it seems they are backing the decree (march 17 2014)of the minister of immi there in phils to the letter of the law

  16. pete giffard
    pete giffard at | | Reply

    hi jo…please excuse the late reply…im not much of a blogster.
    upon a bit of research this is my findings..:

    1.isent emails to 3 different officials at cebu airport and recieved no reply….its no surprise to me as they simply dont want to know nor deal with it..

    2..my travel insurance will not cover..”things out of their control, except natural disasters”

    3..though the dfa here in oz says that due to the nature of the visa..issued by dfa manila a return ticket is not nessesary.[.(12 month tourist visa with multiple entry…BUT..3 month maximum stay)…yeah…clever huh..!….and yes that means she has to leave oz every 3 months],.
    ,philippines is a different kettle of fish..different ways ,different thinking……and so the point is, dfa oz thinking is not there,neither in their office in manila ,nor at the airport.

    4… the reality…..apparently the return ticket out of the country(for foreigners)..or back into the country (for nationals) has been in place for years,though only very loosely adhered,if at all….and so the false sence of security!

    5….the” now” reality…on march 17 the foreign affairs minister decreed a crackdown…via social media…newspaper front page..net…and television .thus enforcing the return ticket rule,.makeing airlines accountable by threatening large fines.
    ..the reasoning is to protect filipinos (and so they should )from human trafficking

    so g/f was a prime target as a youngish female travelling alone
    being it her first time without me and shitting herself…she was lamb to the slaughter for the said immi official at the airport.

    anyway she is here safe and well and hopefully we are wiser…..so i guess the thing is,,when dealing with a third world country with a mind of its own

    dot the “i”…and cross the “T”….good luck all…i must go now and book a return ticket to new zealand(the cheapest out of oz) for the girl….with less than a 24 hour turnaround there(so she doesnt have to get a visa)……hohum….wheeeeew

  17. pete giffard
    pete giffard at | | Reply

    i just re read..and to clarify a few things…..it was 2 days ago..the 7th april…(so im still spewing)…….her visa is an open ticket visa for 12 months so that justifies a non return ticket(according to aus dfa)…

    so…i really dont know how to get around this one…bt i think from now on i will book a bodgie ticket (one of the ones some airlines give u 48 hours to pay) just in case…

    im nt fr the cut and paste idea…great if it works…bt this “customs official” in question said he had to verify the flight booking no….not just the flight…..hmmmm.

    also..there is no wifi if u fly into cebu….though there is a small netcafe with a printer…if the lady is thr….(its hit and miss)

    anyway to mark t…….i read somewhere that u can get a ferry from zamboanga to malasia for about 800p..(20$)…though after this last lil escaped….i would just get a disposable air ticket.

    after all hair transplants are much more expensive.

    hope i havent bored u all thx to read

  18. pete giffard
    pete giffard at | | Reply

    hi..i have been to phils from australia 7 times in the last 3 years and never been asked..nw heres the story…my filipina g/f, visa in hand and fully booked to oz…was denied leaveing cebu airport on monday..11th april..2014…..several frintic calls to me in oz….and the customs guy thr insisted she must have a return ticket form aus to phils……..i told him thts b/shit…2 calls later he backed off and said…..a ticket into phils would do….meantime time is ticking away……..internet hong kong to clark…$60 later ….i txt the flight no………….not gd enough…………….wanted booking no………sent booking no…………he then went into the back office fr 10 mins….(my g/f said she yelled out thtshe would miss her flight…(he poked his head arounfd the corner and replied tht he must verify the flight)……..all done fixed……….run run run……..flight gate shut………….the prick had pissed her around just long enough to miss the flight…………bneware the filipino customs power plays……..upon a bit of research ive found a few other stories of the younger guys playing games with young filipina travelling alone………….of course i was ropeable……….a g/f stuck in an airport a 1 hour flight and 3 hours by bus away from her home……crying her eyes out…………i wanted his name and badge……..she went to the counter where they all headed out back and pretended they werent there……..$750 and 5 hours later she is on a plane on a new route to australia…(as missed all previous connecting flights)……

    anyway im nt sure how u get around a situation like tht as its b/s to start with and cant be predicted)….australian embassy(i rang them)..says its nt needed as visa covers it……….its also her 3rd time to oz….and has never been asked or hassled before…..(but i have been with her other times……..sorry fr the rave……hope this helps someone out thr……

  19. Mark T..
    Mark T.. at | | Reply

    I sent an email to the Philippines Embassy and this is the reply I got back

    According to our office in Manila, you may exit the Philippines via yacht. However, you need to justify and present a passenger manifest from the yacht to the airlines and the Bureau of Immigration at the airport.


    As I will be on a yacht with a crew of 4, I am unsure how official a “Passanger Manifest” has to look.. I am wondering if some sort of “royal seal” will be needed.

  20. Nathanial Thomas
    Nathanial Thomas at | | Reply

    Howdy IndianaJo. My name is Nathanial and I am a traveler myself. Let me start off by saying how I found your article to be very fascinating. I have myself been puzzled by how flying one way doesn’t always fly when your travelling internationally.

    What it is, is that technically you are not supposed to fly one way into a country that you are not a citizen of without showing proof of either a return ticket, or an outbound flight going somewhere else. But most of the time you can do this and get away with it without any hassal.

    However, I’ve been hearing these honor stories of travelers trying to fly into the Philippines on a one way ticket and being denied boarding without showing proof that at some point you will be leaving the country within’ the 30 day period you are allowed. I’ve got a story that is kind of similar to yours but not quite as theatrical. I sent you a friend request on Facebook. Maybe I can share it with you.

    Anyways, this crap that the airlines pull in regards to one way travel is a joke. It’s total bull shit because not once have I ever been questioned by a Philippines immigration officer about how long I’m gonna stay or anything like that.
    Philippine Immigration doesn’t seem to give a shit about who’s entering the Philippines let alone how long they’re staying.

    But like your article focusses on, there is a question of whether you’ll get hassaled by the damn airline. I am actually in a similar situation right now. I am in Bangkok and I want to go back to Manila. But I am concerned about booking a one way ticket and then getting hassled by the ticket agent or whoever when I check in for my flight.

    Once again, fascinating article and I look forward to hearing back from you on this matter on Facebook. Happy trails..

  21. Mark T.
    Mark T. at | | Reply

    Well this is going to be a bit curly, I am looking at flying up to the Philippines in May to bring a boat back to Australia, so to that end I not going to need a return ticket and seems absolutely silly to have to buy one since I will be sailing out of the Philippines, anybody got any idea’s on that one


  22. seancau
    seancau at | | Reply

    I have been asked for return flights out of Indonesia, Thailand (!) & Taiwan as well as Philippines. For Thailand the explanation I was given by the check-in girl was that the airline was responsible for transporting me back to my origin destination should I be refused entry or overstay…hmmm. Anyway I refused to buy a ticket & explained that I would be leaving by bus to Laos & was eventually allowed to board.

    There is, however, a simple & free way around this silly requirement – just fake a flight. Copy & paste modify your flight into the country on Microsoft Paint or equivalent, takes a couple of minutes. I don’t even print out the return flight, just show the check-in girl a printscreen on my phone or laptop.

  23. Mark Ellis
    Mark Ellis at | | Reply

    Hello, i am going to the philippines for 7 months in june this year. I planned to buy a one way ticket as i cant book a return just yet and i am not entirely sure what date i want to return home. Am i correct in saying that i just have to find the cheapest flight to a neighbouring country (basically a ticket i wont use) for them to allow me enter manila. If so any suggestions.

  24. Kai
    Kai at | | Reply


    I had the same exact experience, but at BKK airport with Cebu Pacific Airline. I also have been traveling throughout SE Asia and the world for many yrs. Plenty of money but forced to buy a ticket out, or denied boarding, total bullshit !

    If the Philippines wants to be truly a tourist destination with its prices double plus that of its’ SE Asian neighbors it better lighten up.


    1. IndianaJo
      IndianaJo at | | Reply

      Kai, sorry you had the same trouble – I completely understand the pain and frustration. Also good to hear I wasn’t the only one who found the Philippines more difficult and expensive than it’s neighbours. Hope it isn’t the sign of things to come for SE Asia. All we need is Thailand realising the higher prices elsewhere and following suit!

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