A One-Way Ticket to Peru: Problems and Solutions
If you buy a one-way ticket to Peru, you could have problems entering the country. And it’s not the Peruvian border official or immigrations officer that will give you problems: If you are denied entry due to having no proof of onward travel, it will probably be your airline that does the dirty deed.
So what’s the deal with proof of onward travel? In theory, Peruvian immigrations could deny you entry into Peru for a number of reasons. If it then turned out you had no money to return to your place of departure, your airline could be liable for your safe return (and potentially face hefty fees for letting you arrive like this in the first place). That’s why the whole “proof of onward travel” thing becomes an issue, and why one-way tickets into Peru and other countries with similar regulations can, potentially, be problematic.
Realistically, however, the chances of anyone taking issue with your one-way ticket to Peru and then asking for proof of onward travel are slim.
Slim, but not impossible…
Solutions to the One-Way Ticket to Peru Problem
For your own peace of mind, it’s best to have some kind of proof of onward travel before you fly to Peru on a one-way ticket. Your airline doesn’t care if your onward ticket takes you back from where you just came — they just want to know you’ll be getting the hell out of Peru and that you have some kind of proof.
Remember, for immigrations purposes your ticket out of Peru should be within the maximum time allowed on the tarjeta andina tourist card, which is 183 days (for more on this read How Long Can You Stay in Peru as a Tourist?). It’s also possible that a border official will give you 90 days. So consider reserving your “disposable” proof of onward travel for a date no more than 60 days after entering Peru.
So, what kind of proof of onward travel can you use to get around the one-way ticket problem? Here are a few solutions:
Don’t bother with any proof of onward travel, but get to the airport nice and early with enough time to sort out any potential problems. If your airline demands proof of onward travel, you’ll at least have time to sort something out (purchase a cheap flight of bus ticket, see options below). If it doesn’t, great: Continue on your merry way.
Buy an additional plane ticket out of Peru (to wherever) with an airline that offers 100% flight cancellation refunds, then cancel the flight and receive your refund once you’ve entered Peru. Some airlines, including U.S. airline JetBlue, offer refundable tickets like these, but you normally need to cancel the flight within 24 hours to receive the refund — so plan accordingly and don’t forget!
You can also do this with some domestic airlines in Peru. For example, buy a ticket from Lima to Santiago, Chile with LAN, and either ditch the ticket entirely or try to get a full refund (check the ticket refund policies of the various domestic airlines to see what options you have). Again, in order to get a refund you’ll probably have to cancel the ticket within 24 or 48 hours of purchase.
Use a service like FlyOnward or Best Onward Ticket. FlyOnward lets you “rent” an onward ticket for as little as US$9.99, and Best Onward Ticket for $7.99, with the sole purpose of providing legitimate proof of onward travel. They basically buy refundable tickets on behalf of their customers, and then cancel the ticket purchase after a maximum period of 48 hours. I’ve never tired it myself, but it’s supposed to work well. I’ve read a few bad reviews of FlyOnward recently, so do a little research before you use the service, and consider using Best Onward instead.
Before you fly to Peru, buy a cheap bus ticket from Peru to a neighboring country. A bus reservation out of Peru is just as good as a flight, and obviously cheaper. You should be able to find bus tickets online from Lima to Guayaquil (Ecuador), Lima to Santiago (Chile) and Lima to La Paz (Bolivia).
The ticket price will obviously be cheaper if it’s from a city near the border — for example, Tacna (Peru) to Arica (Chile), but you might find it hard to buy such a ticket online.
Look for tickets on websites like redBus (formerly Busportal), the Cruz del Sur bus company website, and Peru Hop (Peru Hop has a $50 ticket from Puno to La Paz, Bolivia). Just make sure any bus ticket you buy online provides an official receipt and itinerary that clearly shows a ticket purchase that takes you out of Peru.
A One-Way Ticket to Peru: The Bottom Line
Unless you’re happy taking a slight risk, it makes sense to get some kind of proof of onward travel if you’re flying to Peru on a one-way ticket.
Flying to Peru can be stressful. You have to deal with unfamiliar processes like passing through Peruvian customs, figuring out how to get from Lima Airport to Miraflores (or any other district), dealing with the language barrier etc. etc. So having a plan in place to deal with any one-way plane ticket problems will take a weight of your shoulders.
Any of the above solutions will help. If you can find a cheap bus ticket from to Peru to a neighboring country for let’s say S/ 100 or less, then I think that’s a pretty good option.
But whatever you decide, just make sure you have the onward flight or bus details with you before you try to board your flight to Peru. Print them out, or at least have them stored on a mobile device to show to anyone that asks.
As ever, if you have questions about the above information, leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.