If you are a traveler with a few destinations under your belt, you are familiar with the age-old “requirement” of needing to purchase round-trip tickets before you leave your home. And for most people they never even bat an eye when they make their purchases, because they’ve been brainwashed over the years into thinking that flying is the only way to travel. But when you get into sections of the world like Europe and Latin America you quickly find that trains and buses are not only first class, but are also some of the most luxurious means of transportation in the world. And they are a hell of a lot cheaper than planes.
Looking at Mexico in particular, one of the major carriers in the country, ADO, has a fleet of first class buses that not only have beds, air conditioning and waitresses catering your meals and snacks throughout the trip, but they also have WiFi and plugins for your electronics, which means you never have to leave the office behind if you are someone who works off your laptop or cell phone on a regular basis. And the train service in most parts of Europe has been touted for years as being not only romantic but also extremely comfortable and reliable.
Which is exactly why you should be utilizing these forms of transportation when you are making your arrangements. More specifically, you should be taking advantage of a nice little loophole in the system.
You see, the main thing customs agents want to know when you enter a country is that you have some plan for leaving the country after your trip is up. And regardless if you are staying for three months or six months you need to be able to provide proof of onward travel even if the country you are heading to rarely checks for the tickets in the first place. To them, they don’t care if it’s a bus ticket, a plane ticket or a train ticket. All that matters is you have proof.
Let’s say you are planning to come to Mexico to try it on for size and see if you want to make this your semi-permanent base of operations during your globe trotting. You buy a one way ticket on the cheap (I flew to Cancun from Denver, Colorado for $130 on Delta), and then you shop online and find yourself a bus ticket or a train ticket from one of the border towns in Mexico showing you exiting the country and heading to another city in the bordering country. The closer the better because the goal here is to get your exit ticket for as cheap as possible. When you can pick up a cheap bus ticket for $15-25 versus a return plane ticket for $150+, you can literally save yourself hundreds in the long run. And because it’s an honest-to-goodness ticket, you have the proof of onward travel that you need, should they ask for it. And if they don’t, you can always pitch it in the trash, because $15-$25 really isn’t that much skin off your nose in comparison to the hundred(s) you just saved by not buying a round-trip plane ticket.
There’s another trick you can use, although it’s less official. You see, in a day and age where you can print your boarding passes in advance and everything is done through email, you can actually go to a place like Expedia or your chosen online provider and you can print off the page where you have the tickets booked, but you haven’t paid for them yet. It’s the page right before you pay, where it shows the flight numbers and otherwise. Not all websites show you this information beforehand, so it’s worth looking around if your chosen provider doesn’t give you access to this information before you pay. Or, if you have a friend who works for a travel agency, you can have them print you up an itinerary before you go and you can just save the paperwork for when you get to customs. When you do your flight check-in you only need your actual ticket for arriving in the country, and you never pick up your actual return ticket until you head back to the airport when you are ready to leave.
It’s worth noting that not all airlines will permit you to board a plane unless you have some form of proof of onward or return travel, so using these loopholes is on a case-by-case basis. Remember that Google is your friend when looking at traveling, and you can always dig up a boatload of free information from other travelers without ever leaving the comfort of your home office. With that being said, using these loopholes is a surefire way of saving yourself hundreds of dollars in the long run, since you will avoid paying those hefty return airline tickets, and gives you more flexibility when you are on the ground in terms of spending your money as you see fit, rather than on expensive tickets.
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