How to get a visa? A question that crosses your mind everytime you plan a trip abroad. You look at the tourist visa requirements and bury your head in your hands. But, worry not since these tourist visa secrets will help you save money by showing you free and cheap ways to provide proof of onward travel and hotel reservations. Most countries ask for proof of onward travel and hotel reservations along with other¬ common tourist visa requirements


Onward Travel: Leaving a country and travelling ONWARD to another country or back to your own country.

Applying Country: The country you are applying the tourist visa for.

How to get a visa: Onward Travel Ticket Reservation

The bummer of the pack. You have to show them proof of onward travel in the form of a confirmed ticket into and out of the country. This ticket shows them that you don’t plan on settling down in the country and you will leave the country. The annoying part is the cancellation process and the loss of money if the visa is not approved. The first of the tourist visa secrets will help you save money on ticket reservations, read along.

The Secret

Most people think that they have to book a flight ticket and present it as a proof of onward travel. It is true for some countries. But, many countries accept a bus, train or boat ticket as proof of onward travel.

I got all 7 of my South American visas by showing bus tickets. The bus tickets are cheaper than flight tickets.

The Free Trick

You don’t have to really pay for a bus ticket. I presented FAKE bus tickets to embassies (sshh!) of seven South American countries and got a tourist visa for all of them. What you do is book a real ticket once to get hold of the ticket template. Then use Microsoft Word or another text editor to edit the ticket to fill in the details. Use, Bus guide to the Americas, to find an online¬†bus reservation portal for the applying country. Find a bus in and out of the applying country. Now, edit the ticket template and fill in the accurate information about this bus –¬†origin, destination, departure time, trip duration, cost, travel company etc. Now, you can present this bus ticket to the embassy as a proof of onward travel. And, it is totally FREE.

The Economic Trick

If you don’t want to submit FAKE tickets then you can book a real bus ticket. Use GoogleMaps and find nearby towns on both sides of the border of the applying country. Due to the short distance, the bus ticket price will be less.

For e.g. Ciudad del Este, Paraguay to Foz do Iguacu is separated by a bridge. The bus fare ~$5

Visa Application Scenarios and Onward Travel Proof

There are three visa application scenarios and your onward travel proof might change based on the scenarios

(i) You are applying in your home country

You are from India and you need a visa to visit Brazil. So, you have to apply at the Brazilian embassy in India. So, what do you give them as proof of onward travel?

Firstly, ask the local Brazilian embassy if they will accept a round trip bus ticket from a neighbouring country, let’s say Bolivia. You don’t have to be going to Bolivia. It’s just a trick.

If they do, then follow the above steps and reserve a round-trip bus ticket between Brazil and a neighbouring country.

If not, then you will have to give them a flight ticket. I feel your pain.

(ii) You are travelling on the same continent and applying in a neighbouring country

You are from India and you are travelling in Bolivia. You want to apply for the Brazil tourist visa in a Brazilian embassy in Bolivia. They should accept a round-trip bus ticket from Bolivia as a proof of onward travel. Still, call them ahead to confirm.

(iii) You are travelling and applying in a country that doesn’t share borders

You are from India and you are travelling in Bolivia. And, you want to go to Colombia. Colombia doesn’t share borders with Bolivia. In that case, you want to¬†present a round-trip bus ticket to Colombia from a 3rd country (Peru or Ecuador) that shares a border with Colombia.

Ask the local Colombian embassy if they will accept this.

I presented a bus ticket from Brazil to Argentina to the Argentina embassy in Ecuador. The embassy told me to apply in Brazil since I am entering Argentina from Brazil. But, I got the Brazilian visa by presenting a bus ticket from Paraguay to Brazil in the Brazilian embassy in Ecuador. So it all really depends on the embassy

How to get a visa: Two things to keep in mind

(i) The duration of the visa, that is the number of days you can stay in a country, may depend on your proof of onward travel. Because your round-trip flight, train or bus ticket shows how long you intend to stay in the country. Therefore, if you use one of the tricks I shared then make sure you give dates based on how many days you want to spend in the country

(ii)¬†The visa start date may¬†depend on your flight or bus ticket into the country. So, if you want to travel 2 months later then DON’T give earlier dates or your visa might start and end before you actually plan on traveling

How to get a visa: Hotel Reservation Secret

Some countries demand confirmed hotel reservations for the entirety of your stay. If you are a traveller that likes to plan as you go then this is a big problem. Or, if you don’t have enough cash to make reservations for your 2 months stay in Argentina. What do you do? Worry not, read the second of the tourist visa secrets that will save you money with free cancellation hotel reservations


Use¬¬†to reserve¬†hotel rooms that have a free cancellation policy. You don’t pay any money if you cancel your reservation before the mentioned time. Most hotels have¬†free cancellation as long as you cancel the reservation 24 hours before your check-in date.¬†You are not going to stay at these reserved hotels, they are just for the visa application sake. After you get the visa decision, cancel the reservations if you don’t plan on staying at the hotels.

Two things to keep in mind

(i) Ask the applying country embassy if the visa duration, number of days the visa is valid, depends on your hotel reservations. If yes, then reserve hotels for the number of days you want to spend there. I booked hotels for 60 days in Brazil because I wanted to spend 2 months in Brazil.

(ii) Ask the applying country embassy what is the minimum number of days you have to show the hotel reservations for

Does this article answer your ‘how to get a visa’ queries? Do you have other visa-related questions? Leave a comment below.