Proof of onward travel can be a real worry for many travelers entering Peru on a standard Tarjeta Andina de Migración (TAM or Andean Migration Card).
Officially, you need it: you need proof that you’ll be exiting Peru within (at most) 183 days, whether by land or by air. No one minds where you go, as long as you leave Peru.
Unofficially, there’s a very good chance that you’ll never be asked for any kind of proof of onward travel, either by an airline official or Peruvian immigrations official.
The nagging possibility, however, remains: will you have problems trying to enter Peru without proof of onward travel? Do you risk it, or do you make a potentially wasteful purchase just to have some kind of proof?
From my own experience, and from tracking these kind of things online, the chance of a Peruvian border official asking for proof of onward travel is very slim indeed.
Your airline could pose more of a problem, as they might feel inclined to enforce the rule to avoid potential disputes with the Peruvian immigrations department. It’s possible — although rare, I imagine — that they might not let you onto the plane unless you manage to quickly purchase some kind of onward flight out of Peru — ideally a refundable ticket that can be canceled and refunded at a later date.
Possible Ways to Get Around the Onward Travel Problem
If you’re coming from the USA, and possibly some Latin American destinations, JetBlue sounds like a good option; apparently, you can buy a return ticket and easily cancel the return leg with a 100% refund when you arrive in Peru (see comment below).
You could also buy a bus ticket from a Peruvian city to a city in Ecuador or Chile, for example. Just pick two cities near each other but on opposite sides of the border. From Mancora in Peru to Guayaquil in Ecuador, for example, costs $35 with Cruz del Sur. Print out your ticket to show to the immigration official when you arrive in Peru.
A friend of mine also told me about a totally free strategy that he has used successfully on two occasions. Basically, you make an unpaid flight reservation with one of Peru’s domestic airlines (he did this using LAN) to a city in a nearby country (for, say, 60 days after your arrival in Peru). You might have to create an account with the airline to make the reservation — and the reservation will only hold for 24 to 36 hours — but if the reservation is accepted, it will serve as proof of onward travel. Once you’ve arrived in Peru, either cancel the reservation or just let it slide.
Peru Onward Travel Polls
Personally, I recommend a relaxed attitude toward the whole issue. If my brother wanted to come out to Peru on a one-way ticket, for example, I’d tell him not to worry about proof of onward travel — the chances of a problem arising are just too slim.
But I’m willing to change my mind about that, so I want to hear from you: Have you ever been asked for proof of onward travel when entering Peru? And, if you didn’t have proof, was it a major problem?
Please answer one of the polls below (or both, if relevant). The first is for entering Peru by air, the second by land. Both assume that you are entering Peru as a tourist.
Also, feel free to leave a comment below with questions or personal experiences about the proof of onward travel issue. Thanks!