Faith-Based Travelers

Faith-based travel includes, but is not limited to, pilgrimages, service projects, missionary work, and faith-based tours. Every year, millions of U.S. citizens participate safely in some form of religious travel. However, U.S. faith-based travelers should know that in some countries it is a crime to conduct religious activities. You need to know the laws and conditions of the country you wish to visit.

Before You Go 

Visit our Traveler’s Checklist and review our country information pages for details on visa requirements and local laws. Enroll in our Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to receive safety information while you are abroad.

Additional resources for faith-based travelers:

Traveling Under a Sponsoring Organization? 

Here are a few questions to consider when researching a sponsoring organization:

  • Does the organization have emergency plans for crisis scenarios, such as local security threats, natural disasters, and injuries or deaths of U.S. citizen travelers?
  • Is the organization familiar with the laws and customs about religious expression in the country you will be visiting?
  • Is the organization a member of the Overseas Security Advisory Council, either in the United States or in your destination country?
  • Does the organization’s travel itinerary include trips to an orphanage? If so, please read our page regarding the harms of “voluntourism” at orphanages.

While You’re There 

Remember, you are subject to the laws and justice system of the countries you are visiting.

Many countries have laws that restrict religious expression. These may include restrictions on:

  • public or private prayer or other religious practices,
  • wearing religious attire or symbols,
  • preaching in a private or public setting,
  • speaking to others about your beliefs,
  • possessing religious material(s) or image(s),
  • criticizing or questioning the religious beliefs of others,
  • visiting certain religious sites if you are female
  • distributing religious literature, and/or
  • participating in religious services or activities. 

These laws may be applied inconsistently to foreign visitors, so be sure to research the local laws and customs of your destination country.

When possible, coordinate with members of the faith community in your destination country, to ensure planned activities are culturally and legally appropriate.

If you run into problems while overseas, contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

Always carry the address and phone number of the U.S. embassy or consulate with you, in English and the local language. Consular Officers may be able to help if you run into problems, especially if you feel you cannot approach local police, or if you need help communicating with local authorities. Consular Officers will not generalize, make assumptions, or pass judgment, and will work to safeguard your privacy under applicable U.S. laws and policies.  

Last Updated: September 12, 2022