Faith-Based Travelers

Faith-based travel includes a wide variety of activities -- from pilgrimages to service projects, from missionary work to faith-based tours. Millions of U.S. citizens participate safely in some type of religious travel every year. However, U.S. faith-based travelers, in addition to being aware of basic country conditions that impact all travelers, should know that in some countries it is a crime to conduct religious activities. You need to know the laws and conditions in the places you will be living and traveling.

Before You Go 

Visit our Traveler’s Checklist and review our country information pages for details on visa requirements and to learn about some local laws that may impact you. Enroll in our Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to receive safety information while you’re traveling.

Additional Resources for faith-based travelers:

Traveling Under a Sponsoring Organization? 

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

  • Does it have plans for various emergency scenarios, such as local threats to security, natural disasters, and injury or death of a U.S. citizen traveler?
  • Is it aware of laws and customs about religious expression in the countries you will be visiting?
  • Is your sponsoring 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 the following page regarding the harms of “voluntourism” at orphanages.

While You’re There 

Remember, you are subject to the laws and the 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 images
  • criticizing or questioning the religious beliefs of others
  • visiting certain religious sites if you are female
  • possessing printed religious materials
  • distributing religious literature; and
  • participating in religious services or activities. 

These laws may be applied more or less severely 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 make sure 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 in the American Citizens Services office may be able to help if you run into problems overseas, especially if you feel you cannot approach local police, or if you need help communicating with local authorities. Consular officers will not make generalizations, assumptions, or pass judgment, and will work to safeguard your privacy under applicable U.S. laws and policies.  

Last Updated: November 6, 2019