Travel Safety - Race and Ethnicity

Traveler Security and Race or Ethnic Origin

The United States is a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic nation; U.S. citizen travelers reflect this broad diversity.  Most U.S. citizens who travel each year do so safely and without incident.  However, travelers may face additional risk in some countries based on their ethnicity, national origin, or race including racial or ethnic profiling, detentions, increased questioning, and requests for identification.

Before you travel overseas, research local conditions and culture as it relates to ethnicity, national origin, or race.  Contact the American Citizens Services unit at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if you are detained or harassed by local authorities, or are the victim of a crime.  You may also contact the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs in Washington, D.C. at 888-407-4747 or 202-501-4444.  Officers are available to assist you in an emergency 24/7.

Be Aware of Local Customs and Norms

Customs and norms in other countries can be quite different from those in the United States.  Some countries prohibit certain behaviors, ways of dressing, or specific speech.  Be sure to know this information before traveling to your destination.  

For example, travelers may be profiled, questioned, and/or detained in some countries based on their ethnicity, national origin, race, or religion.   

​The police may stop an individual and request identification documents.  You should carry proof of citizenship and legal entry (visa) and request consular notification if you are detained by authorities.  Travelers may be exposed to hate speech or hate crimes.  U.S. citizens residing abroad may be subjected to additional forms of discrimination, including restricted access to housing, education, health care, and employment opportunities.  In some countries, profiling may result in prohibited entry to privately owned facilities serving the public, including hotels and restaurants.  Foreigners may also be subject to surveillance.

Foreign laws prohibiting discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity may be different than those in the United States, may not exist, or may not be enforced.  

Being Identified As Different

In some places, you could attract unwanted attention where locals do not often see people of diverse appearance either based on your attire, skin color, or other physical characteristics.  If you are identified as being different from the general population, you may:

  • be openly stared at
  • be stopped in the street
  • have your photo taken without your consent
  • have your skin and hair touched without your consent
  • be asked invasive questions

Try to stay calm and remove yourself from the area if you are uncomfortable or feel unsafe.

Last Updated: May 15, 2023