25 of the Wildest Rules You Didn't Know Contestants Have to Follow on 'Survivor'

Host Jeff Probst and Survivor executive producers shared with PEOPLE an exclusive look at the rules players must follow while competing on the reality show

SURVIVOR: Island of Idols
Photo: Robert Voets/CBS/Getty

Just when you thought being stranded on an island was hard enough.

For over two decades, daring individuals-turned-castaways have journeyed to a secluded destination to compete on CBS's reality show, Survivor, but in addition to the series of mental and physical challenges they're faced with, there are a number of guidelines they must follow as well.

Survivor executive producer and host Jeff Probst — in addition to executive producers Matt Van Wagenen, Kahaia Pearson, and Jesse Jensen — gave PEOPLE an exclusive rundown of rules contestants must abide by as they strive to "outwit, outplay, and outlast" each other in an attempt to claim the coveted "Sole Survivor" title.

Robert Voets/CBS

From the clothes the castaways wear, to the personal hygiene products they can pack (spoiler: toilet paper is not allowed), to the "Survivor School" the players must attend prior to production, we've outlined it all so you're not faced with any blindsides this season.

Whether you're a Survivor superfan or a newcomer to the show, here's a complete breakdown of the unique rules contestants must follow — that you wouldn't know just from watching.

1. Submitting a video is the only way to be cast.

Robert Voets/CBS

Interested in competing on Survivor? Sign-ups are available now on the CBS casting site for your chance to be considered, but "anyone who applies to be on Survivor has to first send us a video," the production team says.

"It's just the easiest way for the casting team to see their personality and the things they want us to know about them," they add. "Then, if there is interest on our end, one of our casting producers would reach out to them and begin the formal process."

2. Players must sign a contract once cast.

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Participants are obligated to sign a contract before filming begins. "Contestants don't have to sign anything to apply but there is a contract they have to sign if they end up on the show," the producers reveal.

3. There's a minimum age requirement, but not a maximum age limit.

Rudy Boesch
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While there's a minimum age requirement of 16 years old, there's no maximum age limit. In fact, season 1's Rudy Boesch competed at 72 years old in 2000, and then again for Survivor: All Stars at age 75!

"Sadly we don't get enough older people applying to be on Survivor," the production team admits. "It takes a lot of courage to take on this adventure and it's definitely not easy but I wish more people over 50 would apply. It's such a great test to see what you're capable of achieving."

4. Players must be in top physical condition in order to compete.

Rocksroy Bailey and Tori Meehan
Robert Voets/CBS

"There isn't a formal checklist of physical requirements in order to be on Survivor, you just have to be able to handle living in a real jungle and be agile enough to handle the various elements you see in challenges," the producers say.

"Our challenges are designed to test, but still be achievable by a wide range of people," they continue. "When it comes to the ocean, you don't have to be a great swimmer, but you do need to know the basics to ensure you won't get into trouble if you go out spearfishing!"

The producers add, "If anyone has a past injury or a specific physical condition that could be an issue we always talk to their doctors and get them cleared to play the game. We take the health and safety of the players very seriously and would never put someone on the show that we did not believe was fully capable of lasting the entire time."

5. All players must attend "Survivor School."

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Conducted by one of the show's most "experienced producers," the production team explains that Survivor School provides contestants with a briefing of the tasks and demands they'll face while competing.

"They show the players things like basic shelter building, fire making, how to maintain hygiene, which nuts are okay to eat, which plants are poisonous and just general overall jungle safety," they add.

While this may seem like an advantage for the players, they stress that "it's only a basic overview," eluding to the reason "why you still see so many players struggling in all of these categories." They add, "It's one thing to be shown how to do it, it's another to then go do it yourself."

6. Players are only allowed two luxury items.

SURVIVOR: Edge of Extinction
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Each participant is allowed to bring two luxury items from home. However, before filming begins, they must submit their items for approval. "Luxury items are typically emotional items like a family photo, or a picture of your dog, or a special necklace that has meaning," host Probst explains.

"Luxury items are never anything related to survival," he stresses. "I often meet people who say things like, 'If I was on the show, my luxury items would be protein bars and a sharp knife.' Nope! Only things that will bring you some emotional comfort."

7. Players' clothing must be approved before filming begins.

Robert Voets/CBS

When you're stranded on an island with limited resources, clothing quickly becomes one of the most important items contestants have for survival — and to no surprise, it's also in the hands of the producers.

"There isn't a science to making it perfectly balanced between all players but after 21 years we've gotten pretty good at it," the producers admit.

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In addition to determining how much clothing the contestants can pack, their wardrobe must also be unique to who they are as a person. (Remember lawyer Nick Wilson and his suit from season 37?) "We want to see your personality and/or your profession in your clothing," the production team says.

"We always work with the player to make sure they're happy with the choices, and we always endeavor to make sure that each player has the same amount of coverage and warmth," they add. "So if someone wanted to wear shorts instead of jeans, we would also make sure they had some kind of sweatshirt for warmth at night."

8. Players aren't allowed to wear the same color shirts.

SURVIVOR: Island of Idols
Robert Voets/CBS/Getty

To avoid similarities and ensure specific looks, the producers reveal that they "ask [contestants] to send us a bunch of ideas that reflect who they are in their normal life," noting, "We don't want everyone sending in generic adventure wear as there would not be any way to differentiate the players."

"I have to say 90% of the players are very adaptable to the wardrobe process and we work with them to make sure they're happy too," they add. "If someone pushes back too hard on their wardrobe, then it's a sign to us that they may not be quite ready for the show because if the color of your shirt is that important, you're probably not ready for the jungle."

9. Personal hygiene tools are prohibited.

Robert Voets/CBS/Getty

Unfortunately for players, toothbrushes, toilet paper, soap, and other personal hygiene items must be left at home. Fortunately for us viewers, we're only watching — not smelling.

"Certain items are allowed such as contacts, feminine products, and specific approved medications," the producers reveal. "We also give them a daily multi-vitamin, but nothing in the way of personal hygiene."

10. Tribes are not allowed to visit other tribes.

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Probst states that tribes are not allowed to interact with opposing tribes, unless "part of our overall creative direction for the season." But he ensured that there isn't much room for this rule to be breached, as tribes typically live on different islands.

He even recalls that "great moments have happened between opposing players either before, during or after a challenge," specifically with "Boston Rob" and Amber Mariano during Survivor: All Stars in 2003.

"Boston Rob wanted to protect Amber from being voted out of her new tribe, so he made a fast, secret deal with Lex [van den Berghe] at the end of a challenge," explains Probst. "It worked. Lex saved Amber. Then in typical Survivor fashion, Rob voted Lex out. Amber went on to win that season. Rob and Amber got married and now have four amazing girls together."

11. Players must ask any questions before a challenge begins.

Robert Voets/CBS

Whether it's an individual or tribal challenge, or for immunity or reward, challenges on Survivor are nonetheless complex — not only to take part in but also to comprehend. What you don't see on the screen, though, is the intricate explanation that takes place prior to its start.

"What you see me tell the players on the show is the most basic description of the challenge," Probst shares. "We do this so the audience can get a big picture idea of how it works. Then, off-camera, I take each tribe separately through the entire challenge with our challenge team."

"We explain the challenge in detail and answer any questions they have," he adds. "This is a very interesting process because you can see the different strategies for each tribe starting to form. We do the same thing with individual challenges. We never run a challenge until everyone understands all the layers."

12. Players (almost) have free rein of the island.

Feels Like a Rollercoaster
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It can be easy to forget that the players are living on a real-life island, not a set made for television. So when they're really searching for those tiny idols, it's not that easy! The only off-limit areas include a "small section where we keep extra camera gear and things like that," Probst says.

"The goal is to make their experience as authentic as possible at all times. We go to great lengths to achieve this so they can own their adventure on their terms," he adds.

13. Stealing is prohibited, but searching is allowed.

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As expected, stealing from other players is not allowed, but if players suspect someone to secretly have a hidden advantage or idol, they can search their belongings to find out for themselves.

"It's not something you might do in your ordinary life, but this is Survivor, where for the most part, anything goes," says Probst. "What is not allowed is stealing any kind of immunity idol or advantage. So if you discover something valuable in another player's bag, you can use that information to your advantage, but you can't take the item."

14. Players must abide by environmental rules.

Robert Voets/CBS

For over two decades, Survivor has been filmed in a variety of remote locations all over the world, including places such as Malaysia, Kenya, Australia, Fiji, and more. Production is briefed with specific guidelines per country so as to not disrupt their environment.

"Each country has specific environmental rules that we always abide by, and when necessary, we advise the players what is and isn't allowed," explains the production team. "But it's never anything that prohibits them from building a shelter or fishing or things of that nature."

15. Production is not allowed to aid players with supplies.

Robert Voets/CBS

Every stick and bamboo shoot collected in the process of shelter building is gathered by the players themselves, without any assistance from the Survivor crew.

"The players are not given any additional supplies from production. Absolutely nothing," Probst emphasizes. "What you see is what you get on Survivor. There is no help."

He adds, "Season 42 will start with the same basic supplies as Survivor 41, which includes no rice. Survivor is real. The players earn it every single day."

16. Players must use their surroundings as restrooms.

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"There are no restrooms on Survivor. Sorry for you!" Probst playfully admits. "The jungle and the ocean are your options." (Keep in mind: There's no toilet paper).

He continues, "Aqua dumps, as the players call them, which take place in the ocean, are quite popular. You just want to make sure you know if you are upstream or downstream before you commit."

17. Players must receive medical check-ups throughout the game.

Survivor: David vs. Goliath

When players are given limited resources and are surviving purely on the land, a couple of bumps, bruises, and scratches are expected — but CBS still makes it a mission of theirs to ensure the safety of each player, which is why regular medical checks at challenges and tribal council take place.

"If there is an injury or a player is sick we immediately send our medical team to check on them," says Probst. "If it's severe and there is a chance that they may have to leave the game, then I get involved as well. Those decisions are made with the utmost care. We never want to pull a player from the game unless our doctors feel their health is in real and immediate danger."

18. Players are not allowed to bring food rewards back to camp.

survivor food reward

One of the greatest prizes starving players can receive after a challenge is a food reward, often consisting of pizza, salads, desserts, alcohol, burgers, and more for the contestants to feast on after winning. (A huge upgrade from the typical ration of rice!)

"Food rewards must be consumed where they are served and in a specific amount of time," Probst says. "We don't let players bring food back to camp. For rewards that take place at camp, the same rules apply ⁠— they have to finish in a certain amount of time and after that, the reward is finished."

19. Players aren't allowed to converse with the crew.

Survivor: Africa
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Contestants know not to communicate with the crew unless they are speaking to a producer during their interviews or with the host at challenges and tribal council. "The reason for this is because we want their experience to be pure," Probst explains. "The less involvement from production, the better."

"It's hard on our crew because they're human and they want to be polite to the players, but we've done it this way since day one of season one and it works, so we stick with it," he adds. "So yes, that means if a player asked a question to one of our crew, they would most likely be met with an awkward silence!"

20. Players must strategize when searching for an idol, especially with the camera crew following them.


If a player wants to be discreet while searching for an idol, they aren't allowed to tell the camera crew not to follow them. "This is one of the most exciting parts of how the show works," Probst explains. "The players are in charge. Each player does what they want, when they want, how they want ... but it's up to the player how they pull it off."

"We follow everybody all the time, which means you can't read anything into it, but you also can't take it for granted," he says of the strategizing that takes place. "It's just one of the many layers of paranoia that players have to manage."

21. Players must agree to be filmed at all times.

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Players agree to "No expectations of privacy" when they sign their contract prior to filming, meaning "that players understand that we are filming them every minute of every day they are on the show," the production team says. "But it certainly doesn't mean you can't ever have privacy, you just have to go about it in a specific way."

They add, "For instance, we tell players that if you want to use the restroom, just go alone, and we won't film you, so you can have privacy. The same thing goes for changing clothes. There is an understanding that if someone is seeking privacy to change their clothes, they are to be granted that privacy by production and also the other players."

22. Players must abide by food safety guidelines before consuming.

Robert Voets/CBS

Aside from the rice rations that the castaways are (sometimes) given, they have to fend for themselves when it comes to food. That means spearfishing, collecting fruits of the land, and more.

"I think it's worth reminding that Survivor is designed to test players but not trick them," Probst says. "We want them to be aware of all the options they have and we always want them to be safe."

23. Players are advised to reach out to CBS if they need counseling post-production.


Survivor is just as much a mental game as it is physical, as it really puts players to the test throughout the game's duration. CBS is committed to ensuring participants receive care and offers aid from psychologists during the casting process and again immediately after the game.

"Our commitment to them begins in the casting process when the players get to know our show psychologists," the producers say. "It continues after they are voted out as our psychologists are on location and available the minute you're out of the game."

They add, "Then when players return home, and as the show airs, our psychologists continue to check in with the players on a regular basis. After the finale, we offer a closure session and tell them to reach out to us anytime in the future if they need additional counseling."

24. Players are not allowed to go home as soon as they're voted off.

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As soon as players are voted off, they spend the rest of their time at a private resort the show calls "Ponderosa," inhabited by Survivor crew, show psychologists, and a full staff. Although the contestants might have not won the million-dollar prize, losing doesn't sound too bad!

"It's fully staffed, so they can eat whatever they want, whenever they want. They can shower, sleep as late as they want, watch movies, read books," says Probst. "We also have a team who organizes activities for them to make their experience even more memorable. We really try to make it as nice and as fun as we can!"

The eliminated contestants have to stay because they make up the jury during tribal council, the deciding factor of the player who redeems the title "Sole Survivor" at the end.

25. Players are not allowed to keep unused idols (anymore)!


While players used to be allowed to keep idols and advantages if they were voted off without putting them into play, this is no longer allowed (although they made for one-of-a-kind souvenirs!)

"Several years ago, we realized that we might want to use those idols again in the future for one of our creative ideas, so now we take them back and keep them," Probst says. "I know it sounds so harsh! But ideas are everything on Survivor and we like as many options as possible."

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