Entertainment TV The Wildest Rules You Didn't Know 'The Amazing Race' Contestants Have to Follow We caught up with the show creators and executive producers, Elise Doganieri and Bertram van Munster, who broke down the biggest rules for the race By Skyler Caruso Skyler Caruso Instagram Skyler Caruso is the SEO Editorial Assistant of PEOPLE Digital. She writes across all entertainment verticals with a focus on evergreen and search-friendly content to help further grow the brand's SEO reach. Prior to joining PEOPLE, Skyler was a contributing author at TigerBeat and served as a social media correspondent for Seventeen magazine, where for six years she covered award shows, red carpets, and music festivals such as the Grammy Awards and Coachella. She was also formerly at Sony Music, NBC Entertainment and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. While Skyler loves covering all things entertainment, there's one day a year she becomes the entertainer — when she marches as a clown in the Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, a tradition she's been a part of for many years. People Editorial Guidelines Published on January 18, 2022 02:18 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Photo: CBS Getting to explore different countries while being filmed for television may sound like a dream vacation, but when contestants are competing for a $1 million prize, producers want to ensure it's no walk in the park. The Amazing Race creators have devised a set of rules for contestants to follow to keep them on their toes, even beyond the normal challenges of traveling the globe in a fast-paced competition in which no "ordinary" aids (like a GPS iPhone) are allowed. Amid the show's season 33 run, PEOPLE spoke to Amazing Race creators and executive producers Elise Doganieri and Bertram van Munster about the unique guidelines contestants must follow on the Emmy-winning show. Bethany Hamilton, Jonathan Knight, and More Celebrities You Forgot Were on The Amazing Race The CBS reality show returned on Jan. 5 for season 33 after the COVID-19 pandemic caused the longest pit stop in The Amazing Race's 20-year history. They had filmed just three episodes prior to halting production in March 2020 and picked up the competition a year and a half later to finish what they started. "It's sort of jarring to see the first few episodes because it's the COVID-free world, and then you juxtapose that with this other world," host Phil Keoghan told CNN. "I think people are going to see that you can still be in public places and have safe distancing. But we're also used to now — adjustments that we've all had to make." Amazing Race Winners Will Jardell and James Wallington Wed Exactly 3 Years After Engagement CBS Amid the COVID pandemic, additional safety protocols and arrangements were made (including frequent testing, social distancing, and traveling to countries with extremely low COVID rates) in order for the race to continue amid the unprecedented circumstances. "CBS had an incredible COVID task force," Doganieri tells PEOPLE. "Everybody felt so safe from what was put in place, and how we were executing it ... Everything was very thought out." Episode 4, which premieres on Jan. 19, is the first one filmed after the COVID pause. Watch a sneak peek below, and read on to learn about some of the wildest rules the Amazing Race contestants have to follow. 1. There's an age requirement to compete on The Amazing Race. In most states, contestants must be at least 18 years old to be considered for the show. Although there's a minimum age requirement, there's no maximum age limit. "We had a grandma who competed with her granddaughter. [She] might've been in her late 70s, but she was a runner!" Doganieri says. Specific details regarding casting can be found on the FAQ page on The Amazing Race website. 2. A race can't exceed 28 days. CBS Aside from the nearly two-year pause that took place for season 33, races usually last around three weeks from start to finish each season. Earlier seasons could take nearly a month to complete, but in recent seasons, production tries to cap filming at 28 days. "We're never in a place for very long. They literally fly in, land, do the tasks, have a pit stop, sleep for 12 hours, and then get on a plane, a train, or drive to the next place," explains Doganieri. 3. Contestants can't say they were on the show until the cast list is publicly announced by the network. CBS Contestants sign an NDA that says they can't talk about The Amazing Race after filming, so as to prevent any spoilers ahead of the season. Contestants are only allowed to let their families and employers know that they are going on the show prior to production. "Contestants have been very good about adhering to it. For over 20 years, they have never said anything!" says van Munster. If anyone asks where they've been for the three weeks, the creativity lies in their hands to come up with an excuse! 4. Teams are allowed one pit stop during the race. After teams finish a leg of the race, they are greeted by a pit stop, which is essentially the finish line after completing all necessary tasks, roadblocks, and detours prior. This is their mandatory break period which allows teams to eat, rest, and revive themselves for the next leg. Doganieri confirmed that no other pit stops take place off-camera. "You are literally a fly on the wall watching everything that they do, except when they are sound asleep," says Doganieri. "It's really a live sporting event, so every moment is filmed." 5. Teams can't use their own money during the race. CBS Teams receive something called "leg money" at the beginning of every leg or episode. When they tear open up their clue envelope, they are given a small amount of money to get them through that leg. The amount varies each day because every country is different, but each team is allotted the same amount. "We have figured out how much the taxi might cost, or a bus or train ticket," says Doganieri. "So we give them just enough money for that leg, and they have to be very careful not to overspend." 6. Teams aren't allowed to beg for money during the race. cbs If teams don't budget appropriately during the race, they aren't allowed to beg for money, but they are allowed to barter! "They can say, 'I've got this cool necklace! If I give you this necklace, can you drive me to ..." Doganieri explains. 7. Teams are responsible for booking their own flights. CBS Teams that are uncertain about which flight to book sometimes look to producers to follow their lead. However, Doganieri and van Munster explain this isn't the smartest strategy because they aren't always traveling to the same location within the race route. "Some teams look at us to see which plane we're going on," reveals van Munster. "We were on a plane to Tokyo, and a team joined our plane. I said to them, 'Do you know why you're here?' And the team replied, 'Yeah, we're going to Hawaii!'" The team didn't know there was a direct flight straight to Hawaii, so they wasted time connecting to Tokyo instead. 8. Contestants have to book plane tickets for the crew. CBS Not only do the teams have to secure two tickets for themselves, but they have to book two extra for the crew (one for the cameraman and one for the sound person). "If they can't get tickets for the four members on the plane, they have to wait until they can find four seats. Their entire crew has to travel with them," explains van Munster. 9. Contestants aren't allowed to use a GPS. CBS We know what you're thinking, "Wait, how do they get directions?" The answer is ... maps. Teams aren't allowed to use digital technology during the race. Navigation was made even more difficult this season because teams had to drive themselves, so as to avoid public transportation. "They literally have to buy a map, and use that ... but who reads maps anymore?" says Doganieri. "We've gone back to the good ol' days when people had to self-navigate." 10. Teams have to drive a stick shift. Monty Brinton/CBS So they're driving their own vehicles ... in foreign countries ... possibly on the other side of the road — what could make it even more challenging? Driving in manual cars, which are often what's available to them in their destinations. Doganieri mentioned that contestants always give themselves a couple of days to learn how to drive a stick shift before they join the race, but "it's never enough time." "It's a disaster with the stick shift," says van Munster. "They all say they can drive, but they can't ... People are always honking because they don't know how to drive stick shift!" 11. Contestants must abide by the cultural norms and guidelines of the different countries. CBS Contestants all go through a week-long training session, so as to prevent disrespecting the cultures of the places they visit throughout the race. Wearing appropriate clothing is one of the most important guidelines to follow. "Don't wear tiny short shorts, and tank tops, and show skin. If teams are going into a temple, they might have to cover their heads, so there are certain things that we do try to give them guidelines on before we leave," says Doganieri. "I always say to the contestants, 'You are a guest in that country, so behave yourself accordingly,'" adds van Munster. 12. Teams aren't allowed to overbook as a strategy. CBS When it's a close competition, securing plane tickets can make or break a lead in the race. In the past, contestants would get creative and book additional tickets to prevent other teams from getting on a plane, but according to van Munster, it had to stop because "it was getting out of hand." "We had one team order over $300,000 worth of tickets for one flight, it was just ridiculous," says van Munster. "They would book every flight out of town! So now they can only book one flight – ensuring that's the flight they want to be on." 13. Crew has to squeeze in transportation with the teams. CBS In pre-COVID seasons when public transportation was still an option, teams had to make room for the crew, even if that meant squeezing in the back of a taxi cab. If the crew couldn't fit on the busy bus, teams weren't going either. "The crew has a very good way of choreographing and squeezing themselves in there with the camera and sound equipment," says Doganieri. "The only time they aren't in there is if the teams are riding in a Tuk Tuk, motorized tricycle, or bicycle. Then the crew would be in their own, following alongside the contestants," she adds. 14. Contestants must read the clues out loud. CBS As soon as teams come across their envelope and tear it open, they have to read the clue out loud so the audience knows what's happening. "Even though [host] Phil explains what the detours or the roadblocks are, it's nice when you can hear the contestant reading it," Doganieri explains. And they only get one chance to get it right on camera. "We don't have them reread it and hold it differently. It's a race. So the camera crew has to be right on them," she adds. "They rip it, they read it, and we shoot it and run." 15. Contestants must stay within 20 feet of the film crew. CBS Although it's a race and the contestants are always on the move, they're not allowed to outrun their camera crew. "They have to stay within proximity of the team, 20 feet," van Munster says. "It's kind of a rule we made up," Doganieri adds. But this doesn't hinder their speed, as van Munster and Doganieri confirmed that the crew is in "incredible shape." 16. If a team's transportation breaks down, they aren't given time back. CBS "That's life," says Doganieri. If teams are on a bus or train that's experiencing difficulties, unfortunately, they aren't given a boost to compensate for the breakdown. "If that were to be the case, somebody would say, 'Oh, my bus was over-packed and then I had to get off and get …' There'd be so many little miniature rules that we would have to cross," Doganieri says. 17. Contestants can't bring their own cell phones, but there are workarounds. CBS Although personal cell phones are banned from the race, contestants are allowed to borrow phones from other people and can also use payphones in their travels. "They can't bring their own phones, but they can ask other people for their phones," says Doganieri. And that goes for all personal tech. "Since Apple Watches are connected to your email and texting, that wouldn't be allowed," Doganieri adds. 18. Contestants must pack versatile clothing. CBS Contestants might find themselves in the middle of the Sahara Desert one day, and Russia's frozen tundra the next. That means creative packing, while also keeping things as lightweight as possible to stay mobile. "They have to be ready for cold weather, rainy, warm weather. So many teams now pack quick-drying, lightweight clothing, and they layer up," Doganieri shares. That's not to say everyone gets the memo. "There's always the people that show up in little skimpy little outfits and they end up in a snowstorm in the first location," says van Munster. "They have no idea!" 19. If teams interact with locals, they have to wait for them to sign release forms. CBS Communication and interaction with locals is a huge part of The Amazing Race, and if done correctly, can really level up a team's game. If contestants choose to mingle, though, they have to factor in the delay to wait for locals to sign waivers agreeing to be on TV. "We have them made up in every language. It's tiny. You read it real fast. They sign it. They actually really know the show," says Doganieri. Adds van Munster, "We ran through the airport in India, in New Delhi, people know who we are. We go to Africa, they know who we are. South America, Sao Paolo, people know exactly who we are." 20. Teams have to wait for the crew if a break is needed. Monty Brinton/CBS "When nature calls, you have to respect that," says Doganieri, who mentioned that's one of the rules they explain to the teams in the training week prior to production. If a crew member isn't feeling well, twists an ankle, or has to use the facilities, teams must "take a beat, and let them go." "If a crew member gets sick, we will switch that person out so the team can keep running," she adds. "Every leg of the race, we do switch the camera crews out from the team they race with, so nobody gets too buddy, buddy and close." 21. Eliminated teams don't go home empty-handed. cbs Yes, contestants get a prize for losing too! The winning team gets a million dollars at the end of the race, but Doganieri mentions that "every team after that gets a small percentage of a cash prize," not to mention "a beautiful trip around the world." Teams also have a chance to win prizes throughout the race as well! "At the end of every leg, when they check in on the mat with Phil, the first team to check in gets a prize," says Doganieri. "Travelocity is one of our sponsors, so they usually give a nice trip away. So you have a chance every single leg of the race to win a great prize." 22. Eliminated contestants aren't allowed to go home until production wraps. CBS The more we think about it, losing on this show doesn't seem so bad! After teams are eliminated, rather than being sent home, they are put in what Doganieri calls a "sequester," until they are called back to cheer on the final two teams as they race to the finish line. And they aren't "sequestering" in a dark room somewhere, "they go to a fun location too," says van Munster. "Very often we send them to Lisbon, to Portugal or Costa Rica. So they have a good time ... It's not bad at all to sit by the pool with your friends."