When it comes to reality TV, The Amazing Race stands out as one of the most unique and exciting shows of them all. Running since 2001, this CBS show pits eleven teams of two against each other in a thrilling race around the globe!
Usually, the race is split up into 12 parts, with teams having to solve mysteries, navigate unknown areas, ask locals for help, perform all kinds of challenges, and fly, drive, or ride their way from country to country with very limited money, time, and resources.
Over the course of the show, teams are gradually eliminated, leading to a jaw-dropping finale in which the final team left standing wins a whopping $1 million prize! It’s a really exciting show, proving hugely popular with fans and running for over 30 seasons already, as well as being exported to other countries around the globe!
Read on to learn 40 fascinating behind-the-scenes facts you never knew about The Amazing Race.
It Isn’t Always Easy to Get into Every Country
The Amazing Race always seems like such a fast-paced show. It never seems to stop moving as the competitors speed along from one country to the next, but that’s only because the footage is edited to cut out some of the boring border controls that the teams and production staff have to go through.
Every country has its own rules regarding who can enter, and airport or border security can be especially tight in certain places. India is one example of this, and teams often lose valuable time dealing with border issues as they try to enter different countries. In fact, teams have often been detained at airports for hours until the security checks are completed.
The Teams Aren’t Told What to Pack
Before you go on any kind of vacation or trip, you probably spend some time making lists of everything you need to pack and think carefully about all the items you might need. Well, it’s the same deal for the contestants on The Amazing Race.
The show doesn’t issue any kind of special memo or list to tell the contestants what to take, so they just have to figure it all out for themselves. This can have a really big impact on the results of the race, as contestants who pack wisely and travel light can get around more quickly and easily.
Teams and Crew Members Pretend That They’re Filming A Documentary If Asked
Since a big part of The Amazing Race involves traveling to different places all over the world and the show is watched by millions of people, both in the US and abroad, it’s only natural that the teams and crew members sometimes bump into fans along the way.
However, they are all under strict instructions not to reveal anything about the nature of the show or their identities, so they have to lie and say that they’re filming some kind of documentary, rather than revealing that they’re actually on The Amazing Race. The production staff are super strict regarding this rule and will do anything to protect the privacy of the show.
The Teams Get Their Own Security Guards
As any frequent traveler will know, traveling around the world isn’t always safe. It’s even less safe when you’ve got little money, no guaranteed form of transport, and no real place to stay most of the time, too, like the contestants on The Amazing Race. For this reason, security teams are present at all times.
Guards travel along with each of the teams, so they always have some kind of security presence with them in case they encounter any dangers. This helps to keep the teams much safer throughout their journeys, but fans probably don’t know about this fact as we never really see the security guys on screen.
Contestants Are Told About the Countries They’re Going To
In many cases, the teams are going into places they’ve never been to before, often with totally different customs, cultures, and traditions. It can be quite scary and even dangerous to go into these places without any prior knowledge, so the production staff hands out ‘cheat sheets’ for each country before the teams actually arrive.
These sheets introduce teams to the countries they’ll be visiting, listing out some dos and don’ts, letting them know what the culture and people are like, and giving them an idea of what to expect. When the teams go to Bangladesh, for instance, they are warned that locals don’t have a particularly positive view of Americans, so they should try to keep a low profile.
Teams Spend a Lot of Time Waiting Around
As mentioned earlier, one of the things that really stands out to fans of The Amazing Race is how fast-paced the show feels. It’s always frantic and exciting, seeming like the teams are always on the move and never have a moment to rest. In reality, however, it works very differently.
Many former contestants have revealed that a lot of their time is actually spent sitting around, driving in cars, waiting at airports, or waiting at checkpoints for the next leg of the race to start. So, it’s really not quite as frenetic and energetic as it seems on TV, but the editing helps to create a more entertaining show for fans to enjoy.
Most of The Food Sucks
One of the best parts of traveling for many people is getting to taste new and exotic foods from different countries around the globe. And you might think that the teams of The Amazing Race get to enjoy all kinds of local delicacies during their travels, but you’d be wrong!
Since the teams have a very limited amount of cash to spend, they can’t really afford to enjoy fine dining everywhere they go. Instead, their diets mostly consist of low-quality airplane food or cheap little snacks found along the way. A lot of former contestants have spoken about this fact and said that the first thing they did when they got home was eat some of their favorite food.
Carrying Those Backpacks Isn’t Easy
Many of us have to carry bags around while on our travels with little supplies like keys, money, and a bit of food, but how about if you had to spend every single waking moment of your vacation carrying a gigantic backpack on your back filled with everything you need to survive? That’s the reality for teams on The Amazing Race, and it’s not easy!
Many of the show’s former participants have revealed in interviews that carrying those big and heavy bags around all day can get really tiring, leading to a lot of back and neck pain since the bags are filled up with clothes, shoes, and so much more.
Teams Have to Buy Tickets for Their Cameraman Too
Due to the way The Amazing Race is filmed and edited, all of our attention is focused on the contestants themselves, but did you ever stop and think about the folks actually filming them and following them around everywhere they go? Each team needs its own cameraman and sound expert, and they have to arrange travel for everyone, not just themselves.
So, when we see the contestants trying to buy plane tickets, they’re not just buying two tickets for themselves, they have to get four for the whole group. This can make things a lot harder, and it also means that contestants have to be careful when looking for cars to ensure everyone can fit inside.
Eliminated Players May Be Used as Decoys
Privacy is a really big deal with the production of The Amazing Race. They want to preserve the privacy of the show at all costs, to avoid any leaks or spoilers. After all, if we all knew who was going to win and how the show was going to play out, it would be way less interesting to watch for most people.
So, one method the production uses to protect the integrity of the show is to actually ask eliminated players to carry on participating in the race as decoys or ‘extras.’ This helps to ensure that nobody can really know which teams are still in the race and which ones have been eliminated at any stage, preventing any spoilers from getting out.
Flight Delays Can Ruin Everything
When you really stop and think about it, there’s a lot that can potentially go wrong in a show that is all about teams of people racing around the world, relying on strangers, flight schedules, and more to get to where they need to be and keep the show going. It’s only natural that flight delays are one of the show’s worst nightmares.
They can ruin the whole schedule, setting the teams and crew members back. At several times during the show’s history, camera crews barely even made it to the pit-stop areas because of flight delays or long security lines at the airport.
Even the Host Has Been Affected by Delays
One of the most important people on The Amazing Race is the show’s host, Phil Keoghan. He’s the man who keeps the race moving along, waiting to greet the teams at each checkpoint and providing humorous commentary and a friendly face throughout. But he’s human just like everyone else, so he can also be affected by things like flight delays and airport lines.
In interviews, Keoghan has revealed that he has never actually missed a checkpoint but has had quite a few close calls over the years because of unexpected flight delays or cancellations. Let’s hope he never misses a pit-stop in future seasons!
Teammates Have to Stay Together
When two people are stuck together non-stop for hours or days on end, it’s only natural that tempers can start to flare up, and arguments can break out. We see this often on The Amazing Race, and many fans might wonder, “Why don’t they just take a little break from one another?” Well, the truth is that they aren’t allowed to!
There’s a special behind the scenes rule on The Amazing Race that says all contestants have to stay within 20 feet of each other at all times. This is so that the cameramen can always get both of them in a shot if they need to.
The Show Has Visited 91 Countries So Far
How many countries have you been to in your lifetime? Some people might have never even left their own nation, while others have usually been to a couple of different countries, but you probably haven’t been to as many as The Amazing Race! Over the course of the show’s lifespan so far, teams have traveled to a total of 91 different countries.
From China and India to France and Italy and beyond, The Amazing Race teams have seen it all, and with many more seasons set to air in the future, we can only expect this number to rise. It’ll be interesting to see if the show goes beyond 100 countries someday.
All of The Pit Stops Are Planned Ahead of Time
The Amazing Race is a show that involves a lot of improvisation on the part of the contestants, and it requires a whole lot of planning on the part of the production staff. They actually plan out the locations of every single pit stop or checkpoint ahead of time.
This means that the crew and host always know where the next pit stop will be and can plan ahead for what comes next. Interestingly, the pit stops are also the locations where both teams and crew members can finally rest a little. The average pit stop lasts for around 12 hours, but some have lasted over a day.
Contestants Aren’t Allowed to Tell Their Friends About the Show
We’ve touched upon how strict and serious The Amazing Race producers are in terms of privacy and secrecy. They never want anyone to know about how the race is going or which teams have been eliminated, and all contestants are under strict instructions to keep the show a secret.
They are not allowed to talk to their friends and family members about their progress on the show. They aren’t even allowed to tell them that they’re on the show! Instead, contestants are asked to simply say to their friends and family that they’re going away on a backpacking trip or long vacation.
The Audition Process Is Very Long
The Amazing Race is famous for being one of the toughest reality shows out there. On each leg of the journey, teams face all kinds of challenges to solve and obstacles to overcome, but even getting on the show in the first place is quite a big challenge! In fact, some former contestants say that the audition process is just as hard as the show itself.
Since The Amazing Race is so popular, a lot of people apply to be on it. This means that the audition process involves long waiting times, lots of interviews, many different questions, and more. It can take ages for people to learn that they’re actually on the show.
Teams Aren’t Given Much Time to Prepare
Most people plan their trips months in advance, booking their flights ahead of time, spending weeks learning about their chosen destinations, taking the time to prepare an itinerary, etc. You might think that The Amazing Race does something similar, letting contestants know in advance about the show to give them time to prepare. It doesn’t.
In fact, the show barely gives the team members any notice at all! They only learn about their involvement in the show a month before it starts filming, giving them just enough time to get necessary vaccinations and make preparations for the trip of a lifetime that awaits them.
Things Go Wrong Quite Often
It’s only logical, given the nature of the show, that The Amazing Race sees its fair share of malfunctions, accidents, and unexpected problems for both the teams and the crew members. We often see many examples of this on our TV screens as the teams scramble to try and solve new problems and get to where they need to go.
However, many additional problems occur throughout filming and aren’t even seen in the final cut of each episode! Once, for example, a team’s car battery drained because the cameraman was using it to charge up his batteries. This left the team stranded, but luckily, they managed to make it into another vehicle.
There Are Many Fan Interactions Behind-The-Scenes
As stated earlier, since The Amazing Race is such a popular show with such a big following of fans from all over the globe, it’s only natural that fans sometimes happen to be in the right place at the right time and see the filming taking place.
We don’t usually see any of this on-screen as all fan interactions are edited out, but racers do sometimes have to meet fans and speak with them while trying to run their own races. However, as mentioned in an earlier fact, the teams aren’t allowed to say that they’re taking part in The Amazing Race. Instead, they have to pretend that they’re part of a documentary.
Teams Meet Up Before the Show Starts
Can you imagine being matched up with a bunch of random people and asked to travel all over the globe with them? It would be quite a stressful and scary experience for a lot of people, and that’s exactly what happens on The Amazing Race. However, the team members do actually get a little bit of time to meet each other before the show begins.
On many other popular reality TV shows, like Survivor, for example, contestants are dropped into a situation without any knowledge of one another. On the Amazing Race, however, they’re allowed to meet up before filming begins to chat and learn a little about each other.
Weather Causes a Lot of Issues
As we’ve seen throughout this list, there are quite a lot of risks and potential problems associated with The Amazing Race. When you set a bunch of people loose in a race around the world, it’s clear that many things can go wrong, and the weather, in particular, has caused all kinds of chaos for teams and crew members alike over the years.
We often only get to see a small glimpse of this on our screens, as a lot of the big issues are edited out or minimized so as not to show how much time teams have to spend waiting around for heavy rains or bad storms to stop before continuing on their journeys.
The Teams Don’t Get Any Help
Several conspiracy theories are floating around among hardcore fans of The Amazing Race. Some people believe that the cameramen and other crew members traveling alongside the teams offer assistance with certain challenges or in certain situations. However, many former teams have revealed that this simply isn’t true.
In fact, the cameramen are under strict instructions to barely even communicate with the teams at all. It must be quite awkward to spend so much time in close proximity with other people and not really be able to talk to them in any meaningful way. But even in tough times, the crew members simply stand and watch, not offering any kind of help to the teams.
Each Season Is Completed in Just 21 Days
When we watch The Amazing Race, with just one episode airing each week over the course of a few months, it can feel like the experience lasts for ages. And with teams traveling to so many different places over the course of each season, you might think that the filming process takes a couple of months or more.
However, in reality, the average season is filmed entirely in just 21 days! That’s not a lot of time to fit in such a lot of travel, but somehow, the cast and crew pull it off. It must be quite a hectic experience for everyone involved.
The Show Requires Many Months of Preparation
The Amazing Race has been running for over 30 seasons already, and it seems like the show is almost always on our screens, or a new season is right around the corner. But it takes an enormous amount of work and preparation to get each season ready for production.
In an ‘Ask Me Anything’ on Reddit, the host of the show, Phil Keoghan, said that the production team spends about three months getting ready for each season, and he has to prepare his scripts a month in advance with interesting facts and stories about each location. More than 2,000 people work on the preparation stage for the show.
Political or Military Activity Can Greatly Affect the Show
The Amazing Race travels to many different countries each and every year. Each one of those countries has its own social, political, and economic situations, and some of them are quite delicate, prone to disruption and turmoil at any time. The show’s producers, therefore, need to be aware of the political climate in every country they intend to visit.
They hire special military or federal agent consultants to keep them informed regarding which locations are actually safe to travel to, as well as alerting them to any political developments that might affect their plans for each season. One year, the show was planning to head to Argentina, but a big financial collapse in the country made them change their plans.
The Amazing Race Has Gone Global
The Amazing Race was created in the United States on CBS in 2001, but the show has spawned all kinds of international versions over the years as well! It’s a global brand that’s now enjoyed in other nations like Australia, China, Canada, and more.
The US version of the show is also rebroadcast in many other countries, having big followings in nations like Canada and Australia and even ranking among the most popular shows for those two countries. There have been other versions of The Amazing Race produced for countries like Brazil, France, and Norway too, but not all of them have been successful, and some ended after just one or two seasons.
The Contestants Aren’t Allowed to Take Certain Items
Earlier on, we mentioned that the teams of The Amazing Race aren’t told what they should pack in their backpacks for the trip. However, they are given some instructions regarding what they should not be taking along with them, and there’s even a list of forbidden items.
The list of items that teams cannot take along on The Amazing Race includes things like money, as this would ruin the spirit of the show, and language books, as part of the show involves candidates using their own knowledge and abilities to communicate with locals. They can’t take maps, written notes, or most electronic items either.
Winners Have to Pay Taxes
Everyone knows that the grand prize for winners of The Amazing Race is a cool million dollars, and other prizes include free trips to exotic destinations. However, many fans of the show have often wondered whether or not the winners actually need to pay some form of taxes on their prizes. Well, previous winners of The Amazing Race have revealed that unfortunately for them, the prize winnings are taxed.
So, for example, if a trip is worth $10,000, the winners owe Uncle Sam around $3,000-4,000 in taxes. Not only that, but the trips aren’t even all-inclusive! The winners get the transport and hotel paid for, but they usually have to pay for all their food and other activities.
It’s an Emmy Award-Winning Show
The Amazing Race is a hugely successful TV show. Not only does it get millions of viewers in the US and abroad for every single season, but it has also received recognition in the form of many award wins and nominations. The first Emmy nomination for The Amazing Race came in 2003, and the show has since received over 70 Emmy nominations!
It has won 15 Emmys in total, which is a really impressive haul for a reality TV show. The producers have been nominated for the Producers Guild of America’s Golden Laurel award for Television Producer of a Non-Fiction Program every year since 2004, too.
A Fan Helped Save The Show’s Host in Ukraine
Back in Season 10 of The Amazing Race, the teams and crew members were on their way to Ukraine. They were traveling in the middle of the night and assumed that everything would go smoothly. Phil Keoghan thought he didn’t need a visa to enter the country, but it turned out that he was wrong.
When they got to the airport, Keoghan was pulled into a room by some security guards who didn’t speak any English and detained for several hours. Amazingly, an Amazing Race fan working for the American government spent the whole night rushing through an urgent visa so that Keoghan could continue his journey.
The Show Has an Intriguing Origin Story
The Amazing Race was created by Elise Doganieri and Bertram van Munster, but have you ever wondered how they came up with such a unique idea? Well, it was actually based on one of Doganieri’s real-life experiences. She spent a period of her youth backpacking around Europe with her best friend and college roommate after they graduated.
They thought it would be fun, but were totally unprepared for all the drama that came their way. At one point, they had a huge argument and had to spend some time apart to cool off before resuming their travels. Years later, Doganieri thought it would be great to put teams of two people in similar situations and see what happened.
It Wasn’t Always Called the Amazing Race
When husband and wife creator duo Doganieri and Van Munster were pitching the show, they realized that they didn’t actually have a name for it. They had the whole plan of the show laid out, including the details of how it could all work, but they just didn’t know what to call it.
They brainstormed together and came up with dozens of different titles, including ‘Around the World in 80 Days’. Eventually, during a meeting with CBS, one of the executives there suggested the name The Amazing Race, and the creators fell in love with the idea, saying that it was the perfect name for what their show was all about.
The Host Was Asked to Change His Voice
For some reason or another, TV executives are a little cautious about giving jobs to people who aren’t American and don’t speak in typical American accents. Maybe they worry that folks won’t understand what they’re saying or won’t be able to relate to the host so well. So, when Phil Keohan was offered the job, the producers had one special request.
They asked Keoghan to try and ‘Americanize’ his voice a little and sound less like a New Zealander. Before getting the job on The Amazing Race, Keoghan was quite a famous TV host in his home country, appearing on shows like Spot on, and That’s Fairly Interesting.
Only Super Competitive People Should Apply
The casting process for The Amazing Race is thorough, and over the years, the producers have adjusted their system in order to identify the best possible candidates. They’re looking for people who will be able to go the distance, stick it out, and provide entertainment to the folks watching at home. For this reason, the casting process is designed to identify ‘Type-A personalities,’ meaning people who are very competitive and confident.
The casting workers also try to look out for people with lots of humor, as this helps to make the show more fun to watch. They also try to find teams that work well together but still have the potential to clash in high-pressure situations to add drama and tension to the show.
Everyone’s A Winner
When it comes to The Amazing Race, every team dreams of heading home with the biggest prize of all: $1 million. It’s a big sum of money that can truly change a life, and it’s one of the main reasons why people apply to be on the show in the first place.
However, many fans don’t know that all the teams get at least some kind of cash prize for participating. Even the first team to be eliminated earns around $1,500 for their efforts. The second-place team in the final takes home $25,000, and the third-place team gets $10,000. It’s not quite the same as a million bucks, but at least it’s something.
Everyone Sleeps in The Same Place
The checkpoints are important parts of The Amazing Race for the viewers at home to see how the teams are doing, but they’re also vital for the racers and crew members to finally get a little rest. Have you ever wondered where they all sleep when the cameras stop rolling?
Well, the whole crew and cast stick together and sleep in the same location. Sometimes, this can be a fancy hotel, but it’s not always quite so comfortable! Former racers have revealed that some pit-stops involve everyone sleeping together in cramped tents or in the middle of airports. They never really know where they’ll be sleeping until they arrive.
Phil Keoghan Receives Constant Texts
Have you ever wondered what The Amazing Race host, Phil Keoghan, is doing all that time while waiting around at each checkpoint for the teams to arrive? Well, he’s not simply standing there smiling at the locals. Instead, he’s getting non-stop text messages and updates on the locations and actions of each team.
He knows exactly where they are, what they’re doing, what kinds of penalties they might have had, and more, with the producers and other crew members keeping him up to speed at all times. Keoghan has said that if he didn’t have his phone during filming, it would be pretty much impossible for the show to go on.
The Host’s Necklace Has A Story Behind It
People who watch The Amazing Race regularly may have noticed that even though Phil Keoghan wears different outfits, he always seems to have one item of jewelry around his neck. In essence, it’s a special necklace with a kind of tribal symbol as a pendant. Have you ever wondered what it means? Well, Keoghan revealed all in an interview.
He says that it’s actually a traditional New Zealand necklace that was given to him to provide safety and protection while traveling over water. It’s a part of Maori culture and is made from a fish hook. Many other New Zealanders wear similar necklaces while traveling, and the hooks are often carved out of bone or stone.
Many Celebs Have Asked to Appear on The Show
Many different celebrities have appeared on The Amazing Race over the years, including Jonathan Knight from New Kids on the Block and NHL stars Anthony and Bates Battaglia. Still, the show has never pulled off an all-celebrity season, despite fans urging them to do so. Phil Keoghan says it’s an interesting idea but could be a “nightmare” in practice.
Still, if ever the producers decide to give it a try, they’ll have many candidates to choose from. Many stars from Ellen DeGeneres to Neil Patrick Harris have expressed an interest in appearing on the show. Julie Louis-Dreyfus, Drew Barrymore, and Sarah Jessica Parker have also spoken about wanting to be on The Amazing Race.