THE RACE: Rules, Clues, and StructureThis is a featured page

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Typically, each cycle of the Race features eleven teams. The teams represent the diversity of the country. Each team is composed of two people with a pre-existing relationship, such as dating, married, and divorced couples; siblings; parent and child; lifelong friends; sports team colleagues; and co-workers.
Original Race rules required:
  • Teammates have had a pre-existing relationship longer than three years, and no previous acquaintances with other racers during that cycle. However, these requirements have been dropped in some cases; Dustin and Kandice from seasons 10 and 11 knew each other from the beauty pageant circuit, and from seasons 9 and 11, Eric and Danielle met on the Race and had begun dating when asked to be on the All-Star edition.
  • Individual racers must be of a specific nationality and meet specific age requirements; this is necessary to allow teams to obtain the necessary passport documentation to travel across the world without incident.
  • At the beginning of each leg of the race, each team receives an allowance with their first clue, from which all expenses (food, transportation, lodging, attraction admission, and supplies) must be purchased during the Leg. Selected tasks have also required the teams to use their money to complete the task. However, teams are given a credit card which they must use to purchase airline tickets (and in the case of the "Family Edition", the purchase of gasoline).
  • Allowance money is usually given in the same currency as the show's nation regardless of location; U.S. versions of the Race will provide racers with U.S. dollars.
  • The amount of money varies from leg to leg, and has ranged from hundreds of dollars to nothing. Teams are allowed to keep any unused money for future race legs, barring certain penalties for finishing last.
  • If team members spend all of their money or have it taken away in a non-elimination leg, they may try to get more money in any way that does not violate the local laws. This includes borrowing money from other teams, begging from locals or selling their possessions.
  • Additionally, teams may not use their personal possessions to barter payment for services.

Route Markers
A standard Route Marker looks like this.

Route Markers are uniquely colored flags that mark the places where teams must go. Most Route Markers are attached to the boxes that contain clue envelopes, but some may mark the place where the teams must go in order to complete tasks, or may be used to line a course that the teams must follow.

When teams start a leg, arrive at Route Markers, or complete certain tasks, they normally receive a letter-sized tear-away envelope that contains their next clue inside a vertical-fold folder. The clues themselves are typically printed on a vertical strip of paper, although additional information is often provided inside the clue folder. After retrieving the clue, teams open the envelope and read aloud the instructions given on the clue sheet and then follow those instructions. Teams are generally required to collect each clue during each leg and keep that information with them until they reach the next Pit Stop, surrendering them once they have checked in.

Route Information

Route Info are blue cards.
Route Information clues instruct the teams where to go next. Such a clue usually provides only the name of the team's next destination; it is up to the teams to figure out how to get there.
Route Information clues may specify how the teams have to travel (such as by foot, by train, or by air), and instruct teams what type of location to travel to (such as a specific location in another city or country, another location within the team's present city, the Pit Stop of the leg, or the Finish Line of the race).

Detour are yellow cards.
A Detour presents the team with a decision between two tasks, "each with its own pros and cons," as often stated by the host.

Typically, one task is less physically demanding than the other but is tedious or requires some amount of time or thinking to complete, while the other is usually a more physically demanding or frightening option that, depending on the team's ability, may take less time to complete. The decision about which task to attempt lies solely with the team.

A team may choose to switch tasks as many times as they wish with no penalty other than the time lost in attempting the tasks and traveling between task locations. Unless otherwise instructed, teams can work together to finish a Detour option. Once a team has completed one of the tasks, they are given the clue to their next location. If a team does not complete a Detour, they will get a 6-hour penalty.

Roadblocks are red cards
A Roadblock is a task that only one team member may perform. Once a team announces its decision of who will complete the Roadblock, it cannot be taken back. The Roadblock task is performed only by the selected racer while his or her partner waits in a designated area, although the partner is usually able to supply words of encouragement and advice.

Fast Forward
Fast Forward are green cards.
A Fast Forward is a task that, once completed, allows the team that completes it to bypass all remaining tasks in the leg and proceed directly to the Pit Stop. The Fast Forward clue is given with another task clue (usually a Roadblock or Detour) and is a separate task from the others. Only one team may complete a Fast Forward in any given leg, and a team may only complete one Fast Forward in the entire Race.

  • The Switchback is a concept introduced in season 15 of the program, in which teams encounter a task from a previous season that was markedly difficult
  • The first Switchback in the aforementioned season 15 was a remake of the Roadblock encountered by teams during the show's season six stop in Stockholm; the original Roadblock was notorious as Lena Jensen struggled for more than 10 hours before being told that she and her sister Kristy had been eliminated from the race.
  • Another Switchback was incorporated into season 20 concerning a Fast Forward in India initially offered in both season five and season seven: shaving off all of the hair from the racers' heads as part of a Hindu ceremonial ritual; when taken in season 7, Joyce Agu had her hair shaved off as her husband Uchenna (already bald) gave encouraging words, and they ultimately won their season.
  • Season 21 also featured a Switchback of a Roadblock in season 12's visit to the Netherlands where racers participated in fierljeppen, made infamous by 68-year-old Donald Jerousek's decision to strip down to his underwear during the task.


Besides clues, teams may encounter the following that may or may not affect their placements or possibly slow them down:

Yield signs are yellow.
The Yield, introduced in season five, allows any one team to force another team to stop racing for a predetermined amount of time.

If a team Yielded another team, they would place a photo of the Yielded team, along with a "Courtesy of" photo of themselves, on the stand. When the Yielded team arrived at the Yield, they would then turn over an hourglass and wait for the sand to drain before they could continue to the Route Marker.

A team may only use its Yield power once on the race, and only one team may be Yielded when the Yield is available, although a team may be Yielded multiple times during the same Race. If a team loses its "Courtesy of" photo, it loses its Yield power If the team that is Yielded has already passed the Yield, the Yield is nullified.

U-Turn signs are yellow
The U-Turn, introduced in season 12 as a replacement of the Yield, is similar in format to the Yield; however, it is always placed immediately after a Detour. After completing their Detour option, a team may use their U-Turn ability to force another team to backtrack and complete the Detour option they did not previously complete. Like the Yield, the team placing the U-Turn places a photo of the team they are penalizing along with their own "Courtesy of" photo on the U-Turn marker stand.

Teams are warned of an upcoming U-Turn either before the leg when the teams leave the Pit Stop, when the teams arrive at the Detour, and/or at the Route Marker clue after the Detour. When teams are warned of the upcoming U-Turn has varied in more recent seasons of the Race.
  • Starting in season 14, teams were met with a new variation of the U-Turn called a "Blind U-Turn." If teams use a Blind U-Turn, they do not have to publicly reveal themselves as the perpetrators with their "Courtesy of" photo.
  • From season 17, a "Double U-Turn" was introduced, in which two teams can each choose a team to U-Turn. Teams can only U-Turn once, and a team cannot be U-Turned twice in the same leg. In addition, a U-Turned team can U-Turn another team, and this can be done before they complete their extra Detour branch.
  • Season 18 introduced an "automatic U-Turn", where the team who came in last in the starting line task would have to do both tasks of the first Detour (which was not incurred until Leg 2). An automatic U-Turn was also used as the "Handicap" penalty for Leg 10 in the Norwegian edition of the show.
  • In season 19, the U-Turn sign was remade to use computer touchscreens, removing the need for teams to carry their "Courtesy of" photo, though teams could still only U-Turn another team once per race. When choosing the teams, the users are aware which teams are still in the race, but are not told what teams, if any, have passed the U-Turn sign.
  • In season 21, a Blind Double U-Turn was included. It incorporates the rules of a Blind U-Turn and a Double U-Turn.


This Intersection sign appears above the clue box where the teams must join together
The Intersection, used in American seasons 10, 11, 16 requires each team to pair up with one other team and perform all tasks and make decisions together until further notice. Should there be no other teams present when a given team arrives at the Intersection Route Marker, they must wait there until another team arrives, although they do not have to partner with that team and can opt to wait for another team instead. Teams are free to choose their partner team if multiple teams are present. Teams are not warned when an Intersection is coming. The Intersection may have teams simply working together on standard Route Marker tasks, or they may have to work together on Roadblocks or Fast Forwards.

Race legs

  • Each leg of The Amazing Race generally consists of teams leaving from the previous Pit Stop and traveling to a different location (often in a different country), where they perform two or more tasks, generally including one Detour and one Roadblock, before being given instructions to go to the next Pit Stop.
  • It is each team's goal to complete each leg as quickly as possible, as the first team to check in to the Pit Stop will win a prize; the prizes have included all-expenses paid trips, new cars or other vehicles, money, entertainment provided during the Pit Stop, and recently advantages to be used during the race (see Express Pass, Salvage Pass, and Double Your Money).
  • The last team to arrive at the Pit Stop will generally be eliminated from the competition, but occasionally the team is allowed to continue racing although they will be given a Race-imposed disadvantage in the next leg (see Non-elimination leg). When teams are otherwise not performing tasks or traveling during a leg, they are free to use their time as they see fit, although they will often resort to eating cheaply or sleeping outside a location to save their Race money.
Start line task
  • First introduced in season 15 (and not repeated until season 18 and being used in subsequent seasons), the start line of the Race has featured a task that teams had to complete before being allowed to continue racing (earlier seasons simply had teams run towards their backpacks and first clue). T
Express Pass
TAR-Express Pass Card.png
The Express Pass, introduced in season 17, is given as a prize on an early leg of the race (usually the first leg, though it was awarded on the second leg of season 21 - and on some international versions the pass is given out as late as leg 3). It allows the team to skip any single task (including Roadblocks, Detours, and miscellaneous tasks, but not the Fast Forward task), once, during the race. If a team used the Express Pass to skip a Detour and that team is U-Turned, the U-Turn is void. The choice of which task to skip is at the team's discretion, but the power, if unused, expires at the end of Leg 8.

The Hazard was introduced in season 19 of the American edition
The Hazard, introduced in season 19, is a penalty applied to the team who came in last at the starting line task. After completing a task (in season 19 it was a Roadblock), the team was given a different clue that directed them to another location where they found the Hazard clue. The Hazard consisted of a task that only one of the team members had to perform.

Double Your Money
  • Introduced in season 21, the Double Your Money prize was awarded to the winners of the first leg of the season. If they were to win the season's competition, their grand prize would double from US$1 million to US$2 million.

Pit Stop
  • The Pit Stop is the final destination in each leg of the race, and where all non-eliminated teams go after checking in at the mat. Each Pit Stop is a mandatory rest period which allows teams to "eat, sleep, and mingle" with each other. T
  • During Pit Stops, racers are sometimes required to relinquish Race-provided material from the previous legs, including clues, maps, and additional instructions. Teams are responsible for being ready to leave when their Pit Stop time is over, and no time credit is given should a team miss their time to leave.
Double-length legs
  • Some Races have included a double-length leg, also called "to be continued" Legs, shown over two episodes or a single two-hour long episode, where teams are not checked in at a Pit Stop but instead given a clue to continue racing.
  • The clues that precede the midpoint of the double-length leg often will hint at a Pit Stop but will not include the normal language found in clues for normal-length legs that direct teams to the Pit Stop. In some cases, the host has been present along with the check-in mat to give teams their next clues.
Non-elimination legs
  • A number of legs on each Race are predetermined "non-elimination legs", where the last team to check-in is not eliminated. Up through U.S. season four, there was no penalty for finishing last on a non-elimination leg; this was repeated on one of the legs in season 17 (though this was due to a production error).
Stripped of money and belongings
  • In seasons five through nine, the last team to check in was stripped of all their money and were not given any money at the start of the next leg, forcing that team to literally beg for money from the local population of the city they were in for such expenses as cab, bus or train fare. In addition, from seasons seven through nine, these teams would also be forced to give up all their bags, leaving them with only the clothes on their backs and the fanny-pack teams use to carry their passports and Race documentation; this last penalty caused many teams, thinking themselves to be in last, to wear as much clothing as possible before checking in.
Marked for elimination
  • In seasons 10 and 11 and most international versions, teams that came in last on non-elimination legs were "marked for elimination"; if they did not come in first on the subsequent leg, they would receive a 30-minute penalty upon check-in at the mat and other trailing teams could check in before the 30-minute penalty expires and they could ultimately be eliminated from the race.
Speed Bump
The Speed Bump sign appears above the clue box where team who checked-in last in the previous Pit Stop during a non-elimination leg must do the Speed Bump task on the leg after the non-elimination Leg before continuing
From season 12 onward, the penalty for finishing last in a non-elimination leg is that the affected team will have to perform a "Speed Bump" task sometime during the next leg. Teams would be alerted to the upcoming Speed Bump by a Route Marker clue prior to it, while the Speed Bump itself is displayed in a manner similar to the Yield showing the affected team's picture at a stand near to the regular Route Marker. Once the team completes the Speed Bump task, they may receive the next clue that they would have gotten at the Route Marker, or they may have to backtrack to where the cluebox was initially to get their next clue, depending on the task.

Unusual eliminations There have been many eliminations which have been unusual which may involve a team being eliminated outside a Pit Stop or more than one team being eliminated.
  • The first unusual elimination occurred in American season 10 where the last team to check in at designated midpoint in the first leg was eliminated. This leg also featured a regular elimination at the Pit Stop.
  • Season 15 featured another unusual elimination in its first leg, where only 11 sets of airline tickets were available to the first destination city, and the Race began with twelve teams. After eleven teams completed the task at the starting line and received tickets to their first destination, the last team remaining was eliminated; at the Pit Stop later, the last team was not eliminated.
  • Season 19 featured the first double-elimination leg in the second leg, where two teams were eliminated at the same time at the Pit Stop.
Final leg
  • The final leg of the race is run by the three remaining teams. In earlier U.S. seasons, the leg was a non-elimination or double-length leg, with an intermediate destination in or near the home country (such as Hawaii, Alaska or Canada for the U.S. version) prior to traveling to the final city back in the home country. However, in more recent Races, final legs have been single legs, whereby teams are flown directly from the final foreign country to the final city in the home country.
  • The grand prize for the U.S. version at the finish line is US$1 million. At the check-in mat, the host and in most cases the other eliminated teams celebrate the arrival of the teams. Generally all three teams are allowed to arrive.

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