TSA Travel Tips: Travelling with Religious & Cultural Items

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Thursday, February 22, 2018
Passenger Aircraft

People need to travel with all sorts of items. It’s not always the usual clothing and toiletries as some would assume.

Some travelers need to travel with religious and cultural items that require individualized care and handling. Our officers are trained on screening religious and cultural items, however, some of the items aren’t things they see every day, so we’d like to offer some tips and suggestions in an effort to avoid any confusion and ensure a smooth trip for travelers traveling with these types of items.

Prior to Flying

If you’d like to reach out to us before you travel, you may contact the TSA Cares helpline 72-hours before your travel to get information about what to expect to prepare for screening, and to request assistance at the checkpoint. Each airport has different resources; therefore, the level of assistance a passenger receives at the checkpoint can vary.  Some airports have an individual who will call the passenger to gather additional information and arrange a meeting time and place.  Other locations notify the checkpoint manager of the passenger’s itinerary, but no pre-contact is made.


When packing your carry-on bag, we suggest packing religious items in a container that can be separated from other belongings and placed by itself in a bin for X-ray screening. We recommend using a clear plastic bag or other clear plastic container that can be easily opened to remove religious items for screening. These items can then be spread out in separate bins for X-ray screening. Do not use a metal container.

We recommend not placing delicate religious items in checked baggage. Most checked baggage is screened without the need for a physical bag search. Still though, our officers may need to inspect your checked baggage during the screening process. This would increase the chance of religious or cultural items being handled.


Let the TSA officer know if you have a religious item that needs individualized care or that you do not want touched because of the tenets of your religious beliefs. You may explain that the item has religious significance and your religious beliefs hold that the item should not be touched by a non-practitioner of your religion.

If you are at the checkpoint and need assistance or have concerns, you may ask for a Passenger Support Specialist or a Supervisory TSA Officer. Having a passenger support specialist present can help facilitate communication with the TSA officer and increase the chances that your religious items will not have to be touched. Passenger Support Specialists are specially trained to engage with, and screen, passengers who have screening concerns at the checkpoint. You may ask for an explanation of the screening procedures that will be performed. You may request to speak with a supervisor or manager, or have a supervisor or manager be present during the screening.

Unpack and place religious items in an X-ray bin by themselves with nothing on top of them. This will help our officers get a better look so that religious items can be screened without the need for further inspection.

If any items alarm during X-ray screening, including delicate religious ones, TSA officers will attempt to resolve the alarm with a visual inspection. If further visual inspection is required, you may ask to personally hold and display the religious item for TSA officers or place it on a flat surface for viewing.

If the alarm cannot be resolved through visual inspection, the item will be tested for traces of explosives using a swab test. You may ask TSA officers to collect a sample without picking up and handling the item. You may also ask to hold the religious item or lay it on a flat surface while a sample is collected, or ask that TSA officers wear gloves or change gloves to conduct the screening.

Religious knives, swords and other objects such as these are not permitted through the security checkpoint and must be packed in checked baggage.

If you have concerns during or after your screening, you should request to speak with a TSA supervisor or manager, or a Passenger Support Specialist. If you have an item that absolutely cannot not be touched, consider alternative methods of getting the item to your destination.

Read more about traveling with religious and cultural items at TSA.gov.

Bob Burns - TSA Social Media

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