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travelling with ashes

Advice on travelling with cremated remains from the LA Times

The question of how to travel with cremated remains was posed to the LA Times travel correspondent.

She was asked: Recently, a long-time travel friend died. She had travelled with us several times on African safaris and was in love with Africa, the animals and the safari experience. One of her wishes was that we take her ashes on our next trip to South Africa and sprinkle them on a game-filled savannah in her memory. Are there any rules that would pertain or restrict taking someone’s ashes in a carry-on or checked luggage?

The answer printed was good, a link to the full response is at the end, I have attempted to capture the salient points. Which was basically it depends whether you want to abide by the rules or not.

If you do

  • Check with the airline and if you are using more than one check with them too.
  • They are likely to want a death certificate or certificate of cremation. (You will almost always be better off if it’s a certified copy). If it is a choice rather than both go for the certificate of cremation.
  • Make sure the urn can be x-rayed (non-metal) otherwise it will not be allowed through the security checkpoint. The Transportation Security Administration will not open any container with ashes, even if you say it’s OK and even if you have documentation explaining what’s in there. That means you must choose the container carefully.
  • You may able to check the ashes in, but if your bag is delayed or goes missing that will present a problem, so it is probably best in hand luggage
  • Make an extra check for all your possession when leaving the plane
  • Check with the consulate/embassy before traveling to learn what the specific rules in the chosen country are. When you contact the consulate, you’ll probably need a certified copy of the death certificate, a disposition permit and some sort of identification for the decedent, which could be a passport, but could be a driver’s license.
  • Some countries will only accept information from a licensed funeral director, and … cremated remains may only be sent to licensed funeral directors or cemeteries.” And if that’s the case, you’ll need help from the funeral director because “the process of arranging travel with cremated remains can be daunting.”

However if you choose the “forgiveness-not-permission” route, you still should note that you are supposed to ask for an OK for the land owner before scattering. As to what happens if you get caught doing this when you shouldn’t well that’s depends where it is – some countries are more benign than others…

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