After a cremation, you might choose to keep the ashes or scatter them in a meaningful location. This could be a family garden, a favourite park or even a football stadium.
But what if that special place is in another country? Although scattering ashes in the UK is often the easiest option, taking human ashes overseas is possible. If you’d like to do this, there are a few things you need to be aware of before you travel.
Do you need permission to scatter ashes overseas?
Each country has its own guidelines on transporting and spreading ashes. Some are very strict, so be sure to do your research. The advice will vary depending on where you’re going and how you’re travelling. This guide assumes you’ll be carrying human ashes on a plane.
How to transport ashes to another country
Documents you’ll need
To travel with ashes, you’ll need the death certificate and the certificate of cremation. It’s also wise to carry proof of your relationship with the person who has died, plus a letter from your funeral director or the crematorium. This letter should explain that the urn contains human remains.
Taking ashes on a plane
Once you have the relevant paperwork, you should contact the airline you plan to travel with and ask about their rules.
In most cases, the airline will advise:
- Arrive early at the airport to avoid delays at airport security.
- You can take the ashes on the plane as hand luggage.
- You may have to declare the ashes at customs (with appropriate paperwork).
You should also contact your destination’s British consulate, embassy or high commission. It’s important to ask about their rules and requirements, as all countries will vary.
Choosing the right container
You can take some kinds of urns on a plane, or use another type of non-metal container. Either way, it must be packaged safely and securely. Keep in mind that you might be searched at customs – especially if you’ve protected the ashes using multiple containers.
Here are a few tips to help you keep the ashes safe and avoid security issues:
- Make sure the container is secure and tightly sealed.
- Make sure the container can be X-rayed – some ceramic or stone urns can’t.
- Consider layering a few containers using bubble wrap for added safety.
- Label the container(s) clearly with your name, address and contact details.
Sending human ashes abroad by post
Unfortunately, you can’t post ashes abroad like a normal package. To make sure the ashes reach their destination safely, use a courier that specialises in transporting human remains. Learn more about specialist repatriation courier services.
We hope we answered your questions about taking human ashes abroad. You can find more advice about planning a funeral or a memorial in our advice hub.