BBC Race Across the World behind the scenes secrets: Hidden hotels, strict food rule and unseen teammates

-Credit: (Image: BBC/Studio Lambert/Pete Dadds)
-Credit: (Image: BBC/Studio Lambert/Pete Dadds)


Imagine being dropped in a foreign country with no phone or flights, and tasked with racing across the globe on a very small budget.

This is the thrilling concept of BBC's Race Across the World, which saw best mates Alfie and Owen being crowned the winners of this year's show during tonight's final on BBC.

With all technology confiscated, flights prohibited and funds limited, teams are left to rely on the cheapest modes of transport and directions from locals who may not even speak their language.

The hit BBC One reality show has just concluded it's fourth season which featured five pairs of competitors racing across countries like Japan and South Korea, all fighting to be the first to reach Lombok in Indonesia where they will claim the £20,000 cash prize.

Race Across The World finalists Stephen and Viv (Lucy North/PA)
Race Across The World finalists Stephen and Viv (Lucy North/PA) -Credit:PA

Mother-daughter team Sharon, 52, and Brydie, 25, were knocked out in episode four, leaving four teams - Stephen and his wife Viv, Alfie and best mate Owen, siblings Betty and James, and mother-daughter duo Eugenie and Isabel all battling out in the final.

Alfie and Owen were first to reach the final checkpoint after eight weeks of racing across the world, beating runners up Eugenie and Isabel by just eight minutes.

After the excitement of tonight's final episode, here are some some behind-the-scenes secrets from the show from hidden hotels to the one food rule the teams need to follow..

Route recce

The show's producers first test the routes to discover any potential issues that may arise and to determine if it's possible for the contestants to survive on their tight budgets.

Race Across The World finalists James and Betty (Lucy North/PA)
Race Across The World finalists James and Betty (Lucy North/PA) -Credit:PA

As reported by The Guardian, two crew members carry out a recce of the route, with only one aware of what lies ahead - leaving the other to experience the race like a contestant.

Series producer Lucy Curtis revealed: "The other person has no idea and that person is in charge of making the decisions."

Line producer Maria Kennedy further explained to Radio Times: "You get some really brave people out on the road for a couple of months.

"[They tell us:] 'Here are going to be the sticking points. This is quite tricky. This bit is amazing'. They do it all on a budget as well so they're not like going out and spending loads of money and having a great jolly.

"They're literally looking at the budget and seeing if it's possible to get by on less than 50 quid a day."

During filming, each pair of contestants is accompanied by two production crew members. Executive producer Mark Saben told the BBC: "They had to do the same journey as them, sleeping alongside them on the bus.

"So they were almost like a family, with its ups and downs. And while we had done recces, the teams found bits of the world which were totally surprising."

Mark informed Broadcast that visas and vaccines for 'every conceivable country' are arranged in advance, with 'every likely bus and train option, cost and connection' being researched.

He said "It's all very well doing it theoretically, looking at timetables and things" before adding "but until someone does it for real, you don't know where the difficulties might lie.

"We drew up protocols that set rules for how the teams could hitchhike, travel at night and cross borders safely."

No help allowed

Despite having a production crew, a local fixer and a security adviser, they are instructed to keep enough distance to 'make the journey feel authentic'.

Race Across The World finalists Eugenie and Isabel (Lucy North/PA)
Race Across The World finalists Eugenie and Isabel (Lucy North/PA) -Credit:PA

Mark Saben, shared with BBC News that a medical support vehicle will also follow the teams at an interval of about an hour in certain countries. However, no navigational guidance can be offered.

He further commented to Broadcast: "How they made their journey was up to them. This meant as a production we had to react to their decisions, however nonsensical.

"It was a nightmare for production management as the competing contributors decided how and where to go. You cannot underestimate how challenging the journey could be at times."

In the second instalment of the series, one team almost missed a crucial transport connection because they didn't realise they'd crossed into a new time zone.

A different team almost drifted into a six-hour detour when they boarded the wrong bus in southern Mexico.

All the production crew could do was watch helplessly.

Total isolation

Current series contestant Alfie, 20, took to social media to reveal that the teams were kept in 'total isolation' during the race.

He stated: "I keep telling people we knew nothing about the Gaza attacks."

Line producer Maria Kennedy expressed how crucial it is to maintain the race 'bubble'.

She said: "If there was a significant issue at home, we might allow them to speak to a nominated person but we really try to keep them in the bubble as much as possible."

Secret hotels

The teams stay at secret hotels at each checkpoint for up to two days.

Current series contestant, Alfie, 20 (left) and his pal Owen (right) have been spilling the beans about the show on social media -Credit:PA
Current series contestant, Alfie, 20 (left) and his pal Owen (right) have been spilling the beans about the show on social media -Credit:PA

Alfie, 20, confirmed: "It does change depending on finishing times to make sure nobody leaves at an utterly ridiculous time - mainly for safety".

Real jobs

Show bosses create a leaflet of job ads, populated with genuine jobs. BBC commissioner Michael Jochnowitz shared with the Radio Times: "We don't go to any of those places and say: 'For the purposes of the show, can you provide this kind of service?

Tony and Elaine Teasdale, both 62, retired teachers who won the TV reality show BBC2s Race Across the World. Five pairs of contestants got cash equal to an airfare to Singapore but had to get there from London without flying and with no bank cards or mobiles. The couple, from York, reached the first checkpoint last but overtook the rest on the remaining trip. -Credit:BBC

"Those are real jobs, real places, real money or accommodation and things like that so again, because they don't have access to a phone or the internet, we basically just give them a guide of potential opportunities in the area."

The show's Executive producer, Mark noted how they intend for the contest to retain its legitimate feel. He explained: "We use [it] as a rule of thumb, it's like what you'd find on a board in a hostel. We want [it] to feel absolutely as authentic as it possibly can be."

The struggle with finding food while working off limited budgets is also real. No help comes off camera, as series two winner Emon Choudhury revealed to the Express.

Emon and his nephew Jamiul often had to rely on the kindness of strangers for their meals.

He admitted: "I lost over a stone, a stone and a half and the same with my nephew, he lost quite a bit as well.

"The food was an issue. You always think on these TV shows, you get a sandwich off-camera or water or a little snack here or there but no, it wasn't like that."

Series one winners Tony and Elaine Teasdale shed light on the intensity of the food struggles on the show. They told the Telegraph about times where 'they wouldn't eat unless somebody fed them or they found super-cheap street food'.

Elaine revealed: "We'd buy little packs of rice for 20p each, then eat those for three meals a day."

She eventually dropped a dress size from 14 to 12 during the course of the competition.

Elaine also revealed they were allowed to take chlorine tablets with them, eliminating the need to purchase bottled water.

Race Across The World will air tonight on the BBC at 9pm.

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