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Am I allowed to bring my rental car into Amish country? Do they allow cameras for pictures?
Will they understand what cameras are?

I know it's a very agrarian area but that's about it.

Is this a community that tends to be welcoming, tolerant, or resentful of outsiders who are passing through and exploring their part of the country?

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    Please do some basic research before asking, particularly when dealing with minority groups. The Amish religion is anabaptist, not fundamentalist, and in any case fundamentalism does not always imply xenophobia. – choster Dec 9 '14 at 22:11
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    -1 For the last paragraph. Why would you end your post with a borderline-prejudiced opinion-based comment which adds nothing useful to the question? – JoErNanO Dec 10 '14 at 11:36
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    My wife grew up in Geauga county in Ohio, which is one of the largest Amish settlement areas in the US. We drive up, around, and through there frequently. The Amish don't "own" the area. They're landowners, and many farm, but not all do - but it's not like it's a reservation with special borders and "no cars allowed" signs or anything. They have their beliefs and lead their lives, same as anyone else. When you're in an Amish area watch out for buggies and folks walking on the side of the road. Some areas have a special "buggy lane", which is really just an extra-wide shoulder on the road. – Bob Jarvis Dec 10 '14 at 12:17
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    @JoErNanO Don't be scared to edit! When you see a question that appears well meaning (if we err on the side of assuming good intentions), but that seems to risk offending by accident, a quick edit can usually help all parties! – Jaydles Dec 10 '14 at 14:42
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    @easymoden00b, okay, I can respect that! But I need to ask you to reword it, then. Your current words can be read as offensive. I assume that's not your intent, so can you please re-phrase in a way that doesn't use "fundamentalists," and doesn't seem to presume a likelihood of openly hostile behavior by a group? – Jaydles Dec 10 '14 at 15:29
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To deal with your various questions:

  1. Yes you can bring your car into Amish country. While the area is home to many Amish families it is not run along Amish lines. There are roads and shops and all the usual things you would find. If you have actual business on an Amish farm then they are OK with you driving onto it, just as you would visiting any other private property.
  2. Amish understand the modern world and its gadgets. Choosing not to use specific technologies is not based on ignorance (nor, by the way, do they believe "technology is evil").
  3. It is not illegal to take photographs but it is terribly impolite, just as you would probably consider it impolite if a whole bunch of tourists followed you down the street photographing you while you were going about your normal business. The Amish are not tourist attractions and dislike being treated as such. Some Amish do have religious objections to being in photographs, and you may find that if you point a camera at them some will turn away from you. However you will not be arrested for taking photographs - you will just hugely annoy the people involved.
  4. Amish are not hostile to strangers. Hospitality and tolerance are part of their beliefs. However they are also private about their beliefs and their lifestyle. Behaving impolitely will not endear yourself to them. Please try to avoid it.

Finally - please read up a bit about the people and their lifestyle before you visit. You will get a lot more out of it.

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    Regarding photos: when visiting an Amish place we were told that they do not have any images (paintings, photos) because it would be considered idolatry. For this reason it might be considered insensitive to their faith to take photos of them. – Szabolcs Dec 10 '14 at 17:07
  • @Szabolcs But they won't object if you bring a camera for the landscape and/or the architecture. – Alexander Dec 10 '14 at 17:14
  • @Alexander Yes, that's right. In fact in my experience some of them may hint that they won't mind if you take pictures of them for as long as it's done out of public view ... might just be a way to motivate tourists for more generous tips ... (But no, I didn't take photos of anyone there). So as DJClayworth said it's about politeness and may depend on the person. – Szabolcs Dec 10 '14 at 17:17
  • As I elaborated in my own answer, and one other, It is not forbidden to take photographs is pretty much wrong. I would +1 if you felt like changing this aspect of your answer. – Flimzy Dec 10 '14 at 19:26
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    @Flimzy There's a variety of view on photographs from the Amish, though none of them like being viewed as tourist attractions. Here is an article summarizing the different views.. In any case it is not 'forbidden' in the sense that you will be arrested or fined for taking photographs - you will just upset people a lot. – DJClayworth Dec 10 '14 at 20:14
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I actually listened to a podcast on the Amish a couple of weeks ago, based on this article on Howstuffworks. I'd recommend it for some solid background.

They're not idiots - they do have education, and they know fully what a camera is, but choose not to use them. They generally would prefer you not to take photos - as DJClayworth said, imagine tourists taking photos of you while you were going to work or whatever.

Their faith and lifestyle means they're very open and hospitable, and from the sounds of it would have a very interesting perspective on life, if you chose to engage with them and find out more.

Not that I could live entirely in that lifestyle, but after the podcast, I could understand their views on some matters.

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You're not dealing with idiots or religious fanatics. Them not participating in modern conveniences doesn't mean that they don't know what those are.

There are sites like:

and various reviews and posts on Trip Advisor that will help you to plan your trip.

And just for kicks Amish are not a uniform group, so there are variations on practices.

  • Reading Terminal Market in Philly is also worth visiting. – neubau Dec 10 '14 at 4:32
  • @neubau Is this a renowned area for the amishes? – easymoden00b Dec 10 '14 at 20:04
  • There are quite a few restaurants and food stalls run by Amish people at this market. They are there selling products from their farms, like jam etc. – neubau Dec 11 '14 at 3:27
  • @neubau amazing. in such a wonderland as america these people can thrive without gizmology. – easymoden00b Dec 11 '14 at 19:19
  • @easymoden00b They are not the only ones. – Karlson Dec 11 '14 at 19:32
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Having grown up in a similar conservative Anabaptist community and now living near a large Amish community, here is my $0.02.

Rental car--absolutely! As other answers point out, members of Amish communities own their homes/farms but not the roads. Of course, be aware of the alternative transportation modes you will see, and slow down for buggies, scooters, bicycles and pedestrians. Remember also that most horses do not appreciate cars coming too close to them--keep a nice distance away from them to avoid causing accidents.

Cameras--if you try to take photos without permission, you are likely to have the unsettling experience of having the Amish turn their back on you. This is not because they do not know what cameras are or because they believe photography is evil, but because they take literally the Biblical injunction not to create an 'image' of anything. If you choose to take photos anyway, it is respectful to do so discreetly and make sure there are no recognizable faces in your photos.

Finally, realize that these are people just like you, who have chosen to live a very different lifestyle. They are friendly but reserved, and most members of these communities will do their best to answer your questions provided you are polite and respectful.

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The other answers here are good, but don't fully address the photography question with the attention I believe it deserves.

Many (perhaps most) Amish do actually have a religious prohibition against photography, and thus will likely be actually more offended by the taking of photographs than the average person being treated as a tourist spectacle.

This article discusses the issue.

The religious prohibition comes from the Biblical prohibition against "graven images."

How strictly this is interpreted will vary widely (not just among Amish, obviously).

Your best bet is not to take any photographs where people will be recognizable, or to ask permission first (but be prepared to have your request rejected).

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