Asia and Oceania

Bangladesh Flag of Bangladesh

Still current at: 10 June 2008
Updated: 14 May 2008

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with amendments to the Summary and Local Travel section (references to the protest demonstration at the Baitul Mukarram National Mosque on 18 April 2008 removed).  The overall level of the advice has not changed.

(see travel advice legal disclaimer)

Travel advice for this country


Travel Summary

  • We advise against all but essential travel to the Chittagong Hill Tracts (this does not include the city of Chittagong) because of the risk of being caught up in clashes between rival tribal groups, settlers and the military.  If you propose to visit the Chittagong Hill Tracts you are required to give the Bangladeshi authorities seven days’ notice of your travel plans.

  • There is a general threat from terrorism.  Attacks cannot be ruled out and could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

  • On 11 January 2007, the President declared a state of emergency, which remains in force.  The situation in Bangladesh is currently calm but events can move quickly and you should keep yourself informed of developments, by regularly checking this advice and monitoring the local media.

  • You should avoid all rallies, demonstrations and large gatherings including "hartals" (political strikes), as there is the potential for violence. In April 2008 there were violent clashes between the police and demonstrators in parts of Dhaka and other parts of the country. More protests and demonstrations are expected.  See the Local Travel (Civil Unrest/Hartals/Demonstrations) section of this advice for more details.

  • The main types of incident for which British nationals required consular assistance in Bangladesh in 2007 were: dealing with arrests or detentions; and dealing with cases of forced marriage or child abduction. If you are concerned see forced marriages or child abduction pages of the FCO website.  British nationals often ask for help with land or property ownership disputes. See the General Section of this advice for more details.

  • We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake.  See the General (Insurance) section of this advice and Travel Insurance for more details.

Safety and security

Terrorism

There is a general threat from terrorism.  Attacks cannot be ruled out and could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.   For further information see Terrorism Abroad.

Since January 200 5there have been a number of attacks throughout Bangladesh, including attacks against specific targets and indiscriminate attacks in public places, such as markets, shopping malls, cinemas, shrines, public transport and at cultural events and political gatherings.  

Attacks have included:

· On 1 May 2007, three bombs exploded at railway stations in Dhaka, Sylhet and Chittagong.  No one was seriously injured.
· On 19 December 2006, a makeshift device exploded near student residences in the Dhaka University campus area.
· In late 2005, bomb explosions at legal/judicial and local government facilities in Chittagong and Gazipur and in the eastern and north-eastern regions of Bangladesh caused 23 fatalities and injured 144.
 
Crime
 
Armed robbery, pickpocketing, and purse snatching are common to Bangladesh. There have been incidents, notably in Gulshan and Banani, where resident westerners, familiar with local conditions, have been robbed at gunpoint.  Therefore it is advised that you do not carry a large amount of money with you or wear jewellery in the street.  Thieves often work in pairs on motorcycles or 3-wheeled motorised rickshaws known as ''CNG's''.  Passengers using '' cycle rickshaws'' and  ''CNG's'' or travelling alone in taxis are particularly vulnerable, especially at night.  If travelling alone you should try to avoid using public transport.  If you need to, you can book taxis by telephone (in Dhaka), but you should continue to exercise caution.

Please note that we do not advise ''cycle rickshaws'' as a safe mode of transport.  This is due to increased incidents and likelihood of risk and vulnerability involved in being injured and /or attacked whilst on them.

Officials sometimes abuse their authority.  You should be accompanied when visiting police stations.

Crime at international airports

Passengers sometimes face harassment at Bangladesh’s international airports. There are regular reports of theft and harassment at Dhaka and Sylhet airports by corrupt officials and unlicensed touts. Beware of touts offering to carry your bags – many are thieves. Arrange pick-up transport in advance with your hotel/colleagues/friends. Taxis, including those serving the airport, often overcharge and drivers have been known to rob passengers. Passport theft at Dhaka and Sylhet airports is common. Ensure your documents and any valuables are accounted for and secure before you leave the airport.

Abductions

Abduction of children and businessmen for ransom is increasing.  Although this does not appear to be particularly directed at foreigners, you should be aware that the long-standing policy of the British Government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers.  The British Government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage taking.
 
For more general information see Victims of Crime Abroad.
 
Political Situation
 
Bangladesh Country Profile
 
In January 2007, the President declared a state of emergency, which remains in force.  A new Caretaker Government has been appointed but the elections that were scheduled for January 2007 were postponed and are now scheduled for Decemeber 2008. The situation in Bangladesh remains calm but events can move quickly as the relationship between the two main political parties and their supporters is poor.  Political parties regularly impose hartals (general strikes) and conduct public demonstrations, often at short notice.  Hartals can sometimes last several days and can end in violence including deaths (see Local Travel section).

You should keep yourself informed of developments, by regularly checking this advice and monitoring the local media.  You should also avoid all rallies, demonstrations and public gatherings, and be particularly careful during hartals (strikes). You should also not attempt to cross picket lines.  

 
Local Travel

Civil Unrest/Hartals/Demonstrations
 
During civil unrest, hartals (general strikes), or blockades and demonstrations you should exercise extreme caution and vigilance.  In the past many such events have become violent, with explosives and firearms sometimes being used.  Demonstrations are often held at short notice in all areas of Bangladesh outside of Dhaka (except the areas of Gulshan and Baridhara) and there is the potential for these demonstrations to become violent.  You should also be aware that the period after Friday prayers can be a time of increased tensions.

Between 9 -11 May 2008, over two hundred students of Dhaka Polytechnic Institute damaged around 20 vehicles and set fire to a bus on the Tongi Diversion Road. It was later reported that a total number of 70 people were injured in this incident.

On 12 April 2008, the Bangladeshi media reported clashes at Fatullah in Narayanganj (20 kms southeast of Dhaka), between police and approximately 15,000 garment workers over high food prices and low wages.  Reports state that the police fired tear gas and used batons to break up protests injuring at least 50 people.

On 11 April 2008, there were violent clashes between the police and demonstrators in Dhaka's Baitul Mukarram National Mosque area over a new policy advocating more rights for women. Reports state that the police used batons, rubber bullets and tear gas to break up demonstrations injuring over 200 people, including at least 52 policemen and five journalists.

 
For information on major hartals planned, see the Bangladesh National Strikes page on the British High Commission, Dhaka website at: http://www.ukinbangladesh.org.
 
You should also monitor the local media for inforamtion on more localised or minor events.  Details of English language news broadcasts are as follows:

ATN - 1800hrs
Bangla Vision - 2105hrs
BTV - 2200hrs
BTV and other Bangla channels - 2330hrs
 
You should consult a reliable local contact before venturing into unfamiliar areas or areas where there is a history of trouble.
 
Chittagong Hill Tracts
 
We advise against all but essential travel to the Chittagong Hill Tracts (this does not include Chittagong City).  If you must visit the area, you should only stay in the main towns of Khagrachari, Rangamati and Bandarban and only travel on the main roads.
 
Security in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, which include the areas of Khagrachari, Rangamati and Bandarban, continues to be a cause for concern.  Disputes have led to protests and on occasion the blocking of main roads for several days.  There is a risk that you could be caught up in violent disputes between rival political groups, clashes between such groups and the authorities, or of becoming victims of crimes targeted at foreign tourists.  If you propose to visit the Chittagong Hill Tracts you are required to give the Bangladesh authorities seven days’ notice of their travel plans.A central point of contact is the Chittagong Divisional Commissioner’s Office (tel:  031 617400/615247; fax:  031 617400/614961) or Deputy Commissioner’s Office (tel: 031 621001/619996; fax: 031 620570).
 
On 25 June 2007, two employees of an international aid organisation were abducted 30 miles south of Banderban near the border with Burma.  It was later reported that both officials were rescued within two weeks. In February 2004, an employee of a tour company was kidnapped from a hill resort in the Bandarban area, and foreign guests were robbed at gunpoint.  You should be aware that the long-standing policy of the British Government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British Government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage taking.
 
If you must travel for essential business, you should ensure that adequate security precautions and procedures are in place before arrival.
 
You should also inform the Consular Section of the British High Commission in Dhaka in advance if your travel itinerary includes the Chittagong Hill Tracts.  You should also carry some form of identification when visiting this area.

Indian Border
 
You should exercise particular care near the border areas in Bramanbaria district.  There are occasional skirmishes between the Indian and Bangladeshi border guards, including heavy fire, and civilians have been accidentally killed in the crossfire.
 
Road Travel
 
If you intend to drive then you should hold an international driving licence. Rental cars with drivers and normal taxis are the preferred means of transportation.

The Bangladesh road network is in poor condition, and road safety is also very poor. Drivers of larger vehicles expect to be given right of way, there is also speeding, dangerous and aggressive overtaking, and sudden manoeuvres without indicating, mean that serious accidents are common.  You should take particular care on long road journeys and use well-travelled and well-lit routes where possible.  Traffic is heavy and chaotic in urban areas and the streets of Dhaka are extremely congested with buses, trucks, cars, baby taxis, rickshaws and pedestrians. 
 
For further information see Driving Abroad.
 
Air Travel
 
The EU has published a list of air carriers that are subject to an operating ban or restrictions within the community.  You should check the following link to see whether this will affect your travel:  http://europa.eu.int/comm/transport/air/safety/flywell_en.htm.
 
Rail Travel
 
Bangladesh has an extensive but old rail network.  Rail travel in Bangladesh is generally slow.  There are occasional derailments and other incidents, which can result in injuries and deaths.  On 16 April 2008, the media has reported that at least 18 people were killed and 35 injured when a train crashed into a passenger bus on level crossing in Rajbari (Kalihati Upazila), in the Tangail district of the country.

On 1 May 2007, three bombs exploded at railway stations in Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet.  No one was seriously injured.

On some trains first class compartments may be lockable.  You should ensure that the compartment door is locked if travelling overnight.
 
Sea/River Travel
 
River and sea ferries are often dangerously overcrowded.  There have been a number of serious accidents in Bangladesh and capsizing is common. Examples of recent accidents are:

· On Monday 12 May 2008, at least 50 people died after a passenger launch bound for Mithamain Upazila capsized in the Ghorautra River. At least 100 people are still reported missing.
· In February 2008, at least 30 people died after a passenger launch bound for Munshiganj collided with a cargo vessel on the Buriganga river.  
· In October 2006, a ferry collided and sank in the Meghna River 40km from Dhaka, at least 45 people were reported missing.  
· In May 2005 over 150 drowned within a week in three ferry accidents.
· In February 2005 150 people drowned in a capsize near Dhaka.  

There are also frequent acts of piracy in and around Bangladeshi waters.  Mariners are advised to take appropriate precautions.

For more advice see: River & Sea Safety

Local laws and customs

Local laws reflect the fact that Bangladesh is a predominantly Muslim country.  You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend other cultures or religious beliefs, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas.
 
For more general information see Travelling during Ramadan.
 
Women should cover their shoulders and wear long skirts or trousers. You should dress modestly to avoid giving offence. Same sex relations are illegal.
 
You should be aware that if you or your parents are of Bangladeshi origin you may be considered by the Bangladesh Government to be a Bangladeshi citizen, even if you have never held a Bangladeshi passport.  In such cases this may limit the assistance the British Government can offer you.
 
A violation of local laws may result in a jail sentence, served in a local prison.  Delays and inefficiency in the judicial system can result in long detentions until court hearings eventually take place.  Prison conditions are far below UK standards.
 
There are severe penalties for possession and trafficking of illegal drugs.  Some drugs-related offences are punishable by the death penalty or life imprisonment.
 
Family law in Bangladesh is very different from UK law and particular caution is needed when, for example, child custody becomes an issue.
 
For more general information for different types of travellers see Travel Advice Relevant to You.

Entry requirements

Visas
 
Visas are required to enter Bangladesh.
 
The Immigration Authorities of Bangladesh have introduced an on-line embarkation/disembarkation system that aims to help passengers to pass through Immigration control more quickly.  The Immigration Service Code (IS code) and covers both arriving and departing passengers.  If you wish to use IS code system you should complete the on line form at the Bangladesh Immigration website:  http://www.immi.gov.bd.  Once the on-line form has been completed, an IS code will be generated, you should retain this, your travel agent or airline may ask you to produce it.  When you report to Immigration Control, you must produce your IS code.  This will enable you to be processed more quickly, and without having to complete a landing card.  For the time being as a transitional measure both the manual and IS code systems will run in parallel.
 
New visa rules introduced in October 2006, require foreign nationals who come to Bangladesh to work, or for long term visits to have the appropriate work permits and clearances on arrival.  There are increased financial penalties for overstaying on your visa as well as the possibility of a case being charged (under the Foreigners Act 1946) against those who overstay for more than 90 days.  For further information on these rules you should visit the Immigration website, which provides further details on rules relating to Foreigner Registrations.  Their website can be accessed at: http://www.immi.gov.bd
 
If you intend to use Dhaka as a hub from which to visit other countries in the region, ensure you obtain a multiple entry visa. If you are intending to work in Bangladesh for an NGO make sure that your sponsor has provided you with appropriate advice on the kind of visa you must obtain before arrival.
 
If you have had your passport renewed in Bangladesh, you will require a new visa.  The Bangladesh Immigration & Passport Department are able to issue ‘exit visas’ or a ‘no visa required’ stamp.  They can be contacted at their Dhaka office on:  880 2 8159878 / 8123788 / 8123323.  Please note that if you go to their office you are likely to need an interpreter.
 
Working in Bangladesh
 
Since April 2002, foreign nationals working in Bangladesh have been required to obtain an Income Tax Clearance Certificate or an Income Tax Exemption Certificate prior to each departure from Bangladesh.  Full details of the requirements and those exempted can be obtained from the Bangladesh Board of Revenue website: http://www.nbr-bd.org.

Health

Medical facilities in Bangladesh are poor.  Routine tests and X-rays are unreliable.  You must have suitable medical insurance and be prepared to travel outside Bangladesh for treatment.
 
Malaria and dengue fever are common to Bangladesh.  Malaria is usually restricted to specific rural areas, especially the Chittagong Hill Tracts.  But dengue fever is common in towns, including Dhaka.
 
You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS. For more general information on how to do this see HIV and AIDS.
 
You should seek medical advice before travelling to Bangladesh and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date.  For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should visit the websites of the National Travel Heath Network and Centre NaTHNaC and NHS Scotland’s Fit for Travel or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.
 
For more general health information see Travel Health.
 
Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)

The Government of Bangladesh has confirmed the detection of the Avian Influenza virus (Bird Flu) in 286 poultry farms in Bangladesh.  At present, 47 out of 64 districts are now affected.  The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) have confirmed that the total number of culled poultry to date is in excess of 1½ million. No human infections or deaths have been reported.

The risk to humans from Avian Influenza is believed to be very low.  As a precaution, you should avoid visiting live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you may come into close contact with domestic, caged or wild birds; and ensure poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.
 
You should read this advice in conjunction with Avian and Pandemic Influenza, which gives more detailed advice and information.
 
NATURAL DISASTERS

Monsoon season
 
The climate in Bangladesh is sub-tropical and governed by Monsoon winds.  Due to this, extreme weather episodes such as cyclones can occur.  In the Monsoon season, which is normally from June to September, there is widespread and extensive flooding.  This can disrupt travel particularly in rural areas.  You should check that routes are passable before setting out on long journeys.
 
You should be aware that flooding has disrupted road and other transport links in these regions and is likely to continue to do so.  Fresh drinking water and food is in short supply in these areas.  The risk of contracting a waterborne disease is high and will remain so even after the waters recede.  You should keep yourself informed of developments, by regularly checking this travel advice and monitoring Bangladeshi media, which provides English language reporting.
 
In July and  August 2007, South Asia  experienced heavy rainfall, resulting in extensive flooding across much of Bangladesh.  At least 32 of Bangladesh’s districts were reportedly affected, of these Dhaka division, Nilphamari, Kurigram, Gaibandha, Rangpur, Jamalpur, Bogra, Sirajgonj, Pabna, Netrokona, Sylhet, Sunamgonj, Habigonj, Chittagong, Bandarban, Khagrachari, Tangail, Faridpur, Rajbari and Munshigonj were reported to have been the most seriously affected.
 
Heavy rainfall in Chittagong District, south-eastern Bangladesh in June 2007, resulted in landslides.  Over 110 people were killed, and hundred reported injured or missing.  Many parts of Chittagong District were cut off. Telephone and Internet links were affected.  At least 10,000 people needed to be evacuated to shelters across the Chittagong area.  Chittagong city itself suffered extensive flooding, a third of the city was reportedly under three/four feet of water.  Services at Chittagong’s (Shah Amanat) Airport were also disrupted.
 
Earthquakes
 
Bangladesh is located in a high-risk earthquake zone.  The country lies on a major geological fault line.  There were no reports of casualties or damage.  The last significant earthquake (magnitude 6.0) occurred in south-eastern Bangladesh on 7 November 2007. At least 12 people are reported to have been injured.  The epicentre was reported to be at Ramu, Bandarban near the country’s border with India.  The tremor was felt strongly in Chittagong, Cox's Bazar, Comilla, Noakhali and in hill districts. The tremors have reportedly caused property damage in Bandarban and Chittagong.
 
Bangladeshi Meteorological Office officials confirmed reports that a mild earthquake affected Dhaka on 21 March 2008.  Dhaka University reported that the quake registered as magnitude 4.0.

In the evening of 12 September 2007, the Bangladeshi government issued a tsunami warning, after a  massive earthquake  hit the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Following the tsunami warning, Patuakhali district administration imposed a red alert at Kuakata sea beach, and coastal areas at Kalapara and Galachipa.  It was reported that the water level at the Cox's Bazar shore rose to an alarming level, sparking panic among tourists and residents of the resort town.

General

Insurance
 
We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance (including medical evacuation) before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake.  See Travel Insurance.
 
If things do go wrong when you are overseas then this is how we can help.
 
Identification
 
You should carry a photocopy of the data page and Bangladeshi visa from your passport at all times, plus copies of other important travel documents, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity is readily available. These should be kept separately from the originals, and copies left with friends or relatives in the UK.
 
Consular registration
 
Register with our LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling abroad or where you live abroad so our consular and crisis staff can provide better assistance to you in an emergency.  More information about registering with LOCATE can be found here
 
Consular Assistance:  Around 75,000 British nationals visit Bangladesh every year.  The main types of incidents for which British nationals require consular assistance in Bangladesh are for forced marriages or child abductions.
 
British nationals of Bangladeshi origin often seek consular assistance with land or property ownership disputes.  You should consider taking legal advice before entering into any agreement over the ownership or use of property or other assets in Bangladesh.  The British High Commission has no authority to intervene on your behalf if you have any problems.  The only thing the High Commission can do is to provide you with a list of local lawyers.
 
In accordance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations to which Bangladesh is a signatory, a British national under detention in Bangladesh has a right to request that the British High Commission be notified regarding his or her situation and gain access to them.
 
Money
 
The currency in Bangladesh is Taka.  Travellers’ cheques can be cashed at banks and at the airports.  Credit cards should be used with due caution as there is the potential for fraud.
 
Standard Chartered Bank has ATMs in Dhaka, Chittagong, Bogra, Sylhet, Narayanganj and Khulna.  HSBC have ATMs in Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet.  Some of the five-star hotels in Dhaka have ATM facilities.  UK cashpoint cards are accepted.  Western Union has offices in Dhaka and agents in towns/cities across Bangladesh where money can be sent from the UK.

Travel advice for this country

Change country

contacts

Bangladesh, Dhaka, British High Commission

Address:

British High Commission
United Nations Road
Baridhara
Dhaka 1212
Postal address:
P O Box 6079
Dhaka 1212

Telephone:

(880) (2) 882 2705/ 2706/ 2707/ 2708/ 2709 (five lines)
(880) (821) 724694, 724695, 720331 (Sylhet Consular Office)
(880) 1713 090752 (Duty Officer- Emergency Calls only - NOT visaenquiries)

Fax:

(880) (2) 882 3437
(880) (2) 882 3666 Immigration Section
(880) (2) 882 3437 Consular
(880) (2) 881 6135
(880) (821) 720070 (Sylhet, Consular Office)

Email: Dhaka.Consular@fco.gov.uk

Email: ppabhc@citecho.net

Email: Dhaka.Press@fco.gov.uk

Email: Dhaka.Immigration@fco.gov.uk

Email: Dhaka.Commercial@fco.gov.uk

Office hours:

Sun-Wed: 0200 - 1000, Thurs: 0200 - 0800 (GMT)
Sun-Wed: 0800 - 1600, Thurs: 0800 - 1400 (Local)

Consular Hours:
Sun-Thurs: 0230 - 0730 (GMT)
Sun-Thurs: 0830 - 1330 (Local)

Website: http://www.britishhighcommission.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/ShowPage&c=Page&cid=1101397173740