SAFETY AND SECURITY
Armed robbery, pickpocketing, and purse snatching are very real threats day or night, including in areas frequented by foreigners. There have been incidents, notably in Gulshan and Banani, where resident westerners, familiar with local conditions, have been robbed at gunpoint. You should not wear jewellery in the street. Thieves often work in pairs on motorcycles or 3-wheeled "baby taxis". Passengers using rickshaws and "baby taxis" or travelling 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 exercise caution.
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.
Abduction of children and businessmen for ransom is increasing, although this does not appear to be particularly directed at foreigners.
There is a danger of street crime, including armed robbery, during “hartals” (see Political Situation, below).
Officials sometimes abuse their authority. You should be accompanied when visiting police stations.
Bangladesh Country Profile
The relationship between the two main political parties and their supporters in Bangladesh 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. Makeshift explosives and firearms have sometimes been used. You should be particularly careful during hartals and should not attempt to cross picket lines.
On 11 January 2007, the President declared a state of emergency. The situation in Bangladesh is now calm. You may wish to note that since 27 October 2006, there had been widespread civil unrest across Bangladesh, particularly in Dhaka, which has resulted in at least 70 deaths and several thousand injured. Further large-scale demonstrations and blockades are possible throughout Bangladesh. You should avoid all rallies, demonstrations and public gatherings, including hartals.
Events in Bangladesh can move quickly. British nationals are encouraged to register with the British High Commission. Details of how to register can be found at: http://www.ukinbangladesh.org.
You should keep yourself informed of developments, including by regularly checking this travel advice and monitoring the news.
If you are in Bangladesh you should ensure that you are comfortable with and regularly review your own and your family’s security and travel arrangements.
Please be aware that during hartals (general strikes) or blockades you may want to exercise extreme caution and vigilance when travelling outside the Gulshan, Baridhara, areas of Dhaka and elsewhere in Bangladesh as demonstrations are often held at short notice and can become violent. The period after Friday prayers can be a time of increased tension and at such times you are advised to avoid crowds outside mosques.
There were a series of countrywide blockades during November and December 2006. These may continue during 2007. You are advised to exercise caution and vigilance and to restrict your movements to avoid trouble spots. If caught up in any such incident you are advised to seek shelter in the immediate vicinity until the situation becomes calmer. Previous blockades affected Dhaka heavily and throughout the city, including its entrance points and routes to the Zia International airport. Intra-district highways, major traffic arteries and railways in Bangladesh were also affected. Further blockades are likely to cause similar or increased levels of disruption.
If you decide to travel in Bangladesh you should avoid the following areas in Dhaka especially when blockades are in force: Paltan Maidan, Muktangan, Bangabandhu Avenue, Baitul Mukarram and Russel Square (Panthapath). There have also been demonstrations in other areas such as, Moghbazar, Mohakhali, Farmgate, Dhanmondi, Dhaka University, Mirpur, Tongi and Gulistan that have become violent.
For information on major hartals planned, see the Bangladesh National Strikes page for the British High Commission, Dhaka website at: http://www.ukinbangladesh.org. You should also monitor the press and other media (which include English language reporting), for details of more localised or minor events.
You should consult a reliable local contact before venturing into unfamiliar areas or areas where there is a history of trouble and consult the British High Commission Consular Section in Dhaka.
Chittagong Hill Tracts - CHT
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. 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. The Bangladesh authorities require foreigners who propose to visit the Chittagong Hill Tracts to let the local authorities have seven days’ notice of their travel plans.
Disputes have led to protests and on occasion the blocking of main roads for several days. In February 2004, a person working for a tour company was kidnapped from a hill resort in the Bandarban area, and foreign guests were robbed at gunpoint. If you must travel for essential business, ensure that adequate security precautions and procedures are in place before arrival. The Bangladesh authorities require foreigners who propose to visit the Chittagong Hill Tracts to let the local authorities have 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).
We advise you to inform the Consular Section of the British High Commission in Dhaka in advance if your travel itinerary includes the Chittagong Hill Tracts. You should carry some form of identification when visiting this area.
You should exercise particular care near the Akhaura border area 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.
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. Since November 2006 there have been many reports of accidents, which has resulted in deaths and injuries. 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. Drivers of larger vehicles expect to be given right of way, and this added together with speeding, dangerous and aggressive overtaking, and sudden manoeuvres without indication, mean that road accidents are common in Bangladesh. Driving at night is especially dangerous as many vehicles are unlit, or travel on full-beam headlights, and streetlights are rare even in cities. Travel between towns after dark, by train, bus or ferry, is also risky because of banditry.
In July 2005 a Biman Bangladesh flight from Dubai to Chittagong caught fire and left the runway while landing at Chittagong airport. During an emergency exit from the plane some passengers sustained minor injuries.
An internal Biman Bangladesh flight from Dhaka to Sylhet crashed after landing at Sylhet Osmani International Airport on Friday 8 October 2004. The crew and one passenger were injured.
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.
Bangladesh has an extensive but old rail network. Rail travel in Bangladesh is generally slow. There are occasional derailments, which can result in injuries and deaths. In June 2005, an inter-city train hit a passenger bus at a level crossing in Dhaka; three people were killed and 40 bus passengers critically injured.
On some trains first class compartments may be lockable. You should ensure that the compartment door is locked if travelling overnight.
River and sea ferries are often dangerously overcrowded. Capsizing is common. On 23 October 2006, a ferry collided and sank in the Meghna River 40 km from Dhaka, at least 45 people were reported missing. In May 2005 over 150 drowned within a week in three ferry accidents and in February 2005 150 people drowned in a capsize near Dhaka. In July 2003, 600 people were drowned in one incident.
There are frequent acts of piracy in and around Bangladeshi waters. Mariners are advised to take appropriate precautions.LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS
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.
Local laws reflect the fact that Bangladesh is a Muslim country. You should respect local customs and sensitivities at all times, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas.
Women should cover their shoulders and wear long skirts or trousers. All visitors should dress modestly to avoid giving offence. Same sex relations are illegal.
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. Please see the child abduction page on the FCO website.ENTRY REQUIREMENTS
Visas are required to enter Bangladesh. New visa rules were introduced in October 2006, which 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 check with Bangladeshi representation in the UK, before travelling or contact the British High Commission in Dhaka.
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.
Since 15 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
We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake. Please see: Travel Insurance.
Medical facilities are poor. Routine tests and X-rays are unreliable. You must have suitable medical insurance and be prepared to travel outside Bangladesh for treatment.
There is malaria and dengue fever in Bangladesh. Malaria is usually restricted to specific rural areas, especially the Chittagong Hill Tracts. But dengue fever is common in towns, including Dhaka. More than three-quarters of British travellers who contracted malaria in 2005 did not take preventive measures, such as malaria prevention tablets. However, malaria can occur despite appropriate prevention, and therefore you should promptly seek medical care in the event of a fever or flu-like illness in the first year following your return from travelling to a malaria risk country. Before travelling you should seek medical advice about the malaria risk in Bangladesh.
You should seek medical advice before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up to date. For further information on health, check the Department of Health’s website at: www.dh.gov.uk
Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)
There have been no reported cases of Avian Influenza (also known as Bird Flu) in Bangladesh during the current series of outbreaks. But the World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed cases elsewhere in the region.
You should read this advice in conjunction with: Avian and Pandemic Influenza Factsheet.
There is widespread flooding during the Monsoon between June and September, which disrupts travel, especially in rural areas. You are advised to check that routes are passable before setting out on long journeys.
Bangladesh is located in a high-risk earthquake zone. In 2006 there were 15 tremors recorded that were felt in Chittagong and Sylhet. There were no reports of casualties or damage.GENERAL
If things go wrong when overseas, please see: What We Can Do To Help.
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.
Registration: You should register with the British Consular Sections of the British High Commission in Dhaka or Sylhet. You can do this by registering online at: British High Commission Bangladesh or by contacting the Consular Sections direct.
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. If you are concerned about either of these issues please see: forced marriages or child abduction.
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.
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 and Chittagong. Both accept UK cashpoint cards. Western Union has offices in Dhaka and agents in towns/cities across Bangladesh where money can be sent to and from the UK.