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Latest travel advice for Bangladesh including safety and security, entry requirements, travel warnings and health

2014-07-23T17:12:07+01:00: Latest update: Summary - planned demonstrations on 24 July

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all but essential travel to the Chittagong Hill Tracts. This does not include the city of Chittagong or other parts of Chittagong Division. If you propose to visit the Chittagong Hill Tracts you must give the Bangladeshi authorities ten days’ notice of your travel plans. See Chittagong Hill Tracts

Country-wide demonstrations have been called for 24 July to protest the situation in Gaza. You should be vigilant and avoid all crowds.

Political tensions between the Awami League-led Government and opposition parties led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Parties (BNP) led to 500 deaths in politically related violence in 2013. A general election, in which opposition parties did not participate, took place on Sunday 5 January. Although tensions have lessened, political differences are unresolved and the potential exists for the security situation to deteriorate again. In particular protests and demonstrations can quickly turn violent and lead to clashes with the law enforcement agencies. If you are currently in Bangladesh or intend to travel to Bangladesh, even if you are a regular visitor with family or business links, you should monitor news media and regularly consult this Travel Advice.

There is a general threat from terrorism. See Terrorism

Tropical cyclones and flooding can affect parts of the country. You should monitor the progress of approaching weather systems on the website of the Bangladesh Meteorological Department, and follow the advice of local authorities. See Natural disasters

Up to 75,000 British nationals visit Bangladesh every year. Most visits are trouble free.

Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.  

Safety and security

Political situation

Bangladesh has a long history of political violence. Monitor the local media to keep yourself informed of developments. Details of English language news broadcasts are as follows:

ATN Bangla - 9am and 6pm
Bangla Vision - 6pm
BTV 10:00, 4pm and 10pm

Political and other demonstrations can quickly turn violent. During civil unrest, hartals (strongly enforced general strikes) and demonstrations you should take great care. Explosives and firearms have sometimes been used in the past. Stay away from large gatherings, and avoid political offices and rallies. Road 86, in the Gulshan 2 area of Dhaka attracts a high level of political activity as the main opposition party has an office here. This activity tends to be in the evenings and can attract large numbers of supporters and activists who gather in the street.

Demonstrations are often held at short notice in all areas of Bangladesh including Dhaka (though less so in Gulshan and Baridhara). The areas near Dhaka University campus and other universities can be particularly volatile during civil unrest and demonstrations. Other areas which have seen violent protests include industrial zones housing large numbers of garment factories, and the financial district close to Dhaka’s Stock Exchange. The period after Friday prayers can be a time of increased tensions. You should consult a reliable local contact before venturing into unfamiliar areas or areas where there is a history of trouble.

Crime

Armed robbery, pick pocketing, and purse snatching can occur. Don’t carry large amounts of money with you or wear jewellery in the street. Thieves often work in pairs on motorcycles or motorised rickshaws known as ‘CNGs’. Passengers using rickshaws, or travelling alone in taxis are particularly vulnerable, especially at night. Try to avoid using public transport if you are on your own. Cycle rickshaws are not safe.

The British High Commission has had reports of officials sometimes abusing their authority. Make sure you are accompanied when visiting a police station.

There have been reports of theft and harassment at Dhaka and Sylhet airports. Beware of touts offering to carry your bags. Arrange transfers in advance. Taxis, including those serving the airport, often overcharge and drivers have been known to rob passengers. Passport theft at Dhaka and Sylhet airports is a particular concern. Be vigilant and make sure your documents and any valuables are kept secure at all times.

Abductions

Abduction of children and businessmen for ransom is not unknown. 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.

Chittagong Hill Tracts

The FCO advise against all but essential travel to the Chittagong Hill Tracts which comprise the districts of Rangamati, Khagrachari and Bandarban. This does not include Chittagong City, or other parts of Chittagong Division.

Security in the Chittagong Hill Tracts continues to be a cause for concern. In 2010 clashes between rival ethnic groups led to fatalities. A gun fight in 2011 between rival political factions resulted in at least 5 fatalities. There are regular reports of violence and other criminal activities, particularly in the more remote areas. If you propose to visit the Chittagong Hill Tracts you must give the Bangladesh authorities 10 days’ notice of your travel plans. For further information, contact the Chittagong Divisional Commissioner’s Office (telephone: 031 615247) or the Chittagong Deputy Commissioner’s Office (telephone: 031619996. 

Indian border

Take particular care near the border areas in Bramanbaria district. There are occasional skirmishes between the Indian and Bangladeshi border guards, including heavy fire. 

Road travel

If you intend to drive you should get an International Driving Permit.

Roads are in poor condition, and road safety is also very poor. Drivers of larger vehicles expect to be given right of way. Speeding, dangerous and aggressive overtaking and sudden manoeuvres without indicating cause frequent serious accidents. 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. City streets are extremely congested and the usual rules of the road not applied. Many drivers are unlicensed and uninsured.

Driving at night is especially dangerous as many vehicles are unlit, or travel on full-beam headlights. There is also a risk of banditry if you travel between towns after dark, by train, bus or ferry.

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 some trains, first class compartments may be lockable. Make sure the compartment door is locked if you are travelling overnight. For further information see the Bangladesh railways website.

Sea and river travel

River and sea ferries are often dangerously overcrowded, particularly in the days around religious festivals and other holidays. There have been a number of serious accidents in Bangladesh and capsizing is common. Take care if you use the ferries.

There are frequent acts of piracy in and around Bangladeshi waters.

Terrorism

There is a general threat from terrorism. Attacks can’t be ruled out and could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by foreigners. You should take care.

Local laws and customs

Local laws reflect the fact that Bangladesh is a predominantly Islamic 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. In 2014, Ramadan is scheduled to fall between 28 June and 27 July.

You should dress modestly to avoid causing offence. Women should cover their shoulders and wear long skirts or trousers.

Same sex relations are illegal.

If you or your parents are Bangladeshi nationals you will be considered by the Bangladesh Government to be a Bangladeshi citizen, even if you have never held a Bangladeshi passport and were born outside Bangladesh. In such cases this may limit the assistance the British Government can offer you.

Violating 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.

A British national under detention in Bangladesh has a right to request that the British High Commission be notified about his or her situation and gain access to them. In most circumstances this right does not extend to those with dual nationality.

There are severe penalties for possession and trafficking of illegal drugs. Some drugs-related offences are punishable by the death penalty or life imprisonment.

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. Local officials may ask you for proof of identity. Keep the originals separately, and leave copies with friends or relatives in the UK.

Family law in Bangladesh is very different from UK law. You should take particular care when, for example, child custody becomes an issue.

Property disputes

The British High Commission has no authority to intervene on behalf of British nationals of Bangladeshi origin with regard to land or property problems. The High Commission can provide a list of local lawyers.

The ‘Probashi Kollan Cell’ (also known as ‘The Expatriates’ Welfare Cell’) is a service set up by the Sylheti Police to provide advice to foreign nationals in Bangladesh, including dual national British/Bangladeshis. The Cell can offer assistance with land and family disputes, threats, violence and other legal issues within their remit. The contact numbers are:

Sylhet Metropolitan: +8801713374375 Sylhet District: +8801926999902 Habigonj District: +8801926999903 Sunamgonj District: +8801926999905 Moulvibazar District: +8801926999905 Head Quarters, Deputy Inspector of Police 9DIG), Alompur, Sylhet: +8801713374364 Email: digsylhet@police.gov.bd

Entry requirements

Visas

Visas are required to enter Bangladesh. You can get a visa from the Bangladesh High Commission in London or a 1 month visa on arrival for the purpose of official duty, business, investment and tourism. Visa extensions are available at the Department of Immigrations and Passport of Bangladesh.

For further information, check with the Bangladesh High Commission. Dual Bangladeshi/British nationals can get a ‘No Visa Required’ stamp, but this will limit the assistance the British High Commission can offer you.

If you intend to use Dhaka as a hub to visit other countries in the region, make sure you get a multiple entry visa. If you are intending to work in Bangladesh make sure you get the correct visa before you travel.

If you have had your passport renewed in Bangladesh, you will need a new visa. The Bangladesh Immigration & Passport Department (telephone: 880 2 8159878 / 8123788 / 8123323) are able to issue ‘exit visas’ or a ‘no visa required’ stamp. Officers there are unlikely to speak English, so you may need an interpreter.

Make sure you have an entry stamp placed in your passport on entry into Bangladesh otherwise you may have problems on departure.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. No additional period of validity beyond this is required.

The authorities in Bangladesh have confirmed they will accept British passports extended by 12 months by British Embassies and Consulates under additional measures put in place in mid-2014

If you or those you are travelling with qualify for a British passport, you should consider making this application in the UK so that you receive your passport before travelling.  This is particularly relevant if you are travelling with minors. There can be a lengthy process obtaining a British first time passport outside the UK.

Yellow fever

Yellow Fever vaccination is required for travellers arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission.

UK Emergency Travel Document

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Bangladesh. Holders of an ETD must apply for the appropriate Bangladesh visa to enter Bangladesh.

Working in Bangladesh

Foreign nationals working in Bangladesh must get an Income Tax Clearance Certificate or an Income Tax Exemption Certificate before each departure from Bangladesh. Full details are available on the Bangladesh Board of Revenue website.

Health

Contact your GP around 8 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre, and useful information about healthcare abroad, including a country-by-country guide of reciprocal health care agreements with the UK, is available from NHS Choices.

Medical facilities in Bangladesh are poor. Routine tests and X-rays are unreliable. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 02-9555555 or 01730336699 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Natural disasters

Tropical cyclones

The climate in Bangladesh is sub-tropical and governed by monsoon winds. Extreme weather episodes like tropical cyclones can occur. Updated weather reports can be found on the websites of the Bangladesh Meteorological Department and the World Meteorological Organisation.

See our tropical cyclones page for advice about what to do if you’re caught up in a storm.

Monsoon season

In the monsoon season from June to September there is widespread and extensive flooding.  This can disrupt travel particularly in rural areas. Check that routes are passable before setting out on long journeys.

Earthquakes

Around one half of Bangladesh, including the cities of Moulvibazar and Sylhet, is located in a high-risk earthquake zone. Most of the rest, including Dhaka, is considered moderate risk. Tremors and earthquakes, usually minor ones, occur from time to time. To learn more about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, see the website of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Tsunamis

Bangladesh can be affected by tsunamis and the government of Bangladesh can issue tsunami warnings. Monitor local news and follow any advice given by the local authorities.

Contact FCO Travel Advice Team

This email service only offers information and advice for British nationals planning to travel abroad.

If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the consular assistance team on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours). If you’re abroad and need emergency help, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.

Don’t email us if you want to find out about the validity of your passport - this information is in the entry requirements section. Don’t email us if you’re visiting the UK from overseas, you should find out whether you need a visa.

If you have another question about this travel advice, you can email us at TravelAdvicePublicEnquiries@fco.gov.uk. You should get a response to your email within 10 working days.

Money

The local currency is Taka. Travellers’ cheques can be cashed at banks and at the airports. Take care when using credit cards as there is the potential for fraud. Standard Chartered Bank has ATMs in Dhaka, Chittagong, Bogra, Sylhet, Narayanganj and Khulna. HSBC has ATMs in Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet. Some of the five-star hotels in Dhaka have ATM facilities. UK cards are accepted. There are commercial money transfer services available in Dhaka and in towns and cities across Bangladesh where you can receive money sent from the UK.

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  • British High Commission Dhaka

    Title:British High Commission Dhaka
    Email:press.dhaka@fco.gov.uk
    Address:

    United Nations Road
    Baridhara
    P O Box 6079
    Dhaka - 1212
    Bangladesh

    Contact: Telephone: +880 2 882 2705
    Consular fax / email: +880 2 988 2819 / consular.bangladesh@fco.gov.uk
    Immigration fax / email: +880 2 882 3666 / Immigration.enquiries@fco.gov.uk
    Pension fax / email: +880 2 988 2819 / Pension.Enquiries-Dhaka@fco.gov.uk
    Visiting:All the information needed to complete the passport application process, is available on the GOV.UK website at: https://www.gov.uk/overseas-passports. If you cannot find the information you need on the GOV.UK website, please contact the Passport Advice line on +44 300 222 0000. Or, email: overseasNewportCCC@hmpo.gsi.gov.uk
    Services:Emergency Travel Documents service (Assistance Services)
    Transferring funds for prisoners / for financial assistance service (Assistance Services)
    Births and Deaths registration service (Documentary Services)
    Citizenship Ceremony service (Documentary Services)
    Overseas Passports Service (Other Services)
  • UK Trade & Investment Bangladesh

    Title:UK Trade & Investment Bangladesh
    Email:Dhaka.Commercial@fco.gov.uk
    Address:

    British High Commission
    United Nations Road
    Baridhara
    PO Box 6079
    Dhaka - 1212
    Bangladesh

    Contact: Telephone: +880 2 882 2705
    Visiting:
    Services:
  • DFID Bangladesh

    Title:DFID Bangladesh
    Email:dfidbangladeshenquiry@dfid.gov.uk
    Address:

    British High Commission
    United Nations Road
    Baridhara
    Dhaka - 1212
    Bangladesh

    Contact: Telephone: +880 2 882 2589
    Fax: +880 2 882 3181
    Visiting:
    Services:

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