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

2015-07-30T05:15:27+01:00: Latest update: Summary - tropical cyclone Komen expected to make landfall over Bangladesh on 30 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. See Chittagong Hill Tracts

There is continuing tension between the government and the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) led 20 Party Alliance. In January 2015 the opposition called a nationwide blockade of road, rail and river transport and held a programme of general strikes (hartals). These lasted several months and resulted in a number of deaths, including from arson attacks on public transport. While not formally lifted, politically motivated disruption and violence have reduced considerably since April 2015.

Protests and demonstrations can quickly turn violent and lead to clashes with law enforcement agencies. Violent attacks, incidents of arson, and vandalism can suddenly break out across the country, mainly in towns and cities.

Remain vigilant and take appropriate security precautions. Take particular care where there are large gatherings, political offices and rallies. See Safety and security.

There is a general threat from terrorism. See Terrorism

Tropical cyclone Komen is expected to make landfall and move onshore across the Barisal-Chittagong coast on Thursday, 30 July 2015. Low-lying areas of the coastal districts of Cox’s Bazar, Chittagong, Noakhali, Laxmipur, Feni, Chandpur, Bhola, Barisal, Patuakhali, Jhalakathi, Pirojpur, Barguna, Bagerhat, Khulna and Satkhira are likely to experience wind speed up to 70-90 kph, heavy rain fall, and are likely to be inundated by tidal surge of 3 to 5 feet. See our tropical cyclones page for advice about what to do if you’re caught up in a storm.

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

Bangladesh lies in a zone of seismic activity. Strong tremors from the Nepal earthquake were felt in Dhaka and other areas of the country on 25 April 2015. There were reports of some buildings tilting in Dhaka. In the event of an earthquake you should remain vigilant, stay in a place of safety and follow any advice provided by the local authorities.

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.

Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.  

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

Safety and security

Bangladesh has a long history of political violence. If you’re currently in Bangladesh, or intend to travel there, even if you’re a regular visitor with family or business links you should monitor the media and regularly consult travel advice. Details of English language news broadcasts are as follows:

There are also several online English language newspapers and agencies.

Political violence

There is continuing tension between the government and the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) led 20 Party Alliance.

Be vigilant at all times. If you see a demonstration developing, or are in a situation in which you feel unsafe, move away to a place of safety. Stay away from large gatherings, and avoid political offices and rallies. If you’re travelling during a hartal avoid demonstrations and protests as they may quickly turn violent. There could be attacks on property and public transport.

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. Avoid using public transport if you’re on your own. Cycle rickshaws aren’t safe; they offer little protection for passengers in the event of a crash.

There have been reports of officials abusing their authority. Make sure you’re accompanied if you visit 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.

Local travel

Consult a reliable local contact before going into unfamiliar areas or areas where there is a history of trouble.

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 area doesn’t 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 deaths. 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:

Indian border

Take particular care near the border areas. There are regular reports of individuals being killed for illegally crossing the border with India. There are occasional skirmishes between the Indian and Bangladeshi border guards, including exchanges of gunfire.

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 often cause 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’s 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. Trains have been actively targeted and derailed during the current unrest.

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. There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Local laws and customs

Local laws reflect the fact that Bangladesh is a mainly 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 2015, the holy month of Ramadan is expected to start on 18 June and finish on 18 July. See Travelling during Ramadan.

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’re a dual British-Bangladeshi national you’ll be considered by the Bangladesh government to be a Bangladeshi citizen, even if you don’t hold, or have never held, a Bangladeshi passport and were born outside Bangladesh. This may limit the assistance the British government can offer you. For further information on Bangladesh nationality, check with the Bangladesh High Commission.

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.

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:

Entry requirements

Visas

You’ll need a visa 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 Immigration and Passport of Bangladesh.

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’re 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’ll need a new visa. The Bangladesh Immigration & Passport Department (telephone: 880 2 8159878 / 8123788 / 8123323) is able to issue an ‘exit visa’ 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.

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.

Yellow fever

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

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 and have access to a vehicle, it may be quicker to head straight to the nearest hospital yourself. If you don’t have access to a vehicle, or are unsure where the nearest hospital is situated, dial 02-9555555 or 01730336699 and ask for an ambulance. If you suspect a heart attack, ask for a ‘cardiac 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.

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’s the potential for fraud. Standard Chartered Bank has ATMs across Bangladesh. 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.

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, please contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.

If you have a question about this travel advice, you can email us at TravelAdvicePublicEnquiries@fco.gov.uk

Before you send an email, make sure you have read the travel advice for the country you’re travelling to, and the guidance on how the FCO puts travel advice together.

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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
    Dhaka
    Bangladesh

    Contact: Telephone: +880 2 882 2705
    Consular fax / email: +880 2 988 2819 / consular.bangladesh@fco.gov.uk
    Visa enquiries email: Visqry.Bangladesh@fco.gov.uk
    Pension fax / email: +880 2 988 2819 / Pension.Enquiries-Dhaka@fco.gov.uk
    Visiting:The Human Rights and Democracy Programme & Prosperity Fund central programmes project concepts or related queries should be submitted to: Dhaka.Projects@fco.gov.uk

    Customers Applying for Priority Visas (PVs): All customers applying for PVs are asked to ensure that copies of documents/passports provided in support of their application are provided on good quality A4 size paper. This will facilitate the scanning of these documents. Failure to do this may result in delays to their application.

    UK Visa Information Bangladesh - User Pay Services. For more details - http://vfsglobal.co.uk/bangladesh/user_pay_services.html#3

    From 29 July 2014 if you are a British national in Bangladesh applying for a British passport you should submit your application through the UK Visa Application Centre in Dhaka or Sylhet. Applications will then be sent on to Her Majesty’s Passport Office in the UK for processing.

    You can find further details and other information required to make an application at www.gov.uk/overseas-passports. If you cannot find the information you need on the website, please contact the Passport Advice line on +44 300 222 0000 or send an email to 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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