Bangladesh travel guide
India’s sleepy eastern cousin, Bangladesh slumbers gently under monsoon skies at the mouth of the Jamuna River, one of the world’s great deltas. Formerly East Pakistan, this intriguing backwater gained independence in 1971 after a civil war that still plays a major role in the national psyche.
An influx of tourists was predicted following independence, but this has yet to materialised, meaning visitors have Bangladesh’s many and varied attractions to themselves. Those attractions range from Mughal palaces and gleaming mosques to palm-fringed beaches, tea-plantations and jungles full of snarling Bengal tigers.
Bangladesh’s frenetic capital, Dhaka, was once the main port for the whole of Bengal, and its rickshaw-crammed streets present a faded mirror to Kolkata across the border. Dhaka is a city of rain-washed colonial buildings, gaudy film posters, docksides thronging with boats and the constant cacophony of car horns and rickshaw bells. It can be a shock for the senses, but the blow is softened by friendly, inquisitive locals and delicious Bengali cuisine.
South of Dhaka, the Jamuna River breaks down into a tangle of jungle-choked waterways as you enter the Sundarbans, one of the last refuges of the Bengal tiger. Here, as elsewhere in Bangladesh, the best way to get around is by river – legions of boats ply every waterway, from tiny coracles to the paddleboat ‘rockets’ that chug between Dhaka and Kulna.
The south of Bangladesh is something else again; tropical beaches give way to forested hills that hide a host of Buddhist and animist tribes. Then there’s Sylhet, in the heart of tea plantation country, where foreign remittances have built a miniature version of England amidst the monsoon hills.
Above all else, Bangladesh is place to leave the mainstream travel map. Let the crowds mob the beaches of Goa and the forts of Rajasthan; in Bangladesh, you won’t have to queue to be amazed.
143,998 sq km (55,598 sq miles).
162,910,864 (UN estimate 2016).
1,173.3 per sq km.
President Abdul Hamid since 2013.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina since 2009.
Last updated: 26 November 2019
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
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.
Up to 150,000 British nationals visit Bangladesh every year. Most visits are trouble free.
Severe air pollution is a major hazard to public health, especially during the winter months. Dhaka is currently experiencing extremely high levels of pollution.
Although British nationals are eligible for visa on arrival for a period of 1 month for the purpose of official duty, business, investment and tourism, you’re advised to get a visa before travelling.
Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Bangladesh. The threat extends across the country. There have been several IED attacks targeting police and security forces in Dhaka in 2019 and an IED attack against an Awami League office in Khulna city. There is a risk that future attacks could target public gatherings, including religious gatherings and political rallies, crowded areas and places where foreign nationals are known to gather. You should minimise your exposure to these areas, consider your movements carefully and follow any specific advice of the local authorities.
Political rallies with the potential for disorder or clashes between groups and with law enforcement agencies may take place. Across Bangladesh you are advised to avoid large gatherings, including those for religious gatherings, festivals and political rallies.
As a result of ongoing violence in Myanmar (Burma) since August 2017, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees have arrived in the south-east of Bangladesh and are concentrated in the sub-districts of Ukhia and Teknaf in the southern part of Cox’s Bazar district. There have been reports of insecurity, protests and some violence in these areas.
Tropical cyclones and flooding can affect parts of the country. You should monitor the Bangladesh Meteorological Department for updates, and follow the advice of local authorities.
Bangladesh lies in a zone of seismic activity.
The British High Commission has no authority to intervene on behalf of British nationals of Bangladeshi origin with regard to land or property problems.
Mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever occur all year round. There’s been a significant increase in the number of cases of dengue fever across Bangladesh, including in Dhaka. You should take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.
UK health authorities have classified Bangladesh as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For information and advice about the risks associated with Zika virus, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. Consular support is limited in parts of Bangladesh where we advise against all but essential travel.
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.
Safety and security
The Bangladesh police are currently conducting major anti drugs and alcohol operations across the country. At times these have resulted in the death of suspects. There’s a risk that you may be stopped at a police checkpoint. You’re advised to cooperate with police and keep your passport or a copy of your passport on hand to show in case proof of identification is requested.
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:
- ATN Bangla - 6pm
- ATN News 1pm and 7pm
- BTV 4pm and 10pm
- Independent TV 4.30pm
There are also several online English language newspapers and agencies.
In Bangladesh protests and demonstrations can quickly turn violent and lead to clashes with law enforcement agencies. In cases of political unrest, incidents of arson, violence and vandalism can suddenly break out across the country, mainly in towns and cities.
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 (strike) avoid demonstrations and protests as they may quickly turn violent. There could be attacks on property and public transport.
Dhaka police have highlighted the increasing number of criminal gangs operating in the city and reminded people to be aware of potential threats including robbery and violent 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.
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.
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. There are regular reports of violence and other criminal activities, particularly in the more remote areas. On 18 March 2019, a number of election and security officials were killed whilst working on local elections in the Baghicahhari area of northern Rangamati District. 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:
- Chittagong Divisional Commissioner’s Office (tel: 031 615247) or;
- Chittagong Deputy Commissioner’s Office (tel: 031 619996).
As a result of ongoing violence in Myanmar (Burma) since August 2017, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees have arrived in the south-east of Bangladesh, close to the border with Myanmar. They’re concentrated in the sub-districts of Ukhia and Teknaf in the southern part of Cox’s Bazar district. The Bangladeshi authorities regulate access to the areas where the Rohingya are accommodated.
There have been reports of insecurity, protests and some violence in these areas, including civil disorder from both the local community and camp population following the murder of a local political leader, believed to have been committed by criminal gangs.
Teknaf currently sees the highest level of drug related gang violence across Bangladesh, with frequent murders and shooting incidents between the gangs and law enforcement agencies. Drug seizures are common and Yaba (a mixture of caffeine and methamphetamine) is often found in large quantities. Kidnapping and an increase in violence have also been noted in these areas, and specifically in the camps in the Teknaf area since August 2019.
You should exercise caution and consult the local authorities about the latest situation before visiting Ukhia and Teknaf. You may need to meet access requirements. We encourage all humanitarian assistance to be coordinated through recognised humanitarian agencies registered with the Bangladeshi authorities.
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.
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.
The FCO can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list isn’t exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s unsafe.
The UK Department for Transport (DfT) has carried out assessments of security at Dhaka International Airport and continues to make sure all international aviation security requirements are met. Read more about the DfT assessment.
In 2012 the International Civil Aviation Organisation carried out an audit of the level of implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight in Bangladesh.
On 24 February 2019 an attempted hijacking took place of a Biman Bangladesh Airlines flight from Dhaka to Dubai via Chittagong. The Bangladesh Civil Aviation Ministry have completed their investigation into the incident. Additional security measures are in place.
You can find a list of recent incidents and accidents on the website of the Aviation Safety network.
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. Several people were killed and many more injured on 23 June 2019 when a train derailed near Boromchal station in Moulvibazar in the north east of Bangladesh.
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, they are often found without appropriate safety and survival equipment and many do not carry communication equipment in case of emergency.
There are frequent acts of piracy in and around Bangladeshi waters.
Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Bangladesh.
The threat extends across the country. Crowded areas and places where foreign nationals are known to gather may be at higher risk of attack. There is a risk that future attacks could also target public gatherings, including religious gatherings and political rallies. You should minimise your exposure to these areas, consider your movements carefully and follow any specific advice of the local security authorities.
Throughout 2019 there have been several attacks targeting police and security forces in Dhaka and one targeting an Awami League office in Khulna city. These have involved the use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). The Bangladeshi authorities continue to disrupt planned attacks and have made a number of arrests. Some operations against suspected militants have also resulted in fatalities. The Bangladeshi authorities remain at high alert. Increases in security force presence and restrictions on movement may be put in place at short notice. You should remain vigilant, particularly in and around police buildings or infrastructure, and follow the advice of local authorities.
Since September 2015 Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL) has claimed responsibility for a number of terrorist attacks in Bangladesh. There have been sporadic attacks against minority religious communities and security forces, including attacks using suicide bombs. On 1 July 2016 there was an attack claimed by ISIL at the Holey Artisan Bakery in the Gulshan 2 district of Dhaka, which resulted in the death of 20 hostages, mainly foreign nationals, and 2 police officers. There have been recent media reports suggesting continued Daesh interest in attacking targets in Bangladesh.
Groups affiliated to Al Qaeda in the Indian Sub-continent (AQIS) have also claimed responsibility for the murder of a number of people who they consider to have views and lifestyles contrary to Islam. Online activists, including secular bloggers and 2 members of the LGBTI community, have been murdered most recently in June 2018.
There’s 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.
You should dress modestly to avoid causing offence. Women should cover their shoulders and wear long skirts or trousers.
Same-sex relations are illegal. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
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.
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.
There is an Expatriate Help Cell of Bangladesh Police, which offers services to expatriates including dual nationals/British Bangladeshis:
Mobile: +88 01769690019 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
You’ll need a visa to enter Bangladesh. You can get a visa from the Bangladesh High Commission in London. Although British Nationals are eligible for Visa on arrival for a period of 1 month for the purpose of official duty, business, investment and tourism, we recommend obtaining a visa before travelling. We have received some reports that British nationals have been issued shorter Visas or refused entry into Bangladesh when applying for a visa on arrival. Contact the Bangladesh High Commission London for information on Visas.
Visa extensions are available at the Department of Immigration and Passport of Bangladesh. You should be aware that overstaying your visa could risk the imposition of penalty fines.
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.
Your passport should be valid for at least 6 months when applying for a visa to visit Bangladesh.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
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 certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
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.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).
Severe air pollution is a major hazard to public health, especially during the winter months. Dhaka is currently experiencing extremely high levels of pollution. Children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing medical conditions may be especially affected. If you’re pregnant, or have a respiratory or heart condition you may wish to consult a medical practitioner before you travel. You can find advice on air quality on the World Health Organization (WHO) website and check air quality levels in real time on the World Air Quality Index website.
Mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever occur all year round. There’s been a significant increase in the number of cases of dengue fever across Bangladesh, including in Dhaka. You should take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.
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.
The climate in Bangladesh is sub-tropical and governed by monsoon winds. Extreme weather episodes like tropical cyclones can occur. You can find updated weather reports 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.
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.
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.
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.
To learn more about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, see the website of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.
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.
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.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.
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