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Bangladesh

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Summary

  • Reconsider your need to travel to Bangladesh due to the high threat of terrorist attack and the uncertain security situation.
  • Political violence occurs regularly in Bangladesh. Avoid demonstrations and other public gatherings as they can turn violent. Hartals (general strikes), blockades by political groups and trials of alleged war criminals can also prompt political violence. Violence associated with local and national elections occurs. In the lead up to national elections in late 2018, the Government of Bangladesh is increasing its security presence throughout Dhaka. Disruption to traffic and public transport in the vicinity of the Australian High Commission is possible. See Safety and security.
  • Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claimed responsibility for a hostage taking incident in Dhaka in July 2016 which resulted in the death of two police officers and 20 hostages. Most of the hostages were foreigners. See Safety and security.
  • Since September 2015, there have been several other fatal attacks in Bangladesh claimed by ISIL and Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). Foreigners, religious minorities, human rights and LGBTI activists and bloggers have been among those killed. See Safety and security.
  • Local security authorities are on high alert and regularly arrest individuals alleged to be planning attacks. There are several security checkpoints around Dhaka, particularly in the expatriate and diplomatic areas. Carry a copy of your passport, especially when travelling at night. See Safety and security.
  • Australian officials in Bangladesh adopt enhanced security measures. Take similar precautions. Security at the Australian High Commission in Dhaka has been strengthened and is under constant review. See Safety and security.
  • Criminal violence and armed robberies are common in Bangladesh, including in the Banani, Baridhara and Gulshan areas of Dhaka. See Safety and security.
  • The Chittagong Hill Tracts region is particularly prone to violence and kidnapping. If you travel there, take appropriate personal security measures and make contingency plans. See Safety and security.
  • During the monsoon season (June to September) and cyclone season (May to June and October to November) flooding and landslides can occur with little warning. Monitor weather forecasts and local media reports. Plan accordingly. See Natural disasters.

Entry and exit

Visas

You'll need a visa to enter Bangladesh. If your visit is for official, business, investment or tourism purposes, you may be eligible for a one-month visa-on-arrival. In other circumstances, you'll need to get a visa before your travel.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the Bangladesh High Commission for up-to-date information.

Other formalities

If you're working, you'll need to present an Income Tax Clearance Certificate or an Income Tax Exemption Certificate each time you depart.

More information: Bangladesh Board of Revenue

Passport

Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date you intend to return to Australia.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

Never surrender your passport to strangers. When hotel staff request your passport to photocopy, ensure they return it promptly.

Be aware of attempts to get access to your passport by deception. If you're forced to hand over your passport, contact the Embassy for advice.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

Money

The local currency is the Bangladesh Taka (BDT). You must declare to customs authorities if you're carrying more than US$5,000 when entering or exiting the country.

Credit card and ATM facilities are available in major centres. Take care as credit card fraud occurs.

Safety and security

Terrorism

Terrorist attacks are possible anytime, anywhere. Reliable information suggests militants may be planning to target Western interests in Bangladesh.

Security agencies frequently arrest people connected to militant and terrorist organisations who are alleged to be planning acts of violence. Some of these groups are anti-Western.

Since September 2015, there have been several fatal attacks claimed by ISIL. Foreign nationals, religious minorities, human rights and LGBTI activists have been among those targeted. Writers, bloggers and publishers have also been attacked, many fatally.

  • In July 2016, a hostage-taking incident at the Holey Artisan Bakery restaurant in the Gulshan 2 area of Dhaka resulted in the death of two police officers and 20 hostages, mostly foreigners. ISIL claimed responsibility. 
  • On 24 March 2017, a suicide bomb exploded at a checkpoint near Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka.

Possible targets include commercial and public areas, government buildings, courts, foreign government and commercial interests, military and police facilities, embassies, hotels, clubs, restaurants, bars, schools, markets, shopping areas, banks, places of worship, political rallies, cinemas, outdoor recreation and cultural events, public transport including bus terminals and railway stations, tourist areas and historic sites.

The Australian High Commission in Dhaka and Australian Government staff in Bangladesh implement measures because of the high threat of terror attack. The Australian Government has a 'no children at post' policy. Security at the Australian High Commission in Dhaka has been strengthened and is under constant review. Australian officials:

  • plan and undertake their movements cautiously, including with the assistance of local authorities where necessary
  • must do an individual risk assessment and get approval for any domestic travel
  • avoid public transport
  • minimise walking in Dhaka, especially after dark
  • avoid public locations with lax physical security measures
  • avoid shops, malls, hotels, restaurants and other locations that don't have strong security measures in place and are frequented by foreigners.

Minimise risks

  • Adopt security precautions on par with those taken by Australian officials in Bangladesh (above).
  • If you must go to a crowded place or other possible terror target, have a clear exit plan in the event of a security incident.
  • Be alert to possible threats, especially in public places.
  • Report any suspicious activity or items to police.
  • Monitor the media for any new or emerging threats.
  • Take official warnings seriously and follow the instructions of local authorities.
  • If there is an attack, leave the affected area immediately if it is safe to do so. 

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. More information: Terrorist threat worldwide

Civil unrest and political tension

Protests and arbitrary acts of violence, fuelled by political tensions, are common.

  • Indiscriminate attacks involving the detonation of small improvised explosive devices (known locally as 'cocktails') occur periodically in public areas.
  • During an escalation of political tensions in early 2015, violent incidents including arson attacks took place across the country, resulting in death and injury.
  • International events and political developments in the region may also trigger demonstrations.  

In the lead up to national elections in late 2018, the Government of Bangladesh is increasing its security presence throughout Dhaka and other areas of Bangladesh. Disruption to traffic and public transport in the vicinity of the Australian High Commission is possible.

In recent years, violence resulting in death and injury have accompanied political events including:

  • hartals (general strikes) enforced by political groups – these can be nationwide or localised and are can include violence targeting public and private transport and between anti-Government protestors and security forces
  • periodic blockades of rail, road and river transport networks by political groups – these can include violence targeting public and private transport, and by shortages of fuel and other supplies
  • the trials of alleged war criminals under the International Crimes Tribunal, including when verdicts and sentencing happen.

Crowds celebrating significant dates and anniversaries have also been attacked in recent years. Dates of national significance include:

  • Mother Language Day on 21 February
  • Independence Day on 26 March
  • Bengali New Year on 14 April
  • Victory Day on 16 December.

The Chittagong Hill Tracts region is particularly prone to politically motivated violence and kidnapping. Violence between indigenous groups, and clashes between Bengali settlers and the indigenous people, take place.

The Australian Government doesn't make payments or concessions to kidnappers.

  • Avoid crowds and areas where celebrations are taking place.
  • Avoid demonstrations, protests and other public gatherings.
  • Be particularly alert to possible threats when political tensions are high, around significant dates and in areas more prone to political violence.
  • Carefully plan your movements including exit strategies for if violence erupts.
  • Monitor the media and local sources for advice of planned and possible unrest. Avoid affected areas.

More information: Kidnapping

Crime

Violence and armed robberies are common, including in Gulshan and Banani in Dhaka, where resident expatriates have been victims of robbery, pickpocketing and 'snatch and grab' attacks.

Thieves, often armed and operating in teams, prey upon people travelling in rickshaws, taxis and CNGs (motorised rickshaws, also known as baby taxis). Petty crime, including theft and purse snatching, is also common. The risk of robbery increases after dark, especially on public transport.

Law enforcement agencies have increased the number of check posts around Dhaka, particularly in Dhaka's expatriate and diplomatic areas of Banani, Baridhara and Gulshan.

  • Secure your accommodation. Keep doors, windows and gates locked, even if you have security guards.
  • Carry only what you need. Leave other valuables, including your passport, in a secure location.
  • Don't tempt thieves – avoid wearing expensive watches, jewellery and cameras.
  • Avoid carrying bags that are easy to snatch.
  • Travel by motor vehicle wherever possible - avoid walking, rickshaws and travelling on public transport.
  • Keep your car windows and doors closed and locked at all times, including when moving.
  • Be alert to your surroundings at all times.
  • Carry a copy of your passport with you, to minimise issues at checkpoints.

Local travel

Road travel

From 29 July 2018, violent demonstrations have occurred across Dhaka and other districts, including along the main airport road, causing significant traffic delays and disruptions. Protests and disruptions may continue. Monitor local media and follow the advice of local authorities.

According to the World Health Organization, you're twice as likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident in Bangladesh than in Australia.

Travel is dangerous and fatalities are common. Roads are congested, road conditions can be hazardous and the traffic is chaotic. Drivers overtake other vehicles at inappropriate moments and head-on collisions are common. Risks are higher at night and outside the major cities: cars, buses and trucks frequently drive at high speed without headlights illuminated or on full beam. Many rickshaws and CNGs are unlit at night and difficult to see in the dark.

Due to monsoon floods, most rural roads are built-up and the shoulders can have a two to three metre drop. Flooding can result in roads being damaged and impassable.

Traffic accidents, even minor ones, often attract large crowds of onlookers. The situation can quickly get out of control and turn violent. The practice of people sitting on the roof of buses and trains, coupled with severe overcrowding inside vehicles, adds to the risks and consequences of accidents.

  • Familiarise yourself with local traffic laws and practices before driving.
  • Monitor the media for road closures.
  • Drive defensively and legally.
  • Keep your car windows and doors closed and locked at all times.
  • Don't drink and drive.
  • Avoid driving at night, where possible.
  • Immediately contact police if you're involved in an accident.
  • If stopped by police, follow their instructions.

More information: Road safety and driving

Driver's licence 

If you wish to drive , you'll need to get an International Driving Permit before you leave Australia.

Motorcycles

Check with your travel insurer whether your policy covers you when using a motorcycle, quad bike or similar vehicle. Your policy may not cover you for accidents that occur while using these vehicles. Wear, and ensure your passenger wears, a correctly fastened and approved helmet.

Taxis

Only use registered taxis and limousines, preferably those arranged through your hotel.

Public transport

Travel by bus may be unsafe due to unqualified and uninsured drivers, poor vehicle maintenance, high speed driving and overcrowding.

Train travel carries also additional risks. Tracks are dilapidated and there are a high number of unauthorised and unmanned crossings. In 2013, passenger trains were derailed or set on fire as acts of political violence, resulting in injury to passengers.

Boat travel

River craft such as ferries may be overloaded or lack necessary life-saving equipment. Hundreds of lives can be lost in major accidents.

Piracy occurs in the coastal areas. The International Maritime Bureau issues piracy reports on its website.

More information: Piracy

Air travel

There are enhanced security arrangements at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka following a suicide bombing at a nearby checkpoint on 24 March 2017.

The Australian Government doesn't provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Bangladesh.

More information: Air travel

Laws

You're subject to local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Drug laws

Penalties for drug offences are severe and include mandatory prison sentences (including for small amounts of illegal drugs) and the death penalty.

Illicit drugs are increasingly available, especially in venues frequented by teenagers and young people. Law enforcement agencies raid such sites. "Hukka (or smoking) pipes", common in some bars and cafes, are sometimes spiked with illicit drugs. Avoid using these pipes.

More information: Carrying or using drugs

Other laws

The death penalty can be imposed for crimes including murder, trafficking of children, rape causing death, abduction, espionage and hijacking an aircraft. Corporal punishment (whipping) is sometimes used as an alternative to jail.

Local authorities can demand to see identification. Always carry a copy of your passport with you, even if you're a dual national.

Homosexual acts are illegal. Penalties include imprisonment. More information: LGBTI travellers

Bangladeshi civil law, including on family matters such as divorce, child custody and child support, differs from Australian law. If you might engage in activities that involve local legal matters, including business and family matters, seek professional advice and ensure you know your rights and responsibilities under Bangladeshi law.

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

More information: Staying within the law 

Dual nationals

If you or your parents are of Bangladeshi origin, the Bangladeshi Government may consider you a Bangladeshi citizen, even if you have never held a Bangladeshi passport. If you're (or are deemed) a citizen of Bangladesh, the Australian Government's ability to provide you consular assistance if are arrested or detained may be limited.

It is illegal for Bangladeshi citizens to purchase, carry, possess, transport or consume alcohol without a permit. These laws apply to dual nationals.

More information: Dual nationals

Local customs

Standards of dress and behaviour are conservative. Take care not to offend. If in doubt, seek local advice.

Don't wear shorts. If you're female, wear a scarf around your neck and shoulders.

Public displays of affection aren't socially acceptable and may attract attention from law enforcement officials.

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to occur between early May and early June 2019. During Ramadan, eating, drinking and smoking between sunrise and sunset is forbidden for Muslims. Non-Muslims can be detained (and deported) for eating, drinking or smoking in public during this time. Take care to respect religious and cultural sensitivities, rules and customs.

More information: Ramadan

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. Ensure your policy includes adequate coverage for any pre-existing conditions.

Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government won't pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and aren't covered under your policy
  • that you're covered for the whole time you'll be away.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may even be illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to and find out if any quantity restrictions or certification requirements apply. Consult your doctor about alternatives well in advance of travel

Take legal prescription medicine with you so you remain in good health. Carry copies of your prescription and a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.

More information: Prescription medicines

Health risks

Mosquito-borne diseases

Bangladesh, including areas of Dhaka, has experienced a spike in cases of Chikungunya since July 2017. Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes. Malaria occurs throughout rural areas and outbreaks of other mosquito-borne diseases (including dengue fever, Zika virus and Japanese encephalitis) occur in many areas. The Australian Department of Health advises pregnant women to discuss any travel plans with their doctor and defer non-essential travel to Zika virus-affected areas.

Protect yourself against mosquito-borne illnesses:

  • ensure your accommodation is mosquito proof
  • take measures to avoid insect bites, including always using insect repellent and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
  • get vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis
  • take medication, such as prophylaxis against malaria
  • if you're pregnant, discuss your travel plans and possible health risks with your doctor before you travel.

HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS is a risk. Exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.

Bird flu

The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed human cases of avian influenza ('bird flu').

More information: Infectious diseases

Other infectious diseases

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, Nipah virus, tuberculosis and rabies) occur with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time.

  • Maintain good personal hygiene, including regular and thorough handwashing.
  • Boil drinking water or drink bottled water.
  • Avoid ice cubes.
  • Avoid uncooked and undercooked food.
  • Don't swim or bathe in fresh water sources.
  • Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Anthrax

Several hundred cases of the coetaneous form of anthrax were reported in 2010 in people who consumed beef or had close contact with diseased animals. More outbreaks could occur. Beef and beef products bought from reliable sources, and which are fully cooked, are safe to eat.

  • Avoid handling raw meat or butchering.
  • Source beef only from reliable suppliers.

Black henna tattoos

Avoid temporary 'black henna' tattoos as they often contain a dye which can cause serious skin reactions.

Medical facilities

The standard of medical facilities is poor. Medical facilities outside Dhaka are very limited.

Doctors and hospitals usually need up-front payment prior to commencing treatment.

If you become seriously ill or injured, you'll need to be evacuated to a destination with the appropriate facilities. Medical evacuation costs can exceed $25,000.

Natural disasters 

Bangladesh experiences cyclones, flooding and other severe weather, earthquakes and tsunamis.

Be prepared for a major emergency, including by maintaining a functional emergency kit.

If a natural disaster occurs:

  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it on you at all times (in a waterproof bag).
  • closely monitor local media and other sources such as the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System
  • follow the advice of local authorities
  • contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare and whereabouts.

Cyclones, flooding and other severe weather

During the monsoon season (June to September) and cyclone season (May to June and October to November) flooding and landslides can occur with little warning throughout the country. Services and transport are often affected. The direction and strength of cyclones can change with little warning.

If there is a cyclone or severe storm, you may not be able to leave the area: flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended, and available flights may fill quickly. Access to sea ports could also be affected. In some areas, adequate shelter may not be available for all those who stay.

Stay up-to-date on weather conditions and forecasts, cyclone watches and warnings. Monitor local media, regional weather forecasts and the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre.

If a cyclone is approaching, follow the advice of local authorities and:

  • ensure you know your hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans
  • identify your local shelter

If you're travelling during monsoon or cyclone season, contact your tour operator to check whether tourist services at your planned destination have been affected.

More information:

Earthquakes and tsunamis

Bangladesh is subject to earthquakes and tsunamis. Real-time information on earthquakes can be found on the US Geological Service website.

If there is an earthquake:

  • follow the advice of your accommodation provider and local authorities
  • monitor local media and warnings issued by local authorities
  • if you're in a coastal or low-lying area and the earthquake is strong or long, move to higher ground.

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Emergency phone numbers

  • Fire: 999
  • Medical emergencies: 999 or go direct to the hospital
  • Criminal issues: 999 or go to your local police station

Always get a police report when reporting a crime.

Tourism services and products

To complain about tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

Australian Government

Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas. For consular assistance, contact the Australian High Commission in Dhaka.

Australian High Commission, Dhaka

184 Gulshan Avenue
Gulshan 2
Dhaka, BANGLADESH
Phone: +880 1713243805
Website: bangladesh.highcommission.gov.au
Facebook: facebook.com/AusHCBangladesh

Check the Australian High Commission website for more information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you're unable to contact the High Commission in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Additional resources