Bangladesh travel information: Safety and security
Summary - addition of information and advice on Bishwa Ijtema and incidents at Dhaka University campus; removal of references to Dhaka police security notices for Christmas church services
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Advice current as at 4:00 am 20 Jan 2020.
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.
Bangladesh has a high rate of road accidents. Take great care when travelling by road, including by public transport and when crossing streets. Local driving standards are poor with a large number of drivers not holding the correct licence or road worthiness certificates for their vehicles. Mandatory vehicle safety checks are often ignored. A large number of rickshaws and tuk tuks also occupy the roads and will ignore many of the traffic laws.
Maintenance of buses is extremely poor, as are driving standards. Road traffic collisions involving buses are a regular occurrence, with some resulting in fatalities. Crime including rape and sexual assaults have been reported on buses, sometimes committed by the vehicle crew. Travelling at night and alone should be avoided at all times.
Private hire vehicles are available, however the police have indicated in local media that they are often unable to verify a driver’s details as driving records are often inaccurate.
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. You should avoid travelling alone at night.
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.
The rail network is extensive but old and generally considered slow. There are frequent derailments and other incidents, which result in injuries and loss of life. Fifteen people were killed and many more injured on 12 November 2019 when two intercity trains collided at Mandabhag rail station on the Dhaka-Chattogram route. The local press has highlighted a high number of bridges and culverts that are in a dangerous condition following flooding. Crime has been regularly reported on trains with offences ranging from theft to sexual assaults.
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 when large numbers of people travel over religious holidays and other festivals. Safety concerns regarding both sea and river vessels exist following a number of vessels sinking with loss of life. Some vessels do not have genuine safety certificates. Vessels are often found without appropriate safety and survival equipment and many do not carry communication equipment in case of an emergency. Local crime gangs are known to target vessels in acts of piracy.
Quick Facts Tourist Information for:Bangladesh
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Visitors/Tourists: 303,000 in 2010
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Population: 7,000,940 (in 2008)