COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Bangladesh is located on the northern edge of the Bay of Bengal, is bordered on three sides by India and shares a small border with Burma. Approximately 150 million people inhabit Bangladesh, which has a land area of 55,598 square miles, slightly smaller than the size of Iowa. This seventh most populous nation is one of the most crowded countries in the world, ranked fifth in population density.
Bangladesh consists primarily of low-lying deltaic plains. The Ganges and Brahmaputra Rivers (known as the Padma and Jamuna in Bangladesh) and countless smaller tributaries criss-cross the country. The capital, Dhaka, is fewer than 25 feet above sea level. During the monsoon season from June to October, between 30% and 70% of the country is under water due to flooding of rivers. Heavy rainfall is characteristic of Bangladesh, with most parts of the country receiving about 200 centimeters (80 inches) of rainfall per year. Annual cyclones can cause extreme flooding and have led to great losses of life and property damage.
Bangladesh is a parliamentary democracy with a unicameral legislature. The nation remains a developing country with severe infrastructure shortcomings. Tourist facilities are minimal as are capacities to deal with emergency situations. Read the Department of State’s Background Notes on Bangladesh for additional information.
Though by almost any gauge Bangladesh remains a developing country, the impact of two decades of nearly six percent annual growth is visible throughout the country, in particular in Dhaka. Meanwhile, the partnership between Bangladesh and its development partners has placed the country on track to meet many of its Millennium Development Goals, according to a 2011 Progress Report by the United Nations Development Program. Bangladeshis now can expect to live longer, infant and maternal mortality have been dramatically reduced at a rate with few parallels in human history, and the living standards and opportunities afforded to women and children have noticeably improved. Moreover, both rural and urban incomes have increased and food production satisfies Bangladesh’s domestic needs.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you are going to live in or visit Bangladesh, please take the time to tell our Embassy about your trip. If you enroll, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. We can also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. Here’s the link to the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.
Local Embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.
U.S. Embassy, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Madani Avenue, Baridhara, Dhaka, 1212
Embassy telephone: (88-02) 885-5500
American Citizen Services telephone: (88-02) 882-3805
Emergency after-hours telephone: (88-02) 885-5500, press “0” and ask for the duty officer
American Citizen Services E-mail: DhakaACS@state.gov
Facsimile: (88-02) 882-4449
The Consular Section’s American Citizens Services unit operates Sunday through Thursday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. All American Citizens Services are by appointment only, except in the event of an emergency.
ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS: A passport valid for six months longer than your planned length of stay in Bangladesh and at least one blank visa page, visa, and onward or return ticket are required to enter Bangladesh. The United States is on a list of countries eligible for visitor (tourist) visas on arrival at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka, Bangladesh. However, Bangladesh has not widely publicized their policies for visas on arrival. Travelers are encouraged to secure visas before travel as visas on arrival are not a traveler’s right, but a privilege extended to travelers by the immigration officer at the port of entry. You may encounter delays in airport visa issuance or be refused entry to countries en route to Bangladesh if you do not have a visa before arrival in Bangladesh. Therefore, we highly recommend that you obtain a visa prior to arrival.
While visas on arrival can be issued with single-entry validity up to a maximum of 30 days, most visas on arrival are issued only with the validity of the duration of the visitor’s planned travel in Bangladesh. The visa on arrival fee for U.S. citizens is US $50 plus taxes (about US $1) payable upon arrival in Dhaka in U.S. dollars, cash only. Validity is single-entry, 15 or 30 days. Travelers other than those on government duty must have a minimum of US $500 in cash or on credit card with them and must possess a return ticket if in Bangladesh on a short visit. Please note that visas on arrival are also now available at Shah Amanat International Airport located in Chittagong and Osmani International Airport in Sylhet. A valid visa in an expired or canceled U.S. passport is not acceptable to Bangladeshi authorities. If you are issued a new U.S. passport for any reason, you will need a new visa. You may obtain a visa in your new passport at Directorate of Immigration and Passport, located at Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, Agargaon, Dhaka. The phone numbers are 88-02-913-1891 and 913-4011. The fee for the new visa is US $160 plus taxes (effective June 1, 2012). Please carry photocopies of the bio-data page of your U.S. passport and the pages containing the Bangladeshi visa and Bangladeshi immigration stamps. If your passport is lost or stolen, copies will help you apply for a replacement passport and an exit visa from the Bangladesh government. Replacing a lost visa, which is required in order to exit the country, may take three to four business days.
Bangladeshi-Americans and their immediate family members are eligible for a “No Visa Required for Travel to Bangladesh” seal, which can be issued by the nearest Bangladeshi Embassy or Consulate. This endorsement allows travelers multiple entries into Bangladesh with no restriction on duration of stay, for the validity of the bearer’s passport. As with visas, “No Visa Required” seals are no longer valid in expired passports. If the passport bearing your original “No Visa Required” seal is lost or expires, you must obtain a new seal in a valid passport prior to entering or departing Bangladesh.
If you intend to use Dhaka as a hub to visit other countries in the region, ensure that you obtain a multiple-entry Bangladeshi visa before your arrival. If you intend to work for a non-governmental organization (NGO) in Bangladesh, you should ensure that your sponsor hasprovided you with up-to-date advice on the kind of visa you must obtain before your arrival. It is difficult and time-consuming to change your immigration status after you have arrived in Bangladesh.
Visas to Bangladesh that are expiring may be extended at the Directorate of Immigration and Passport, located at Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, Agargaon, and Dhaka. The phone numbers are 88-02-913-1891 and 913-4011.
Visa rules introduced in October 2006 require foreign nationals who come to Bangladesh to work or for long-term visits to have the appropriate work permits and clearances on arrival. There are increased financial penalties for overstaying visas. Additionally, those who overstay for more than 90 days could be charged with violating the Foreigners Act of 1946. For further information on these rules, please check with the nearest Bangladeshi Embassy or Consulate (U.S. addresses listed below) before traveling, or visit the Bangladeshi Immigration Police website for further details on rules relating to foreigner registration.
When traveling by air, all foreigners except children under the age of two must pay a departure tax. This tax is often included when air tickets are purchased. Otherwise, it is collected at the airport at the time of departure. The amount of the departure tax varies depending on the destination (e.g., the departure tax for the United States is the most expensive, at 3,000 Bangladesh Taka [BDT]). There is no tax for transit passengers transiting Bangladesh without a visa and in country for 72 hours or fewer. These requirements are subject to change, and travelers are advised to check with the Embassy of Bangladesh before traveling. If departing the country by road, foreigners are required to obtain a road permit from the Director General, Immigration and Passports, Dhaka.
If your visa or “No Visa Required” seal has expired or is in a passport that is no longer valid, you should expect delays upon departure. Travelers who have overstayed by 1 – 14 days will be fined 200 BDT per day, which can be paid at the Shahjalal International Airport Immigration Office. Fines for overstays of 15 days or more cannot be paid at the Shahjalal International Airport. Travelers who have overstayed 15 – 90 days are subject to a fine of 500 BDT per day, which must be paid at the Immigration and Passport Office at 7th Sher-E-Bangla Nagar, Agargaon, Dhaka. Individuals who overstay in excess of 90 days face prosecution by the Bangladeshi Immigration and Passport Authority.
The Government of Bangladesh has announced that a new security surcharge will be levied on departing passengers, but no date of implementation has been set.
As of December 2012 the Bangladesh Customs Authority has established a currency export policy for travelers as they are departing the country. Travelers are not allowed to carry more than 2000 BDT when exiting Bangladesh. This is applicable for all land, sea, and airport travel. Some travelers have reported being questioned by customs officials on how much taka they are carrying and even having to surrender excess taka. Foreign travelers can bring in and take out up to US $5000 without declaration. Travelers must declare more than this amount in the airport customs office.
The Government of Bangladesh has no written policy regarding the entry of individuals with HIV/AIDS. However, according to anecdotal reports, some HIV/AIDS entry restrictions may exist for visitors to and foreign residents of Bangladesh. The Government of Bangladesh has informed the Embassy that a health officer or immigration officer at the airport who has concerns about an individual's possible HIV/AIDS status will make a case-specific determination regarding that individual's entry. For further information on entry requirements and possible exceptions to the exit requirements, please contact the Embassy of Bangladesh, 3510 International Drive NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone 202-244-0183/7248 /7216/3830/3571, fax 202-244-2771/7830, or the Bangladeshi Consulates in New York at 211 E. 43rd Street, Suite 502, New York, NY 10017, telephone 212-599-6767/6850/1874, fax 212-682-9211 or Los Angeles at 10850 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 1250, Los Angeles, CA 90024, telephone 323-932-0100, fax 323-932-9703.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: In Bangladesh, a common method for political parties and other organizations to articulate their political demands is by calling for a hartal, or general strike. Hartals, whose purpose is to disrupt or shut down services either locally or throughout the country, can turn violent if the population, or political groups, enforce the shutdown. Even demonstrations that are meant to be peaceful can become violent and unpredictable.
Current sources of political and social unrest include: displeasure over verdicts from Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal, labor disputes, and preparations for national elections scheduled for early 2014. These demonstrations have led to frequent violent clashes between police and protesters, resulting in deaths, injuries and property damage. In various areas of the country demonstrators have blocked highways and roads to all traffic and have damaged rail tracks and trains. Participants have thrown rocks, debris, and homemade low-yield explosives. Security forces have used tear gas, non-lethal crowd control measures, and firearms against demonstrators. Protests have centered in major metropolitan areas, including Dhaka, Sylhet, and Chittagong, but have also taken place throughout the country, including rural areas.
The U.S. Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to avoid all demonstrations in Bangladesh. A foreigner could become caught in the middle of these conflicts. There have been no direct attacks on U.S. citizens or indications of targeting of foreigners; however, in isolated instances, Westerners and U.S. citizens have been caught in the middle of clashes and demonstrations or stranded when highways have been blocked. U.S. citizens are urged to remain alert to local security developments and to be vigilant regarding their personal security by knowing the locations of police and fire stations, hospitals, and other places to relocate to feel secure. U.S. citizens should also carry identification and, if moving about alone, a cell phone or radio or other means of communication that works in Bangladesh. Be alert and aware of your surroundings and pay attention to local news reports. U.S. citizens in Bangladesh are encouraged to make common sense plans to deal with security situations, and to investigate alternate means of communication in country, evacuation insurance, and alternative destinations both within and outside the country in case of emergency. If you are concerned for your security you should exercise personal responsibility, remove yourself from the situation and relocate to an area where you feel secure.
While the diplomatic enclave—which includes the areas of Banani, Baridhara, and Gulshan—in Dhaka is generally safe, political violence can take place within this area. U.S. citizens should contact the American Citizens Services section before attempting to come to the U.S. Embassy. Visitors to Bangladesh should check U.S. Embassy Dhaka’s website for updated information on the current political and security situation. During times of nationwide demonstrations and hartals, US Embassy personnel and their family members are restricted to staying in the diplomatic enclave in Dhaka. When traveling outside of Dhaka, they are restricted to staying in their hotel or other safe accommodations.
The U.S. Embassy also recommends that in times of demonstrations, national strikes, or elections, U.S. citizens avoid Roads 79 and 86 in the Gulshan-2 area of Dhaka. One of the major national political party’s headquarters is located on Road 86, while the party leader’s residence is on Road 79. Large unscheduled events occur frequently and usually spill out on to these roads, making them impassable and potentially dangerous.
In addition, Noya Paltan area in Dhaka, Baitul Mukarram Mosque (National Mosque), Muktangan (bordered by Baitul Mukarram Mosque to the east, the General Post Office (GPO) to the south, the Secretariat to the West, and Topkhana Road to the North), and Topkhana-Motijheel Road should be avoided because of numerous political rallies at these locations.
U.S. citizens are advised against traveling to the Khagrachari, Rangamati, and Bandarban Hill Tracts districts (collectively known as the Chittagong Hill Tracts) due to kidnappings and other security incidents. Foreigners traveling in the Chittagong Hill Tracts are required to register with local authorities. The U.S. Embassy recommends against travel to these areas. Additionally, the U.S. Embassy has received reports of incidents of kidnapping, arms, and narcotics smuggling and clashes between local Bangladeshis and Rohingya refugees in areas near refugee camps in the Teknaf, Kutupalong, and Ukhia areas of the Cox’s Bazaar district. Individuals who choose to visit these districts are urged to exercise extreme caution.
The fire department is accessible by dialing 199 if in Dhaka and (88) (02) 199 if outside of Dhaka. The fire department can also be reached by mobile phone from anywhere in Bangladesh by dialing (88) 01713-038181, (88) 01713-038182 or (88) 01730-336699. Improper storage of chemical accelerants, improperly installed electrical systems, lack of fire escapes, burglar bars on windows preventing escape, and hours-long fire department response make fires common in Bangladesh and extremely dangerous. One fire in June 2010 in Dhaka led to the deaths of over 120 individuals. In case of fire leave the area immediately.
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CRIME: The Department of State rates Dhaka as having a high crime rate; the types of crime are comparable to any other world capital or large city. Always take precautions such as being alert and aware, locking home and vehicle doors, varying routes and schedules, traveling in groups, never walking alone at night, and parking near entrances or security lamps. Hiring a 24-hour guard is highly recommended due to the possibility of trespassing and break-ins. In general, crime dramatically increases in the hours of darkness; this includes dusk and dawn. Urban crime can be organized or opportunistic, conducted by individuals or groups, and commonly encompasses fraud, theft (larceny, pick-pocketing, and snatch-and-grab), robbery (armed and unarmed), carjacking, rape, assault, and burglary (home and auto). Incidents of crime and levels of violence are higher in low-income residential and congested commercial areas, but are seen in wealthier areas as well, including the Diplomatic Enclave in Dhaka. Many of the reported attacks occurred while the victims were riding in rickshaws; other incidents involved the targeting of small groups of foreigners on foot.
To reduce your risk while riding in a rickshaw, keep your bags or valuables under your legs, away from passing vehicle traffic, and ensure that your bag’s carrying straps are not visible. For security reasons, Embassy personnel are prohibited from riding in taxis, buses, rickshaws in Dhaka (outside of Dhaka’s Diplomatic Enclave) and engine-powered rickshaws (also known as CNGs or auto rickshaws) and recommends that U.S. citizens exercise similar caution. Although U.S. embassy personnel may use trains in Bangladesh, travelers are warned to use extreme caution as trains in Bangladesh are known to be boarded by robbers at all hours of the day on all routes and larceny commonly occurs. Avoid carrying or displaying large sums of money or wearing expensive jewelry and be aware of your surroundings when you use ATMs. Valuables should be stored in hotel safety deposit boxes and should not be left unattended in hotel rooms.
Taxis, if available at all, are unsafe and unreliable. Long-term visitors typically hire a car and driver; short-term visitors should hire a car through their hotel and arrange in advance with their hotel or other reliable party for pickup by hotel vehicle or similar transportation.
Women should observe stringent security precautions, including avoiding use of public transport after dark without the company of known and trustworthy companions, restricting evening entertainment to well-known venues, and avoiding isolated areas when alone at any time of day. Keep your hotel room number confidential and make sure hotel room doors have chains, deadlocks, and spy-holes. Hire only reliable cars and drivers and avoid traveling in vehicles hailed on the street.
Police are generally responsive to reports of crimes against U.S. citizens. However, crimes often go unsolved or unprosecuted.
If you are assaulted, the Embassy recommends that you not fight with your attacker. Flee to a safe area and report the situation to the local authorities. Let go of your purse or backpack rather than fight to retain possession of it. Use hotel safes or lock-boxes for valuables. We encourage all U.S. citizens to carry their mobile phones with them at all times and to travel in pairs or groups. It is also a good idea to travel with a native Bangla-speaker if you intend to travel outside urban areas.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only is it illegal in the United States, you may be breaking local law too.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We can:
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Bangladesh is (88) (02) 999, which connects you to the Dhaka Metro Police Exchange. There is no guarantee that English will be spoken or understood at the Dhaka Metro Police Exchange. The Police Exchange can only transfer calls to the appropriate police station within the Dhaka metropolitan area, and the caller will have to speak with that police station in order to actually have any police services performed. There is similarly no guarantee that English will be spoken or understood at the local police station. The Dhaka Metropolitan Police Department has established the following special phone number and e-mail address to assist non-Bangladeshi citizen victims of crime: mobile number (88) 01713-398355 and e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The Sylhet Metropolitan Police also have a Foreigners’ Help Desk with the following phone number: (88) 01713-374364.
Outside Dhaka, the caller will need to directly contact the nearest police station. If you do not have the contact information for the nearest police station, call (88) (02) 999 to reach the Dhaka Metropolitan Police Switchboard, which should be able to provide the number of the appropriate police station within Bangladesh. However, they are unlikely to be able to transfer the call to a police station outside Dhaka. The caller should then hang up and dial the number provided by the Dhaka Metro Police Exchange. The ability to speak or understand English is even more unlikely at local police stations outside of Dhaka. The Police Exchange can also be reached by mobile phone from anywhere in Bangladesh at (88) (02) 712-4000.
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in another country, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from our own. In some places, you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. In some places, it is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings. In some places, driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. These criminal penalties will vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States. You can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods, engage in sexual conduct with children, or use or disseminate child pornography in a foreign country. If you break local laws in Bangladesh, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not wherever you go.
Persons violating Bangladeshi laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. The death penalty exists in Bangladesh. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Bangladesh are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. While the Bangladesh Constitution enshrines a right to a speedy trial, the interpretation of “speedy” is broad by international standards, and protracted judicial proceedings are common in Bangladesh.
Consensual same-sex sexual relations are criminalized by Bangladesh. Penalties include up to life imprisonment. Although the U.S. Embassy is not aware of any recent arrests or prosecutions for such activities, they remain illegal. For further information on LGBT travel, please read our Information for LGBT Travelers page.
While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Air Quality - Air quality in Dhaka is extremely poor, especially in the dry months running November through May. Press reports indicate that Dhaka’s sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide concentrations far exceed World Health Organization’s permissible levels. Particulate matter, largely from diesel engine exhaust and dust churn from vehicles, is exceedingly high in Dhaka, far surpassing any healthful norms. Even Bangladesh’s national encyclopedia calls the air pollution problem in Dhaka “acute” and further notes that lead levels, both suspended in air and blood levels in children and adults far exceed allowable levels. The encyclopedia further notes that levels of volatile organic compounds greatly exceed healthful norms, that dust pollution causes many respiratory diseases including asthma in Bangladesh, and that 200 different organic compounds have been detected in Dhaka’s atmosphere. Additional sources of air pollution cited in a 2011 study by Bangladesh’s Department of Environment and the Norwegian Institute for Air include hundreds of brick kilns located on the periphery of Dhaka, re-suspension of road dust from traffic, open burning of all varieties of garbage including plastics, and industrial sources such as cement manufacturing and metal smelting.
Garbage Collection - One of the most notable features of Bangladesh’s large cities and towns is the accumulation of garbage in all areas where people live and work. Though most authorities in Bangladesh seem to be aware of the problem, efforts to manage Bangladesh’s waste stream have been severely challenged. A 2007 study by the Asian Productivity Organization suggests that of Dhaka’s 4000 metric tons of waste produced daily, more than half is left uncollected and is left to disperse unmanaged throughout the local environment. Further, the same report indicates that substantial amounts of highly infectious and hazardous biomedical waste is simply dumped by local hospitals and clinics into surface drains, sewer and storm systems, and city trash bins.
Water Quality - Water directly from the tap, whether in homes or hotels, is not fit to drink without treatment or filtration and should be avoided. Municipal authorities have standards in place, but deteriorating infrastructure and inadequate sewage and treatment facilities have led to spoliation of water destined for human consumption. A study from a 2012 issue of the Journal of Environmental Science and Natural Resources indicated 62% of house tap water in Dhaka, 60% of pipeline water, and 45% of samples at the municipal water pump exceeded World Health Organization and Bangladesh national guidelines for safe consumption, suggesting both inadequate treatment at the source and contamination en route to homes and businesses.
Communication – Modern mobile and 3G network coverage exists in major urban areas in Bangladesh. Basic mobile coverage exists nationwide, even in most remote rural areas. The mobile network is occasionally subject to delays or blocks or both due to massive demands on the network, especially during national holidays, and the government has previously shut down the mobile network in times of civil unrest. WiFi connectivity exists in most hotels and some retail shops and restaurants. Internet packages are available by subscription. Landline telephones are generally reliable but are also subject to periodic failure. Radio frequencies are tightly regulated by the national government.
Traffic Congestion - Roads in Bangladesh, particularly in Dhaka, are extraordinarily crowded. In addition to inconvenience, congestion can delay arrival of emergency services including fire, ambulance, and police responses by multiple hours. Economic development in Bangladesh has lead to increasing wealth in some segments of society and a concurrent dramatic rise in the number of personal vehicles on inadequate roads.
Ferry Safety - Bangladesh is a country criss-crossed with rivers and uses a wide network of water-based public transportation. Ferries and other boats compete with the railroads as a major means of public transport. Typically overloaded and top-heavy, ferries do capsize, particularly during the monsoon season from June to October or during unexpected thunderstorms or windstorms. Dozens of people die in ferry accidents every year. Most recently, in March 2012, a ferry with over 200 people on board collided with a cargo boat and capsized, killing more than 30 people.
Maritime Piracy - The International Maritime Bureau, a specialized division of the International Chamber of Commerce, reports that Bangladesh is a piracy and armed robbery prone
area with most attacks at Chittagong anchorages and moorages. However, the same source maintains that attacks in Bangladesh
have fallen significantly over the past few years because of efforts by Bangladesh authorities. Press reports indicate fishing
vessels in Bangladeshi waters are frequently attacked and seized, and crewmembers are sometimes lost. Mariners entering Bangladeshi
waters should take appropriate precautionary measures. Pleasure boating is not common in the waters of Bangladesh.
Customs Restrictions - Bangladesh customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation or export of items such as currency, household appliances, alcohol, cigarettes, and weapons. While there is no restriction on the amount of U.S. currencyvisitors may bring into Bangladesh, amounts in excess of USD $5000 must be declared to customs authorities at the time of arrival. The Government of Bangladesh does not allow the exchange of local currency (Bangladesh taka) for US dollars, unless the customer has a ticket for travel outside of Bangladesh and an airplane ticket in hand. This is true for both cash and traveler’s checks. Contact the Bangladeshi Embassy or Consulates for specific information regarding customs requirements. Please see our Customs Information.
Commercial and Land Disputes - If you are involved in commercial or property matters, be aware that the legal environment in Bangladesh is complex. Formal, regulated, and transparent land dispute mechanisms are not fully developed. Individuals and businesses cite corruption and an ineffective and painfully slow court system as serious problems. For more information, please contact the U.S. Trade Center at email@example.com.
Land disputes are common in Bangladesh and are extremely difficult to resolve through legal channels. Court cases can last
for months, and sometimes years, without a final and accurate determination as to which party has legitimate claim to the
title. Documentation and property records are often non-existent, incomplete, or poorly maintained.
The U.S. Embassy has received reports of cases of U.S. citizens who claim to have been victimized in land-grabbing disputes. Rarely are these simple cases of a legitimate property owner versus an opportunistic land-grabber. More often, it is a case of disagreement between an owner who believes he or she has historical ownership of the property and a buyer who has just purchased the same property. One or both of them may have been swindled, both of them may have deeds, and it is next to impossible to reliably determine whose deed is valid.
The dangers in becoming involved in a property dispute range from being threatened, injured, or murdered by hired thugs to being involved in a lengthy court dispute. Those involved in a court dispute run the risk of having cases filed against them, and may be arrested and jailed, sometimes for months.
U.S. citizens wishing to purchase property in Bangladesh should be thoroughly aware of the risks involved and should only purchase property from a seller whose ownership is beyond doubt. Additionally, buyers should recognize the risks associated if they are not physically present to oversee their property. U.S. citizens should bear in mind that the U.S. Embassy cannot protect personal property and cannot take sides in a legal dispute.
Natural Disasters - Bangladesh is considered at extreme risk for natural disasters related to weather or other natural events. One recent survey ranked Bangladesh the country most at risk in the aggregate for natural disasters. Flooding is the most common hazard, having killed untold hundreds of thousands of people even within the modern era. During the monsoon season, generally from June to October, between 30% and 70% of the country is under water due to flooding from the Ganges, Meghna, and the Brahmaputra Rivers. Cyclones, the local name for hurricanes, occur most frequently in May through October. Severe cyclones strike Bangladesh on average once every three years. Storm surges of up to 10 meters associated with these cyclones are relatively common. According to the World Bank, 60%of the worldwide deaths caused by cyclones in the last 20 years were in Bangladesh. Tornadoes are also common in Bangladesh, one of the mosthard-hit countries in the world for these storms. Earthquakes are most common in the northern and eastern parts of Bangladesh, but as Bangladesh is close to the intersection of the Indian, Eurasian, and Australian tectonic plates, the potential for catastrophic earthquakes anywhere in the country is ever-present. As a general matter, disaster preparedness of local and national authorities in Bangladesh is far below U.S. standards.
Forced Marriages - The U.S. Embassy occasionally receives reports of parents attempting to force their sons or daughters into an unwanted marriage. A marriage must be entered into with the full and free consent of both individuals. The parties involved should feel that they have a choice. If a U.S. citizen is being forced into a marriage against his or her will, help and advice from the Embassy are available. Please refer to the U.S. Embassy’s information on forced marriage, contact the American Citizens Services unit by e-mail at DhakaACS@state.gov, or by phone at (88-02) 885-5500 from the United States, (02) 885-5500 from inside Bangladesh, or 885-5500 from within the city of Dhaka. All travelers to Bangladesh, including Bangladeshi citizens, should maintain possession of their passports and return plane tickets to ensure independence to travel.
Visas to Other Countries - Visitors seeking to travel onward to India should obtain a visa to India in their home country. Appointments to apply for Indian visitor visas are extraordinarily difficult to obtain and visas issued to U.S. citizens in Bangladesh are limited to a single entry and are valid for only three months. Following the initial entry those who wish to re-enter India must wait two months to reapply for another visa. An Indian visitor visa issued in the United States is valid for multiple entries and for up to ten years. U.S. citizens seeking to obtain visas to Saudi Arabia in Bangladesh will encounter bureaucratic difficulties that render it effectively impossible to obtain that visa. We recommend all visa applications for Saudi Arabia be made in the United States.
Accessibility - While in Bangladesh individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. Most roads in Bangladesh do not have proper sidewalks and those that do are often in disrepair and not easily accessible by persons with disabilities. Few roads have proper crosswalks for pedestrians and those that do are large flyovers or pedestrian bridges spanning the width of the road. These flyovers are accessible only by climbing stairs and walking across; there are no ramps or elevators to assist those with disabilities. The public transportation system is overcrowded and not easily accessible by those with disabilities. Individuals with wheelchairs will find public transportation virtually impossible to use. Most public places, including buildings, hotels, and restaurants, have little to no accommodation for persons with disabilities. A handful of modern hotels built in the last few years are wheelchair accessible, but virtually no properties have been built with Americans with Disabilities Act standards in mind.
Disabled persons are legally afforded the same access to information rights as their non-disabled peers. The Ministry of Social Welfare, the Department of Social Services, and the National Foundation for the Development of the Disabled are the Bangladesh government agencies responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. Government facilities for treating persons with mental disabilities are largely inadequate. Several private initiatives existfor medical and vocational rehabilitation, as well as for employment of persons with disabilities. Several NGOs, including Handicap International, have programs focusing on helping and raising awareness of the challenges faced by the disabled.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: The general level of sanitation and health care in Bangladesh are far below U.S. and European standards. There is limited ambulance service in Bangladesh and attendants seldom are trained to provide the level of care seen in the United States. Traffic congestion and lack of modern centralized emergency services system (on par with 911 in the U.S.) makes patient transport slow and inefficient. Several hospitals in Dhaka (e.g., United, Apollo, and Square Hospitals) have emergency rooms that are equipped at the level of a community hospital, but most expatriates leave the country for all but the simplest medical procedures. Hospitals in the provinces are less well-equipped and supplied. Psychological and psychiatric services are limited throughout Bangladesh. There have been reports of counterfeit medications within the country, but medication from major pharmacies and hospitals is generally reliable. Medical evacuations to Bangkok or Singapore are often necessary for serious conditions or surgical procedures and can cost thousands of dollars. See the Medical Insurance section below for useful information.
Despite government efforts, community sanitation and public health programs are inadequate in Bangladesh. Water supplies in Bangladesh are generally not potable. Typhoid fever, cholera, infectious hepatitis, giardia, cyclospora, and bacillary and amebic dysentery are only a few of the serious diseases transmitted by impure drinking water. Bottled drinking water, especially major brands, is generally safe for consumption. Fecal-oral contamination is common; improperly prepared meat and improperly cleaned vegetables can lead to food-borne illnesses such as cysticercosis, meurocysticercosis, and campylobacteriosis plus hepatitis A, B, C, and E. Press reports indicate that fish and other raw foods are frequently treated with formalin to slow decomposition, that fruits, particularly bananas, are generally treated with chemicals to speed ripening, that milk products are adulterated with melamine, and vegetables tend to show elevated levels of arsenic due to contaminated groundwater. Washing, soaking, peeling, and thoroughly cooking food are mandatory procedures to minimize chemical, insecticide, bacterial, and parasitic contamination.
Multiple strains of influenza continue to circulate annually in Bangladesh including H1N1 influenza A pandemic strain. Peak influenza circulation occurs during the rainy season, approximately May through October. CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against the most common influenza viruses (seasonal flu). For more information about seasonal influenza, please refer to the CDC’s seasonal Flu website.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza A virus H5N1 (Bird flu) has been circulating among poultry in the country since 2007 and outbreaks continue to occur nationwide. The most recent outbreak occurred in October 2012. In response to the ongoing circulation of H5N1 in the country, the government has planned to start a pilot H5N1 vaccination program among domestic poultry. There are concerns from a human health perspective about the use of poultry vaccine which minimizes signs of illness in the birds but does not confer sterilizing immunity, as we could have silent circulation of the virus in the birds, with continued human exposure. The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) is reviewing its current surveillance platforms with a plan to increase its monitoring of H5N1 circulation among healthy looking birds sold in markets. Although avian influenza A viruses usually do not infect humans, rare cases of human infection with avian influenza A viruses have been reported, most often following direct or close contact with infected poultry. As Bangladesh continues to be affected by H5N1, it is recommended to avoid poultry farms, contact with birds in live food markets, and to avoid consumption of poultry products that are not thoroughly cooked. For information on avian influenza (bird flu), please refer to the Department of State's Avian Influenza Fact Sheet.
Any questions or concerns about influenza or other illnesses should be directed to a medical professional. Although the Embassy cannot provide medical advice or provide medical services to the public, a list of hospitals and doctors in Dhaka can be found on the Embassy website.
Dengue fever, a mosquito-borne illness, is prevalent in Dhaka and surrounding areas, in particular from October through March, but can happen at any time of year. Prevention is key, as there is no vaccine or treatment once infected. Malaria is a problem in the surrounding areas outside Dhaka. If you are planning to travel outside Dhaka, consider starting prophylaxis medication prior to travel. Japanese B encephalitis, also a mosquito-borne disease, is a problem throughout Bangladesh, although less so in Dhaka. While there is no specific treatment for Japanese encephalitis, there is a recommended vaccine available. Chikungunya was found in Bangladesh in 2008, and this mosquito-borne illness is slowly making headway throughout the country, including in Dhaka. No vaccine or specific treatment exists for Chikungunya. In all areas, use of mosquito repellent and bed nets are strongly recommended to help prevent mosquito-borne diseases.
In 2009 and 2010, there were multiple outbreaks of anthrax in rural communities in Bangladesh among persons who slaughtered sick animals. Individuals who avoid this activity are not at risk. Though a small risk still exists of consuming anthrax-infected meat, human vaccination against anthrax is not recommended. Rabies is a more serious problem, with several thousand dying yearly in Bangladesh from this endemic disease, generally passed on via bites from infected dogs. Seek prophylactic advice from your health-care practitioner before coming to Bangladesh, and seek immediate medical attention if bitten by any animal.
According to the World Health Organization, Bangladesh has also seen cases of polio, nipah virus, and Kala-Azar, (visceral leishmaniasis). Kala-Azar is a deadly disease caused by a parasitic protozoa, leishmaniadonovani, transmitted to humans by the bite of infected female sandflies, phlebotomusargentipes, which lowers immunity, causes persistent fever, anemia, liver and spleen enlargement, loss of body weight and if left untreated, kills.
Tuberculosis (TB) is a major public health problem and endemic in Bangladesh. In 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked Bangladesh seventh among the world’s 22 high-burden TB countries. The prevalence of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis is relatively low, but a recent WHO report suggests the rate of MDR-TB is increasing in the country.
You can find good information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers including detailed country-specific health information.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: You can’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Yourregular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn’t go with you when you travel, it’s a very good idea to take out another one for your trip. We strongly recommend that all travelers to Bangladesh have insurance coverage for medical evacuation. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Bangladesh is provided for general reference only, and may not apply to every location. Conditions differ around the country.
The current political situation in Bangladesh has affected road travel. The media reports political activists putting logs, large rocks, debris, and burned tires on various roads in the country to block the roads for vehicle travel. The media have reported that tourists and business travelers were stranded in Cox’s Bazar as a result of one such blockage on the Dhaka-Chittagong Highway.
Traffic in Bangladesh moves on the left, the opposite of U.S. traffic. Roads are extremely crowded, particularly in the cities, with bicycles, rickshaws, three-wheeled mini-taxis (CNGs), cars, overloaded buses, and trucks all vying for road space and right of way. Drivers are often unlicensed, aggressive, risk-taking, and poorly trained. Many vehicles, particularly large trucks and buses, are badly maintained and driven by inexperienced young men recently arrived from rural Bangladesh seeking quick employment. Exercise extreme caution when crossing streets, even in areas frequented by pedestrians. When in vehicles, use seatbelts if available, though seatbelts are not common in taxis. Helmets should always be worn on motorcycles and bicycles. Roads, including most major highways, are poorly maintained and often lack safe shoulders, have numerous potholes, sharp drop-offs, and barriers that are not sign-posted. Speed limits and other traffic laws are not commonly posted and are rarely observed by motorists in any case. Drivers should exercise extreme caution when traveling at night by road, as many vehicles do not have proper illumination and most roads are inadequately lighted or signed. Rickshaws rarely have any lighting on them at all. Travel by road without an experienced local driver or guide is not recommended.
On Bangladeshi roads, the safest driving policy is to always assume that other drivers will not respond to a traffic situation in the same way you would in the United States. On Bangladeshi roads large vehicles generally take the right-of-way. Cars, buses and trucks often run red lights and merge directly into traffic at yield points and traffic circles without stopping. Rickshaws, bicycles, and pedestrians behave only slightly more cautiously. The practice of frequently using one’s car horn or flashing high-beam headlights to announce one’s presence is the norm in all areas of Bangladesh at all times of day or night.
Road accidents, including fatal head-on collisions, are common in Bangladesh. If a serious accident occurs, or if a driver hits a pedestrian or a cow, crowds quickly gather and the behavior of the crowd is often unpredictable. In these cases, some members of the crowd may try to assist injured parties, while other individuals may seek to impose their own sense of justice on responsible parties. The vehicle and its occupants may be at risk of being attacked in such circumstances depending on who the crowd believes is at fault and what damage occurred. Such attacks may pose significant risk of injury or death to the vehicle's occupants or at least of incineration of the vehicle. It is unsafe to remain at the scene of an accident of this nature, and drivers may instead wish to seek out the nearest police station.
Travelers are strongly urged not to use public transportation, including buses, rickshaws, and CNGs due to their high accident rate and crime issues. An alternative to consider is a rental car and driver, ride a bicycle if experienced with urban cycling, or walk.
Banditry and carjacking, particularly along inter-city highways, have been known to occur but are unusual. Those using these roads should exercise particular vigilance.
Protestors and street demonstrators, especially during times of local and national elections, often use road blockage as a means of publicizing their grievances, causing severe inconvenience to travelers. Visitors should monitor local news reports for any reports of road disturbances.
RAIL: The Bangladesh passenger rail system is antiquated and overburdened by high demand, but has been generally safe to use. Some political activists have targeted the rail lines during recent civil unrest by hurling Molotov cocktails and removing rail ties from the tracks on some lines, making the trips unusually dangerous and several scheduled trips had to be cancelled. Even in calm times, foreigners are often the center of attention at many train stations because of the relatively atypical presence of foreign travelers on rail in the country. The major urban centers of Dhaka, Sylhet, Chittagong, Khulna, Rajshahi, and many other cities are connected by rail. Prices for trips are low compared to air travel. Accommodations range from clean air-conditioned first class cabins to crowded, non-AC, uncomfortable second class.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Bangladesh’s Civil Aviation Authority as not being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for the oversight of Bangladesh’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s website at FAA’s safety assessment page.
CHILDREN’S ISSUES: Please see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption, international parental child abduction and the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka information on forced marriage.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for Bangladesh dated April 12, 2013, to update the section on Threats to Safety and Security.