Safety and security
The Bangladesh police are currently conducting major anti drugs and alcohol operations across the country. At time 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 addition to long-standing political tensions between the government and opposition in Bangladesh, the current Rohingya refugee crisis may lead to protests and demonstrations in Dhaka, including in the Gulshan and Baridhara areas of the city.
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.
On 17 July 2018, 3 crude improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were thrown into a crowd in Rajshahi city, northwest of Dhaka, during a local political rally. Media reports suggest 3 to 5 people were injured.
Be vigilant at all times. If you see a demonstration developing, or are in a situation in which you feel unsafe, move away to a place of safety. Stay away from large gatherings, and avoid political offices and rallies. If you’re travelling during a hartal (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. 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 Burma since August 2017, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees have arrived in the south-east of Bangladesh, close to the border with Burma. 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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. Trains have been actively targeted and derailed during the current unrest.
On some trains, first class compartments may be lockable. Make sure the compartment door is locked if you are travelling overnight. For further information see the Bangladesh railways website.
Sea and river travel
River and sea ferries are often dangerously overcrowded, particularly in the days around religious festivals and other holidays. There have been a number of serious accidents in Bangladesh and capsizing is common. Take care if you use the ferries.
There are frequent acts of piracy in and around Bangladeshi waters.