Dangers & Annoyances
Bangladesh is far from being a volatile or dangerous country, and Bangladeshi citizens are some of the most hospitable and friendly people you'll ever meet. But that said, nasty incidents do happen, sometimes without warning or anticipation. Always keep your ears to the ground and your wits about you, and avoid getting into a sticky situation if you ever sense one coming your way.
Staring & Harassment
Foreigners are still extremely rare in Bangladesh (although less so in Dhaka) and, as such, are a source of fascination for many locals. This usually manifests itself in people being extremely friendly, but it can become overly intrusive at times, particularly for female travellers. People taking photos and videos of you is something you will just have to accept, and on occasion you may find yourself being stared at by large groups of people, all eager to see what you’re doing (even if you’re actually doing very little). Sharing your food around, particularly if you’re being stared at on buses and trains, is always a good ice-breaker, but other than that you will just have to arm yourself with a great deal of patience and indifference. Getting angry will only focus greater attention on you.
The most real danger when travelling around Bangladesh is road safety, which is extremely poor, especially on intercity highways. Bus travel is, quite frankly, scary, and road deaths are all too common. Travel by train when you can, or take domestic flights if your budget allows.
Within larger towns and cities, take extra care when walking as a pedestrian because city-centre roads – and pathways – can best be described as hectic, and are often downright dangerous. Many roadside pavements are laid directly over sewer culverts so be wary of broken slabs.
Bangladesh is generally safe and few tourists experience serious crime. Pickpocketing and snatching on crowded buses and at busy markets is not as endemic as in some other Asian countries, but it does happen.
Some foreigners have been mugged, some at gunpoint, in upmarket areas of Dhaka, such as Gulshan – be careful after dark.
There have also been reports of theft committed by both touts and officials at Dhaka and Sylhet airports. Keep a very close eye on your passport and other papers and make sure luggage zips are secured, preferably with a lock.
Rickshaws present theft and mugging opportunities (keep your handbags out of sight). Women especially should be extremely careful of any taxi containing a driver and his ‘friend’.
We have had some rare reports of harassment of foreigners in the form of pushing, stone throwing and spitting, but such incidents are very uncommon.
Pollution & Illness
Pollution levels are very high in Dhaka and Chittagong and may affect people prone to allergies.
Stomach upsets are common for visitors to Bangladesh, and malaria is a serious risk in the Chittagong Hill Tracts region.
Tourism has not really established itself in Bangladesh, and neither have tourist-related scams. Generally speaking, people are incredibly honest. The most common problem is that of being over-charged, but in a non-fixed price market, this can hardly be called a scam.
There are the usual hassles with rickshaw, CNG (auto-rickshaw) and taxi drivers, though even here the level of harassment is minimal compared to some nearby countries, and in many towns it’s possible to just hop on a rickshaw without pre-negotiating a price and not suffer the consequences.
Bangladesh has a history of terrorist activity, targeted assassinations, politically motivated attacks and, sometimes, violent religious rivalry. The most recent significant attacks were in 2015, when resident foreigners were killed or shot at in places such as Dhaka and Rangpur, and bombs targeting Hindu and Shia Muslim religious events in Dhaka, Bogra and Dinajpur. Travel advisories issued by the government following these incidents have warned foreign nationals to stay away from large gatherings as well as to avoid travelling unescorted in rural areas.
When in Bangladesh, you’re quite likely to get tangled up in a hartal (strike). These can turn violent and it’s not unusual for locals who are involved in them to be killed or seriously injured as a result. In the event of a hartal, stay away from the action, ideally inside your hotel.
The Chittagong Hill Tracts is the only part of the country where there is a continuous security concern, because of an ongoing insurgency against government control of lands belonging to Jumma, Chakma and other tribal people. The problem areas here are usually out of bounds to foreign tourists, so check the situation locally before travelling to the Hill Tracts.
Government Travel Advice
The following government websites offer travel advisories and information on current hot spots.
● Australian Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (www.smarttraveller.gov.au)
● British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (www.fco.gov.uk/countryadvice)
● US State Department (http://travel.state.gov)