How Safe Is Bangladesh For A Tourist?
You have put your mind to experiencing colorful tribal life, long sea beaches, centuries’ old archeological sites, home of the Royal Bengal Tiger, the largest tea gardens, and interesting riverine life in Bangladesh but have safety concerns about this foreign country.
Your concerns are reasonable since many Governments warn their people about potential treats in this country. Here are the standard measures everyone should take when traveling to Bangladesh.
To enter Bangladesh, you need a valid passport, visa and onward/return ticket. Airport visas (landing permits) used to be available but are not anymore.
For the time being, Bangladesh is under a state of emergency. The current military regime has promised to keep the elections until the end of 2008. The security situation in the country is fluid, and tourists should check with their embassies for the latest information.
You should be wary of spontaneous demonstrations as a response to world events or local developments. Although demonstrations, political activities nationwide strikes are banned during the state of emergency, the tourists should stay up-to-date with media coverage of local events and be aware of their surroundings at all times. If demonstrations do occur (and there have been some round the national mosque), avoid these areas.
There have been terrorists’ attacks in this country before and there is a warning of the potential violent activities occurring again.
Tourists are advised against traveling to Khagrachari, Rangamati and Bandarban Hill Tracts districts (collectively known as the Chittagong Hill Tracts) due to famous kidnapping and other politically motivated violence especially toward the Westerners. Foreigners traveling in the Chittagong Hill Tracts are required to register with local authorities.
Urban crime is often conducted by individuals or groups and usually includes fraud, theft and burglary (home and auto). Thieves, often armed and operating in teams, prey upon tourists travelling in rickshaws (a popular mode of transport), taxis and CNGs (motorised rickshaws, also known as baby taxis).
Incidents of crime and levels of violence are higher in low-income residential and congested commercial areas, but are unexpectedly rising in the wealthier areas as well.
Tourists are advised not to walk alone after dark, carry large sums of money and expensive jewelry. Police are generally responsive to reports of crimes against the Westerners, so make sure you report any incidence.
Being a riverine country, a wide network of waterways is used for public transportation in Bangladesh. Ferries and other boats are often used as means of public transport. Because they are usually overloaded, there is a high risk of accidents when using ferries, especially in the monsoon season from May to October or when encountering thunderstorms or wind gusts that often arise unpredictably.
When in Bangladesh, be aware of the local laws because they do apply to you, no matter how harsh and different they may be to the ones in your country. By
violating Bangladeshi laws, you may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Bangladesh are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime.
Standards of dress and behaviour are conservative in Bangladesh and you should take care not to offend.
People do not wear shorts and all women wear scarves around the necks and shoulders. Public displays of affection are not socially acceptable while homosexual acts are illegal and are facing imprisonment.
Taking out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs is advised.
Food and Water
Make sure you boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Ask around which bottled water is safe since there is a common allegation that different brands of bottled water marketed in the country are tap water, plain and simple. The water is not even boiled and is found to contain coliform bacteria. This is a fraud which endangers the health of hundreds of thousands of people.
Do not swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to certain water-borne parasites. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhea.
Tattoos and body painting
Do not get temporary ‘black henna’ tattoos or body paintings while in Bangladesh since they often contain a dye that can cause serious skin reactions and permanent allergies.
Current widespread outbreaks of avian influenza in poultry and other birds have been reported in Bangladesh. Although there has only been one report of human case of avian influenza, the current outbreaks may pose a risk to human health due to the possibility of contact with infected birds.
Tourists’ Experience in Bangladesh
Personal experiences of people who had visited Bangladesh is positive. Their experience included helpful and kind people and no security issues of any kind.
Since this is a developing country, one of the poorest in Asia, you should not expect to find facilities from a fancy travel brochure. Tourist facilities outside major cities and tourist areas are minimal
As anywhere in the world, things can happen without any warning, but most people had no problems. There is many police on the streets and no threats against tourists are made.
Hospitality and generosity of the Bangladeshi people is great and everyone was willing to come to your assistance, without the expectations of a reward.
Just like when traveling elsewhere, make sure you have checked all the things from our list. You have your valid password with a visa, you have bought travel insurance, you have asked about the current political and social situation and you are ready to go. Make sure you obey the local laws, practice all the safety standards related to food and drinks and put on a happy smile. Enjoy your journey to Bangladesh!