Traffic and Road Conditions in Bangladesh

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.

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