Special Travel Circumstances in Bangladesh

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 ustc-dhaka@state.gov.

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.

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You are responsible for ensuring that you meet and comply with foreign entry requirements, health requirements and that you possess the appropriate travel documents. Information provided is subject to change without notice. One should confirm content prior to traveling from other reliable sources. Information published on this website may contain errors. You travel at your own risk and no warranties or guarantees are provided by us.

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