Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Embassy Dhaka does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED DHAKA AS BEING A HIGH-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Please review OSAC’s Bangladesh-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.
Financial scams, vehicle thefts, and petty drug crimes comprise the majority of criminal activity in Dhaka and other major cities in Bangladesh. There is no indication that foreigners have been or are being targeted because of their nationality.
Homicides, sexual assaults, robberies, and residential break-ins occur with regular frequency but do not exceed average levels of major cities in the U.S. Violent crime tends to be situational with the perpetrators having some level of familiarity with their victims (as opposed to random violent criminal acts).
Vehicle theft and break-ins occur.
Cargo theft can be mitigated by utilizing closed, locked containers to transport goods.
Business travelers should exercise caution with investment schemes or property transactions.
Cybersecurity intrusions and credit/debit card fraud is not unusually high. Online shopping, banking, proprietary business work or other sensitive activities should not be done on unsecured or public wireless networks (at airports, restaurants, cafes). Publicly accessible computers (hotel business centers, libraries, cyber cafes) should also be avoided.
Other Areas of Concern
The government is sensitive to travel in the Chittagong Hills Tracts area in the east. Difficult land use and ethnic issues persist between the government and indigenous persons. If you travel in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, you must register with local authorities and you should exercise extreme caution.
Regional travel is not difficult to facilitate provided documents and permissions are in place prior to travel.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Road conditions and quality varies throughout Bangladesh. Most roads are generally passable; however, drivers should exercise extra caution regarding speed. Roads tend to have many users: pedestrians, farm animals, rickshaws, bicyclists, motorcycles, scooters, and delivery carts. Motorists must navigate roads safely with these users while paying attention to road quality, which can range from good to poor.
There is very little enforcement of traffic laws, which leads to daily traffic jams and overall gridlock in urban areas. Drivers must be vigilant, aware, and patient. It is not uncommon to see vehicles traveling the wrong way or commuters hanging out of buses.
Night-time driving outside of urban areas is characterized by low visibility due to the lack of roadside lighting. Fog can be a barrier to visibility, and drivers are at risk of not being able to detect pedestrians and animals at night. The lack of reflective clothing and signage can leave a driver little/no time to react.
Vehicular accidents are often fatal at high speeds. Many occupants of vehicles do not utilize seat belts, and drivers tend to travel at excessive speeds. Scenes of vehicular accidents can become violent, even fatal, as bystanders/related parties may take sides with regard to fault. Vehicle transportation accidents represent an ever-present threat to business goods as they are moved throughout the country.
Public Transportation Conditions
Use of public transportation (buses, taxis, rickshaws, motorized rickshaws ("CNGs")) can be hazardous. Safety standards are not well enforced, and passengers alone in taxis and rickshaws are often targets of crime.
The railway and river ferry are two other forms of public transportation commonly used by Bangladeshis.
The railway system is often overcrowded with Bangladeshis frequently riding on top of the train. The railway lines are occasionally targeted for sabotage and derailment during political unrest as a means of enforcing hartals (general nationwide strikes).
Water ferries and boats are also often overcrowded and do not necessarily have sufficient/any safety standards. There have been several reports of ferries sinking due to weather, overcrowding, and/or unsafe conditions.
Arriving and departing the international airport in Dhaka can be chaotic and intimidating for a less-seasoned traveler. Long lines at immigration and delays in getting luggage are common. RSO recommends that travelers decline help from anyone offering assistance unless it has been pre-arranged and coordinated (by the traveler’s company or a travel expeditor). RSO also recommends that travelers pre-arrange transportation from the airport from their destination.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government’s Civil Aviation Authority as not being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Bangladesh’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED DHAKA AS BEING A HIGH-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
Some elements within Bangladeshi groups may be associated with transnational terrorist groups (al-Qa’ida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIL/Da’esh)). There is a real, credible threat from terrorism, as multiple transnational terrorist groups claim credit for a series of assaults against various targets. Since September 2015, Bangladesh has experienced a series of violent attacks, including high-profile murders of two foreign nationals and bombs/other attacks against security forces and religious minorities (Shias, Ahmadis, Hindus, Christians).
The Holey Artisan Bakery restaurant attack on July 1, 2016, was the most sophisticated attack to date; 20 foreigners, including three students from American universities, were murdered.
Since January 2015, AQIS and its domestic affiliate Ansar al Islam (AI) have claimed responsibility for seven terrorist attacks, most in Dhaka.
ISIL claimed credit for many of these attacks, including that of July 1; however, AQIS has claimed responsibility for a series of threats and terrorist attacks targeting writers, publishers, and others in the media, including the murder of a U.S. citizen blogger. ISIL- and/or AQIS-claimed terrorist incidents have taken place nationwide, and most of the country’s administrative divisions have played host to at least one attack. Extremists have mostly used crude tactics, generally involving knives/machetes; however, pistols/suicide vest have also been used.
Even before al-Qa’ida officially announced the formation of its new branch in September 2014, Bangladeshi groups like AI—formerly known as Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT)—had been killing secular writers and those critical of religion, on behalf of al-Qa’ida. AI started to refer to itself as the Bangladeshi wing of AQIS in mid-2015. AQ’s focus on Bangladesh and its championing the killing of secular bloggers likely reinvigorated ABT. In April 2016, Bangladeshi media reported that an individual who previously belonged to another domestic militant group, Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), was the connection between AI and AQIS, providing Internet-based support to AI. While he was killed in a police encounter in 2015, others are thought to have taken his place, continuing the connection. In December 2015, al-Qa’ida-linked media wing “Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF)” announced a merger with ABT that produced the rebranded GIMF Bangla Team, whose goal was to focus on Bangladesh and the “productions and translations of visual releases, audio statements, and messages into Bengali.” In January 2016, GIMF Bangla Team published tallies of the attacks claimed by AQIS from January 2013-October 2015 in a “Timeline of the Assassinations of the Blasphemers in Bangladesh.”
On April 25, 2016, an employee at the U.S. Embassy was killed at his home along with a friend by AQIS/ABT.
ISIL formally announced its foothold in Bangladesh in a November 2015 issue of Dabiq. Bangladesh featured subsequently in the magazine, as it is seen as a strategic operations base for establishing a caliphate and to facilitate attacks in India, a symbolic and important target for ISIL. Dabiq and social-media sources praise attacks in Bangladesh, boasting about the reaction from foreign governments and the private sector, while promising further attacks. And as ISIL starts to lose its foothold in Mosul, Iraq, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi has included Bangladesh in his communications, telling ISIL members to “champion your brothers in…Bangladesh, and everywhere.”
The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to concerns about the ongoing potential for extremist violence in Bangladesh. U.S. citizens who travel to Bangladesh are urged to exercise appropriate caution and maintain a high level of vigilance in light of recent violent attacks. Although thousands of U.S. citizens visit each year without incident, U.S. citizens residing in or traveling to Bangladesh are urged to exercise caution while in the country. The U.S. government assesses that the terrorist threat remains real and credible, and further attacks are possible.
Anti-Western terrorist groups, some on the U.S. government’s list of foreign terrorist organizations, are active in Bangladesh, including: Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami/Bangladesh (HUJI-B), Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh, Ansar al-Islam, and Ansarullah Bangla Team. Americans have not been specifically targeted for terrorist activity, but there is a terrorist threat of attack against Westerners in Bangladesh. On September 28, 2015, and in subsequent messages, the U.S. Embassy warned that a terrorist attack could occur against Westerners, including attacks against large gatherings of foreigners at international hotels.
- There have been public claims of responsibility by ISIL for the September 28 killing of an Italian national, the October 3 killing of a Japanese national, and the October 24 bombing of a Shia Muslim religious procession.
ISIL threatened to continue “discovering security gaps and holes” to target “expats, tourists, diplomats, garment buyers, missionaries, [and] sports teams” in Bangladesh.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED DHAKA AS BEING A HIGH-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Political parties and other organizations frequently organize general strikes (hartals) to disrupt or shut down services. Demonstrations sometimes lead to violent clashes resulting in injuries, deaths, property damage, blocked highways, and sabotaged trains/railways. Participants throw rocks, debris, and small homemade explosive devices. Security forces use tear gas and other crowd control measures, including firearms with rubber bullets, against demonstrators.
In times of demonstrations, national strikes, or elections, avoid Road 86 in the Gulshan-2 area of Dhaka, as one of the major national political party’s headquarters is located there. Take particular precaution against exposed movement during hours of darkness in the vicinity of Gulshan-2 Circle (DIT-2). Avoid Naya Paltan area in Dhaka, Baitul Mukarram Mosque (National Mosque), Muktangan (bordered by Baitul Mukarram Mosque to the east, the General Post Office (GPO) to the south, the Secretariat to the West, and Topkhana Road to the North), and Topkhana-Motijheel Road because political rallies can occur at these locations.
The majority of the population follows Islam. Recent extremist attacks on secular writers, religious minorities, and foreigners are a worrying development at odds with the country’s history of moderation and tolerance. Religious/ethnic violence has been directed toward minority groups, including Hindus and Buddhists.
On October 30, 2016 attacks against Hindus left more than 100 injured and several homeless after 15 temples and 200 homes were destroyed as a result of a Facebook rumor.
Between January and September 2016, there were 20 fatal attacks on religious minorities (Buddhist, Christians, Shia, Hindus) with machetes by ISIL, according to The Daily Star.
- These include the stabbing of three Christians in their home on December 10, 2015, a Christian priest killed by JMB in Pabna on October of 2015, and a suicide bombing of an Ahmadi congregation on December 25, 2015 in Bagmara leaving three injured.
- Also, in 2015, extremist groups attacked and murdered four secular bloggers, including a U.S. citizen.
Bangladesh, particularly Dhaka, is one of the most seismically vulnerable regions in the world. For more information, please see OSAC’s Report “Earthquake Preparedness in the Subcontinent.”
Widespread flooding is a constant threat with substantial flood events and damage occurring in previous years. The government is proactive in addressing these issues but does not have proper infrastructure and material resources to deal with large-scale catastrophes.
Industrial accidents are an issue, with the most prominent incident occurring in April 2013, when a building housing commercial and manufacturing operations collapsed, killing over 1,400 people. International buyers of ready-made garments have been collaborating with the government to address worker safety issues and to certify manufacturers for compliance with building and fire safety standards.
Personal Identity Concerns
Although homosexuality is illegal, arrests for these offenses are rare and usually only made after a complaint is filed by a third party. Open displays of homosexual relationships will be met with public disapproval.
Drug-related crimes do not often affect those involved in legal activity; however, punishments can be harsh for those involved in the use, possession, or distribution of illegal drugs. “Yaba” is an illegal methamphetamine.
U.S. citizens are advised against traveling to the Khagrachari, Rangamati, and Bandarban Hill Tracts districts (collectively known as the Chittagong Hill Tracts) due to kidnappings and other security incidents. Vetting of personnel and proper personal security procedures remain keys to avoiding kidnapping.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
If harassed or detained by the local police authorities, contact the U.S. Embassy, Dhaka (Tel:+88 02 5566-2000) and ask the operator to connect you to American Citizen Services.
Local police telephone numbers
Gulshan - +88 02 989-5826
Vatara - +88 02 989-7438
Badda - +88 02 988-2652
Foreigner’s help line - +88 01841 774968
Crime Victim Assistance
Victims of crime can seek information and assistance from the “National Helpline Centre for Violence against Women and Children,” which offers a toll-free, 24-hour/day, 7-day/week number: 10921. Information provided is confidential. More information can be found on the National Helpline website. Their email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. Call center staff are trained to provide information on local victim’s assistance resources (hospitals, shelters, police contacts) in Bangla and English.
The Bangladesh Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs also supports “One-stop Crisis Centers (OCC)” located at eight division and large city hospitals and 60 crisis “cells” located at smaller clinics. Services provided at OCC facilities include medical treatment, counseling, and legal advice and are provided free of charge.
Police have metropolitan and rural stations, and several branches: Special Branch, Detective Branch, Criminal Investigation Division, SWAT, and Forensics.
Local medical services may not meet Western standards.
Contact Information for Available Medical Services
Apollo Hospital: Plot: 81, Block: E, Bashundhara R/A, Dhaka 1229, Bangladesh; Central PABX: +88 02 841661-5; Ambulance: +88 01714 090000; Emergency Hotline: 10678; Appointment Center: +88 02 884-5242, +88 01729-276556, +88 01195-276556
United Hospital: Plot 15 Road No 71, Dhaka 1212, Bangladesh; Hotline: 10666; Ambulance: +88 02 883-6000 Ext. 8066; Emergency: +88 01914-001234, +88 02 883-6000 Ext. 8066; Appointment Center: +88 02 883-6000
Available Air Ambulance Services
International SOS based in Singapore: +65 6338 7800
It is recommended that travelers have some form of medical/evacuation insurance in place prior to arrival or have a plan in case there is a medical emergency.
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Bangladesh.
OSAC Country Council Information
The Dhaka Country Council currently meets four times a year and has approximately 75 members. Please contact OSAC’s South and Central Asia team with any questions or to join. The Embassy Point of Contact is ARSO Wil Vaughn at +88 02 5566 2000.
U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information
Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
U.S. Embassy Dhaka
Madani Avenue, Baridhara, Dhaka, Bangladesh 1212
Hours of Operation: Sun-Thurs, 0800-1630
Embassy Contact Numbers
Embassy: +88 02 5566-2000
In an emergency, press “0” and ask for the duty officer.
Review country-specific information at the U.S. Department of State’s website where you can find current Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and the Worldwide Caution including Country Specific Information for Bangladesh.
We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Bangladesh enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the U.S. Embassy or Consulate to contact you in an emergency. If you do not have Internet access, enroll directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Bangladesh Country Information Sheet