Local Laws and Customs in Bangladesh: Tips for Travelers

Bangladesh has many laws and customs. Here are our tips to staying safe.

Rural life in Comilla, Bangladesh Photo © Photo by Md. Golam Murshed on Unsplash

Bangladesh suffers from political instability and areas of extreme poverty, and the country has remained all but forgotten by visitors. It's important to understand the local laws and customs before you go.

Illicit drugs are easy to come by in Bangladesh, particularly anywhere that teenagers and young adults hang out. However, drug use is illegal and laws are enforced. Some bars and cafes provide hookah pipes for smoking, but are often spiked with drugs and should be avoided.

Homosexuality is illegal in Bangladesh and there are hefty penalties, including jail time.

As well as prison, lawbreakers can also be punished by caning or whipping. The death penalty is often imposed for crimes such as murder, human trafficking, abduction, rape causing death, espionage and hijacking of an aircraft.

Additionally, long delays and lack of a quality judicial system may result in long detentions until court hearings take place. Carry a photocopy of your passport and visa at all times, as well as copies of other important travel documents, so that you will have proof of identity readily available if questioned by local officials.

As with many other countries in the region, in Bangladesh the left hand is considered unclean as it is the hand that should be used for bathroom duties, removing shoes and any other "dirty" activities. "Lefties" may find this custom particularly challenging, but make sure you only use your right hand for eating or to receive or offer something to another person, otherwise you will offend.

The local Mosques are quite beautiful but are typically off-limits to non-Muslims. Certain areas inside are also off-limits to women, Muslim or not.

Before visiting or entering a Mosque, be sure to inquire with a local to determine if you are allowed inside.

Always ask before taking a picture of any religious building or structure. If you are granted access, be sure your head, arms and legs are covered and remove your shoes before entering.

Finally, when exchanging money into the Bangladeshi Taka, make certain that you receive a receipt from the money changer. Without this, it is impossible to exchange the Taka back into another currency when leaving and you'll be stuck with money you can't use anywhere else.

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