Correct as of January 2020
The internet is full of anecdotes and cautionary tales when it comes to getting visas for different countries with the biggest question often being whether you need to obtain it in advance or whether you can get a visa on arrival.
In Bangladesh the answer is, as always, ‘it depends’. Select countries get visa exemption for 90 days, EU citizens can get 30 days on arrival as can a number of other passport holders. In other words: Wikitravel is your friend!
As a UK passport holder, I was eligible for the visa on arrival at Dhaka airport and that was my plan. Here’s how I did it:
Before you go: Get some cash and get your documents together
Often at immigration counters around the world you’re not asked for half of the documents you actually bring, but it’s better safe than sorry! Alongside your passport you might need:
- Proof of return flight
- Proof of hotel booking
As for money, It’s $51 dollars for the visa: $50 + 7 BDT VAT. 7 BDT = $0.08, but you’re not getting any change from that, so it’s rounded up to 51. I got exact change before my flight from Guangzhou airport, although according to Wikitravel they do give change in taka to a decent exchange rate. You can also pay in local currency too, but there are no ATMs on that side of immigration so it might be a struggle to get hold of some.
Step 1: Pay
Once you get into arrivals you’ll see the visa on arrival desks to your right. The first step is to go to the cashier window and pay your fees, then you’ll be given a receipt. Simple enough.
Step 2: Fill out your arrival card and application
Again, simple enough. Make sure you have a pen handy and there aren’t many knocking about. In the end I had to borrow one from a security guard!
Step 3: Go to the visa counter
This step comes with the added caveat of ‘Get your elbows ready if you’ve just come off a flight full of Chinese businessmen’. Seriously, the amount of queue jumping and bribes being handed over for preferential treatment was all a bit much for a reserved Englishman!
Once at the counter it’s just a case of handing over your passport, documents and answering a few questions. The officer dealing with my application was a friendly chap (I’ll let his comment about me looking like Vin Diesel slide), however there seemed to be a bit of a good cop/bad cop dynamic going on between him and his colleague.
I was asked by Good Cop how long I wanted on my visa, which took me by surprise and it’s usually just a case of taking what you’re given! I replied that I wanted the standard 30 day tourist visa. That’s when Bad Cop aggressively took over:
BC: Why you want 30 days?
Me: I’m a tourist.
BC: Tourists don’t get 30 days.
Me: But it says on the internet…
BC: Where you from?
BC: Where you come from?
BC: Why you were in China?
Me: I live there.
BC: Why you live in China?
Me: I work at a university.
BC: Which university you work at?
Me: *Says name of university*.
Et voila! My passport was stamped and I got the 30 day visa I wanted. I’m not sure whether my workplace’s reputation has made it all the way to Bangladesh, but it bizarrely seemed to help my case.
It could have been less stressful, but in hindsight I suppose it kind of set me up for what was to follow in Bangladesh!