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I’ve been to the wonderfully chaotic, noisy, colourful and fascinating Bangladesh on several, and can vouch that getting a visa can sometimes be a confusing process. The actual process seems to be slightly different each time you apply. Here’s my advice on how to get a visa without too much stress.

Applying for a Visa with the High Commission in the UK

It recently got much easier to get a visa to visit Bangladesh. Previously you had to download and print off a Visa Application form which was quite convoluted to complete, then send it off with your original passport and certified passport photographs as well as the payment and then hope that the passport somehow made it back to you.

Bangladesh High Commission LondonIf you’re based in the UK, you can apply for a visa directly to the Bangladesh High Commission in London, Manchester or Birmingham. Don’t use one of the many mediation services available. They can be expensive and frankly don’t make the process any easier as you just end up sending your completed form, payment and passport to someone else.

Also, ensure you’re on the actual Bangladesh High Commission website when applying.  There are other sites out there that do a reasonable impression of the High Commission, not to rip you off as such, but to make you pay for a mediation service you don’t really need.

 For me, the most stressful part of this process is sending off your passport and then being without it for at least 5, possibly up to 14 days and not knowing whether it’ll be lost. The best bet is, if you can, take the application to the high commission personally. If there isn’t a high commission branch near you and you have to post it, ensure you use guaranteed and tracked postage. Do the same with the return, postage paid envelope you enclose – i.e. ensure it’s trackable.

Importantly, leave plenty of time before your trip (or any other trip that you might need a passport for) in case it is delayed and not back with you in time. On my first trip to Bangladesh, the Royal Mail post man delivered my passport back to me less than a couple of hours before I was due to leave for the airport! 

Types of Visa Available

There are different types of Visa available and I usually went for the Business Visa which requires an invitation letter from a Bangladeshi registered business, university or other organisation and also one from your own employer. 

As well as the company name, address and registration number of the company inviting you, as well as your contact there, the letter should clearly state your name, UK address, company name and passport number and the reason for your visit.

There are also student and tourist visas available if you’re not visiting for business, these should give you ample cover.

You can apply for a single entry visa or a multiple entry visas. If you know you’re going to visit several times it saves a little cost to get a multiple visit visa. The visa will appear as a full page, full colour image in your passport.

Getting a Visa On Arrival In Dhaka

Bangladesh Visa Desk in Dhaka Airport Arrivals HallThanks to recent changes, you can also now arrange to collect a visa from the airport in Dhaka, although I haven’t tried this yet. As you enter the Arrivals Hall, with the passport checking desks ahead of you, the visa counter is to your right on the back wall. The queues can be long and chaotic and there are only a couple of windows available. To be honest, I’m also wary about travelling to Bangladesh without having the visa already in my possession in case things go wrong at the airport.

It’s worth noting that workers inside the airport in Dhaka aren’t encouraged or even allowed to accept tips. So if anyone is demanding cash from you that you didn’t expect to pay, then don’t pay them. Often they look like officials with a carefully chosen similar shirt to look like a uniform and this is made more authentic in that they can be found wandering around within the airside security perimeter. One particular trick is to ask for your landing card and they re-write it and hand the new one back to you for a fee – you then see it’s exactly the same as what you’d already filled in!

USING AN AGENCY IN The UK

Another option is to use one of the many travel agencies in the larger UK cities. They will check your application and send someone to the High Commission to wait in line to submit it, then pick it up a day or so later. If you’re outside of the city or have plenty of time to go to the High Commission yourself, there’s no real gain from using this option. You also still have the issue of delivering or handing over your important passport to a stranger.  However, if you’re based in a big city and don’t want to waste a few hours queuing at the High Commission, then for the fee (the one time I used this option it cost me £25) may be worthwhile. Pick your agency carefully as there are plenty of opportunists operating in this market.

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After travelling internationally on business for multiple decades, I have decided to take early retirement. I am now fulfilling two dreams. To travel more slowly and to write my own thriller novels.

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