I won’t lie to you – once you have visited over 100 countries, the visa process gets harder and harder. Unless of course you have made sure that your early travels were all to the toughest visa countries to get into, but in most cases we are leaving the tough ones out in the beginning. I have looked at the countries I haven’t yet been to and there are some beasts to negotiate – Angola, Eritrea, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia. While the moment you hold a visa in your hand is amazing, the process to get in can be infuriating and involves some nervous, patient waiting.
I’ve had quite a few visa mis-haps and refusals down the years including twice being refused for Suriname (eventually got in and now been 3 times!), three times for Algeria (eventually given a transit visa for 17 hours), load of rejections for Sealand, once for the Kingdom of Elleore and once for Singapore. It’s a killer to be refused entry to a country when we travel – it’s actually one of the lowest moments for me on my journeys. So hopefully these guides will help you all along your way. First up – Bangladesh is not in the South East Asia Lonely Planet. This is a good thing. What it means is that Myanmar and Laos become popular and touristic, but Bangladesh doesn’t have that appeal just yet so you’ll want to head there to explore it.
Parts of Bangladesh are still completely untouched by travellers and it’s a true country to test your backpacking nerves. First up though – getting a tourist visa can be really tricky, especially on the road. Getting it in your home country is the best option, but if you travel all the time like myself, then you’ll need to head to a Bangladesh Embassy abroad to get your visa.
Do you need a Tourist Visa to Visit Bangladesh?
Sadly the information online about this topic is few and far between and only a few of my friends have been to Bangladesh. It is also not well covered on travel blogs, so I asked my friends if they got visas in advance and they all did. One friend got his in Dublin, Ireland before the trip, another got theirs in Bangkok. I heard a story about someone backpacking in India who had to post their passport back to Dublin to secure their Bangladesh visa as the Embassy in India refused to issue it. Also Wikipedia and a few other sites tell you that British, Australian and Irish passports can get a visa on arrival at Dhaka international airport, but not at the land borders. I wasn’t risking any of this, so I phoned the Bangladesh Consulate in Hong Kong to find out. You need a visa in advance which makes sense in so many ways – it will avoid any questioning or delays on arrival and in the worst case scenario a rejection at an airport or land border.
So I headed to the Embassy in Hong Kong to get my visa sorted. I’ve used Hong Kong as a good base for getting visas and indeed, I was able to sort out all of these visas in Hong Kong:
1. China Visa
2. Hong Kong Working Holiday Visa
3. Hong Kong Working Visa
4. Vietnam Visa
5. Myanmar Visa
6. North Korea Visa
7. Bangladesh Visa
Here is a full guide on how to get a Bangladesh Visa in Hong Kong.
How to get to the Bangladesh Embassy in Hong Kong
OK so it’s actually a Consulate rather than an embassy for Bangladesh in Hong Kong. It’s located in Causeway Bay. From the Causeway Bay MTR station, take Exit C which brings you out onto Lockhart Road.
Look across the road and slightly to the right is the Bangladesh Consulate. It’s inside a shopping centre called Kyoto Plaza at numbers 491 – 499 Lockhart Road. Take a lift up to the 13th floor and you’ll see the Consulate there. I headed early morning at 8.50 am and there was no queue for the lifts going up. There are two lifts.
What are the Opening Hours for the Bangladesh Consulate in Hong Kong?
You will need to check in closer to the time you’re applying as this is always changing and some days it’s completely closed (for example a few days after I went, it was closed for a national holiday). But in general the visa application time is from 9 am until 12.30 pm and the visa collection time is in the afternoon from 3 – 5 pm.
If you know it is open the day you are going, get there for 8.45am so you will be one of the first ones to be seen, if not the first one. I always head to Embassies as soon as they open – no point in joining queues or risking running out of time for getting the visa. So all you need to do is:
1. Check it’s open the day you want and go and
2. Go there just before it opens (around 8.45 am)
What do you need to get a Bangladesh Visa in Hong Kong?
I’m writing about those with a British or Irish passport here, so here’s exactly what I needed to get a Single Entry Tourist Visa for Bangladesh (this would apply to most nationalities however don’t bank on it please). You need these 10 things from the checklist:
1. Your Hong Kong ID card copy (valid employment HK visa should also be submitted for those that are not HK permanent residents). For Taiwanese applying here, bring your Taiwan ID and copy. I am not sure about Macanese passport holders, but I’d assume it’s the same.
2. Your flight tickets (this is essential – so if you plan to go overland into Bangladesh, you will still need to book flights in and out, and then cancel them later. This is a pain for backpackers who don’t want to fly, but it’s the rules). I was flying in to Dhaka and out of Chittagong so I had no qualms about this.
3. Your bank statement with sufficient funds and within the current month.
4. Proof of your hotel or accommodation booking for Bangladesh. Again if you really don’t want to do this, then book a hotel on Booking.com without paying a deposit and using an old redundant credit card and print the confirmation. You can cancel it later if you want to stay elsewhere or Couchsurf. But for the visa you’ll need the hotel reservation. An alternative might be if you have an invitation letter from someone in Bangladesh.
5. A letter from your employer permitting the vacation or leave, signed and dated. (Again this can be a pain, but it’s the rules so do it).
6. One passport sized colour photo (Taiwanese need 2 photos – I assume this is to send one full copy to the Taiwanese Consulate, but I’m not sure).
7. One completed and signed application form, with this you have two options
– you can download it and print it in advance and fill it in so it’s already all filled in for them when you get there. Please note that the address in the downloaded version is incorrect – it still their old address in Wan Chai on it.
– you can fill it in when you get there – they have a desk and two settees
The application form is fairly standard – if you are used to visa applications like me, you’ll have it filled in within a few minutes. No issues whatsoever.
8. Your passport (it’s a given of course – make sure you don’t have any proof of being in Israel, you have spare pages in the passport and that the passport is valid for a further 6 months minimum) and a photocopy of your passport.
9. Proof of previous visas or visits to Bangladesh. This didn’t apply to me – it was my first time.
10. Your payment (a single entry tourist visa cost me 315 Hong Kong Dollars on an Irish passport in August 2015). This varies from nationality to nationality.
How Long Does It Take to get a Bangladesh Visa in Hong Kong?
Generally it takes 4-5 days, and they mean 4-5 working days. So head there on the Monday morning and you’ll have it by the Friday afternoon. Unless they are closed or have some special event on, they may vary this, but in general allow yourself 2 working days at least. There was a rude American dude when I went and he kept asking for his visa the next day even though he had no proof of flights. You can pay extra for an urgent visa and probably get it next day or within 2 days – I didn’t as I had time to play with. When you pay for the visa, they give you a confirmation slip with the date for collection on it. They keep your passport and all the documents.
Collecting your Bangladesh Visa
On the 18th August I headed to the Bangladesh Consulate in Hong Kong to collect my visa. I handed in the confirmation slip and they give you your passport back as well as a receipt. I got a single entry tourist visa which permits a 60 day stay, but I only stayed for a week. You must enter the country within 3 months, however as you had to book your flights to secure the visa, this is a given.
Is there anything else to know about how to get a Bangladesh Visa in Hong Kong?
I’ve covered everything you need here I believe (in terms of a tourist visa at least). Where the embassy is, how to get there, what you will need and the costs at the time of writing. Just be aware that it is quite a difficult visa to get outside of your home country, so be ready for lots of visits to the library/internet cafe for printing and photocopying. And make sure you check the opening times and days before you do it. Adhere to the 10 points and you will be fine.
I look forward to writing about my adventure in Bangladesh.