Dhaka is the capital and largest city of Bangladesh. It is also the second largest city (after Kolkata) in the historical region of Bengal (today's West Bengal and Bangladesh). Dhaka, located on the banks of the Buriganga River, is the financial, political, cultural and commercial centre of the country. It is comparable to other South Asian cities, such as Mumbai and Karachi. Locals call it: City of Mosques. Dhaka is also known as "Rickshaw Capital of the World" as over 400,000 cycle rickshaws running on the Dhaka streets every day.
With skyscrapers and banks, this is the economic and financial heart of the city and the country.
Home to the country's most prominent educational institution, along with its history and stories.
Frenetic, chaotic and colourful, the hazardous tangle of roads and lanes are full of historic buildings and interesting people.
From huge, multi-storey malls to frenzied street-side markets, this area is home to much of Dhaka's shopping life and high-end residential living.
The upper-class, diplomatic zone, with ritzy hotels and five star restaurants. This area is also becoming a major commercial hub in recent days.
An industrial district, also where the city's zoo, botanical gardens and World Cup stadium are located.
Mostly industrial area where most travelers first set foot, being home to the international airport.
Largely rural area, saved from urbanization by the frequent flooding.
Dhaka is a thriving, colourful and congested metropolis of some 18 million people. Given the number of people that live there, and the density they live in, Dhaka is one of the most frenetic places on Earth. The streets and rivers are filled with colourful chaos. It also plays host to the highest number of rickshaws in any city in the world, totaling around 400,000; you certainly won't miss them. Experiencing the city for the first time can often seem overwhelming.
The existence of a settlement in the area that is now Dhaka dates from the 7th century. The area was ruled by the Buddhist kingdom of Kamarupa and the Pala Empire before passing to the control of the Hindu Sena dynasty in the 9th century. The Islamic Mughal Empire soon seized control of the city and turned it into a center of trade and governance. In the years of their vigorous rule, the successive governors and princely viceroys who ruled the province adorned it with many noble monuments, mosques, tombs, fortifications and 'Katras', often surrounded with beautifully laid out gardens and pavilions. The city passed through another phase under the rule of the British, until it became the seat of the eastern division of Pakistan after Indian partitioning. The Liberation War of 1971 gave Bangladesh its independence and Dhaka was declared the country's capital.
Since then, Dhaka has been developing fast as a modern city and is the country's centre of industrial, commercial, cultural, educational and political activity. The gap between rich and poor is widening throughout the country, but it's at its most glaringly obvious here. Depending on where you start from, a thirty minute rickshaw ride can take you from impossibly crowded shantytowns near Old Dhaka to the glitzy high-class neighbourhoods of Gulshan and Banani where a meal costs more than most people earn in a week.
Motijheel is the main commercial area of the city. Dhaka's main waterfront, Sadarghat, is on the banks of the river Buriganga in Old Dhaka and is crowded with various ferries, yachts, paddle steamers, fisherman's boats and floating dhabas all bustling with activity.
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The weather is tropical - hot and very humid during the summer monsoon season (April-September) and drier and cooler in the winter (October-March). Visitors from colder countries might want to visit in the winter when temperatures are around 20C and humidity is low (around 60-70%).
Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (formerly known as Zia International Airport) (ICAO: DAC) is the primary airport serving both the city and the country. There are international flights available from most continents. Biman Bangladesh Airlines is the flag carrier of Bangladesh, and is connected to approximately 18 international destinations, including London and Rome. Although, these services change frequently due to financial issues. Most flights to Dhaka depart from Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Kolkata. There is also significant traffic from Middle Eastern cities including Muscat, Jeddah, Bahrain, Doha and Kuwait.
There are frequent services from surrounding countries. Biman operates flights to most of these. Indian carrier Jet Air has direct flights from Kolkata, Dehli and Mumbai. Pakistan International Airlines has flights from Karachi. Biman and United Airways offer flights from Kathmandu, and Druk Air has flights from Paro, Bhutan. Dragonair operates flights from Hong Kong. As of 2012, there are surprisingly no flights from Myanmar, although both governments are investigating reopening the route. A diversion via Bangkok is the shortest route to Yangon.
Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport is modern and reasonably efficient. However, excessive numbers of mosquitoes seem to inhabit the baggage reclaim area, so be sure to wear long sleeves and cover your legs and feet. Immigration can take a notoriously long time during peak hours (45 minutes plus) as the system is manual and there are only 2 lines for foreign passport holders.
Dhaka's central railway station, Kamalapur, is a hub for all regional and intercity trains within the country. Most major cities are served with 2-3 daily departures.
International trains are limited to the Maitree Express , a direct service from Kolkata, India which was reopened in 2008 hiatus of several decades. Departures from Kolkata to Dhaka are on Tuesdays and Saturdays and the reverse departs Wednesdays and Fridays. Unlike other trains in Bangladesh occupancy is quite low meaning that it can be possible to find tickets shortly before departues. Journey time is between 11-12 hours with a long wait at the border crossing. Notice that this trains terminates at Cantonment station in the northern suburbs of Dhaka.
Being the capital and geographical center of the country, Dhaka is the natural hub for the country's bus companies. There are several bus stations around Dhaka, each of them serving a different region of the country. The stations are not for the faint of heart, being extremely crowded and noisy.
- Sayedabad bus station is for buses to and from the eastern half of the country, including Sylhet Division and Chittagong Division.
- Gabtali bus station is for buses to and from the western half of the country, including Jessore, Rajshahi Division and Khulna Division.
- Mohakhali bus station is for buses to and from areas north of Dhaka, including Tangail and Mymensingh. There are occasionally services to and from cities in the north-western portion of the country, such as Bagura.
Luxury buses serve locations dotted all over the country. These private buses are air-conditioned, spacey and usually have reclinable seats. Popular operators include Green Line, Shyamoli, Silk Line and Shohagh.
They all have ticket offices around town, the most well-known being those at the Pantapath. Green Line serves many major cities, with approximate times and prices listed below:
- Chittagong (Tk 800-1200, 5-6 hours)
- Cox's Bazar (Tk 800-1800, 8-9 hours)
- Rajshahi (Tk 500-1000, 4 hours)
- Sylhet (Tk 480-900, 5 hours)
- Khulna (Tk 550-1200, 7 hours)
- Jessore (Tk 450-850, 5-6 hours)
From India, there are a number of entry points for buses. The most common method is the air-conditioned buses from Kolkata to Dhaka, via the Haridaspur/Benapole border crossing. The private bus companies listed above also run cross-border services from India. Public buses run under the label of the state-owned West Bengal Surface Transport Service Corporation (WBSTSC) and the Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC). WBSTSC and BRTC both operate buses from Kolkata every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 05:30, 08:30 and 12:30, while from Dhaka they leave Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 07:00 and 07:30. The normal journey time is around 12 hours, with a one-way fare of Indian Rs 750 or Tk 600-800 (roughly US$12-20). The journey just to the Indian border town of Haridaspur will take 2 and a half hours, with a fare of approximately Rs 86, or Tk 116.
There are no travel options from Myanmar, as the border is closed.
It is possible to cross from India via private vehicle. There are many border crossings, but the most popular is the one at Haridaspur/Benapole, located on the highway between Dhaka and Kolkata. Visa formalities take a notoriously long time.
The border with Myanmar is closed and heavily militarised with land mines.
Most ferries arrive at and leave from the port in Sadarghat of Old Dhaka. This area and the streets surrounding it are unbelievably hectic, so allow plenty of time and keep an eye on your valuables. If arriving at the port, fight your way to the left on the frontage road and then make your first right; this turns into Nawabpur Road and leads north to the hotels. Even if you aren't staying in this area, it's easier to walk several hundred meters north to catch an onward rickshaw or taxi; the ones near the port are at a constant standstill.
The Rocket Steamers (named P.S. 'Tern', 'Masud' and 'Ostrich') depart to Barisal and Khulna several times per week, leaving from Sadarghat around 6pm. To Barisal is Tk 480 and Tk 300 in first and second class respectively, while the ride to Khulna will run Tk 1010 for first class and Tk 610 for second. The Khulna trip takes 26-30 hours. Tickets should be booked at the BIWTC office in Motijheel, just east of Dilkusha Circle I. It's open until 5PM Sunday to Wednesday, until 2PM on Thursdays and closed on Fridays.
Chandpur is a second major river station, located 3-4 hours from Dhaka and 5-6 hours from Barisal.
Numerous other boats are available for short and long distances. Head to Sadarghat or Badam Tole ghat (about 1 km further west) and ask around. Tickets cannot be pre-booked and bargaining is likely necessary.
Given the plethora of all forms of transport, if you're having trouble getting a decent fare with a driver walk a few metres to the next one. Not all are out to gouge you, so better to find the honest ones and give them your business. Occasionally a driver will demand more money on arrival; the best way to deal with this is to hand over the agreed or metered fare and walk away. Make certain from the start that the driver knows where you're headed (unless you can direct him yourself) - they often have limited local knowledge, but will always say that they know where somewhere is, and take you 'round the whole city searching whilst the meter ticks. Make sure that you take a card with your hotel or hostel written on it so that you can actually get home. Having a card for the hotel with the actual address makes this a whole lot easier.
The trains in Bangladesh only operate between major regional cities. There is no suburban or metro rail system in Dhaka, although there are plans to build an elevated inner-city line by mid-2013. Due to the lack of proper public transit, Dhaka suffers from choking traffic. Often, some areas of the city can become deadlocked for a number of hours.
Cycle-rickshaws or simply, rickshaws, are the most popular form of transport, and good for short distances, mainly on side streets. They make up the bulk of the city's horrendous traffic, and charge around Tk 15 per kilometre. Negotiating a fare beforehand is essential as a foreigner. Rickshaws in wealthy areas such as Banani and Gulshan often must pay local mafia men for the privilege of servicing the high-price areas. This can sometimes mean drivers are apprehensive to take passengers to these areas. Additionally, foreigners should also be warned that rickshaws will sometimes begin the ride with a pitch to sell drugs or prostitutes. This is very rare. One or two simple, but firm, declines will generally solve the situation. If you're a woman, it's particularly inadvisable to ride around alone in rickshaws after dark; you're a slow-moving target asking for trouble from thugs and muggers. Take a yellow taxi instead.
Driving a car in the capital can be a nerve-wracking experience. Officially, cars drive on the left, although the reality can be different. Locals will often zoom down the wrong side of the road in an attempt to overcome the traffic. Traffic police monitor most intersections in the city, in an attempt to keep the traffic flowing. Many intersections have been upgraded with traffic signals, but these are often ignored by both drivers and traffic police, who will direct cars as they see fit.
There are some options for car rental, with Europcar  being the notable Western brand name. The Government's Virtual Bangladesh  website has more options. Many companies may also offer the option to rent-a-driver for a number of days; it is common for most middle to upper-class locals to have their own drivers.
Auto-rickshaws, locally known as 'CNGs' (named after compressed natural gas, their fuel source) are also abundant and have meters, which drivers can sometimes be persuaded to use. They're the cheapest way to cover longer distances; an 8km ride from Old Dhaka to Gulshan should cost around Tk 150-200. The meters start at Tk 13.50, but you'll likely have to negotiate a fare instead. The city does become very congested at times, so allow plenty of time for getting around.
Taxis ply the roads, some yellow and some black, all with meters. Black taxis start the meter at Tk 15 while yellow taxis have slightly higher standards in terms of comfort, and start at Tk 20. Black taxis are typically in notoriously poor condition and lack air conditioning. Yellow taxis are required to have air conditioning; the fleet consists mostly of Toyota Corollas, with some Mitsubishis and Hondas. The yellow taxis are also considered far safer, in comparison to black taxis and auto-rickshaws.
Buses run routes on the main roads, but are horribly crowded and noisy, signed only in Bengali and aren't likely to be of much use to travellers. The buses are also frequently involved in collisions. Save yourself a headache and take a rickshaw, or for long distances, a comfortable, air-conditioned bus or train.
Many locals of lower-classes often use bicycles as a primary form of transport. They can be useful in their ability to squeeze through tight situations, where traffic may prevent a large vehicle from moving. Some newer roads in the capital have dual bike/rickshaw lanes. Although, there is little opportunity to buy or rent a bike, plus the roads and traffic are in such bad condition that the chance of an accident is high.
Sometimes, walking may actually be the fastest way to get from point A to B. Always ensure you walk on the footpath, or if one isn't available, as far to the side of the road as possible. The road is a dangerous place in Dhaka, and many pedestrians are often injured by passive drivers. Those who are squeamish to pollution or have asthma may need to wear a mask; the air pollution from passing trucks and buses, combined with the searing heat and humidity can be overwhelming at times.
- Chawk Mosque (also Chawkbazar Shahi Mosque) in Dhaka, Bangladesh, is located in the Chowk Bazaar area of the old town of Dhaka, south of the current city centre. The mosque is built above a raised platform. The three domed mosque above the platform, now transformed into a multi-storied structure was originally a copy of Shaista Khan's another three domed mosque at the Mitford Hospital compound near the Buriganga River. Today the original building design has been lost through multiple renovations and extensions.
- Shahbaz Khan Mosque - A merchant of prince of Dhaka who built the mosque as well as his own Dargah Sharif during his lifetime in - 1086 (h).It is an Islamic architecture. Now its present condition is good. Shahbaz Khan Mosque situated in the old high court area. In 1950 the Eastern circle of the Pakistan Directorate of Archaeology took over both the Haji khwaja Shahbaj Masjid, and the adjacent square mazart. Shah baz khan built mazar,post. This mosque and tomb, constructed in 1679 by Haji khwaja Shahbaz, a rich merchant of Dhaka, remains the city’s most refined mosque.
- Star Mosque (Bengali: তারা মসজিদ; also known as Tara Masjid), is a mosque located in Armanitola area, Dhaka, Bangladesh. The mosque has ornate designs and is decorated with motifs of blue stars. It was built in the first half of the 19th century by Mirza Golam Pir (Mirza Ahmed Jan).
- The Khan Mohammad Mridha Mosque on Lalbagh road is situated less than half a kilometre west of the Lalbagh Fort. Two Persian inscriptions, one over the central archway and the other over the central Mihrab, speak of its construction during 1704–05 AD by one Khan Muhammad Mridha. The large platform is 38.10 m from north to south and 28.96 m from east to west. Its height is about 5.18 m from the ground level. Underneath the platform are vaulted rooms on all sides except the eastern side. In the eastern side, there is a stairway which ends with a gateway aligning the central doorway of the mosque proper. It is through this gateway that one can reach the top of the platform.
- Baitul Mukarram (Arabic: بيت المكرّم; Bengali: বায়তুল মুকাররম; The Holy House) is the national mosque of Bangladesh. Located at the centre of Dhaka, the mosque was completed in 1968. The mosque has a capacity of 30,000, making the 10th largest mosque in the world. However the mosque is constantly getting overcrowded. This especially occurs during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which has resulted in the Bangladeshi government having to add extensions to the mosque, thus increasing the capacity to at least 40,000.
- Binat Bibi Mosque is the earliest surviving mosque in Dhaka built in 1454 by Bakht Binat, the daughter of Marhamat. It was during the rule of the Sultan of Bengal, Nasiruddin Mahmud Shah (r. 1435–1459). The mosque is located beside the Hayat Bepari's Bridge in Narinda area.
- Sat Gambuj Mosque is located near the north-western outskirts of Dhaka in the Jafarbad area is the Sat Gambuj Mosque which illustrates a fine example of the provincial mughal style introduced in Bangladesh in the 17th Century. The mosque's most notable features are its seven bulbous domes crowning the roof and covering the main prayer hall. Probably erected by Governor Shaista Khan, the monument stands in a romantic setting on a buttressed 4.5 m high bank overlooking an extensive flood plain.
- Kartalab Khan Mosque or Begum Bazar Mosque situated in the Begum Bazar area in old Dhaka, Bangladesh, was built by Nawab Diwan Murshid Quli Khan alias Kartalab Khan in 1701-04. It is located beside the modern Jail of the city. The mosque consists of a high valuated platform, a mosque with a Dochala annexe on the north upon the western half of the platform and a Baoli or stepped well to the east of the platform.Unlike the three-domed mosques at Lalbagh Fort and Atishkhana, that is, the Khan Mohammad Mridha Mosque, it is roofed over by five Bulbous domes resting on octagonal drums. The whole mosque was once reconstructed by the Jamider of Dhaka, Mirza Golam Pir. In accordance to Murshid Quli Khan's wishes, he was buried under the entrance to this mosque.
- Ahsan Manzil (Bengali: আহসান মঞ্জিল) was the official residential palace and seat of the Dhaka Nawab Family. This magnificent building is situated at Kumartoli along the banks of the Buriganga River in Bangladesh. The construction of this palace was started in the year 1859 and was completed in 1869. It is constructed in the Indo-Saracenic Revival architecture. To preserve the cultural and history of the area, the palace became the Bangladesh National Museum on 20 September 1992.(wikipedia)
- Jatiyo Sangsad Bhaban, the National Parliament of Bangladesh, (Bengali: জাতীয় সংসদ ভবন Jatio Shôngshod Bhôbon) is the Jatiyo Sangshad or National Assembly of Bangladesh, located at Sher-e-Bangla Nagar in the Bangladeshin capital of Dhaka. Designed by architect Louis Kahn, the complex, which accommodates all Bangladesh's seven parliaments, is one of the largest legislative complexes in the world, comprising 200 acres (800,000 m²)(wikipedia)
- Sonargaon (Bengali: সোনারগাঁও; also transcribed as Sunārgāon) or Sunargaon or Suratân was the administrative center of medieval Muslim rulers of East Bengal. It became as the capital of Bengal during Isa Khan's ruling. The area falls under present-day Narayanganj District, Bangladesh. Today the name Sonargaon survives as Sonargaon Upazila in that district.(wikipedia)
- Lalbagh Fort is located on the banks of the Buriganga River on the outskirts of Dhaka, Lalbagh Fort offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of Bangladesh. This magnificent, but unfinished, 17th century Mughal palace fortress consists of a series of structures surrounded by lush lawns and cultivated gardens, complete with a large collection of statues.(Banglapedia)
- Jatiyo Smriti Soudho (National Martyrs' Memorial), Savar, Dhaka District (35km north-west of the city.). The memorial was designed by architect Moinul Hossain, and is dedicated to the sacred memory of the millions of unknown martyrs of the 1971 War of Liberation.
- The Shaheed Minar (Bengali: শহীদ মিনার Shohid Minar lit. "Martyr Monument") is a national monument in Dhaka, Bangladesh, established to commemorate those killed during the Bengali Language Movement demonstrations of 1952.
- Ramna Park (Bengali: রমনা উদ্যান Rômna Uddan) is a large park and recreation area situated at the heart of Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh from the Mughal period. This park is one of the most beautiful areas in Dhaka with lots of trees and a lake near its center.
- Baldha Garden is an enriched botanical garden which spans 3.15 acres (1.27 ha) of land located at Wari in the old part of the city of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. It has a collection of 672 species of plants. The Baldha Garden is now managed as a satellite unit of the National Botanical Garden by the Department of Forestry.
- Hatirjheel Project includes three bridges have been built across the Hatirjheel Lake along with three viaducts along the peripheral road and four overpasses on the road. Each of them is more than 15 feet high.The 302-acre site stretches between Airport Road and Rampura along Tejgaon, Gulshan, Modhubagh, Moghbazar, Badda and Ulan. The facilities here also include a theatre, viewing deck, landscaping, and park furniture and a police box.
- Chandrima Uddayan (Bengali: চন্দ্রিমা উদ্যান) is a medium sized park located at the heart of the city. The park is adjacent to the National Parliament Building of Bangladesh. The park was included in the primary design of National Parliament Building by famous Architect Louis I Kahn. It also has a lake named Crescent Lake which is popular to the locals for spending their evening times. A beautiful arched bridge connects both sides of the lake. The park also houses the mausoleum of Late President Ziaur Rahman.
Dhaka Zoo, (Bengali: ঢাকা চিড়িয়াখানা) is located in the Mirpur are of Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh. Established in 1974, the 186-acre (75 ha) Dhaka Zoo is the largest zoo in Bangladesh. It contains many native and non-native animals and wild life, and hosts about three million visitors each year.
The zoo is currently home to 2,150 animals from 134 species. The zoo exhibits 58 species of mammals, including elephants, cheetahs, rhinos, zebras, waterbucks, otters, hyenas, deer, giraffes, impala, black bears, tapirs, hippos, lions, many species of monkeys, chimpanzees, baboons, and Bengal tigers. The aviaries at the zoo house more than 1500 birds representing 91 species, including peacocks, rhea, African gray parrots, cassowary, owls, ostrich, emus, teals, finches, babblers, owls, vultures, and eagles. The two lakes at the zoo also host migratory water birds each winter. Visitors can also see 13 species of reptiles including snakes and crocodiles, and 28 species of fish.
This is a great place for spending a day. You can also enjoy Elephant-back and Horse-back rides here.
Visit the following famous places in Dhaka:
Ahsan Manzil (Bengali: আহসান মঞ্জিল) was the official residential palace and seat of the Dhaka Nawab Family. This magnificent building is situated at Kumartoli along the banks of the Buriganga River in Bangladesh. The construction of this palace was started in the year 1859 and was completed in 1869. It is constructed in the Indo-Saracenic Revival architecture. To preserve the cultural and history of the area, the palace became the Bangladesh National Museum on 20 September 1992.(wikipedia)
Jatiyo Sangsad Bhaban, the National Parliament of Bangladesh, (Bengali: জাতীয় সংসদ ভবন Jatio Shôngshod Bhôbon) is the Jatiyo Sangshad or National Assembly of Bangladesh, located at Sher-e-Bangla Nagar in the Bangladeshin capital of Dhaka. Designed by architect Louis Kahn, the complex, which accommodates all Bangladesh's seven parliaments, is one of the largest legislative complexes in the world, comprising 200 acres (800,000 m²)(wikipedia)
Sonargaon (Bengali: সোনারগাঁও; also transcribed as Sunārgāon) or Sunargaon or Suratân was the administrative center of medieval Muslim rulers of East Bengal. It became as the capital of Bengal during Isa Khan's ruling. The area falls under present-day Narayanganj District, Bangladesh. Today the name Sonargaon survives as Sonargaon Upazila in that district.(wikipedia)
Lalbagh Fort is located on the banks of the Buriganga River on the outskirts of Dhaka, Lalbagh Fort offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of Bangladesh. This magnificent, but unfinished, 17th century Mughal palace fortress consists of a series of structures surrounded by lush lawns and cultivated gardens, complete with a large collection of statues.(Banglapedia)
There are a number of amusement parks for children as well as elders in and around Dhaka City.
Shahbag Shishu Mela
Shaymoli Shishu Mela
If you go shopping ready to bargain then there are certainly bargains to be had among the bazars and markets of Dhaka. To get a feel for what things should cost in the local markets check prices in the western-style fixed price shops and then deduct 10%. If you prefer hassle free shopping then head to Bashundhara City, a huge shopping centre with more modern shops and other ameniteis you would expect to find in a mall.
- Garment seconds, Banga Bazar and Pallwell Market (BB: Gulistan area, just West of Motijheel); PM: Purana Paltan area (just beside Jonaki Cinema Hall). Many items only have minor defects, but do not meet export requirements.
- Aarong . A well known chain with several outlets around Dhaka and one in London. It is owned by BRAC (the largest Development Organisation in the world) and sells handicrafts and clothing at moderately high prices.
Dhaka has an enormous variety of food catering to all budgets. Old Dhaka is overflowing with cheap Bangladeshi food where a meal can be had from Tk 50 ($0.70), while in the upscale neighborhoods like Gulshan and Banani you can find just about any type of cuisine you can imagine - Chinese, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Greek, Mexican, and franchises such as Pizza Hut, KFC are abundant - at prices that the majority can't afford. Reservations are usually not required in most restaurants. A lot of the Buffet-style restaurants in this neighborhood have Taka: 250 to 400, fixed price menu.
Local sweets (misti/mishti) like rasogollah and golap jam/pantuya/ledikeni are excellent. To the uninitiated these are bite-sized soft milk curd balls dipped (drenched) in syrup, coming in white and red varieties. Shops throughout the town (and especially near Gulshan) sell imported condiments from the U.S., Dubai and Malaysia at a premium. Imported chocolate is especially expensive - and usually not in the best condition as it gets melted and re-solidified daily in the tropical heat. Fresh is better.
Be careful when buying food from street vendors as health and hygiene standards are not always top notch. Unlike Bangkok -- street food in Dhaka is only for locals. Foreigners should stick to larger, organized (and unfortunately a little expensive) food outlets.
There is a party network between the different expat clubs (Dutch Club, Canadian Club, Nordic Club, International Club, American Club, etc.) and some Bangladeshi clubs (Heritage, Privilege, etc.). These clubs usually require membership to enter, or befriend a member and have them sign you in. From there, you can purchase a book of tickets or a cash card and then use it to order your drinks.
Although alcohol is most easily available at the international clubs and top hotels, there are quite a few local places to find a drink for the enterprising traveller. Local bars are to be found in most neighbourhoods but can be difficult to locate due to lack of advertising. Popular brands of beer (Heineken, Carlsberg, Tuborg, Foster's etc) and major types of spirits are available at these places, and at much lower prices than at hotel bars.
You can try:
- La Diplomat at Road 20, House number 7, near Gulshan 1. Don't expect to be rubbing shoulders with any French ambassadors, however.
- The Dip, like most other Bengali bars, is a smoke-filled darkened room where many of its patrons would rather not be recognized too easily. Definitely an experience, nonetheless. Beers cost upwards of Tk 150 and "tots," which are single ounce servings of gin, vodka or whisky, are available from Tk 70 (local brands)-Tk 200. Female patrons may feel slightly uncomfortable.
There is a duty paid shop in Mohakhali (the name of the company is H. Kabir & Co., Ltd.) which is only permitted to sell alcohol to passport-bearing foreigners or their drivers who bring their passports in when they purchase. The address is 12 Abbas Garden, New Airport Road, phone +88 2988 1936-9. Their stated opening hours are from 09:30 - 16:30, and closed on Fridays and Saturdays. To get there you need to go towards the flyover as if you were going to Banani, but instead of going on to the flyover, you take the second left after it begins. You will see a small sign labelled "Abbas Garden." Turn left and tell your transport to wait while you purchase.
- North End Coffee, Kha-47-1 Pragati Sarani, Shahzadpur, North Badda (Around the corner from US Embassy, across from Cambrian College and above the DBBL ATM), ☎ 01741055597. Seven days 8am-9pm, except Tuesday closed and Friday 14:00 to 21:00. Definitely the best coffee in Dhaka. With foreign ownership, an onsite roasting machine and big huge sacks of coffee in the back, this is definitely the place to get your caffeine fix. Prices reasonable. No meals yet, just muffins and brownies. cappuccino Tk125.
There are a huge variety of options for accommodation in the city, varying from unkempt dormitory beds for only a few dollars, to huge multinational hotels that have penthouses for thousands of dollars per night.
Dhaka isn't terribly unsafe, but as in any huge city you should keep aware of your surroundings and try not to walk around at night, especially females travelling alone. There's a very large number of people living on next to nothing in the city, and while the vast majority are friendly there's undoubtedly a few that would love to help you part with some of your seemingly abundant wealth.
There has been a recent rash of incidents (as of July 2007) in which some foreigners have been targeted for bag snatchings while riding rickshaws. Often these have occurred at night, after 23:00. If you must be out after this time please do your best to leave your valuables at your friends' places or hotel and you can pick them up in the morning. The simplest way to reduce your potential loss is to not leave with valuables in the first place if you anticipate the need to travel after 23:00. The safest mode for travel for a tourist is to hire a yellow cab. These can be rented for a trip as well as by the day. Be sure to write down the license plate number.
The greatest danger probably comes from speeding buses and rickshaws - keep well alert when walking along main roads.
Being the capital, it's the area most affected during hartals, and you should do your best to keep a low profile during times of political unrest. Avoid any sort of large gatherings, even positive ones, as there's a good chance you'll become the center of attention and you probably don't want that from a group of raucous chanters.
Some places such as Mohammadpur are hot spots for drugs, narcotics, etc. Don't answer to the people along the streets.
Pollution, like most other cities in the subcontinent, is high. It's not uncommon to see people with face masks on. At the very least, you should carry a handkerchief with you to cover your mouth and nose during rickshaw rides or particularly humid days.
Internet is now widely available in all over Dhaka at Internet cafes hidden in the various shopping complexes - ask around. Tk 20-30 per hour.
CoFi 11 Cafe in Gulshan offers free high speed internet service & Real Bean Coffee to its customers, Call 01713364499 for directions.
Another one new restaurant in Mohakhali, opposite the East West University, named Newsroom Cafe - provides free Wi-Fi and Internet kiosks for their customers. Free Wi-Fi is also available in Kozmo Lounge situated in Dhanmondi.
FM Radio Stations
- Radio Foorti - 88.0 MHz
- Radio Amar - 88.4 MHz
- ABC Radio (Dhaka) - 89.2 MHz
- Radio Today - 89.6 MHz
- Bangladesh Betar (relays BBC World Service) - 100.0 MHz
- The Bangladesh Observer (English)
- The Independent (English)
- The Daily Star (English)
- The Financial Express (English)
- Naya-Diganta (Bengali)
- Dainik Shomokal (Bengali)
- Prothom-Alo (Bengali)
- Ittefaq (Bengali)
Embassies & Consulates
- Australia, 184 Gulshan Ave, Gulshan-2, ☎ +880 2 881 3105, fax: +880 2 881 1125, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Su-Th 8AM-4PM (lunch break 12:30PM-1PM).
- China, Plot 2 $ 4, Rd 3, Block-1, Baridara, ☎ +880 2 882 48 62, fax: +880 2 8823004, e-mail: email@example.com.
- Denmark, Road 51, House 1, Gulshan 2, ☎ +880 2 882 2499/1799, fax: +880 2 882 3638, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Greece, Reliance Insurance Ltd, 11th Floor, 8 Rajuk Avenue, ☎ +880 2 955 7220, fax: +880 2 956 3297.
- The Ashulia Lake - North of Dhaka
- Bogra - 220 km away from Dhaka, the capital of ancient Bangla
- Comilla - World War Cemetery, Kotbari Baddha Bihar, BIRD, Salban Bihar
- Cox's Bazar - World's longest sea beach.
- Gopalgonj - birthplace of the father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
- Rejendrapur National Park — 40 km north of Dhaka, vast (1,600 acres) national recreational forest with much wildlife
- Sundarbans, Satkhira, 350km from Dhaka.
- Sonargaon If you feel the need to escape and take a break from the chaos of Dhaka, Songargon, about 29 km. from Dhaka offers you the chance to do just that. The town has a few worthwhile sights that are separated from one another and whilst going from sight to sight, you have the opportunity experience rural life and take in the less chaotic surroundings.
- Hajiganj is another place of historical interest, situated about 10 kms from Mograpara bus stand. However, the above mentioned places usually take up most of the day and it is best to return to Dhaka before evening. Sonargaon and Hajiganj may be combined into a single day if one sets off very early from Dhaka.