The People's Republic of Bangladesh (Bengali: গণপ্রজাতন্ত্রী বাংলাদেশ, Gônôprôjatôntri Bangladesh) is a nation in South Asia, on the edge of the Indian subcontinent. It is nearly completely surrounded by India, but it also has a small land border with Myanmar.
Bangladesh is one of the most homogenous countries in the world; Bengalis make up 98% of the population, and the country is believed to have the world's highest population density. The vast majority of Bengalis (nearly 90%) in Bangladesh are Sunni Muslims and the country has one of the largest Muslim populations the world.
The country is endowed with pristine beaches, numerous archaeological sites, bustling markets, numerous sites of religious importance, forests, delicious food, and more importantly, hospitable and friendly people. There's plenty to do in this small, densely populated country.
Bangladesh is a very small country, with 8 administrative divisions:
|Dhaka Division |
Home to the capital city, jute, and rice paddies.
|Chittagong Division |
A picturesque hinterland of large hills, forests, and beaches.
|Rajshahi Division |
Known for its silk, mangoes, and dozens of archaeological ruins.
|Khulna Division |
A relaxing, slow paced area; home of the Sundarbans.
|Sylhet Division |
Home to endless rolling tea estates and beautiful natural scenery.
|Barisal Division |
The land of rivers, paddies, and green.
|Rangpur Division |
Temples, culture, and a rural lifestyle.
|Mymensingh Division |
Split from the northern part of Dhaka division in 2015. Largest university in South Asia, culture, ethnic minor groups and a rural lifestyle.
- 1 Dhaka - The capital city of the country and a booming metropolis.
- 2 Barisal - Southern city famous for growing paddy, floating markets and many rivers, best reached by a slow-paced and relaxing boat ride on the Rocket Steamer.
- 3 Chittagong - A bustling commercial centre and the second largest international shipping port in the country just after Payra port.
- 4 Jessore - A small town famous for Gur which is a form of cake-like molasses produced from the extract of date trees.
- 5 Khulna - Located on the Rupsha river, famous for shrimp and a starting point for journeys into the Sundarbans.
- 6 Mymensingh - A historic city located by the side of river Brahmaputa. It has got a rich cultural and political history dating back more than 200 years.
- 7 Rajshahi - The silk city.
- 8 Rangpur - Important city in the north-west, with agriculture and trade.
- 9 Sylhet - The largest city in the northeast, known for the shrine of Sufi saint Hazrat Shahjalal, one of the holiest sites in the country.
In April 2018, the government officially changed the English names of five cities to better reflect the Bengali pronunciation. Chittagong was renamed to Chattogram; Jessore to Jashore; Comilla to Cumilla; Barisal to Barishal; and Bogra to Bogura.
- 1 Cox's Bazar - The country's premier beach destination, filled to the brim with boisterous Bangladeshi holiday makers and street vendors (hawkers). It is the world's longest natural coastline with 112 km (70 mi) of pristine unbroken sandy beach.
- 2 Bagerhat - An important historical centre and site of several historic mosques including the famous Shait Gumbad Masjid (Sixty Domed Mosque).
- 3 Padna Meghna River Estuarine - A low lying island in the Ganges.
- 4 Somapura Mahavihara - Ruins of an ancient Buddhist vihara in Paharpur (the centuries old Paharpur Buddhist monastery).
- 5 Saint Martins Island - The country's main coral island with friendly locals, a laid back vibe and coconuts to spare.
- 6 Sundarbans - The largest mangrove forest in the world, with lots of bird life and the home of the very elusive but endangered Royal Bengal Tigers.
|Currency||Bangladeshi taka (BDT)|
|Population||165.7 million (2021)|
|Electricity||220 volt / 50 hertz (NEMA 1-15, Europlug, AC power plugs and sockets: British and related types, BS 1363, Type K)|
|Time zone||Bangladesh Standard Time, UTC+06:00, Asia/Dhaka|
|edit on Wikidata|
The exact origins of the words Bangla and Bengal are unknown.
The word "Bangladesh" literally means Land of Bengal or Bengal Country.
Politics and government
Bangladesh is officially known as the People's Republic of Bangladesh.
Although the term "People's Republic" is commonly associated with communist states, Bangladesh is not a communist country. The term was adopted primarily because Bangladesh gained its independence through a revolutionary struggle.
Like most countries in South Asia, Bangladesh is a Westminster-style democratic republic in which the prime minister is the head of the government and has the greatest amount of political power.
The president mostly works behind the scenes, but they have the authority to appoint the prime minister, veto laws, and command the country's military.
The country's history goes as far back as 1600 BC, the Chalcolithic period, and has long been known as a melting pot of various cultures and civilisations.
Islam came to South Asia sometime around the 9th century, and during the 12th century, almost everyone peacefully converted to Islam.
British India and partition
In the 1940s, India was partitioned into two states: Pakistan, a separate homeland for Muslims in South Asia, and India. Princely states were given three choices: join India, join Pakistan, or be independent.
It was during this time when Bengal was partitioned into two separate territories. Muslim-majority East Bengal became a part of Pakistan, during which it was referred to as "East Pakistan", whereas the Hindu-majority West Bengal became a part of India.
Union with Pakistan
Although it was believed that the Bengalis would be well-integrated in Pakistan, relations between the Pakistani government and the ethnic Bengalis became increasingly strained. Bengali was not recognised as an official language and was outright banned, Urdu was imposed upon the Bengalis, ethnic discrimination of Bengalis was common, and there was simply no compatibility whatsoever between the two.
War for Independence
When Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, widely known as the "founding father" of Bangladesh, was elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, he was barred from taking office and this led to widespread discontent. On the 25th of March, Rahman was arrested and the war for independence began shortly thereafter.
Pakistani forces committed numerous atrocities during this time. Perhaps the most brutal campaign of all was Operation Searchlight. The operation directly led to the 1971 Bangladesh genocide, in which almost 300,000 - 3 million people were brutally massacred by the Pakistani military and forces loyal to Pakistan.
After the liberation of Bangladesh, Bangladesh became a secular democracy. Islam was declared the state religion in 1988.
Bangladesh has a sub-tropical monsoon climate. There are six seasons in a year: winter (Dec-Jan), spring (Feb-Mar), summer (Apr-May), monsoon (June–July), autumn (Aug-Sep) and late autumn (Oct-Nov). The average temperature across the country usually ranges between 20°C - 30°C in winter months and between 21°C - 34°C during summer months. Annual rainfall varies from 160 cm to 200 cm in the west, 200 cm to 400 cm in the south-east and 250 cm to 400 cm in the north-east. Cyclones above category three/four are uncommon (especially in the deep winter January through March)-- but while rare, can still bring widespread disruption to infrastructure and power outages, especially in the coastal areas. It is recommended that you do not travel in the southern part of the country (Khulna, Bagerhat, Chittagong, Cox's Bazar) if a cyclone warning is in effect.
In summer try to wear loose fitting cotton clothing as it's so humid. During the rainy season, even big cities such as Dhaka and Chittagong get submerged quickly by torrential rains. The best time to visit is October to April. The current weather can be seen by hitting the 'play' button on the following interactive map: Current Bangladesh Satellite Weather Radar.
The country is primarily a low-lying plain on the deltas of large rivers flowing from the Himalayas: the Ganges unites with the Jamuna (main channel of the Brahmaputra) and later joins the Meghna to eventually empty into the Bay of Bengal. Its fertile and mostly flat farmland and, with the exception of Chittagong Hill Tracts, rarely exceeds 10 metres above sea level, making it dangerously susceptible to global warming. The highest point is Bijoy, at 1,231 metres.
Ramadan is the 9th and holiest month in the Islamic calendar and lasts 29–30 days. Muslims fast every day for its duration and most restaurants will be closed until the fast breaks at dusk. Nothing (including water and cigarettes) is supposed to pass through the lips from dawn to sunset. Non-Muslims are exempt from this, but should still refrain from eating or drinking in public as this is considered very impolite. Working hours are decreased as well in the corporate world. Exact dates of Ramadan depend on local astronomical observations and may vary somewhat from country to country. Ramadan concludes with the festival of Eid al-Fitr, which may last several days, usually three in most countries.
If you're planning to travel to Bangladesh during Ramadan, consider reading Travelling during Ramadan.
- Pohela Boishakh - The Bengali New Year. Its the most widely celebrated secular national festival of the country. Here people from all walks of life participate in various cultural shows, called Boishakhi Mela, wearing the national attire (punjabi or sari), eating Bengali sweets and wishing everyone happy Bengali new year - Shuvo Nobo Borsho - in Bengali.
- Ekushey February - National Mother Language Day - February 21. This day marks the anniversary of the martyrs that died in 1952 while protesting the imposition of Urdu, in the name of Islam, as the national mother-tongue of the Bengali people. The uprisings to support Bangla as the mother language fueled the movement towards secular nationalism that culminated in the independence of Bangladesh in 1971 from Pakistan. The holiday is marked by one of the most colourful events in Asia with tributes to the martyrs by political leaders, intellectuals, poets, writers, artisans and singing beginning at one minute after midnight on the 21st of February. Government offices are all closed. UNESCO recognised this day as International Mother Language Day in honour of the brave Bangladeshi souls who sacrificed their life for the right to speak their mother language.
- Independence Day - March 26. The Father of the Nation - Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman - made the proclamation of independence of Bangladesh on this day in 1971.
- Victory Day - December 16. On this day all Pakistani armed forces in Bangladesh surrendered to joint Bangladeshi and Indian armed forces during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971.
- Eid-ul-Fitr - Exact date depends on the Muslim lunar calendar. Known as the festival of charity, it is the largest Muslim holiday of the year and it celebrates the end of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. Food is the highlight, and if you're lucky you'll be invited into a private home for a feast. Businesses close for at least a week, if not two weeks.
- Eid-ul-Azha - Exact date depends on the Muslim lunar calendar. Translated, it means the festival of the sacrifice. Similar festivities as Eid-ul-Fitr, where Bangladeshis visit the homes of friends and relatives and exchange Eid greetings - Eid Mubarak - in Bengali and offer invitations to their own homes.
- Durga Puja - Ten days around October, depending on the Hindu lunisolar calendar. The largest Hindu festival in Bangladesh. It goes on for several days with festivities varying each day. The festival culminates with the immersion of the Hindu goddess Durga in the Buriganga river.
- Christmas - December 25. This is the largest festival of the Christian community in Bangladesh. This day is a government holiday. A prayer (mass) is held at Tejgaon Church in Dhaka City at 11PM on 24th December. Other churches in Dhaka also arrange prayers on 24th and 25th December.
All foreigners require a valid visa to enter Bangladesh. The procedure to obtain a visa is to first obtain an Invitation Letter from a tour company in Bangladesh or, in case of business travelers, obtain a business appointment or an invitation from a company in Bangladesh. Then submit an online visa application at the Bangladesh government website (Visa.Gov.Bd) at least three weeks before the intended travel date. Take a printout of the completed visa application form because it has to be physically submitted as well. Then visit the nearest Bangladeshi Embassy or Bangladeshi Consulate General or Bangladeshi High Commission with all the required supporting documents, passport, applicant's photos and payment. Check the visa application instructions of the Bangladeshi diplomatic mission closest to you before applying. The visa is usually issued within five to seven working days, depending on the total volume of applications. Most Bangladeshi diplomatic missions offer a mail-in service for visa applicants, which means applicants do not have to travel to the embassy to apply for a visa in person. The benefit of applying for a visa beforehand is getting a long term multiple entry visa that is valid up to 60 months. Bangladesh Foreign Ministry - Diplomatic Missions Worldwide
The citizens of the following countries do not require visas for stays of up to 90 days: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Bhutan, Dominica, Fiji, Gambia, Grenada, Guinea-Bissau, Jamaica, Guyana, Honduras, Lesotho, Malawi, Maldives, Montserrat, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Uruguay, Vatican City and Zambia.
Citizens of all other countries need a visa to enter Bangladesh. It is preferred you obtain it in your home country. It's also possible to process a visa at embassies and consulates in neighboring countries. Visas are available on arrival only if there is no Bangladeshi diplomatic mission within the country you're a citizen of, or if you're an investor invited by a Bangladeshi trade body such as BGMEA, BASIS, etc. Be ready to show paperwork indicating invitations from the said business or government organizations. If you apply for a visa beforehand, in your home country, you can usually obtain a 3 to 60 month multiple entry visa. Fees vary depending on nationality and length of visa requested.
No Visa Required Stamp/Sticker
If you were previously a Bangladeshi citizen and now hold a passport from a different country, you can contact your nearest Bangladesh High Commission for your "No Visa Required" stamp/sticker, which remains valid until your passport expires. This option is also available to the foreign children and spouses of Bangladeshi citizens as well as dual citizens of Bangladesh.
Transit passengers continuing their journey on the first connecting aircraft do not require visas, provided they hold valid onward or return documentation and do not leave the airport. A US$20 transit visa is required if transiting for more than 24 hours and remain on the airport premises (this includes the airport hotel). A US$51 transit visa is required if exiting the airport.
Visa On Arrival
All EU and European passports; Australian and New Zealand passports; North American, Central American and South American passports; Middle Eastern passports; Russian passports; South Korean passports; Japanese passports; Singaporean passports and Malaysian passports are eligible for a Visa On Arrival in Bangladesh. The passport must be valid for six months after arrival in Bangladesh and it must have two blank pages for immigration stamps. Tourists, investors and business travellers can get a single-entry 30 day Visa On Arrival in Bangladesh if you can demonstrate the following:
- a verified hotel booking or a booking with a Bangladeshi tour company or a business appointment in Bangladesh;
- US$500 in cash or credit;
- a onward air ticket or international train ticket or international bus ticket;
- and if entering Bangladesh by air, sea or road but not on a train.
The Visa On Arrival fee must be paid in cash when entering Bangladesh and the cost per person is US$51 or €51, with all taxes included. This single entry Visa On Arrival is valid for 30 days and can be extended for an additional 30 days at the Department of Immigration and Passports. Applicants can apply for the extension of this Visa On Arrival up to a week before visa expiry but not sooner. Visa extensions are available at the Department of Immigration and Passports located in Agargaon, Dhaka City, which is the building adjacent to the Dhaka Passport Office. The complete address of the Department of Immigration and Passports is Gate-2, E-7, Sher-E-Bangla Nagar, Agargaon, Dhaka City. All international airports in Bangladesh and all major land ports of entry into Bangladesh provide a Visa On Arrival to eligible passport holders who are tourists, investors or business travellers.
- Australian citizens - All types of visas cost AU$150 from the Bangladesh High Commission in Canberra. For further information, visit the High Commission's official website: here. Australian citizens, according to the current visa database, can pay US$51 for a Visa On Arrival of a maximum of 30 days. Tourist visas are issued upon arrival, costing US$51, for a maximum of 30 days at all international airports in Bangladesh and all major land ports of entry into Bangladesh. This Visa On Arrival may be extended for an additional 30 days.
- Belgian citizens - Tourists can get visas which are issued upon arrival in Bangladesh for a maximum of 30 days at all international airports and all major land ports of entry into Bangladesh and this visa may be extended for an additional 30 days later. A single-entry tourist visa allows you to stay one month (up to three on special request) and needs to be used within three months of being delivered. It is usually delivered one week after the request has been submitted. The visa office is open from 09:30 to 11:30. The official website of the Bangladeshi Embassy in Brussels has more information. You might need to provide the following documents when submitting your request:
- Plane tickets to/from Bangladesh (optional)
- Hotel booking in Bangladesh (at least the first one)
- Completed Machine Readable Visa Application Form (you can get the blank form by e-mail if you phone the embassy)
- Two photographs
- Your passport
- €51 application fee
- Canadian citizens - A single-entry visa for 3 months is C$80 and a multiple-entry visa is C$158. The visa information for Canada is here. Tourist visas are issued upon arrival, costing US $51, for a maximum of 30 days at all international airports as well as major land ports in Bangladesh and may be extended for an additional 30 days.
- EU citizens - All EU passport holders, especially tourists and investors can get a single entry visa which is issued upon arrival in Bangladesh for a maximum of 30 days at all international airports and all major land ports of entry into Bangladesh and this Visa On Arrival may be extended for an additional 30 days later. The cost per person is US $51 or €51, with all taxes included.
- UK citizens - A single-entry visa is £40, double entry is £52, 3 entries for £75, and £104 for 4 entries. Applying for a visa from the UK is detailed here. In addition to the Bangladeshi High Commission in London, the UK also has Bangladeshi Deputy High Commissions in Birmingham and Manchester: . Tourist visas, costing US $51 or €51, are issued upon arrival for a maximum of 30 days at all international airports in Bangladesh and may be extended for an additional 30 days.
- US citizens - The embassy is in Washington D.C.: . The visa fee is US$160 if obtained from within the USA, and can be applied for by mail. There are also consulates in Los Angeles  and New York  who will answer most questions and issue visas. Ensure you read the 'visa requirements' sections of the website carefully. A U.S. cashier's check, money order or bank draft should be made payable to "Consulate General of Bangladesh". International money orders, personal checks and cash are not accepted. Visas on Arrival are available to US tourists, investors and business travelers for up to 30 days (length may differ at some land borders), provided they have at least $500 in cash or travellers checks; a return/onward air ticket or train ticket; and a booking with a hotel or a tour company in Bangladesh. Tourist visas are issued upon arrival for a maximum of 30 days at all international airports in Bangladesh and may be extended for an additional 30 days.
The Bangladeshi Deputy High Commission in, Circus Ave (Just east of AJC Bose Rd), Kolkata , +91 (0)33 2290 5208/5209, also issues visas, ranging from free for Indians to a hefty Rs 5000 (~US $110) for American citizens. Applications are received at window #4 weekdays from 9-11AM, and visas are generally ready the next afternoon. Bring 3 passport photos and copies of passport and Indian visa. As of December 2018, there seems to be a new policy: the applications should be first filled and submitted online, as directed on the High Commission's website, in addition to submitting it physically. You can use the payed services of the stands in front of the High Commission to fill the forms for you, just bring one or two passport photos. Beware that at least in some cases, the Kolkata office can be reluctant to issue visa for non-Indians due to the availability of Visa On Arrival for certain passport holders.
Visa extensions are possible in Dhaka at the Department of Immigration and Passports located in Agargaon, Dhaka City. It is the building just adjacent to the Dhaka Passport Office. The complete address of the Department of Immigration and Passports is Gate-2, E-7, Sher-E-Bangla Nagar, Agargaon, Dhaka City. Fees vary depending on the duration and the nationality. If you want to stay only a few days longer, it's better to just apply for and obtain a tourist visa beforehand or pay the overstay fee of Tk 200/day for up to 15 days, which grows substantially to Tk 500/day thereafter. Some of the smaller backwater crossings such as Tamabil may not even notice that you've overstayed if you don't point it out yourself.
In addition to multiple domestic airports, there are three international airports in Bangladesh, which connect it to the rest of the world. These are Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (DAC IATA) in Dhaka, Shah Amanat International Airport (CGP IATA) in Chittagong and Osmani International Airport (ZYL IATA) in Sylhet. The domestic Cox's Bazar Airport will soon be inaugurated as an international airport. The main gateway to the country is Dhaka's Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, (Bengali: হযরত শাহজালাল আন্তর্জাতিক বিমানবন্দর) though there are also limited international flights from regional centres Chittagong, Rajshahi, Jessore, Cox's Bazar, Saidpur, Barisal and Sylhet.
The national carrier is Biman Bangladesh Airlines, locally known as Biman, though the airline has a less than stellar reputation for punctuality and maintaining routes. It underwent a major restructuring to recoup financial losses and many routes have been cancelled or restarted. However, its flights to London Heathrow from Dhaka (some of which go on to Sylhet) make this the only Bangladeshi carrier with direct flights and intercontinental service. Biman flies to all domestic destinations in Bangladesh. Biman also serves 16 cities and destinations in 12 different countries across Asia, Europe and the Middle East. See the website of the airline for a list. The private Bangladeshi carriers like Regent Airlines, Novo Air and US-Bangla Airlines have taken advantage of the local market and have expanded to serve many major hubs throughout Asia and the Middle East. See Wikipedia. There are good connections to Dhaka from the Middle East with many foreign airlines through which it is possible to connect to most Asian and European capitals and several North American hubs. Hong Kong, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore are other major Asian hubs that have regular flights to the country and beyond. Many have daily flights to Bangladesh. Nearby regional destinations like Kathmandu in Nepal, Paro in Bhutan, Kunming in China and all Indian cities are readily accessible from Dhaka in under three hours and are served by a great number of airlines.
From India there are a number of land entry points. The most common way is the regular comfortable air conditioned buses from Kolkata to Dhaka via the Haridaspur/Benapole border post. Private Bangladeshi bus companies Shohagh, Shyamoli among others operate daily Kolkata-Dhaka-Kolkata bus services. Government 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 operate buses from Kolkata (Karunamoyee international bus terminus in the Salt Lake neighborhood) every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 5:30AM and 8:30AM, and 12:30PM while from Dhaka they leave on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 7AM and 7:30AM. The normal journey time is around 12 hours with a one-way fare of Rs550 or Tk 600-800. If you're headed only to Haridaspur the fare is Rs86 (2.5 hours). Timings will vary, please confirm after arrival in Kolkata (Calcutta).
Shayamoli Paribhahan has a bus service from Siliguri to Dhaka. ☏, ☏ . It costs around 1000 Tk for a one-way ticket.
There is a regular bus service between Dhaka and Agartala, capital of India's Tripura state. Two BRTC buses leave daily from Dhaka and connect with the Tripura Road Transport Corporation vehicles, running six days a week with a roundtrip fare of Tk 600. There is only one halt at Ashuganj in Bangladesh during the journey. Call +880 2 8360241 for schedule.
Other entry points from India are Hili, Chilahati / Haldibari and Banglaband border posts for entry from West Bengal; Tamabil / Dawki border post for a route between Shillong (Meghalaya) and Sylhet in Bangladesh, and some others with lesser known routes from north-eastern Indian regions.
The Maitree Express has been running between Dhaka to Kolkata and back. The service is biweekly: A Bangladeshi train leaves Dhaka every Saturday, returning on Sunday, while an Indian train leaves Kolkata on Saturdays and returns the next day. In addition, the weekly Bandhan Express train goes from Kolkata in India to Khulna in Bangladesh and back. Train tickets are available at Chitpur station in Kolkata, Kamalapur Railway Station in Dhaka and in Khulna Railway Station. A valid passport and visa is required to purchase these train tickets.
Air travel in Bangladesh is very affordable and convenient. There are airports in all of the division capitals as well as Jessore, Cox's Bazar and some other small cities. The national carrier is Biman Bangladesh Airlines. It is commonly known as Biman locally. Most of the domestic airports are served by either Biman Bangladesh Airlines or their private competitors. As of 2019, Novoair, Regent Airways and US-Bangla Airlines are the main private airlines offering excellent domestic and international flights. Novoair is the latest airline to join the club and has Embraer jet aircraft giving very short flight times. Most of the other private operators use either Bombardier DASH-8 or Boeing aircraft.
There are quite a few helicopter services available for hire in Bangladesh for transportation, tourism, medical evacuation (Medevac) or film-footage services. Any reputable travel agent will know full details. You can also check out "ATL" at nitolniloy.com or atlhelicopter.com.
If you can speak Bengali fluently, rickshaws are useful for short distances. However, rickshaws are banned on major highways and roads. Agree on the fare before you ride and make sure they understand where you want to go because most rickshaw pullers do not speak English. Otherwise get a local to translate for you and to fix the fare beforehand.
Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) powered auto-rickshaws are also popular for short distances. Auto-rickshaws are banned on major highways and some roads because they are considered slow moving traffic. Agree on the fare beforehand and make sure they understand where you want to go. If you do not speak Bengali fluently, ask a local to translate for you and to fix the fare beforehand.
Buses in Bangladesh fall into two categories - local bus and AC bus. "Local" Bangladeshi buses are generally crowded, often to the extent of people riding on the bus steps (entrance) and sometimes even the roof. The state-run Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) double decker buses usually fall into this category. BRTC air conditioned buses are different however. The low cost local buses are best avoided. They are easy to spot by their poor condition and battered exterior. If you do use them, it is worth noting that they do not usually stop, but rather slow down slightly to let passengers on or off. Additionally, fare collectors, disconcertingly, do not wear a uniform making them difficult to identify. If you do not speak Bengali fluently you may have to simply jump on the bus (literally) and asks for assistance with translations.
Similar to the BRTC air conditioned buses however, there are luxurious air conditioned bus services connecting major cities and popular tourist destinations. These long distance buses, such as Green Line, Shyamoli, SilkLine and Shohagh, usually have a couple different offices dotted around the cities they serve. Greenline has a few Scania buses running between Dhaka, Chittagong and Cox's Bazar that offer a level of comfort you've probably never seen in a bus before - they cost about 1/3 more than their Volvo buses, but are comparable to business class on an airplane.
Many ride sharing or ride hailing apps/companies provide easy and affordable travel options inside cities such as Obhai, Pathao, Shohoz or Uber. Driving in Bangladesh is not for the faint hearted. The road network is fairly good, but dodging irrational bus drivers and weaving in and out of rickshaws isn't easy. Traffic in Dhaka has reached unimaginable proportions and self-driving is definitely not advised. Parking is non-existent. It is highly advised to hire a local driver. Night time driving is substantially more dangerous as trucks/buses often ignore smaller cars. Road travel at night should preferably be avoided. Regardless of who's driving. If you hire a driver be sure to get a car with heavy window tinting. Traffic is slow enough that your car will likely be surrounded by pedestrians a majority of the time, and foreigners tend to attract groups of curious Bangladeshis. To avoid this level of attention, it is better if pedestrians can't see inside the vehicle.
Officially cars drive on the left side of the road. The speed limit is 25 km/h on all urban roads, though it is highly unlikely a vehicle will even reach this speed with the traffic jams. Many traffic lights can be seen but these are often manually overridden by traffic police. Traffic police direct cars on all major intersections in urban areas. On many country roads, it is sometimes illegal to overtake but again, this is completely ignored, with locals employing extremely dangerous manoeuvres when passing. The cities are well lit, but country roads lack street lighting sometimes. Some new inter-city roads have tolls, especially new bridges, which are fairly inexpensive.
Bangladesh Railways is the state and only train operator. The ticket prices are reasonable and usually similar to or cheaper than bus tickets. However, due to the roundabout routes and tricky river crossings, the journey durations can be longer. Tickets can be booked over the phone, or purchased online if you have a Bangladeshi mobile phone number. If you speak Bengali, you're likely to get better results at one of the computerized station booking offices. It is recommended to buy tickets at least ten days in advance.
Trains are generally comfortable, with more leg room than buses and tea, water, and snacks are readily available from vendors. Although some economy carriages are unclean, the air conditioned and first class seats are good enough. Sulob class is the highest second class ticket, with reserved seating and not much different from first class (except in price). Kamlapur Rail Station in Dhaka is large and modern. It serves all major cities but due to the existence of both broad gauge and meter gauge tracks around the country, it may be necessary to change trains en route.
There are over 230 large and small rivers throughout the country, and boats and ferries are an integral part of travel for locals and tourists alike. A journey along the river in any mode is probably the best way to see Bangladesh. There are a number of private tour operators offering river cruises and river sightseeing trips of various lengths. Using the ferries to get between cities is a great way to see the country at a moderate pace.
Rocket Steamer service connects Dhaka and Morrelganj or Khulna via Barisal, and is a fantastic way to enjoy riverine Bangladesh, for those who prefer the scenic route. The 4 ferries are operated by BIWTC. It's advisable to book several days in advance if possible (available online through Shohoz). While there are several different classes it's unlikely that you will end up in anything but 1st or 2nd class. Both of these consist of around ten cabins on the upper deck of the boat with 2 beds each and a sink, and clean shared bathrooms outside. Some solo travellers pay for the whole cabin with two beds. Some are lucky to get and pay for just one bed. There's a central dining room in each class with a chef cooking Bengali meals. Fish and chips or an omelette goes for around Tk50 to Tk150, if specifically ordered separately. Cheaper food can be bought from the vendors in the lower classes on the bottom level when in port. First class is at the front of the boat, with the bow made into a nice sitting area. The journey is better avoided during the rainy seasons and during Eid holidays when the launches get overcrowded with home-returning city dwellers. The more eco-friendly may prefer a trash bag to take their trash off with them: otherwise, it's likely to end up in the river at the end of the journey. As of December 2018, there are two routes available:
- Dhaka – Morrelganj, operated several times per week in each direction. In the direction to Dhaka, the ferry leaves Hularhat at 14:00 and arrives to Dhaka next day in the morning. Fares from Dhaka, as of February 2015 (1st/2nd class): to Barisal Tk 2310/1260, to Hularhat Tk 3124/1710, to Morrelganj Tk 3740/2100.
- Dhaka – Khulna, usually once per week in each direction. If you are traveling from Khulna, the ferries leave on Thursdays, while most of the other days you can travel on land to Hularhat and board the ferry coming at 14:00 from Morrelganj. The full journey from Khulna takes anywhere from 26 to 30 hours.
Ferries or launches are operated by private companies and Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC). In Bangladesh a ferry is called a launch. They have air conditioned single and double cabins with single and double beds respectively. They operate on many different routes that may be useful for smaller distances or travelling to other parts of the country. BIWTC is a government organisation. Private companies such as Green Line offer air conditioned catamaran and speed boat services on many routes.
- See also: Bengali phrasebook
The national and official language of the country is Bengali (Bangla). It has its own script, is a member of the Indo-Aryan language family, and is closely related to Hindi and Urdu. Speakers of those languages should have no problems in picking up Bengali.
Bengali grammar is fairly regular (nouns are not gendered, the language has little to no exceptions), but the most difficult aspect of the language is the script. Bengali has up to hundreds of consonant clusters, which can be difficult to comprehend and write.
Although Bangladesh was once a part of the British Empire, the use of English in the country has decreased dramatically since the 1980s. Its use is now restricted to members of the well-educated classes. Having a solid knowledge of Bengali is essential for the independent traveller, as many Bangladeshis are not proficient in English.
Two centuries of British colonisation lead people to identify most foreigners as either British or Americans and to view them with curiosity. The first question you will probably be asked is "What is your country?" ("Desh kothay?" in Bangla) or "Which country sir?". If hawkers or rickshaws are over-zealous in selling you their products or services, simply leave and say "Amar dorkar nai" ("I don't need [this item]") or "Lagbey nah" ("No need") as a colloquial way of saying "No, thanks."
If you don't wish to give money to beggars and other unfortunates, simply tell them "Maaf koro" (with informal you) or "Maaf koren" (with polite/formal you), which means "Pardon me". Or you can apply a tricky concept by saying "Amar bangthi poisha nai", meaning "I have no change." Above all, if you're refusing a service or product, don't linger. Walk on as you say these phrases. Otherwise, your lingering may be misinterpreted by peddlers as your uncertainty about refusal.
Bangladesh has many UNESCO world heritage sites. It is a country with lots of places to visit, many of which offer unforgettable experiences but remain relatively unknown to the rest of the world. As a vacation destination Bangladesh has many facets, the main one being eco-tourism. Some of the tourist attractions include archaeological sites, historic mosques and monuments, resorts, beaches, picnic spots, forest and wildlife. Bangladesh offers opportunities for angling, water-skiing, river cruising, hiking, rowing, surfing, yachting and sea bathing as well as bringing one in close touch with Mother Nature. Bangladesh is also rich in wildlife and game birds.
Dhaka is a pulsing, gritty conglomerate, one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Some of the many attractions for tourists, include the Lalbagh Quilla, Ahsan Manjil, Shaheed Minar, Boro Katra, Choto Katra, the National Museum and Jatiyo Songshad Bhaban (National Parliament Building). The Suhrawardy Uddan and the Ramna Park are two parks that provide green respite to city dwellers. Other tourist attractions include places like Baitul Mukarram (National Mosque), the High Court Building, and the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum. If you're visiting only one thing, then the LalBagh Qilla fort is a must-see, in the older part of town. The older part of Dhaka, known as "Puran Dhaka" in Bengali, is literally a city of history with hundred-year-old buildings crammed on each side of hundreds of narrow lanes. Each city block, or "Moholla" in Bengali, of Puran Dhaka is unique with its specialized shops and artisans and gives a taste of ancient Dhaka.
The rest of Bangladesh is ornamented with thousands of gems, most of which remain hidden and await exploration. The names are endless but the prominent ones include Moynamoti, Paharpur (Shompur Bihar), Mohasthangor, Kantajir Mondir, Ramshagor, Shatgombuj Mosque, Khanjahan Ali's Shrine and Shriti Shoudho. These sites offer architectures from various eras of the country's history, including Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim eras and date back thousand years.
The natural beauty of Bangladesh can be explored away from the hustle and bustle of Dhaka, the capital city. Cox's Bazar is home to one of the longest unbroken sea beaches in the world. In addition, Bangladesh also has the largest mangrove forest in the world, the "Sundarbans" ("beautiful forests", named after the "Sundari" [beautiful] trees in it). The hill tracts of Rangamati, Khagrachori and "Bandarban" ("monkey forest") offer exciting trekking opportunities and an insight into tribal life. While the Kaptai Lake (situated amongst the hills of Rangamati) can be considered a romantic getaway. The villages are the true countryside of Bangladesh and almost always have green paddy fields and yellow mustard fields with flowing rivers. Other natural wonders of Bangladesh include the Padma (Ganges) river, the Madhabkunda, Jaflong, the tea gardens of Sylhet/Sreemangal and Moulovibazar.
- Cox's Bazar — The world’s longest uninterrupted natural sandy sea beach.
- St. Martins Island — Bangladesh’s only coral island.
- Mowdok Mual - The highest peak of the country.
- Sundarbans — A UNESCO world heritage site and the largest mangrove forest in the world.
- Nafa-khum Waterfall - The largest waterfall of Bangladesh, and also a place to enjoy rafting on local boats.
- Lawachara National Park - IUCN category V protected landscape, a tropical forest of Bangladesh.
- Padma River - One of the country's main rivers
If you arrive at a historic monument after it has already closed for the day, it may be possible to "pay" a security guard an "after hours tour fee" to be quickly taken around a site.
The first rule of Bangladesh is to have a friend, a tour guide or a relative who speaks Bengali fluently, unless you can speak Bengali fluently. Few people can speak English outside the cities. Communicating with others in remote and rural areas will be difficult if you do not speak Bengali fluently. So do get a friend, relative or tour guide who speaks Bengali fluently.
There's a lot happening around the city. Like any large metropolis there are dramas, concerts and performances galore — both of the western and local variety. Yes it is possible to end up at a live rave event with thrash music in Dhaka!
Exchange rates for Bangladeshi taka
As of January 2022:
Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from XE.com
What will it cost?
The currency of Bangladesh is the Bangladeshi taka, denoted by the symbol "Tk" or "৳" (ISO code: BDT). Wikivoyage uses Tk to denote the currency.
The updated exchange rate can be found in the official website of Bangladesh Bank, which is the central bank of Bangladesh. But this rate can vary slightly in different money exchange shops. Foreign currency can be exchanged at any money exchange shop or bank in Bangladesh. Some hotels will also accept foreign currency but their exchange rates will be poor. Money exchange shops offer the best exchange rates followed by banks. Most commercial and retail establishments will not accept foreign currency as payment. Only local currency or credit cards or debit cards will be accepted.
ATMs are widely available in all cities and even in smaller towns and they can be used to withdraw cash in local currency. These Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) accept all MasterCard and Visa credit/debit cards. Most local and international banks in Bangladesh such as Citibank, HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank have their own ATM network. Some rely on the Dutch-Bangla Bank Nexus ATM network for their own clients. HSBC ATMs are located at select hotels but accept only Visa debit/credit cards and HSBC GlobalAccess cards. Most ATMs are usually quite safe to use as most will be set inside a building with a security guard standing or sitting guard at the door.
POS (Point of sale) terminals are also widely available in shops and stores in all cities and even smaller towns. These machines accept all major credit and debit cards including American Express, Discover, Diners Club, JCB, MasterCard and Visa.
Aarong is one of the largest and most popular handicraft and traditional clothing stores with outlets in Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet and Khulna. It's a great place for souvenirs of Bangladesh or to pick up a stylish punjabi, kurta or salwar kameez at fixed prices. Women can find a cotton salwar kameez for around Tk 400 in a market or Tk 800-1500 in a shop. Silk is more expensive.
Shopping malls are popular with locals and foreigners. Bangladesh has some of the largest shopping malls in the world, especially the ones located in Dhaka City, like Jamuna Future Park and Bashundhara City Shopping Complex located in Panthapath. There are lots of handicraft and boutique shops inside. Eastern Plaza and Motalib Plaza are popular for the latest unlocked smartphones; smartphone warranty support or repairs; and all kinds of smartphone accessories from major international brands like Samsung, HTC, Oppo, etc. Apple has its own distributor in Bangladesh for the iPhone. There are numerous other shopping malls in and around the country. Sometimes foreigners may be charged a higher cost, however you will not usually be priced gouged, with what you are charged usually being only slightly more than what the locals would pay. The price difference for most items is often only a matter of a few US cents.
Supermarkets are also widely available across the country. Popular supermarket chains in Bangladesh include Agora, Meena Bazar and Shwapno, which have branches all over the country. Other renowned supermarkets are Almas, Pick & Pay, Daily Super Shop, Nandan Mega Shop, Mustafa Mart, Unimart and Prince Bazar. The supermarkets offer fresh produce, groceries and both imported as well as local products. They all accept all major credit cards and you can shop online too.
Bangladesh is the world's second largest manufacturer and exporter of ready-made garments and apparel, producing clothing for many famous international brands such as Nike, Adidas, Calvin Klein and Levis. Though these products are usually not meant for sale in the local markets, they can be found in abundance in popular shopping locations such as Banga Bazaar as well as around Dhaka College. Prices are not fixed in most stores in these areas. Even the stores that display 'fixed-price' label tolerate bargaining sometimes. If bargaining is not your strong point ask a local in the vicinity politely what they think you should pay.
- See also: South Asian cuisine
Bangladesh is a seafood lover's paradise. Traditionally most of the country lives off of the once-bountiful fresh-water river fish, especially the officially designated "national fish" Hilsa. The Hilsa has a nice flavour but some may find the many fine bones difficult to manage; if you can master eating this fish, consider yourself on par with the locals in fish-eating and deboning expertise. Various recipes exist for cooking Hilsa, suitable for all seasons and all regions of the country. Mutton is also popular, as in most Muslim countries, as is decidedly lean or hard chicken. Rice is almost always the staple side dish. Due to Muslim beliefs, pork is a banned item in Bangladesh and is neither consumed nor sold. However it is found and consumed in non-Muslim areas.
Mixed vegetable curries are plentiful - potato, eggplant, squash and tomatoes are the staple ingredients. Gourds, tubers and certain root vegetables are common. In the major cities (Dhaka, Chittagong, etc.), you will find a larger variety of vegetables than in rural areas.
The idea of salad varies from the international standard. In Bangladesh, salad has not been extensively developed, and "kacha" (raw) vegetables are generally not deemed very appetizing or palatable (with the exception of cucumbers), especially in more rural or suburban areas and in less Westernized households. Traditionally, most salad vegetables (carrots, celery, lettuce, paprika, etc.) were not even grown in most agrarian households, so the use of these vegetables was extremely rare. Hence, borrowing from the Mughal traditions, a few round slices of onions and cucumbers, spiced with salt, chilies, etc., is often treated as a full plate of salad.
Dal is usually a given side dish or meal course for all households, even the poorest or most rural (who often cannot afford any other daily meal courses). Most Bangladeshi dal varies from its West Bengali counterpart, and even more so from its other Indian counterparts, primarily because it is more watery and less concentrated or spiced. An easy analogy would be that whereas most Indian dal is more like thick stew, most Bangladeshi dal is more like light soup or broth. The Hindus of Bangladesh have greater varieties of Dal recipes, just as they have greater varieties of vegetarian dishes. The Muslims have thicker and more spiced varieties of dal. Dal recipes vary regionally in Bangladesh, so be careful not to over-generalize after a brief experience.
Boiled eggs (deem) are a popular snack (Tk 10-15), and fresh fruit is abundant, such as bananas (Tk 5-7/each), apples (Chinese, Tk 100-150/kg), oranges, grapes, pomegranates and papayas. Delicious and diverse, mangoes (Tk 25-90/kg in summer) are very popular throughout Bangladesh.
Bangladeshi cuisine also offers a variety of desserts called sweetmeat in general, including lal jaam, shondesh, chomchom (pictured), Kachagolla (Tk 500-550/kg).
Fast food restaurants and bakeries serving burgers, kababs, spring rolls, vegetable patties and just about anything else you can throw in a deep fryer are dotted around most cities. Most items will run around Tk 30-120/each. Bangladesh also has many international fast food chains. A few examples include A&W, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Domino's Pizza, KFC and Nando's.
To enjoy the tastes of Dhaka you must go to old Dhaka. The Haji biriyani, Nanna biriyani are a must. Also Al Razzak restaurant is famous for its Shahi food. To savour local food you must go to Korai Gost at Dhanmondi Satmosjid road, Kasturi restaurant at Gulshan & Purana Paltan area. No one should leave Bangladesh without tasting the Phuchka and Chatpati available in the streets of Dhaka,Chittagong. Also there are loads of Chinese and Thai restaurants in Bangladesh which serve localized Chinese and Thai dishes. Bailey road in Dhaka is the unofficial food street of the nation followed by Satmoshjid Road. Dhaka also has Japanese, Korean and Indian restaurants mostly in Gulshan area. For world class ice creams try Movenpick or Club Gelato in Gulshan. For kebabs, Barbecue tonight in Dhanmondi is the best followed by Koyla in Gulshan.
Similar to neighboring countries, most Bangladeshis eat with their right hand. Never use your left hand to bring food to your mouth, though it's alright to use it for bringing a glass to your mouth. Every restaurant will have a handwashing station and you should use this before and after the meal. Even if there isn't running water, a pitcher of water and a bowl will be offered. To eat with your hand, rake in a little portion of the rice and a bit of the curry to an open space on your plate (usually create a bit of space on the side of the plate closest to you, sufficiently inward from the rim but not in the center of the plate), and mix the rice and curry with your fingers. Then, create a little ball or mound (it should be compact and modestly sized, but does not need to be perfectly shaped or anything—function over form!) of the mixture and pick it up with all your fingers, and scoop in into your mouth. Your fingers should not enter your mouth in the process, and your upper fingers and palms should not get dirty either. Only toddlers and foreigners are exempted from these rules. It doesn't matter a whole lot if you don't get it all exactly right, but know that the entire restaurant is watching and waiting to see if you do. Attempting to eat with your hands and failing miserably will raise many a smile. The use of cutlery (except serving spoons for common dishes) is lacking in rural areas and poorer households. Basic cutlery (i.e., spoons, forks) is always available in urban restaurants and more Westernized, urban households. However, the use of hands is a more humble and culturally respectful gesture, especially from a tourist.
Table-sharing is acceptable and even expected in most establishments, with the exception of nicer urban restaurants. Many places have separate curtained-off booths for women and families, a nice reprieve from prying eyes.
Being a secular Muslim majority country, alcohol consumption is frowned upon. However it is found mostly in the international clubs, luxury hotels and pricier restaurants in Dhaka as well as some restaurants in tourist centers like Cox's Bazar. In Teknaf and Saint Martins Island you may stumble upon the occasional beer smuggled in from abroad. Some of the nicest hotels in the cities have fully equipped bars with exaggerated prices. However, lack of commercial availability of liquor should not always be confused with cultural aversion to alcohol in mainstream society. You'll likely find that Bengali Christians and many urbanized, upper-class Muslims privately have a more liberal, Westernized attitude toward social consumption of alcohol. Most 5-star hotels like Radisson, Sheraton, Sonargoan, Regency and a few clubs in Gulshan hold DJ dance parties on frequent basis. Usual entrance fees of such parties are around Tk 2000.
Coffee is a perennial middle-class 'Adda' (gossip) accompaniment in this city. A popular chain is 'Coffeeworld', of which there are several in Dhaka. Instant coffee is widely available.
Tea is everywhere. Ask for red tea if you do not want milk.
Fruit juices are plentiful, varied and delicious, though be wary of watered down or icy drinks and dirty blenders. Raw sugarcane juice is widely available during the hot season, and usually safe, as are coconuts, which are widely available.
Smoking in public places is prohibited. You may be fined Tk 50 for smoking publicly.
|This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:|
There's a broad range of hotels in the country. These range from economy and low budget hotels costing US $5 per night (sometimes filthy and reluctant to take foreigners) up to 5-star hotels. Multiple international hotel chains operate their luxury hotels in all the major cities of Bangladesh. A few examples include Radisson Hotels, InterContinental Hotels, Marriott International Hotels and Pan Pacific Hotels & Resorts.
Dial 999 from any Bangladeshi mobile phone number or landline for police, fire or ambulance in case of any emergency. Bangladesh is a country full of friendly and open-minded people. But some people may find ways to exploit a foreigner or tourist. See common scams and pickpockets for some of their methods. Apply common sense precautions, such as not walking around unnecessarily or alone after dark in abandoned alleys. Also, if you do find yourself in trouble, create some noise and draw the attention of others who are almost certain to come to your aid. Foreigners, particularly Caucasian, will for the most part be safe when walking around city streets as you will undoubtedly be watched by multiple curious locals at any one time. When in a crowd or travelling by rickshaw, CNG (auto-rickshaw) or bus, be careful to keep valuables close at hand and away from pickpockets. Don't wear expensive jewellery without precaution; most middle-class locals simply wear imitation gold/silver jewellery and rhinestones/clay and beaded pendants.
It's best to not eat, drink or smoke anything offered to you by strangers as there is a growing problem in many Asian countries of drugging, and you're likely to see signs warning you against it on buses, trains, etc. That is not to say you shouldn't take someone up on their offer for a home cooked meal, but you may want to think twice about that piece of candy the person in the seat next to you just handed to you. Also, be careful about the sanitation procedures of local street food and unprocessed snacks which are not in packaging.
Speeding buses, coaches or trucks may cause accidents. Traffic lights are often manually overridden by traffic police and in large metropolises traffic jams are always a given, making it very difficult for vehicles to travel. It is wisest not to drive yourself or to walk roads without pavements (sidewalks) alone. Consequently, road travel (if absolutely necessary) is best undertaken with an experienced local driver in a good vehicle with safety belts. If you can speak Bengali, rickshaws are a very authentic local drive for short distances. However, rickshaws are mostly banned, especially on major highways and routes. Prison sentences ranging from 2 to 10 years are prescribed for homosexual activity in public between consenting adults under Bangladeshi law. LGBT couples and travelers should exercise discretion and avoid public displays of affection.
Bangladesh is a politically troubled country and has a history of political-related violence. Many regard Bangladesh as one of the least effectively governed countries in the world.
General strikes, otherwise known as hartals, are widely employed as a means of political expression in Bangladesh. Incidents of arson, vandalism, clashes between rival political groups, and attacks on individuals are common during protests.
As a visitor, you should do all you can to avoid political protests, demonstrations, and marches. Don't feel tempted to act like a hero (take photos of protests, helping out injured protestors, and so on); you might lose your life or get severely injured.
If you feel a protest is about to take place, evacuate the area immediately. Always assume that roads can be blocked during political protests and that public transportation services will be affected.
During your stay, it is strongly recommended that you regularly monitor local media. English language media is common and ubiquitous in the country.
Bangladesh is one of the most corrupt countries in the world and the problem seems to be getting worse and worse year by year. According to Transparency International, Bangladesh is the most corrupt country in South Asia.
The police are notorious for being highly corrupt and woefully ineffective, and the locals themselves are convinced that they are not to be trusted at all. In addition, most Bangladeshis consider the police to be the most corrupt institute in the entire country.
The police enjoy strong political patronage and are known to regularly abuse their powers; many public officials have been targeted and attacked by police forces.
Due to their low salaries, it's not uncommon for them to target people for bribes. In the event you are targeted by a corrupt official, stay calm, but be firm and polite. Don't make the encounter tense by losing your cool.
The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), an elite unit of the police, is complicit in extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances, and in December 2021, the organisation and six former RAB officials were sanctioned by the United States.
The clothing of local women varies, according to religion and degree of religious conservatism, geographic region and socio-economic status. In general, as a female tourist, it is wisest to wear at least the salwar kameez, which is both easy to wear and relatively versatile and functional, while being generally culturally respectful. If you don't own or want to buy a salwar kameez you should use a large scarf to drape around your upper body. Bangladesh is a conservative society, and as a foreign woman you will attract incredible amounts of attention. Do not wear shorts, tank tops, or any revealing clothing showing much skin. However, most of Bangladesh is a relatively open-minded Muslim country and the youth in major cities are quite Westernized.
Forced marriage is a major problem in Bangladesh. The problem isn't just prevalent in Bangladesh though. It is also common among members of the Bangladeshi diaspora.
If you are a woman of Bangladeshi origin, there's a good chance you could be forced into marital arrangements against your will. Your family relatives may subject you to threats, intimidation, and violence, as a means to make you feel you have no choice but to accept the marriage.
Be very skeptical if your family asks you to come on a trip to Bangladesh. What may be a short trip could very easily turn into a long trip. Always ask yourself, "what's in it for them?". There may be an ulterior motive you don't know about.
If you are not in Bangladesh, call the police. In February 2013, family members of a Bangladeshi-origin woman in the UK were arrested for attacking her and attempting to force her to marry, simply because she was in a relationship with someone from a different religious faith.
If you are in Bangladesh, contact your embassy immediately for assistance. Always maintain possession of your passport and plane tickets; do not let your family members get their hands on them otherwise you may not be able to escape.
Bangladesh is prone to flooding. This is largely in part due to the fact that the country is composed entirely out of silt, a material which is carried down by the rivers and tributaries comprising the Brahmaputra River Delta. As much as 30% of the country can be submerged during heavy floods.
Silt is responsible for Bangladesh's low-lying geography (a large portion of the country is covered by the Brahmaputra River Delta), and causes Bangladesh's rivers to overflow or burst their banks after heavy rainfall.
The summer monsoon in Bangladesh prevails from early June to mid-October. Try to schedule a trip before or after this period as the risk of flooding increases during that time.
As Bangladesh is still a developing nation, do not expect high-quality emergency services. Refer to the various tips found in the Flash floods article in the unlikely event the country is swamped with floods.
If you are in the country during the monsoon season, refer to this site: Flood Forecasting & Warning Centre. The website is maintained by the Bangladeshi government and you should refer to it from time to time so that you can stay safe in the event of massive flooding.
Being a low-lying country, Bangladesh is vulnerable to cyclones.
The northern part of the country is vulnerable to seismic activity. Although it is unlikely that a massive earthquake would strike the country, the country's infrastructure is ill-equipped to deal with the aftershocks of a huge earthquake.
- Bottled water is recommended since BSTI has not certified the tap water as potable. You can use it to wash the dishes, wash the clothes or wash yourself but you cannot drink it. Some hand-drawn tube wells are contaminated with naturally occurring arsenic. This arsenic ions will easily pass through filters designed to screen out bacteria. A more environmentally friendly option is to boil your own water or use purifying tablets. However, nothing short of distillation will remove arsenic. Renowned mineral water brands include Evian, Fresh, Mum, Pran, Spa, etc.
- It's also wise to wash your hands before touching food with your bare hands. Use discretion when eating from street vendors. Make sure the food is freshly cooked and piping hot. Do not touch the food if you have not washed your hands properly with soap first!
- Mosquitoes can be abundant in some areas and cities, especially during the rainy and humid seasons, and nets covering your bed at night are often provided, even in some of the cheapest hotels and in all households.
- Consult a doctor if you feel feverish or ill. There are many hospitals, clinics, dispensaries and pharmacies around the country. Pharmacies in Bangladesh usually have a doctor's chamber where you can get an inexpensive medical checkup as well as a prescription before buying medicine. Large hospitals are mostly available in the city. Some reputable and popular hospitals in Bangladesh include Apollo Hospitals, Labaid Hospital, Square Hospital, United Hospital, etc. Since there is no universal free healthcare for foreigners, all medical establishments will ask you to pay first.
- Litter can be a problem in some of the cities like Dhaka and Chittagong. Many efforts have been made in the 21st century to clean up the country, such as the banning of non-biodegradable plastic bags, but there is still a long way to go because most people use the many waterways as garbage dumps. It would be unwise to swim in most of the rivers and downright senseless in a lake.
Amar dike taka-ben na!
Foreign tourists are a novelty to many Bangladeshis, especially in rural areas - kids see you as a toy to play with, while others see you as their opportunity to practice their English with endless enthusiasm or inquire about your nationality. Most however, are content to just look... and look... and look. If it becomes too much, Amar dike takaben na roughly means "please stop staring at me!", but use the ! sparingly, since most Bangladeshis will think they are favouring you by admiring you so much publicly.
Social etiquette and breaches
- The Bangladeshis are indirect communicators. They are tempered by the need to save face and they will avoid saying anything that could be construed as critical, judgmental, or offensive. One's point is normally expressed in a roundabout, courteous manner.
- The Bangladeshis value openess. It's not uncommon for Bangladeshis to communicate in long, rich, contexualised sentences. This said, you should not try to be boastful when communicating.
- The Bangladeshis are attentive listeners. They will not try to interrupt whatever you are saying. To not stand out like a sore thumb, you should not attempt to interrupt someone's conversation either.
- Direct personal questions are commonly asked. It's not uncommon for Bangladeshis to inquire about who you are, what your educational background is, and so on, but it is not appropriate to ask someone about their salary and profession.
- The Bangladeshis respect their elders. As is the case in South Asia, Bangladesh is a hierarchial country, which means that respect is given to the elderly. It's commonly expected for the senior most person to make decisions in the business world. It would be considered extremely rude to attempt to challenge someone older than you, even if it's coming from a good place.
- Do not refer to elders, strangers, or people in higher positions than you by their first names; it is considered extremely rude and implies no respect for them. In some regions of the country, wives don't normally address their husbands by their first names.
- It woud be wise to understand a little bit about Islam if you plan on staying in the country for long; in a country where nearly 90% of the population adheres to Islam, religious identities tend to take preference over national identities.
- Always use your right hand when shaking hands, bringing something to someone, and so on. The left hand is considered unclean in Bangladesh. It would be considered impolite to use your left hand to offer something to someone.
- Don't attempt to shake hands with or touch local women; as this is a predominantly Muslim country, appropriate behaviour is expected from you. Put your hand on your heart and bow slightly to greet them.
- Always behave appropriately in religious establishments and places of worship. If you are unsure about the rules, just ask. Some places may be closed off to non-devotees.
Things to avoid
Bangladeshis will understand that you are not fully aware of what's considered appropriate/inappropriate in their country, and they will usually be tolerant of your blunders. This said, there are some things which will be met with disapproval and you should avoid doing the following during your stay in the country.
- Bangladeshis, in general, are ardently political, and politics is a very popular conversational subject amongst many Bangladeshis, including the older generation. Many Bangladeshis have a breadth of political opinions, including that of their own country. As a visitor, you'll be exposed to a breadth of political opinions both publicly and privately, even though most Bangladeshis often express frustration with the government. This said though, you could immediately be seen as uninformed if you do not follow Bangladeshi news closely. Don't hesitate to engage in political discussions, but it's worth mentioning that being a visitor puts you in a delicate position.
- Bangladeshis are proud of their country and what they have achieved. Although they often complain about the problems and shortcomings that still exist, you should try not to criticise the country's current situation; it can cause offence. Always remember that the locals know more about their country than you do.
- The Bengalis are neither Indians nor Pakistanis; they are their own ethnic group and should be treated as such. Similarly, don't compare the country to either of those two countries, as it can cause offence.
- Be careful when discussing the Bangladesh Liberation War. It may bring up bad memories for some people.
Islam is Bangladesh's state religion, but the right to religious freedom is vigorously defended in the country's constitution. The form of Islam practiced by the majority of Bangladeshis is generally liberal and they are accepting of non-Muslims. Secular viewpoints are not uncommon.
- During Ramadan, you should refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, and chewing in public. Not doing so would be seen as extremely rude.
- Avoid criticising or speaking badly about religion. Even highly-educated people won't appreciate it.
- Be mindful of someone's religious faith when giving them a gift. Do not gift Muslims alcohol and non-halal (pork, ham, etc.) products.
Electricity is 220 Volts at 50 Hertz. There are three types of electrical outlets likely to be found in Bangladesh — the old British standard BS 546, the newer British standard BS 1363 and the European standard CEE-7/16 "Europlug". It's wise to pack adapters for all three.
Most men wear shirts and trousers or slacks. Or they wear punjabis (kurtas). Most women wear either a sari or a salwar kameez. Back in the day, the custom was that an unmarried girl would wear a salwar kameez and a married woman would wear a sari to signify that she is married. However, there are variations nowadays with unmarried women professionals wearing formal suits or saris. A salwar kameez is an easy/ready-to-wear three-piece outfit with a knee-length tunic ("kameez"); pants or jeans ("salwar"); and a matching scarf ("orna"). Foreign women may want to consider wearing at least the salwar kameez, out of general cultural respect. If sizes don't match, you can always have them made for you at any tailor's shop. Having said this, rapid westernization has changed how modern city dwellers dress. Jeans, shirts, skirts and t-shirts are common among the younger generation, although remember it's polite to keep your shoulders, chest and legs covered. This also goes for men. Shorts are worn only by young boys and undershirts, or sleeveless white vests without a shirt covering it, are worn when alone or only by the lowest class in public.
Men can easily leave their razors at home and rely on the ever-present barber shops where a basic shave will run around Tk 10-20. Make sure they use a new blade, though you won't usually have to ask. "Deluxe" shaves will run around double price and barbers will often assume foreign tourists want this, so be clear if you're just after a quick shave and don't want the massage and aftershave.
In upscale restaurants around 15% is expected, but outside of these at informal food joints and with street food vendors, it's the exception not the rule. Consider tipping the driver and delivery men modestly.
- Daily Sun
- Dhaka Tribune
- The Bangladesh Today
- The Daily Observer
- The Daily Star
- The Financial Express
- The Independent
- The New Nation
- The News Today
FM radio stations sample
- ABC Radio (Dhaka) - 89.2 MHz
- Foorti - 88.0 MHz (Dhaka), 98.4 MHz (Chittagong), 89.8 MHz (Sylhet)
- Radio Today - 89.6 MHz(Dhaka), 88.6 MHz(Chittagong)
- Radio Aamar - 88.4 MHz(Dhaka)
- BBC World Service and BBC Bangla - 100.00 MHz
Bangladesh has overseas diplomatic missions in many countries around the world. More than one diplomatic mission or consulate can be found in some countries with large expatriate Bangladeshi populations. Bangladesh Foreign Ministry - Diplomatic Missions Worldwide
The country code for Bangladesh is 880. Add a 0 to make a call to any Bangladesh city or region outside the national capital.
It is not possible to access international information (directory assistance) easily. If you need international directory assistance, check the Internet telephone directories. You can also dial 17 or 16402 from any landline for operator assistance provided in Bengali. Or dial 121 from any Bangladeshi mobile phone for operator assistance in both English and Bengali.
Landlines aren't reliable sometimes, even when you can find them. The government owned Bangladesh Telephone Company Ltd. (BTCL) or formerly BTTB and generally known as T&T is the public sector phone company and the major landline service in the country.
Mobile phones are better and more widely available. In most towns they'll be your only option, and many shop owners let theirs double as PCOs/ISDs. Banglalink and Grameenphone are the most widely available, followed by Robi, Teletalk and Airtel. All work on the GSM network and offer voice and data packages at reasonable prices – usually about Tk 150 (US$1.50) to get started. International calls are possible and often more reasonably priced than you would expect. Especially if you're calling the US or major European countries.
Internet is available nationwide in Bangladesh via the mobile phone network. You can also find free WiFi connectivity in some places in the cities. Cable Internet and fiber optic Internet connections are available in the cities. For the rural areas however, 4G mobile networks are the best option.
You can also use mobile data packs. All mobile networks or carriers or mobile operators such as Banglink, Grameenphone, Robi, Teletalk (government owned) and Airtel offer low cost 4G Internet voice and data packs which you can use with your smartphone. If you want internet on your laptop, you should buy a 4G flash modem from any mobile network or carrier. This modem will plug in the USB port of your laptop and provide seamless broadband internet access all over Bangladesh. The 4G flash modem can cost Tk 1000 to Tk 1300 and will come with a data (Internet) pack.
Data cost is low in Bangladesh. You can buy 1GB data at Tk 50 or less from any mobile network. Just call the network's 24 hour call center by dialing 121. You can speak in English with call center agents. Bangladesh has some of the lowest voice and data prices in the world.