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With flooding during the Monsoon season acting like an annual killjoy, the Bangladesh economy has had a steep uphill battle, one which has so far been unsuccessfully fought; Bangladesh is one countries of South Asia.
So it goes without saying that you shouldn't expect all the comforts of modern life if you visit Bangladesh, a country whose tourist board says "Come to Bangladesh before the tourists". What you should expect is a South Asian nation where the people's traditional way of life can still be observed (Many things have been modified though with a touch of modernization). You should also expect temples and monasteries dating back to before the turn of the first millennium. Bangladesh also counts to its credit the world's longest beach and the world's largest littoral mangrove forest. The latter, moreover, is part of Sundarbans National Park, which boasts large populations of Royal Bengal Tigers and spotted deer.
Remnants of civilization in the greater Bengal region date back four thousand years, when the region was settled by Dravidian, Tibeto-Burman, and Austro-Asiatic peoples. Archaeological discoveries during the 1960s furnished evidence of a degree of civilisation in certain parts of Bengal as far back as the beginning of the first millennium BC, perhaps even earlier.
European traders arrived late in the 15th century, and their influence grew until the British East India Company gained control of Bengal following the Battle of Plassey in 1757. During colonial rule, famine racked the Indian subcontinent many times, including the Great Bengal famine of 1943 that claimed 3 million lives. Between 1905 and 1911, an abortive attempt was made to divide the province of Bengal into two zones, with Dhaka being the capital of the eastern zone. When India was partitioned in 1947, Bengal was partitioned along religious lines (for the majority Muslims), with the western part going to India and the eastern part joining Pakistan as a province called East Bengal (later renamed East Pakistan), with its capital at Dhaka.
Dissatisfaction with the central government over economic and cultural issues continued to rise through the next decade, during which the Awami League emerged as the political voice of the Bengali-speaking population. In 1970, a massive cyclone devastated the coast of East Pakistan, killing up to half a million people, and the central government responded poorly. The Bengali population's anger was compounded when Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, whose Awami League won a majority in Parliament in the 1970 elections, was blocked from taking office. Before his arrest by the Pakistan Army, Sk. Mujibur Rahman formally declared the independence of Bangladesh. Awami League leaders set up a government-in-exile in Calcutta, India. After its independence, Bangladesh became a parliamentary democracy, with Mujib as the Prime Minister. In the 1973 parliamentary elections, the Awami League gained an absolute majority.
In January 11, 2007, following widespread political unrest, a caretaker government was appointed to administer the next general election. The country had suffered from extensive corruption, disorder and political violence. The new caretaker government has made it a priority to root out corruption from all levels of government. To this end, many notable politicians and officials, along with large numbers of lesser officials and party members, have been arrested on corruption charges. The caretaker government held a fair and free election on December 29, 2008. Awami League's Sheikh Hasina won the elections with a landslide victory and took oath of Prime Minister on 6 Jan 2009.
Bangladesh is bordered by India on the most part, a small section by Myanmar on the southeast and the Bay of Bengal to the south.
Bangladesh lies between latitudes 20° and 27°N, and longitudes 88° and 93°E. Bangladesh is in the low-lying Ganges Delta. This delta is formed by the confluence of the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna rivers and their respective tributaries. The Ganges unites with the Jamuna and later joins the Meghna to eventually empty into the Bay of Bengal. The alluvial soil deposited by these rivers has created some of the most fertile plains in the world. Bangladesh has 57 trans-boundary rivers, making water issues politically complicated to resolve – in most cases as the lower riparian state to India. Most parts of Bangladesh are less than 12 metres above the sea level, and it is believed that about 10% of the land would be flooded if the sea level were to rise by 1 metre. The highest peak in Bangladesh is Saka Haphong in Mowdok range at 1,052 metres in the Chittagong Hill Tracts to the southeast of the country. Cox's Bazar, south of the city of Chittagong, has a beach that stretches uninterrupted over 120 kilometres.
Bangladesh is organised into 7 administrative divisions, named after their divisional headquarters.
The Sundarbans mangrove forest is one of the largest forests of its kind and is located in the southwest of Bangladesh and in parts of India on the delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers on the Bay of Bengal. The Sundarbans are shared with India and form a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It contains a complex network of tidal waterways, mudflats and small islands of salt-tolerant mangrove forests and has a high biodiversity with a wide range of flora and fauna. Animals include 260 bird species, the Royal Bengal tiger and other threatened species such as the estuarine crocodile and the Indian python. Some of the wildlife though is very elusive and it is a matter of luck, for example, to see a tiger. It is best to arrange tours from Dhaka or Khulna which can last for a week if you want.
The Historic Mosqua City of Bagerhat is another fantastic Unesco site and is located where the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers join. It is an ancient city which was founded by the Turkish general Ulugh Khan Jahan in the 15th century. The city’s highlights include a large number of mosques and early Islamic monuments, many of which are built of brick.
The southeastern corner of the Chittagong Division is where most travellers head to relax on one of the beaches. The most popular sports include the southern town of Cox's Bazar and Saint Martin's Island. The latter is a small island about 10 kilometres southwest of the most southern tip of Bangladesh. It is a typical tropical island and the only coral island in the country. The main activities include hanging around on one of the beaches fringed with coconut palms and bountiful marine life. You need to get a ferry from Teknaf to get here, which take around 2 and half hours. Kear Sindabad is the most demandable and tourist friendly ship for this route. LCT Kutubdia, Eagle-1, MV Farhan and Rangabali also operate every day in the tourism season from Teknaf to St. Martin.
Of all the secular national festivities in Bangladesh, New Year’s Day is the most celebrated. The Pawhela Boishakh festival is marked by a wide variety of cultural shows (Boishakhi Mela) and other programs. Everyone eats sweets and dresses up in kurtas or saris, wishing everyone a joyous new beginning.
Celebrated on the 21st day of February every year, Ekushey is known as the National Mother Language Day, which marks the anniversary of the martyrdom of those who died while protesting the imposition of Urdu as the national language of East and West Pakistan. Political leaders, writers, intellectuals, poets, artisans and singers offer tributes to those that suffered.
March 16th celebrates the proclamation of Bangladesh’s independence, and each year, numerous events are held to commemorate the historic date.
Victory Day remembers the day the Pakistani army surrendered to the joint Bangladeshi and Indian Forces which is celebrated December 16.
The date of Eid-ul-Fitr varies each year based on the Muslim calendar. A feast that marks the completion of the holy month of Ramadan (the month of fasting), this is the largest festival celebrated annually in Bangladesh, followed by Eid-ul-Azha.
Bangladeshis are predominantly Muslim, but some are devoted to other faiths, such as Hinduism. Durga Puja is the biggest festival of the Hindu community. Different rituals are observed, including the immersion of an idol of Durga into the river. Events are held at the Dhakeswari Temple and last for 10 days.
Christmas is celebrated by the Christian community in Bangladesh. On the eve of December 25th, congregational prayers are held in various churches, particularly in Tejgaon.
Bangladesh has a tropical monsoon climate. There are roughly three seasons. The cool season from November to February, although warmer than in much of India. Than during the hot season from March until early June some rainstorms occur and these are often thundery. Temperatures and humidity combined makes this time not the most pleasant one, but it beats the rains during the the main rainy season of the southwest monsoon from June to September when the rainfall is heavy and frequent. Most of the country receives between 1500 and 2,500 mm rain a year and near the eastern border this rises to as much as 3,750 mm. Higher areas can receive twice as much in very wet years, although the amounts of the moutainous areas in Assam, India, are not recorded here. September to November is wet as well, with changes of cyclones particularly during these months, although they can occur in August already.
Temperatures are roughly 25 °C or a little more in summer during the day and 12 °C or 13 °C at night. This applies to the inland though, for example in Dhaka. April is the hottest month with average daytime temperatures of around 35 °C but over 40 °C is no exception. Nights from May to October are around or over 25 °C! July is the wettest month with more than 400 mm of rain.The coastline, for example in Chittagong, has somewhat slightly warmer winters and slightly cooler summers, although differences are small. It does rain a lot more though, with almost 600 mm in July. Higher areas are of course cooler year round.
Bangladesh has three international airports:
The main gateway to the country when coming by air is Dhaka, with flights out of Chittagong primarily limited to connections with Kolkata, Bangkok and the Middle East. Flights from Sylhet go to the Middle East, and perhaps to the UK where many Sylheti migrants have settled.
Biman Bangladesh Airlines is the national airline of Bangladesh with its base at Shahjalal International Airport (DAC) near the capital Dhaka. It has flights mainly to the southern parts of Asia and to Hongkong, Rome and London. GMG Airlines is a bigger airline though, also based in Dhaka. It has the same destinations as Biman, with the exception that it flies to Milan instead of Rome.
Jet Airways has cheap flights between Delhi and Dhaka while also AirAsia X has chartered budget flights from Kuala Lumpur and low-cost airline Air Arabia is planning to fly from Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, making it possible to fly cheaper to Bangladesh compared to direct flights from Europe.
Other major carriers that fly to Dhaka include: Thai Airways International, Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines from Southeast Asia; Dragon Air from Hong Kong; China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines from China; Druk Air that connects Dhaka to Paro in Bhutan and to Bangkok; Gulf Air (Bahrain), Qatar Airways (Doha), Kuwait Airways, Emirates (Dubai), Etihad Airways (Abu Dhabi) and Saudi Arabian Airlines from the Middle East; and Pakistan International Airlines for Karachi.
You can drive your vehicle to Bangladesh across the borders mentioned below (see by bus). You need a carnet de passage and all the usual documentation like international driving permit, insurance and of course a visa.
The Haridaspur (India) to Benapole (Bangladesh) Crossing:
There is a direct bus route that runs direct from Kolkata in India to Dhaka. The trip takes about 8-9 hours and runs several times a day. It costs about US$10-$12 one way. Crossing is at Benapole most of the times and there are about three to four direct trips a week by BRTC and privately owned Shyamoli Paribahan. Dhaka also has direct bus links to Siliguri in West Bengal and Agartala in Tripura, India.
Direct buses between Dhaka and Kolkata are usually airconditioned and offer greater comfort. However it is cheaper and easy to make the journey independently, and may be faster since there will be less time spent waiting at the border (especially for westerners who are often given priority on both sides). To take the journey from Kolkata, first catch a train from Sealdah Station in Kolkata to Bangaon, which will take up to two hours and cost around Rs. 20 (those trains can get very crowded). From Bangaon, which is the last station on local services, the border is a short distance by auto-rickshaw, for about Rs. 30. At a slightly lower price a rickshaw may be hired instead, and the journey from the station to the border is very pleasant along a beautiful tree-lined road, with a Hindu temple on the way if you care to stop. From the Bangladesh side it is easy to hire a rickshaw or cycle-cart for about ten taka to travel to the small town of Benapole (also the name of the border post) from where there are numerous bus services to Dhaka. The bus company counters line the main road and are impossible to miss. Travelling from Dhaka, there are many bus services direct to Benapole leaving from Gabtoli Bus Station or the bus company offices in Shyamoli on the western side of the city.
The Benapole border is the busiest crossing point between the two countries.
Other Border Crossings to India:
There are quite a few border crossings, but not all have facilities for foreigners. The ones that have include the border crossings at Benapole (for Kolkata), Burimari (for Siliguri and Darjeeling), Godagari and Hili (for West Bengal), Tamabil (for Meghalaya and Assam) and Akhaura (for Tripura).
Border Crossings to Myanmar:
There are currently no border crossings between Bangladesh and Myanmar available to foreigners, though there are plans to improve links between the two countries in the future.
Although there is a quite a long coastline, no international passenger services exist, though there are plans to introduce a passenger service between Chittagong and Penang, Malaysia.
There are several airlines servicing domestic airports, including Biman Bangladesh Airlines, Aero Bengal Airlines, Air Parabat, Bengal Airlift LTD and GMG Airlines. Destinations include Dhaka, Chittagong, Jessore and Cox's Bazar.
Bangladeshi rail service covers most of the country and connects Dhaka with other major cities including Chittagong, which is served twice daily from the capital. Some carriages are airconditioned. Although there are many rivers which are not crossed by train, there are river ferries which provide through services, thus covering a lot of the country.
Renting a car by yourself is not recommended as driving conditions are poor and sometimes chaotic and dangerous. Better to rent a car with a driver (which is usual for the locals too) or take trains and boats as means of transportation. If you do want to drive a bit yourself, be sure to take your international driving permit and sufficient insurance. Rental cars are availabe at Dhaka and several airports.
The Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) provides a countrywide network of bus services. Roads are generally in a basic condition and buses can be uncomfortable.
New luxury bus companies have joined the market including Green Line, Shyamoli and Shohagh. Dhaka, Chittagong and Cox's Bazar are the main destinations. Standards of 'luxury' on bus services vary, company to company and bus to bus. At festival times bus fares increase substantially, though still cheap, seats can be hard to come by, travel times and the chance of accidents greatly increases. It is best to avoid travelling before and after festivals if possible.
Bangladeshis rely on the ferry services that ply many of the country's rivers. Major river ports include Barisal, Chandpur, Dhaka, Khulna and Narayanganj. There is also a ship service between Chittagong and Barisal. Ferries operate between the southern coastal ports and the islands of the Meghna (Ganges) River delta. River services are operated by the Bangladesh Inland Waterway Transport Corporation (BIWTC). A ferry operates from Dhaka to Khulna four times a week, taking over 24 hours.
Note that ferries can become very crowded and as a result can be dangerous. Every year there are several accidents, killing tens of people. To minimise the risk, take ferry services on week days and avoid in particular days around festivals as many locals travel at that time from the city to their village homes by boat.
Bangladesh's major rivers are large, navigable routes that constantly change with tides and riverflow. Ferry services may be delayed in winter due to fog, year round due to low tides (watch the boatman at the front with the bamboo pole, sticking it periodically in the water to check the depth), and during the monsoon season when the rivers are at their least calm.
Nonetheless, travelling by ferry can be the highlight of any trip to Bangladesh. There can be no better way to experience this country of rivers than to journey by boat. Watching fisherman in tiny boats, the crowds at the wharves, the millions of stars overhead on a clear night as the ferry slowly plies to its destination is indeed enjoyable. While it is not possible to expect luxury, such journeys are made a lot more comfortable by hiring a cabin. It may be advisable to travel with provisions, although there is usually simple food and hawkers aboard each ferry service. For westerners it may be impossible not to make friends with local passengers when taking ferries. Ferries are often three floors high and have open deck space where passengers roll out mats in the evening for sleeping. There are historical paddle-steamers on the route from Dhaka to Khulna.
Bangladeshi cities and towns have a number of unique modes of transport to be experienced and enjoyed. Dhaka is the world capital of rickshaws, tricycles with a seat for two (sometimes three if you watch the locals) passengers. Rickshaws are an extremely pleasant way to get around since they allow time to take in the scene and the street life along the way. They are environmentally friendly and works of art, with rickshaw-art recognised as a distinct popular art form. The drivers, called 'rickshaw wallahs' or 'rickshaw pullers' in Dhaka are usually from villages and have come to the city to earn a better income. It puts food on the table. Having said that, driving rickshaws is not a 'get rich quick' scheme and it is really hard work (finding a quiet spot in a village might lend the opportunity to try it out, if the driver agrees). Most rickshaw pullers rent their rickshaws on a daily basis in Dhaka. In Dhaka in particular there are rickshaw-free roads which limit the ability of rickshaws to travel across the city; they are however allowed to use these roads after 10:00pm and at other times can often cover the same route using back streets which really give a glimpse of local Dhaka life. A fare from one side of the city to the other would never be more than 100 taka (and more realistically 50 taka), and most fares are much less. A short journey would cost 10-15 taka only. Rickshaws are also found in Chittagong (where drivers have the additional challenge of managing the hills) and in district towns and villages across the country. To save hassles, always negotiate the price beforehand.
A motorised version of the rickshaw are the green CNGs which were previously gas-guzzling, polluting auto-rickshaws (the Indian name) then called baby-taxis in Bangladesh. Since the switch to clean energy, the name also changed: CNG is not only the fuel, it is the vehicle too. CNGs are more expensive than rickshaws, with a trip across Dhaka up to 200 Taka. They are useful for longer journeys, and can outperform cars when it comes to negotiating traffic jams and dodging snarls. CNG drivers typically rent their vehicles on a daily basis (at up to 600 taka per day, though the government has set the official rate at 300 Taka), and as such do not make a huge income from their endeavours. They work long hours. Newer versions of similar vehicles are employing battery technology and are available in some areas, such as Uttara, in the north of Dhaka. Outside Dhaka, it is possible to find both CNGs and their polluting predecessors, the baby-taxis. Though CNGs are fitted with meters these are almost never used: negotiate the price beforehand.
Taxis are more likely to use the meter, though there is a need to insist on this at the start of the journey, and they can be considerably more expensive than CNGs.
Getting around Dhaka by bus is certainly cheap (with fares for half way across the city for about ten taka) but they are often very crowded and the signs / routes are displayed in Bengali only. Watch for pickpockets.
There are many other modes of transport based loosely around the rickshaw and CNG, including wooden carts to sit on, tempos and small people-movers and various vans to be tried. In addition, in Dhaka private cars normally employ a permanent driver, and when the owner is not around and the car unrequired, it is not uncommon for them to double as taxi drivers: use at your own risk!
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.
All other nationals will have to apply for a visa at the nearest Bangladeshi Missions Abroad.
The visa process (for a tourist visa) should be relatively straightforward for most western nationalities, with fees varying according to the nationality, and the number of entries required to Bangladesh (single, dual or multiple). In fact visa processes vary from one Bangladeshi embassy to the next, including the forms, costs and exact requirements. Usually all the information needed is available at the individual website of the Bangladeshi embassy in a particular country. A tourist visa will normally be issued for a maximum of three months.
When coming from India, it is possible to get a tourist visa from the Bangladeshi Consulate in Kolkata, and the process there is relatively straightforward (for westerners) but will take two days as it involves a short interview with consular staff. Most other Bangladeshi embassies do not interview westerners travelling to Bangladesh as tourists, and the process for tourist visas is likely to be simpler, even in New Delhi. It may also be possible to obtain a tourist visa at the Bangladeshi Consulate in Agartala, Tripura, India.
For all visas, be sure it states that entry / exit is possible 'by land' or 'by air' according to the planned itinerary; there is potential for problems in trying to enter of leave the country in a way / at a place when another entry or exit means or place is specified on the visa. On leaving the country by road there is an exit tax to be paid at Sonali Bank of around three hundred takas. Most border posts have a bank branch on-site, but this is not the case for Tamabil near Sylhet.
Visas can be easily extended in Bangladesh (for a fee) at the Passport Office which in Dhaka is located in the suburb of Agargaon, but changing the type of visa is unlikely to be possible.
Bangladeshi embassy and passport staff are usually courteous and helpful to foreigners.
For 'e'-visas/entry visas necessary for working in Bangladesh, see the section on work below.
See also Money Matters
The official currency is the Bangladeshi Taka (ISO code: BDT). One taka is divided into 100 poisha. Banknotes are in denominations of Tk 2, Tk 5, Tk 10, Tk 20, Tk 50, Tk 100, Tk 500 and newly started TK 1000. There used to be a Tk1 banknote that is no longer in circulation. Coins come in 1, 5, 10 and 25 poisa (not available in marketplace); the 50 poisa (which is rare); Tk 1, Tk 2 and Tk 5.
There are three different versions of the Tk1 coin; the most common being silver and approximately the same size as a Tk2 coin (also silver), which makes it easy to confuse them: the Tk2 coin is thicker. The second version of the Tk1 coin has the same design as the first but is gold in colour. There is a new Tk1 coin featuring the country's founder Sheikh Mujibur Rahman which is smaller than the former designs (helpful because it is not the same size as the Tk2 coin). It is likely various versions of Tk1 coins will be around for some time, possibly until inflation renders them obsolete.
There are counterfeit bank notes in the marketplace, particularly Tk 500, but the problem is not widespread. Sometimes stall holders, shop keepers and others will not accept damaged notes (with holes or torn even if reassembled with tape), though this does not cause significant inconvenience since the damaged notes can usually be used in the next transaction.
Most expatriates living and working in Bangladesh have been placed in the country by their organisations, and are most often in jobs connected to embassies, international non-governmental organisations or multinational companies. Others have taken advantage of volunteer placements under programmes run by either non-government organisations or western government aid agencies.
To find a job independently with a local organisation is much more difficult, not because local organisations do not wish to employ non-nationals (westerners), but because there is a rather arduous bureaucratic process involved. Firstly the job applicant would need to receive an 'e'-visa (entry visa) from a Bangladeshi embassy (outside Bangladesh and technically it is supposed to be from the Bangladeshi embassy in the applicant's home country). The next step is to apply for a work permit, and then proceed to extend the visa, as the initial e-visa is usually only for three months or so. These processes can be cumbersome and take time; in fact the government of Bangladesh currently has them under review with the goal of making things easier.
To get the initial e-visa, the company wishing to employ the foreigner needs government approval, for which they have to show the job cannot be undertaken by a Bangladeshi national (i.e. because the required skill set is unavailable locally). Then the relevant government department will send a fax to the embassy where the applicant is to apply for their first e-visa (usually in their home country). Arriving in Bangladesh on another visa first is not recommended since the person would have to leave the country again to change their visa type.
The job market for foreigners in Bangladesh is relatively small, apart from multinational companies, non-government organisations and embassies. Local opportunities may exist in teaching English (though there is no large market for English teachers as can be found in some other Asian countries) or in the development sector (with local non-government organisations). There is a 'status' element to employing westerners amongst many local organisations, including schools and private universities which may use the employing of a western lecturer or principal for marketing their institutions locally. There remain however a good many institutions and organisations which while wanting to employ a foreigner, are unfamiliar with or unwilling to go through the bureaucratic process to make it legitimate.
Salary rates for foreigners engaged locally will also be low by western standards, but a good deal higher than a local would receive for a job of a similar grade.
For those who do make the effort though, Bangladesh can be a very rewarding place to live and work, though Dhaka in particular is on the expensive side if the salary is that of a locally-engaged foreigner. A particular problem is the cost of rent, and if possible it may be advisable to negotiate the provision of accommodation into the salary package.
The national language is Bengali (Bangla) and is spoken everywhere. It's an Indo-Aryan language derived from Prakit, Pali and Sanskrit and written in its own script. Many Bangladeshis understand only limited English such as basic affirmatives, negatives, and some numbers. This is especially so in rural areas and among the lower socio-economic classes. Learning a few Bengali words ahead of your trip will prove very useful.
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). If hawkers or rickshaw-wallahs are over-zealous in selling you their products or services, simply 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 is a fish 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.
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.
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.
In Dhaka, CHittagong, Cox's Bazar and some other cities there is a wide choice of hotels, from luxury to budget class hostels. Usally 5-star hotel rates in Dhaka are round US$120-150 room/night, 3-star hotels around US$70-100 and available budget rated hotel sometimes for as little as US$10.
Being a Muslim country, alcohol is frowned upon and found mostly in the international clubs and pricier restaurants in Dhaka and in some restaurants in tourist centers like Cox's Bazar. In Teknaf and on Saint Martins Island you may stumble upon the occasional beer smuggled in from Myanmar. Some of the nicest hotels in the cities have fully equipped bars with exaggerated prices to match. 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.
Coffee is aperennial middle-class 'Adda' (gossip) accompaniment in this city. A popular chain is 'Coffeeworld' , of which there are seven 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.
See also Travel Health
There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Bangladesh. There is one exception though. You need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering Bangladesh) where that disease is widely prevalent.
It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Bangladesh. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended and when travelling longer than 2 weeks also typhoid.
If you are staying longer than 3 months or have a particular risk (travelling by bike, handling of animals, visits to caves) you might consider a rabies vaccination. Vaccination against Tuberculosis as well as hepatitis B are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.
Malaria is prevalent in the country, mainly in the border regions with Assam and Myanmar. Don't underestimate this tropical disease and take precautions. Buy repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net. Dengue sometimes occurs as well.
Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.
See also Travel Safety
Bangladesh is a country full of friendly and open-minded people. But being a poor country with a high poverty rate, there are some impoverished or bad-natured people who may find ways to exploit a foreigner/tourist. Please stick to common sense precautions, such as not walking around unnecessarily or alone after dark. 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 will be safe when walking around city streets as you will undoubtedly be watched by multiple curious locals at any one time. When travelling by rickshaw, CNG (auto-rickshaw) or bus, be careful to keep valuables close at hand. Don't wear expensive jewellery without precaution; most middle-class locals now simply wear imitation gold/silver and rhinestones/clay and beaded pendants.
The clothing of local women varies, according to religion and degree of religious conservatism, socio-political climate (varies from time to time), 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. However, most of Bangladesh is a relatively open-minded Muslim country, and the youth in major cities (e.g.: Dhaka, Chittagong, etc.) are quite Westernized.
Nationwide strikes or “hartals” are widely employed as a means of political expression in Bangladesh. The political opposition over the past several years has called a number of these hartals, resulting in the virtual shutdown of transportation and commerce, and sometimes attacks on individuals who do not observe the hartals. Clashes between rival political groups during hartals have resulted in deaths and injuries. Visitors should avoid all political protests, demonstrations, and marches. During hartals, visitors should exercise caution in all areas and remain indoors whenever possible. Hartals, demonstrations, and other protests can occur at any time.
It's best to not eat, drink or smoke anything offered to you by strangers - there's 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's 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 snacks.
Speeding bus/coaches/trucks cause many deaths. Road signs and traffic lights are often ignored by cars, and traffic jams are always a given, making it very difficult for pedestrians to travel. It is wisest NOT to drive yourself or to walk major roads alone. Consequently, road travel (if absolutely necessary) is best undertaken with an experienced local driver in a good vehicle with safety belts. Use rickshaws with precaution; although a very authentic local drive, it is also the most dangerous vehicle for transport, especially on major routes (now being banned).
Prison sentences ranging from 2 to 10 years are prescribed for homosexual activity between consenting adults under Bangladeshi law. LGBT travelers should exercise discretion.
Internet is available in most of the larger towns, with prices hovering around Tk 25-30/hour. Most are on broadband connections, but speed does not meet international standards. WiMAX service is now available from some internet service providers. You can also find WiFi connectivity in some places around the big cities.
You can also use mobile operator's connection. All operators such as teletalk (governmental operator) grameenphone, airtel, robi, banglink have 3G connection.
See also International Telephone Calls
The country calling code to Bangladesh is 880. To make an international call from Bangladesh, the code is 00.
Landlines are a rarity in Bangladesh, and aren't reliable even when you can find them. Bangladesh Telephone Company Ltd. (BTCL or formerly BTTB, known generally as T&T) is the public sector phone company and the only landline service in the country.
Mobile phones are a better bet and widely available. In most towns they'll be your only option, and many shop owners let theirs double as PCO's / ISD's. Banglalink and Grameenphone are the most widely available, followed by Citycell, Robi, Teletalk and Airtel. Except Citycell all work on the GSM network and offer prepaid packages at reasonable prices – usually about Tk 140 ($2) to get started. International calls are possible, and often more reasonably priced than you would expect if you're calling the US or major European countries although prices can rise drastically as you get more off the beaten path. E-ISD facility offered by different mobile phone service providers can reduce the cost significantly. For the E-ISD service dial 012 instead of 00/+.
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