Bangladesh is in South Asia, bordering the Bay of Bengal to the south, mostly surrounded by India and bordering Myanmar in the southeast.India was partitioned by Britain in 1947, creating a Republic of Pakistan and a Republic of India. Bangladesh came into existence in 1971 when Bengali-speaking East Pakistan seceded from its union with Punjabi dominated West Pakistan after a 9 month bloody war. Although Bangladesh only emerged as an independent... Read more...
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Cities and Destinations in Bangladesh
Bangladesh is in South Asia, bordering the Bay of Bengal to the south, mostly surrounded by India and bordering Myanmar in the southeast.
India was partitioned by Britain in 1947, creating a Republic of Pakistan and a Republic of India. Bangladesh came into existence in 1971 when Bengali-speaking East Pakistan seceded from its union with Punjabi dominated West Pakistan after a 9 month bloody war. Although Bangladesh only emerged as an independent country in 1971, its history stretches back thousands of years and it has long been known as a crossroads of history and culture. Here you will find the world's longest sea beach, countless mosques, the largest mangrove forest in the world, interesting tribal villages and a wealth of elusive wild life. Above all else you'll encounter a very friendly and hospitable people.
Ready-made garments, textiles, pharmaceuticals, agricultural goods, Ship building and fishing are some of the largest industries. The gap between rich and poor is increasingly obvious, as in the rest of Asia, especially in cities such as Dhaka and Chittagong as you move around between the working class old city and affluent neighborhoods like Gulshan and Baridhara.
ZIA International Airport in Dhaka is the main gateway to the country, though Chittagong and Sylhet also receive international flights.
The national carrier is Biman Air http://www.bimanair.com/, connecting with a few hubs in the Middle East, Asia and Europe. It has a less-than-stellar reputation for punctuality, cleanliness and safety. It is now under re-organization and most international routes have been canceled--so look at other airlines for now.
The private carrier GMG Airlines http://www.gmgairlines.com/ operates domestic and regional flights to Dhaka from Kolkata, Delhi, Bangkok, Kuala_Lumpur and Kathmandu, and is far better managed than Biman. It is the best local carrier currently based in Dhaka and may open intercontinental routes soon.
There are direct flights to Dhaka from Qatar (Qatar Airways) and the United Arab Emirates( Emirates or Etihad Airways) through which you can connect to most Asian and European capitals and several North American hubs. Emirates, for instance, serves New York, Toronto and Houston from their Dubai (DXB) hub non-stop--and then connects to Dhaka via a short four-hour hop.
Hong Kong (Chek Lap Kok) and Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi) are the most convenient nearby hubs to reach Bangladesh from Eastern Asia (Beijing, Tokyo) and points further East (Western United States).
Dragonair http://www.dragonair.com/da/en_INTL/helpingyoutravel/destinationdetails?cityCode=DAC/ flies non-stop from Hong Kong to Dhaka (4~5 hours). Hong Kong as a major international hub has very good connections to the rest of the world.
No direct flights to Dhaka yet. Cathay Pacific has a non-stop route from New York (JFK) to Hong Kong over the North Pole (CX830/831). Then you take a short Dragonair flight to Dhaka.
Continental http://www.continental.com/web/en-US/Default.aspx flies to Hong Kong non-stop using the same 16-hour polar route, flying from Newark Liberty (New Jersey). Again--the connection is by Dragonair.
Cathay Pacific, Thai & Singapore Airlines now have non-stop flights from Hong Kong, Bangkok & Singapore (their respective hub cities) to Los Angeles. Singapore Airlines may also have a direct flight to San Francisco as well. These airlines all have direct connecting flights to Dhaka from their respective hubs.
You're better off connecting via the Bangkok or Singapore hubs (which are served by almost every airline--it seems).
British Airways http://www.ba.com/ serves Dhaka non-stop from London. Air India now serves Dhaka-London via a short stopover in nearby Kolkata.
Connecting through Indian hubs (Delhi or Mumbai) to Dhaka, because of the proliferation of Indian airlines, can involve delays--though as of early 2008 these are not significant. A large number of Indian airlines (e.g. Jet Airways, through several code-share agreements) have direct flights to Europe, and provide convenient connections to Dhaka.
Some regional flights like those operated by Thai Airways stop in Chittagong or Sylhet en route to/from Dhaka.
Nearby regional destinations like Kathmandu (Nepal), Paro (Bhutan), Kunming (China) and all Indian cities are readily accessible from Dhaka in under three hours and are served by a great number of private airlines. The most exotic destination from Dhaka is to Paro (Bhutan's Capital) and is served by Druk-Air, the national Bhutanese airline on Sundays (9:00 AM flight taking an hour). The approach to Paro Airport (PBH) is an adventure in itself.
Kunming is the other newest exotic addition to Dhaka's air-linked cities and has one flight a week (Thursdays). China Eastern Air Flight 2035 arrives in Dhaka from Kunming (KMG) at 12:40 PM. Flight 2036 then departs at 1:40 PM and takes two and a half hours to reach Kunming--a relaxed hinterland Chinese city which is the capital of Yunnan province. At present (November 2007) this is the only direct air-link to the Chinese mainland from Bangladesh (other than Hong Kong).
The only open land borders are those with India. No land crossing is possible to Myanmar (occasionally Bangladesh passport holders are allowed to cross from Teknaf, though this changes regularly).
From KolkataFrom India there are a number of land entry points. The most common way is the regular comfortable a/c buses from Kolkata to Dhaka via the Haridaspur / Benapole border post. Private Bangladeshi bus companies **Shohagh**, Green Line**, Shyamoli among others operate daily Kolkata-Dhaka-Kolkata bus services. Govt. buses run under the label of the state owned West Bengal Surface Transport Service Corporation (WBSTSC) and the Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC). WBSTSC and BRTC both operate buses from Kolkata (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 7:00AM and 7:30AM. The normal journey time is around 12 hours with a one-way fare of Rs550 or BDT600-800, roughly $8-12. If you're only headed to Haridaspur the fare is Rs86 (2.5 hours). Timings will vary, please confirm after arrival in Kolkata (Calcutta).
From SiliguriAnother daily bus service under the WBSTSC/BRTC label runs from Siliguri to Dhaka, via the Changrabandha / Burimari or Burungamari border post with a change of bus at the border. A round-trip Siliguri-Dhaka-Siliguri ticket costs BDT 1300, (~$20). Tickets are sold in Dhaka and Siliguri. Buses leave Dhaka at 8PM and Siliguri at 2PM.
From AgartalaThere 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 BDT600 ($10). 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.
Train services from India were suspended for 42 years, but the Moitree Express started running again between Dhaka to Kolkata in April 2008. The service is biweekly: A Bangledeshi train leaves Dhaka every Saturday, returning on Sunday, while an Indian train leaves Kolkata on Saturdays and returns the next day.
Air travel in Bangladesh is very affordable and convenient.
There are airports in all of the division capitals and in Jessore, Cox's Bazar and some other small cities. Most of the domestic airports are served by either Biman Air, the national airline, or GMG Airlines, their private competitor.
Biman had the interesting distinction of flying the half-hour Dhaka-Chittagong (DAC-CGP) leg (~250 miles) on DC-10's and Airbus A-310's--both large widebody jets.
By Air Taxi (Helicopter)
There are quite a few rotor-wing craft services available for hire in Bangladesh for tourism, MEDEVAC or Film-footage services. Any reputable travel agent will know full details. As of now--one service ATL is at, ATL or at, ATL.
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) buses usually fall into this catergory.
However, there are luxurious air conditioned bus services connecting major cities and popular tourist destinations. Green Line, ShyamoliSilkLine 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, at least.
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 on the nerves. Traffic in Dhaka has reached unimaginable proportions, and self-driving isn't really advised. Night time driving is substantially more dangerous as trucks often ignore smaller cars. It is highly advised to get a local driver.
Bangladesh Railways is the state and only train operator. The ticket prices are reasonable and usually similar to bus ticket prices and sometimes even cheaper. However, due to the roundabout routes and tricky river crossings, the journey durations are usually much longer. Tickets can be booked over the phone, though unless you speak Bengali you're likely to get better results at one of the computerized station booking offices.
Trains are generally comfortable, with more leg room than buses. Though the carriages are generally not very clean, the AC and 1st class seats are manageable. Sulob class is the highest 2nd class ticket, with reserved seating and not much different from 1st class (except in price).
Kamlapur Rail Station in Dhaka is large and modern. It serves all major cities but due to the existence of broad gauge and meter gauge tracks around the country it may be required to change trains en route.
Note that there have been a relatively high number of train accidents compared to other Asian countries.
There are over 230 mighty 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 sightseeing trips of various lengths, or using the ferries to get between cities is a great way to see the country at a moderate pace.
The Rocket Steamer service connects Dhaka and 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 and run several times per week in each direction. It's advisable to book several days in advance if possible. 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 10 small berths on the upper deck of the boat with 2 beds each and a sink (no doubt doubling as a urinal), and fairly clean shared bathrooms. There's a central dining/sitting room in each class with a chef cooking Bengali meals and the odd fish-and-chips or an omelette for around Tk 50-150. Cheaper food can be bought at the vendors in the lower classes on the bottom level. First class is at the front of the boat, with the bow made into a nice sitting area. If you're traveling single you must book 2 beds if you want a berth guaranteed to yourself in either class, though unless the boat is completely full it's unlikely they'll put someone in a foreigner's room even if you just pay for one. The full journey takes anywhere from 26-30 hours and costs Tk 1010/610 in first/second class. It's best avoided during the rainy seasons and during holidays when the launches get over crowded with home-returning city dwellers. The more eco-friendly may prefer to take their trash off with them, otherwise it's likely to end up in the river at the end of the journey.
BIWTC also operates many other more basic ferries that may be useful for smaller distances.
When to go
Bangladeshis will be the first to warn you against the bad seeds in their country at every chance. Why are you staying at that hotel?! Watch your bags! Don't take candy from strangers! While there's no doubt that you can encounter bad natured people you're surrounded by many more that are looking out for you at every turn, and you'll likely find yourself wondering what the fuss is all about in the first place. That said, stick to common sense precautions like not walking around unnecessarily after dark, and 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.
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 druggings, 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 you.
Bottled water is recommended, as the tap water is often unsafe for foreign stomachs, and some hand-drawn tube wells are contaminated with naturally occurring arsenic. This will easily pass through filters designed only 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.
It's also wise to use discretion when eating from street vendors-make sure it's freshly cooked and hot.
Mosquitoes can be abundant in some areas and cities, and nets are often provided, even in some of the cheapest hotels.
Consult your travel doctor about precautions against malaria and typhoid fever.
Pollution can be a problem, and in some of the cities like Dhaka and Chittagong you may wish you'd brought along an oxygen tank. While some effort has been shown recently to clean up the country such as the banning of plastic bags, there's still a long way to go and 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.