Bangladesh (“Land of the Bengals”), is a South Asian country to the east of India on the Bay of Bengal in the delta of the Padma and Jamuna rivers. One of the most densely populated countries in whole world is a riverine land marked by lush greenery and many waterways where traveling with boats is as common as with a car. Also, inside its enormous mangrove forest which country shares with Eastern India lives royal Bengal tigers. The majority of the population here is Muslim who are welcoming all the explorers of the world with open arms and sharing rich culture of this greenest jewel of south Asia.
While under British rule Bangladesh area was just east portion of historical region of Bengal (western portion is currently India’s province West Bengal). Once British took their leave on 1947, the area was divided to three main regions: West Pakistan (current Pakistan), India and Pakistani province of East Bengal which later was renamed to East Pakistan (current Bangladesh). In all five Pakistan provinces the majority of population consisted of Muslims, and in India – Hindus. However, one of five provinces of Pakistan was separated to the other four by 1800 kilometers of Indian territory. After Liberation War which happened in 1971 the province became independent country of Bangladesh, with its capital at Dhaka.
Bangladesh is welcoming wanderers and explorers with more than 700 rivers where in total you could count around 8000 kilometers of additional tracks. Often called as a river country, Bangladesh is producing a deliciously lush landscape with more shades of green than you ever imagined. Using boat instead of a car is often choice by many travelers who comes here. This also, provides a different perspective to spot things while wandering the country. We were not an exception, we tried overnight cruise, day trips and many casual boat rides instead of a taxi – traveling by boat is a way of life here! The destination does not matter, in this densely populated country choosing a boat to explore Bangladesh’s riches over anything else is a great choice to make. It helps you to feel away from everything else, the rhythm of locals and their easy-going attitude.
Even though mangrove forests and Bengal tigers of the Sundarbans National Park are Bangladesh's most famous attraction, the country has a lot of other sights which are waiting to be spotted and explored. Our highlights would include magnificent tea fields of Sreemangal, empty beaches of Cox’s Bazaar or marvelous mausoleums of Bagerhat which are also considered to be UNESCO World Heritage Site. While it is truly interesting to wander through busy Dhaka streets with vibrant temples and busy lifestyle of locals, it is just a must to leave it and experience small villages outside the capital. Travel north, west, south or east – enjoy the travel not the destination, experience the people and cherish every bit of these unforgettable memories you can make!
People in Bangladesh are truly amazing and welcoming! We are not sure if that is because majority of the modern Bangladesh is Muslim or there is some other reason to it. Nevertheless, if you have an opportunity or a request to stay with a family of locals – do not hesitate – just do it! Getting off the beaten track is something like a travel goal nowadays. Here it is easy to get the sensation that you are the only foreigner in town. Tourism is still infancy in Bangladesh, thus, through our short almost three-week trip around the country we only met less than a handful of other travelers. It is truly amazing! If you are a kind of person who enjoy communicating with locals, making new friends and traveling without meeting other tourists, then this is probably just the country to choose for your next adventure!
To all the possibilities you can experience here in Bangladesh – there are some downsides as well. First, is the possibility to travel fast as country has undeveloped tourist industry and poor infrastructure. If you are in a hurry, adjust your plan or find a way to slow down. Otherwise, you can get left frustrated as this is really not a destination to be rushed. Good thing is that Bangladesh is not a country to where you can just mark down all the objects you visited. It is more like a country which you need to experience. So, do not try to pack everything in your trip itinerary and just enjoy the travel, Bangladesh’s relaxing vibe, make friends and explore the unknown.
Out of many cities we visited we decided to highlight only 8 of them in our bucket list. Our trip took almost three weeks, we traveled close to 2500 kilometers most of the distance covering with boats, cars, trains or buses. Thus, explored a lot of ground in between destinations. We believe that you need more time fully to experience this country, however, it is possible to enjoy and feel just a glimpse of Bangladesh in just three weeks too. We know that someday we will come back and explore more during another adventure!
What to expect
The currency in Bangladesh is Bangladeshi taka. Even if you do not have takas, it is considerably easy to get it changed from your currency in any bank you visit. If you use Revolut, you can withdraw money from some of the ATM’s throughout the country and up until your plan limit for free.
Even though there are quite many ATM’s where you can get cash for free, keep in mind that some of the ATM’s might charge additionally for the withdrawal, thus, if you do not want to be charged just find another ATM nearby. This makes you want to have more cash on hand while traveling to more remote places.
Bangladesh has a subtropical monsoon climate. Also, country is considerably flat, with highest mountain reaching only just over 1 kilometer. Most of locals will tell you that it is a country famous for its 6 seasons! However, nowadays they experience mostly three of them (might be because of climate change as people talk). They have a hot, humid summer from March to June, then a cool, rainy monsoon season from June to October and a cool, dry winter from October to March. However, as we visited during the winter we can state that it feels like a great summer to us with temperatures rising to around 25-30 degrees at some point
The official language is – Bengali. It is the first language of more than 98 percent of population. It has its own script which derived from that of Sanskrit. While we were there, we found that some people can also speak English, Hindi and Urdu. We found no problem communicating with the people there even without the language as everyone is hospitable, welcoming and always willing to help.
Well we think that the best time is winter! The weather is perfect for outdoor adventures. And during summer months the place is quite hot with high humidity levels. The weather in the winter very pleasant in largest part of the country.
Bangladesh is probably the cheapest or one of the cheapest places for telecommunications in whole world. We bought our Grameenphone SIM card in airport for both calls and internet. Norwegian telecommunication company with easy procedure which takes couple minutes and you are all set. There are more providers available, however, this one offers great rates and amazing accessibility through your phone application. It was so easy to track how much internet we already used, how much money we need to put in to buy new internet package and we could pay with our cards as well. For a card and 4 GB of data we paid around 4 EUR; for additional 10 GB you pay around 2 EUR per recharge. Would recommend this to anyone!
We would advise against drinking tap water in whole Bangladesh, especially if you come just for a short stay (up to couple weeks) as your body needs time to adjust to certain bacteria which is everywhere and taking too much of it at the same time can put you to bed for couple days. Even though in some sources you could find that water is safe to drink, or that filtered water is alright we suggest to doublecheck with your host or locals before you do that. We did drink lots of distilled water, however, before we traveled through India for more than a month and had adapted quite well, thus, it is up to you!
We did try hitchhiking in Bangladesh, and it was a very pleasant experience. One of the cars who stopped was local businessman who invited us to his bottled water factory where he was going. We had super delicious lunch there with bunch of locals, met the family which is responsible for the things there. Amazing! However, there are downsides if you plan to hitchhike in Bangladesh. As infrastructure and roads are underdeveloped you will face difficulties hitchhiking when you go to more distant areas. On top of that, not many people own their private cars there, thus, you can get stranded on a road without any cars for hours. We highly recommend choosing different way of transportation to more remote areas.
In most cities we visited one major thing was clear – using platforms like Agoda, Booking, Airbnb or others is highly unrecommended. The prices there are ridiculous! We ignored that we have internet and went door to door in the places which were convenient for us to stay. It is tiring experience as most of the registers are situated in second or higher floors. However, in bigger cities like capital there are people who use Couchsurfing and there you might find amazing hosts! We also heard that it is quite common to use Workaway here, but we did not get a chance to try it. In most places we had to stay in paid accommodation. There are lots of budget good value price ratio deals available if you look for it!