Bangladesh

Practical Travel Guide

Visas

Almost everyone needs a visa to visit Bangladesh. Citizens from Europe, North America, China, and several other Asian and Middle Eastern countries can get a visa on arrival at the international airport and at the Benapole land border crossing. Check this page for a full list of countries eligible for a visa on arrival.

Everyone else has to get a visa before heading to Bangladesh.  A visa costs $50 for a maximum of 30 days. You can get a visa in your country of origin, or India if you’re traveling there first. Check the page of the respective embassy for more information.

During election time it might be more difficult to obtain a visa. We heard several stories of people being turned away at the border around these times. Elections in Bangladesh are often accompanied by strikes and protest marches, and sometimes turn violent, especially during general elections.

Check our post for information on crossing and getting a visa at the Benapole land border.

 


Budget

Exchange rate at the time of writing: USD$1 = 85 Tk

  • Cup of tea: 5 Tk
  • 1 L bottle of water: 20 Tk
  • Vegetarian meal (dal, rice, sabji) in a cheap restaurant: 30-50 Tk
  • Meat (chicken, fish) dish in cheap restaurant: 50-100 Tk
  • Shared CNG or eBike ride: 5-15 Tk
  • Several hour bus ride: 20-50 Tk
  • Single room: 300-500 Tk
  • Floor ticket for overnight launch: 200 Tk
  • Cabin in overnight launch: 500-1000 Tk

Check out this budget report for 4 weeks of travel in Bangladesh for more detailed price breakdowns.


Transportation

Bangladesh has several transport options. From heart attack inducing buses to relaxing boats, getting around is always an adventure.

Between cities

Bus

There are a myriad of options to get between cities by bus. Buses usually run throughout the day, and most cities and towns have several bus stations. The quality of buses fluctuate enormously. The long distance Green Line air-con buses, for instance, a quite comfortable, but short distance buses can be a nightmare.

When you travel by bus, make sure to bring your nerves. Bus drivers are absolutely insane, and don’t move out of the way for anything. Scary stuff. It’s also very likely that you end up having to stand on a bus, as most buses are loaded with at least three times the maximum capacity of people. Luckily buses are cheap

Train

Trains as more comfortable and less scary than buses. They are also less frequent, and somewhat more expensive for the upper classes. They’re a great way to travel between cities, though, especially if you need to get into or out of Dhaka.

Train tickets can be bought online, by mobile phone (not all operators), at travel agencies, and at the train station. There is reserved and unreserved seating. Tickets can be purchased starting five days before departure and sell out fast on popular routes.

Boat

Traveling Bangladesh’s waterways is the quintessential way of getting around. Bangladesh has more than 8,000 km of navigable waterways, and for some taking a trip on one of them is the highlight of their trip to Bangladesh. There are too many types of boats to count, but the most famous boat is probably The Rocket. The Rocket is the name given to the few paddle-steamer boats still cruising the Bangladeshi waterways, and a trip on of them is surely to be memorable.

Boat trips can be done almost anywhere in the country. From multi-day Sundarban trip in the south to a half day paddle to the China Clay Hills in the north. There are plenty of options, and travelers should not leave Bangladesh without having done at least one boat trip.

In cities

Rickshaw

Rickshaws in Bangladesh are something special. They are always cycle rickshaws, and most of them are pimped to impress. They’re also convenient, cheap, and mostly electric, so you don’t have to feel bad for the driver, as he hardly has to peddle. Perfect for short trips in a city. Expect to pay around 10 Tk per kilometer for a rickshaw, double that in cities such as Dhaka and Sylhet. Rickshaw drivers are very open to bargaining, and usually agree if you quote them a reasonable price.

CNG

CNGs are auto-rickshaws, and are as convenient as the cycle variant. Most CNGs are shared, and ply the same routes throughout a city or town. Expect to pay 5 Tk per person for a shirt trip. It’s also possible to hire a CNG for the day or just to get from the bus station to your hotel. CNGs are marginally cheaper than rickshaws.

Taxi

Not very common outside big cities such as Dhaka, and not particularly convenient at that. Traffic is crazy, and getting a rickshaw or CNG is a much better option. However, if you do want to take a taxi, Uber is available in some major cities.

Bus

Big cities have bus routes, but considering the snails pace at which traffic moves, getting a CNG or rickshaw is probably better, unless you have to travel far and have time.

 


Entering and exiting

Bangladesh shares a land border with India and Myanmar. There are many border posts that allow civilians to cross with India, but none with Myanmar.

Most people either fly Dhaka, or travel overland from Kolkata in India. It’s also possible to enter Bangladesh via  India’s Northeastern states of Assam and Tripura. Note that a Bangladesh visa on arrival is only available at Dhaka airport or at the Benapole border crossing. Visas can also be obtained in Kolkata, New Delhi, Agartala, and Guwahati, among other places in India.

Entering formalities are pretty straightforward, and have been described in our border crossing post. When exiting, there is a 500 Tk departure tax. The tax can be paid at any branch of Sonari Bank in Bangladesh. Some borders have an office to pay the tax at the immigration point, but not all, so it’s advisable to get this sorted in advance. Sonari Bank is closed on Friday and Saturday.

Below is a list of the most popular border crossings with India. Note that India does not provide visas on arrival at land borders,  you already need a visa in your passport to enter India.

  • Benapole: Close to Kolkata, and used by all direct bus services from Kolkata to Dhaka
  • Agartala: The capital of the Indian state of Tripura is close to the Bangladeshi border. Buses to Dhaka are available and you can get a visa at the consulate in Argatala
  • Burimari: Convenient when coming from or going to Darjeerling in northern Bengal
  • Sona Masjid: Little used border crossing, but convenient if you want to see both parts of the historical capital of Gaud
  • Tamabil: Close to Sylhet, and convenient if you want to visit the Northeast of India

Culture

Tipping in Bangladesh

Tipping is not a big deal, although its likely you’ll be asked for baksheesh at one point or another. If you charter a taxi for a day or take a private tour, it’s nice to tip if you are satisfied, but it’s not expected. If you do tip, don’t give more than 5-10%, since you don’t want to raise expectations for future travelers.

Hospitality

Bangladeshis are incredibly hospitable. Don’t be surprised if you never make it to your intended destination because an amiable kidnapping  for tea and food. Don’t worry if someone approached you on the street.

Dress code

Girls: Although headscarfs aren’t mandatory, it pays to have one on you. Bangladesh is a very conservative country, and in some places you won’t see many women on the street, so dress modestly.

Boys: It awlways pays to dress modestly, and no one in Bangladesh wears shorts.

 

 


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