Bangladesh travel guide
From elaborately detailed clothes and ornately decorated taxis to crowded cities packed bumper to heel and temple to mosque, Bangladesh is bursting at its seams. So much detail packed into such little area. An eclectic near 160 million people cram into a tight 55,600 square miles (144,000 km) of land.
Although Bangladesh has stunning sites from the world's most famous rivers, to the world's longest beach, ancient ruins and sacred religious sites, all uncorrupted by commercialised tourism, the visiting traveller is rare enough to cause a commotion on the streets. The capital Dhaka is usually the tourist's port of entry. Here a hectic city centre comprises a pattern of narrow and cramped streets between a sprawl of low buildings.
Perhaps taking a cue from the cyclones, whirlwind politics sweep the national parties into frenzies. Since a bloody struggle for independence with Pakistan ended in 1971, power has bounced from coup to counter coup until landing at parliamentary democracy and relative stability in 1991. This isn't without its shake-ups as corruption and political violence are rife and the government was suspended in a state of emergency until new elections in 2008.
Development is sometimes difficult as the country is often recovering from devastating floods and cyclones. The rivers of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna spread their waters into the world's largest delta. Monsoon rain and Himalayan ice melt flood the river banks annually. This provides fertile soil and lush vegetation for the mostly flat country, but also a hard pattern of life.
Features such as South Asia's largest shopping mall stand in testament to recent economic growth. Beginnings of foreign investments are giving Bangladesh a much needed bump into the world economy but it is also constructing a paradoxical society. At one end, steadily growing industries are trying to pull away from the country's vast majority of the poorest people at the other. City development gives visitors a tourist infrastructure within major cities but very little elsewhere.
Bangladesh will likely remain a country very few tourists will visit, buy those that do, presuming they possess an open mind, will seldom forget the experience.
Money : The currency in Bangladesh is the Bangladesh Taka (BDT). There are ATMs in major cities but credit cards are usually only accepted in Dhaka. Banks and large stores will accept travellers cheques. The best exchange rate is found in private shops. Travellers are not allowed to leave with more currency than what they declare on arrival. Banking hours are 9 am to 3 pm, Sunday to Thursday.
Language : The official language of Bangladesh is Bangla. The language is central to their national identity. English and Urdu are often understood.
Electricity : Electrical current in Bangladesh is 220 Volts, 50Hz. Round pin plugs, flat blade plugs, triangular three round pin plugs and parallel flat pins with grounding pin plugs are all common.
Entry Requirements :
United States passport holders require a valid passport as well as a visa; visas can be issued on arrival for stays of up to 30 days.
British passport holders require a valid passport as well as a visa. Visas valid for 30 days can be issued on arrival.
Canadian passport holders require a valid passport as well as a visa. Visas valid for 30 days can be obtained on arrival.
Australian passport holders require a valid passport as well as a visa. Visas valid for 30 days can be obtained upon arrival.
South African passport holders require a valid passport as well as a visa.
Irish passport holders require a valid passport as well as a visa. Visas valid for 30 days can be obtained upon arrival.
New Zealand passport holders require a valid passport as well as a visa. Visas valid for 30 days can be obtained upon arrival.
Passport/Visa Note :
Although some visas are available on arrival these are limited and inconsistently 'given out'. Visa fees depend on embassy and nationality. Israelis are denied entry. A return or onward ticket is required and departure tax depends on onward destination.
Travel Health :
Medical facilities aren't close to the quality of most western hospitals and travellers with serious conditions should seek help outside of the country. Before travellers arrive they should consult a physician four to six weeks in advance to receive necessary immunisations and begin taking anti-malaria and typhoid medication. Malaria medication is needed for all areas outside of Dhaka. Make sure all ordinary immunisations are current. Hepatitis A and B immunisations are recommended as well as rabies and Japanese encephalitis for travellers to rural communities and the outdoors. Tuberculosis is also on the rise in Bangladesh. Travellers' diarrhoea is the most common affliction. Make sure to drink bottled water and keep sceptical of undercooked foods. A Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is required for all travellers older than one year of age arriving from a yellow-fever infected area.
Tipping in Bangladesh is not expected but welcome.
Safety Information :
The security situation in Bangladesh is fluid and travellers should contact their local embassy for advice closer to the time of travel. All protests should be avoided in case they turn violent. Chittagong Hill Tracks should be avoided by all tourists as they have had recent political unrest and violence. Armed robbery and theft is a problem especially in poor urban areas. Pickpocketing and purse snatching are common and directed at foreign travellers. Travellers should avoid walking or taking public transport at night because of crime. However city transport can be dangerous due to road and traffic conditions at all times. Ferries also result in fatalities each year. Monsoon season cyclones and flooding are a threat especially on coastal regions and near rivers.
Local Customs : The left hand is considered unclean and generally isn't used to greet people or pass food. It is common to eat with one's hands. Women should dress conservatively and often don't shake hands with men in greetings. People are addressed with a suffix denoting their relative age so addressing unknown people as older brother or sister is common. Bangladesh is an Islamic and a male dominated society despite having prominent women in government.
Communications : The international access code for Bangladesh is +880. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom) and city codes are in use (e.g. 2 for Dhaka). Dial up internet connections are found in larger towns and cities. Most cell phones work on a GSM network with prepaid SIM cards.
Duty Free :
Travellers to Bangladesh may bring with them 200 Cigarettes/50 Cigars/0.5 pounds (225g) of tobacco, an amount of perfume reasonable for personal use, and gifts of up to 500BDT in value. Non-Muslims may have two bottles of liqour.
Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport
Location: 11 miles (17km) north of Dhaka
Time: Local time is GMT/UCT + 6
Contacts: +880 (0)2 896 0825
Getting to the city: An airport shuttle bus runs to the city. There are also taxis and tuk-tuks available.
Car rental: A host of Bangladeshi car rental companies are available.
Facilities: Currency exchange counters, post office, duty-free shopping, ATMs, small restaurants, and car-hire kiosks are available.
Parking: Long and short-term parking is available.
Departure tax: Varies depending on destination.
Bangladesh has a very wet climate defined by its subtropical monsoon seasons. Most of the rain falls from late May through October, followed by a cool season through February and a hot summer from March to mid-May. Summer temperatures in Bangladesh average above 90°F (32°C) and are at their peak in April; summer is also very humid and prone to hailstorms.
The rainy season in Bangladesh is focused from June to September, during which three quarters of the country's annual rainfall happens. Bangladesh is prone to annual cyclones and floods, which are most likely between May and June, and October and November.
Bangladesh is a good winter sun destination for Northern Hemisphere travellers; the best time to visit Bangladesh is between October and February, when the weather is mostly sunny and dry, with temperatures averaging around 75°F (24°C).
National Tourism Organisational, Dhaka, Bangladesh: +880 (2) 989
Embassy of the United States of America, Dhaka: +880 (2) 885
British High Commission, Dhaka: +880 (2) 882 2705.
Canadian High Commission, Dhaka: +880 (2) 988 7091.
Australian High Commission, Dhaka: +880 (2) 881 3101.
South African High Commission, Colombo, Sri Lanka: + 94 11 268 9926.
Ireland Embassy, New Delhi, India: +91 (11) 2462 6733.
New Zealand High Commission, New Delhi: +91 11 4688 3170
Bangladesh Embassy, Washington DC, United States of America: +1
(202) 244 0183.
Foreign Embassies in Bangladesh
Bangladesh High Commission, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Ireland): +44 (0)20 7584 0081.
Bangladesh High Commission, Ottawa, Canada: +1 (613) 236 0138.
Bangladesh Embassy, Canberra, Australia:+61 (2) 6290 0511.
Bangladesh High commission, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (12) 343 2105.
Bangladesh Consulate, Auckland, New Zealand: +64 (0)9 302 0545.
Ambulance: 199; Fire: 9 555 555; Police:
Bangladesh Emergency Numbers
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