Famous for being home to over 700 rivers, Bangladesh is also a country that has been perfected for boat travel. While the country is considered to be off the beaten path for most travelers, those who do take a venture to its border will find a warm welcome.
Those who have traveled to Bangladesh may tell you that if it were to be one of Asia’s hidden gems, it would be an emerald with thousands of shades of green. This luscious nation sits in South Asia, just east of India on the Bay of Bengal.
With plenty to explore, Bangladesh will keep you on your toes and show you the beauty of Asia.
স্বাগত – Welcome to Bangladesh!
Dhaka is the capital of Bangladesh, which sits along the banks of the Buriganga River, and like most Asian cities, it’s busy. With 20.2 million people living in the Greater Dhaka Area, it’s one of the world’s most densely populated cities.
For Bangladesh, Dhaka is the center of the economic, political, and cultural communities within the country. While the new city has been modernized, parts of the old city still stand for tourists to catch a glimpse of the past.
Dhaka is also famous for its colorful rickshaws, which are the main method of transportation and guarantee that you have a more authentic experience as you venture through the streets.
- Culture and Language
- Spending Budget
- How to Get Around
- Top Cities to Visit
- Points of Interest
Culture and Language
Bangladesh is a fairly young country as it gained independence in 1971. Previously, Bangladesh was called East Bengal, which then changed to East Pakistan when it became one of Pakistan’s five provinces. However, a civil war overthrew Pakistan and declared the country independent, while also renaming it Bangladesh.
Pakistan isn’t the only country that has influenced Bangladesh, and the country has had periods of time under the influence of the Mughal and British Empires. The Mughal Empire controlled Bangladesh’s area during the 16th century and brought Islam to the country.
Today, the majority of the population is still Muslim, though the country does have religious tolerance and acceptance. The British East India Company left its mark on the culture when they settled in the area and helped increase their finances with Bengal’s textile industry.
While Bangladesh was more or less successful under British rule, it wasn’t until its independence from Pakistan that they become more politically stable. With power divided into three branches of the government and general elections, Bangladesh has worked hard at advancing its society and managing a promising future.
More recently, Bangladesh has made the news for taking in over 1 million Rohingya refugees who are escaping violence and persecution in the neighboring country of Myanmar. In the ongoing crisis, Bangladesh has continued to respect religious tolerance by helping those in need.
Don’t let the refugee crisis fool you. A warm welcome is traditional in Bangladesh’s culture, and those who are seeking entry into Bangladesh will be accepted with open arms. The country is eager to share its customs with visitors, so you shouldn’t shy away from experiencing the real Bangladesh by visiting the local areas, markets, and shops.
Part of the country’s happy vibe is due to its religious tolerance. While the predominant religion is Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism are also important for members of the society, and you can see the three religions peacefully co-exist throughout the country.
Family is also important, which is in line with most Asian cultures. However, Bangladesh society is patriarchal, and traditional gender customs are observed.
For visitors, family life is kept more private. Instead, you’ll be welcome to view the country, but don’t expect to partake in any family dynamics. The people of Bangladesh are extremely polite, and they will often show visitors their deep respect through their own customs and language.
Bengali is the official language of Bangladesh, which is spoken by about 98% of the 164.7 million (as of 2020) population. The language is derived from Sanskrit, but it does have its own written script. You may also see the language called Bangla. The language is important because it’s used by the government, media, and educational institutions.
English is also an official language in Bangladesh and is leftover from the days of colonization by the British. Some schools even teach English, and a large portion of the population has a fairly high level of fluency in the language.
This is a big advantage for many tourists because it brings a certain level of comfort and ease when interacting with the locals.
Bangladesh is considered to be an affordable place to travel like other Asian countries, so you’ll need to take the time to plan your vacation. The most important considerations for your budget are airfare, accommodation, food, drink, and transportation.
Before you can enjoy your time in Bangladesh, you’ll have to spend a pretty penny to get there. While some deals can lower the cost, you should expect to spend a good chunk of money.
The time of year when you travel to Bangladesh and when you book your ticket can also affect the cost. The high tourist season in Bangladesh runs from March to April, but there are also peaks in tourism from October to February for the winter holidays.
It’s during these months that plane tickets will be more expensive as the demand for travel increases. You should also plan ahead and book a ticket instead of waiting. The longer you wait to book a ticket, the more expensive it will be overall.
Plane tickets will always be the first major expense in your budget because you need a way to reach your destination. But once you have a ticket booked, it’s important that you determine your budget for accommodation during your stay.
Hostels will be the most affordable option, though some travelers prefer something a bit nicer. More expensive, western-style options and luxury hotels are also available in Bangladesh.
Once you’ve decided on your accommodation for the duration of your stay, the next portion of your budget will need to go to food and drink. Bangladeshi food is known to be quite spicy. They also have surprisingly good desserts and sweets.
One of the famous sweet dishes is called paratha, which is a typical Bangladeshi breakfast. The dish is like a flatbread that is eaten with eggs or lentils. Kachchi biryani is another famous dish that is most common at weddings and has several tasty layers of meat, rice, and potatoes.
For your main course, bhuna khichuri is a deep-fried dish that also has slow-cooked meat with rice. A plainer rice dish is called patla khichuri, which is a soup-like dish with meat and vegetables. Finally, kababs are popular street food, and many will top it off with a dessert of misti doi, which is a sweet yogurt.
Street food will be the most affordable dining option in Bangladesh, however, you may even find some local restaurants that have meals for the same price. Nice restaurants are also affordable, and there are many places to eat out that cost only a few dollars. If you’re sticking to touristy areas, you should expect to spend much more for a meal at a restaurant.
Drinking is also important for some travelers, and it will be crucial to know how expensive it’s to enjoy the nightlife. For local alcohol, you should expect to spend a couple of dollars per bottle. Imported drinks and those purchased in more touristy areas may sell drinks with price tags that match.
It’s also important to know that tipping is important in Bangladesh’s culture. While you don’t need to spend a lot of money on tips, giving a 5% tip to hotel attendants or servers is a nice gesture.
How to Get Around
Bangladesh is a unique country because often the first choice for methods of transportation is to go by boat. The country is filled with waterways, which. means that you can catch a boat to almost anywhere.
A word of caution for the waterways – it’s better to take a smaller or private vessel. Ferries are common, but they are often filled past their capacity limit, which makes them dangerous.
By choosing to hire a small boat, you can better control the number of people and stay safer. Taking boats is very affordable, even when going longer distances.
Buses are also a popular way to travel around Bangladesh, and they are even cheaper than boats. However, buses are slow and can also be overcrowded.
Taxis and Rickshaws
Taxis and rickshaws are other options to get around cities. They are also the best way to get around because driving in Bangladesh can be quite hectic and expensive. Instead of having to take on the stress, you can hire local drivers for short trips to get to and from important areas like the airport and your hotel.
For travelers who want to spend more time exploring the country but less time on the road, domestic flights may be an option. However, they are not the most reliable system, and they can be quite expensive.
Ultimately, walking is a good choice to explore a small area. However, you should take extra caution to remain vigilant of your surroundings and keep your belongings close. It’s also a good idea to never walk alone.
Top Cities to Visit
While Dhaka is the country’s main city, there are a lot of other cities that you can explore in Bangladesh. Boasting a range of attractions like ancient landmarks, historic sites, rainforests, and beaches, each location is worth the trip. Here are the top city destinations in Bangladesh.
Dhaka is the beating heart of Bangladesh and the main hub for the country’s culture, economy, politics, and education. It’s also where people will fly into and is often the first place that tourists explore in Bangladesh.
The main tourist attractions include the National Memorial, Parliament House, Maynamati ruins, and Baldah Gardens. Food lovers will also enjoy walking the city and tasting the various street food dishes.
Located on the seaside, Cox’s Bazar is home to Bangladesh’s longest beach in the world. With 75 miles of sand to explore, the area has become a must-see destination for tourists.
While it was once a fishing town, the influx of tourism has made it popular with guests who also wish to view the Buddhist monastery and gorgeous architecture. With plenty of homemade goods for sale, you can also walk away with beautiful art and support the local sellers.
Sonargaon is an ancient area that showcases the country’s history in the form of gardens, museums, and a royal palace. Tourists can walk through the city and witness Bangladesh’s history and culture come to life.
The city is also located just a short distance away from the capital, which makes it a good day trip activity.
Bogra is one of Bangladesh’s oldest towns and has become a big tourist destination for people who wish to view a 3rd-century archeological site called Mahasthangarh. In this town, you can also see the peaceful cohabitation of the Buddhist, Muslim, and Hindu religions as there are other temples and palaces to explore too.
The 200-year history of Mymensingh is what attracts tourists to this area. Visitors can stroll through important cultural and historical sites, as well as relax in the calming gardens. The riverside location also means that you can take a boat ride and view the historic city from the water.
With stunning natural beauty along the Surma River, Sylhet is one of the most visited places in Bangladesh for foreign and national tourists. With rivers, hills, lakes, gardens, rainforests, and even waterfalls, you can easily lose your time exploring nature.
You’ll also see just a handful of the vibrant shades of green that fill the country’s landscape.
Khulna is a popular destination because it’s the closest city to the famous Sundarbans, which is the world’s largest mangrove forest. This is where tourists go to catch a glimpse of the famous and endangered Bengal tiger.
For those who are interested in temples, Bandarban is the place to go. This area has many Buddhist temples that you can explore and is nestled in a dramatic natural landscape with a lake and cascading waterfall. The people have also constructed a large statue to honor Buddha.
Points of Interest
While cities are often the main attraction, there are also a few points of interest that are sure to draw you in for a peek. With plenty of natural attractions like winding rivers, islands, and mountains, visitors will have lots of opportunities to spend time outside and enjoy everything that Bangladesh has to offer.
A stunning area packed with exotic wildlife, the Sundarbans are world-famous and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Boasting lush rainforests that are home to endangered and disappearing wildlife, the mangrove is where the Brahmaputra and Ganges rivers meet each other before going into the Bay of Bengal.
The national animal, the Bengal tiger, lives in this area, and you can also find saltwater crocodiles, river terrapins, turtles, the Ganges river dolphins, and horseshoe crabs. With plenty of walking trails, you can escape to nature for a pleasant day.
St. Martin’s Island
Also called Narikel Jinjira, this coral island is one of the most popular points of interest in the country. Although small, Saint Martin’s Island features palm tree-lined beaches and preserved marine life for excellent diving and snorkeling.
With clear water, tourists are eager to get their toes into the Bay of Bengal and relax in paradise.
In Jaflong, the Mari River is famous as people flock to its water to collect the stones that come down from the Himalayan Mountains. The stones are collected in the winter or dry season, but even in the monsoon season, the area is attractive to tourists who wish to see the waterfalls flow from the green mountains.
With a higher altitude, the Sajek Valley is the place to go if you want to get above the clouds. In the hills and valleys, the clouds often fill the space, which gives it a mystical and mysterious feel. With a vast scenic beauty, it’s also a photographer’s dream.
“Joy Bangla” (“Victory to Bengal”)
While Bangladesh is not the most visited Southeast Asian country, it still should not be forgotten. Those who take a trip to this nation are rewarded with experiencing rare and exotic Asian beauty.
With endless rivers, jungles, and mountains, you can spend your days exploring in lush tropics, and you may even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the elusive Bengal tiger.