This relatively new country makes regular headlines for floods, cyclones, strikes, political turmoil and abject poverty. In fact it was considered so poor when it broke away from Pakistan, that the an aid concert was organised in 1971 especially to help! It is also home to the second-largest river delta in the world, colonial heritage, Chittagong Hills, few tourist crowds, lots of flat farmland, archeological sights, long beaches and a curious but friendly people.
Why You Should Go
What’s Cool: Decaying Maharaja mansions, world’s longest beach, Hindu temples, Royal Bengal Tigers, water sports on Kapati Lake, cricket matches, good shopping, wildlife in national parks, historic Dhaka, colonial Chittagong, abundant water transport and cheap seafood.
What’s Not: Expensive booze, sinking ferries, staring people, earthquakes, cyclones, flooding, strikes, crazy traffic, pestering beggars, lots of mosquitoes and the occasional state of emergency!
When to Go
Bangladesh is very hot, with three distinctive seasons.
The wet season (May to October) brings the highest temperatures.
The cold season (October to February) is dry and the best time to visit.
The hot season (March to May) is very humid and sticky.
Getting There & Away
The main international airport is in Dhaka, which is also the hub for economical and convenient domestic flights. River ferries are the cheapest way to travel around, but they regularly capsize! Trains are slow but efficient and the main line is from Dhaka to Chittagong. Roads lead everywhere but necessitate frequent river crossings and the many accidents that occur are often lethal. City buses in Dhaka are always overcrowded, while auto-rickshaws are best only used in the daytime. Conventional taxis are also available.
Health & Safety
You will be surprised at how eager many locals are to look after you and warn you of potential dangers. Make sure to keep a low profile during regular nationwide strikes and demonstrations. Stick to bottled water for drinking and brushing your teeth, and take malaria precautions. In Dhaka and Chittagong, you may also want to use an oxygen tank for breathing!
Food & Hospitality
For your daily dose of meat, expect to eat lots of fish, mutton and scrawny chickens. Vegetarians will rejoice at the vegetable curries. If you want a beer to wash it down, you’ll have to find one first! Many top-class hotels must be paid in hard currency, while the best deals are often the hotels run by the National Tourism Agency.
Two weeks is the least you can get away with to enjoy some of the highlights.
Three or four days to see the capital’s highlights and neighboring historical Sonargaon.
Four or five days to see Chittagong’s mosques, Portuguese heritage and nearby attractions.
Three or four days to chill out on the beaches of Cox’s Bazaar with a Burmese Buddhist flavor.
Three days to visit the ruins of Jaintiapur, the former capital of an ancient kingdom.
Four to five days to explore Rajshahi Division in the rarely visited northwest of the country, with lots of archaeological sites.
A week to hunt for the mighty Bengal tiger and other wildlife in Sundarbans National Park.
Dhaka: Lalbagh Fort, Pink Palace, parks and mosques.
Cox’s Bazaar: the world’s longest beach with a Burmese Buddhist atmosphere.
Mainimati ruins: with more than 50 scattered Buddhist sites that are made completely of baked bricks.
Buddhist monastery: Somapuri Vihara is by far the most impressive archaeological site in Bangladesh with well-preserved terracotta bas-reliefs.
Sundarbans National Park: is the world’s largest mangrove belt, home to the Bengal tiger, deer, crocodiles and river dolphins.
Chittagong: has old Portuguese quarters, lots of mosques and is a great base for daytrips.
Cultural sightseeing: is a must, with all the lovely mosques and palaces, beautiful scenery and 2,000-year-old archaeological sights.
Bird watching: in Rajendrapur National Park, Madhupur National Park and Game Sanctuary and Madubashah.
Tiger hunting: spot the Royal Bengal tiger in Sundarbans National Park’s, which is lush with coastal vegetation.
Beach life: head for Kuakata and observe the unique lifestyle of the Rakhane tribes.
Sailing, swimming and fishing: on Kapati Lake in the Rangamati Hill district.
Cricket: is the national sport. Games are held everywhere and you’re welcome to join in if you can make sense of the rules.
Festivals & Events
While most festivals have a religious background, people of all beliefs are happy to enjoy them together. Here are some of the highlights.
April: Pahela Baishakh is the Bengali New Year with competitions and boat races.
October: Eid-ul-Fitr celebrates the end of the holy month of Ramadan with lots of eating. If you’re lucky, you may be invited into a private home for a feast.
November: National Revolution and Solidarity Day is a good day to keep your head down, as things can sometimes get a little rough.
December: Eid-ul-Azha is a bad time for cows, who are the victims of a major massacre. The streets are literally full of blood!