Is Travel in Bangladesh for You?
Bangladesh is, without doubt, one of Asia’s undiscovered gems, but unfortunately (mostly due to a mixture of political instability and natural disasters), Bangladesh has gathered not the best reputation internationally. Bangladesh has yet to experience much tourism and is mostly un-touristed: a foreign face will excite a lot of attention and interest, almost always of a friendly and kindly nature. “Excuse me mam, your country?” was probably the words I heard spoken most to me on my trip.
As an un-touristed destination, Bangladesh is relatively free from the tourist scams that are common in neighboring India. On the other hand, Bangladesh also lacks much of the infrastructure of neighboring India, and traveling around can be hard work. Roads can be unpaved, traffic is dire in some places (mostly Dhaka) – for more see the transport section – and transport conditions are basic at best. English is not widely spoken, which can make independent travel difficult in more rural areas.
Bangladesh can also be raw: along with the beautiful landscapes, people and places, expect to see a lot of poverty, and a huge amount of pollution and dirt. Don’t come if you’re not comfortable with dressing conservatively, sitting in crowded transport, and experiencing a variety of conditions. Perhaps the best description of Bangladesh I’ve heard is a “more raw version of India” – but even that comparison falls a long way short of the variety and richness of culture available in Bangladesh, and the positive surprises that this small but bustling country has in store for travelers who make it there.
Highlights of Bangladesh
Here are some of my highlights and recommendations from my Bangladesh trip to help get you started with your Bangladesh travel planning!
Where to Stay in Bangladesh
- Nishorgo Cottage in Srimongal is eco-friendly and set in beautiful gardens. It’s a popular choice for foreign visitors to the area and can help arrange tours to the nearby tea estates.
- Gol Kanon Eco Lodge, the Sundarbans is a truly off the beaten path chance to experience village life in the Sundarbans region.
Travel to Bangladesh: Visas.
1. First things first: do check the current political situation and travel advisories of your country for Bangladesh before booking your trip. The country has experienced political turmoil in the past, and the situation can change quickly.
2. Visa on Arrival. Citizens of many countries can get a Visa on Arrival for Bangladesh if flying into Dhaka airport, if you are traveling for tourism (tourist visa) and plan to stay less than 30 days. You can find up-to-date info on the Bangladesh visa on arrival here.
3. Overland from India. I took the Maitree Express international train from Kolkata (India) to Dhaka, however train travel between India and Bangladesh is not valid for the visa on arrival. At the time of writing visa on arrival was available at the land border crossing by bus between India and Bangladesh.
Another option from India would be to get your Bangladesh visa in Kolkata (Calcutta). In addition to the twice-weekly Maitree Express, there’s also a train that runs from Kolkata to Khulna, which can be useful for heading straight to the southwest of Bangladesh from India.