Travelling Bangladesh Is An Unforgettable Experience
Travelling Bangladesh is not something that comes to mind for even the well-travelled.
Having travelled to around 50 countries so far, people often ask me for my favorite.
Of course, this question is difficult for every traveler. Each country offers its own unique aspects and quite often most countries are simply incomparable. Of course, however, there are a few countries that do always tend at the forefront in terms of the best experiences I’ve had.
And Bangladesh is certainly one of those.
Having spent only a couple of weeks there, it’s hard to call it my ‘favorite’ country. But Bangladesh surprised me. Perhaps this is because I didn’t have many expectations to begin with and went in there kind of blindly. Or perhaps this is because travelling Bangladesh is truly an experience you won’t forget.
Bangladesh is chaotic. It’s lively. It’s hot. It’s crowded. It’s polluted. It’s colorful. It’s beautiful. It’s hardly ever visited. 100% raw Bangladesh.
Dhaka is the capital city of Bangladesh and definitely somewhere to visit if you’re after getting a taste of life in Bangladesh. But be aware; it’s not for the faint-hearted.
Escaping the hustle and bustle in Bangladesh is pretty difficult. So embrace it. A trip to the Old Town in Dhaka is an attack on all the senses. The sights, the sounds – you can’t escape. So you just have to go with it. Check out the markets, walk around the harbor, and soak it all in.
You can visit all the main sights in Dhaka in pretty much a day. But in reality, whilst sight-seeing is great, arguably the best thing to do in Bangladesh is to simply soak up Bangladesh.
That saying, here are some sights that are worth the visit;
Lalbagh Fort: Peaceful gardens and a great escape from busy Dhaka, it’s hard to imagine a place like this in the middle of Dhaka!
Ahsan Manzil: A must-see pink palace.
National Museum: Bangladesh national museum.
Shankhari Bazaar: Colours, sights, sounds and smells galore.
Bangladesh is a country built on rivers, and rivers play a big part in daily life in the country still. No trip to Bangladesh is complete without a trip on one of the local boats – either to a destination near or far. Boat trips can take you right down south, through the mangroves bordering India in search of the Bengal tiger (see below), or simply a quick ride in downtown Dhaka.
Tip: Give yourself time for traffic jams, and be sure to travel like a local and take a rickshaw to get around. Make sure you are aware of the correct price beforehand, though, since you are very likely to get ripped off by them if you don’t.
Travelling Bangladesh’s World’s Longest Beach
Yes, that’s right. The world’s longest beach is almost certainly one you haven’t heard of. Cox’s Bazar is the world’s longest unbroken beach at 120km long.
True, the world’s longest beach does by no stretch mean the most beautiful, the whitest sand, the cleanest water… It’s not a typical ‘beach’ in that sense, with cars driving up and down it and traditional boats parked all along it. Nevertheless, it’s quite a sight to behold.
It’s probably the number 1 tourist destination for local tourists, so during peak season in summer, it can get very crowded. However, it is a very long beach! Walk for 20 minutes further down the main area and you won’t see a soul in sight.
Cox’s Bazar is located in the very south of Bangladesh, bordering close to Myanmar. Because of this it has in recent years become a hotspot for Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, and security is pretty tight there. Remember to bring a passport.
Tip: Put away the bikini and pack a full swimsuit. Ladies, make sure you’re covering shoulders, arms, knees, and generally all skin. Same goes for guys, too. You won’t see any Bangladeshis strip off at the beach.
Travelling Bangladesh: Sundarbans & Chittagong
The world’s largest mangrove forest, and home to the Bengal Tiger. From Dhaka, there are many ways to get to the Sundarbans, and most stay for a couple of nights or more, as there is so much to explore. You’ll need to hire a guide, as it’s certainly not a place you want to get lost in.
Again, not for the faint-hearted. There are luxury tour packages you can go on, but for the best experience, you can get down with nature and enjoy trekking and staying in a homestay.
If nature is your thing, you may want to consider the Chittagong Hill Tracts. This is a large area of hills over 13,000km2 land, and the views you will never forget! To get here, you first need to go to Chittagong and apply for a permit, which takes a couple of days. Chittagong is the second biggest city in Bangladesh, but it is much less intense than Dhaka, and a great place to walk around.
Tip: If you’re thinking of a trip to India too, you can also go on a trip to the Indian part of the Sundarbans from Kolkota for a cheaper price, but the experience may not be as good!
People, Location & History
Bangladesh is a conveniently located travel hub. From here, you can go easily to Nepal, India, and Bhutan.
It has a rocky history, but since democracy in 1991 the country has been building itself up. It remains a relatively poor country, but that doesn’t mean it’s poor in culture and history.
The people in Bangladesh are reason alone to visit, and you’ll only understand this once having visited. They’re extremely friendly and will be extremely excited to see you. Even more excited if you let them take a selfie with you (they LOVE selfies).
All the attention can get quite a bit much, but even as a female traveler there were few times when I felt unsafe.
Tip: Make sure you have an idea about where you want to go since it won’t always be convenient to take your phone out in a crowded space. In fact, you might need to stop for food or drink and check your map in the safety of indoors, lest a curious crowd of friendly Bangladeshis crowd you. Really, it only takes a few seconds. (I suppose this is more common if you’re a solo traveler, and more so as a solo female traveler).
Travelling Bangladesh; Raw Country
My number 1 reason for travelling Bangladesh that left an impression on me is that it is 100% Bangladesh. Although western influence is becoming more popular, you won’t find a McDonalds or a Starbucks. If you want to travel, you have to travel like a local. There are no special air-conditioned buses, no tourist information centers, no backpackers hostels… You’re on your own. And it’s truly a humbling adventure.
If you’re sick of tourists, Bangladesh is the place. In my whole 2 weeks I saw absolutely 0 foreign tourists.
Tip: Alcohol is very hard to come by in Bangladesh as it is a strict Muslim country. There are some small bars generally for men only, but they’re solely for drinking and not for chilling out in. You can find alcohol otherwise only in up-market hotels.
Travelling Bangladesh isn’t for everyone. In fact, I can imagine it being a lot of people’s worse nightmare. Holiday-goers looking for a chilled out relax by the pool with a cocktail would probably have to be paid to go there.
But if you’re looking for something different, something untouched, culture, energy, and adventure, then travelling Bangladesh will not disappoint.