Who would go touring Bangladesh, the country that has more bad and sad news in the media then many others? I have spend about 3 weeks in Bangladesh. Thus I feel I can tell you a little bit about what I experienced in Bangladesh. And no, I didn't cycle. Bangladesh was a real eye opener for me despite "the wrong time of the year", as some locals told me.
But why Bangladesh, the country which primarily makes news because of floods, poverty and hunger. I came out of Tibet and Nepal. Where to go? I decided to go into north east India to visit the "Seven Sisters", and then through Bangladesh to Calcutta and the Andaman Islands to have a holiday after 6 months on the road.
Early June is NOT the best time to visit Bangladesh. It's monsoon season. For that reason I had to skip several sights like Rangamati, the beach at Chittagong and also the famous Sunderbans.
It turned out to be a great adventure. A visa was easy to get in Agartala, the border town in the Indian state Tripura, one of the 7 sisters, as the states are called (the other "sisters are: Assam, Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh). You can get visas in Calcutta too.
I traveled despite the rain to Comilla, Cox Bazar, Chittagong and Dhaka. Touring Bangladesh looked impossible when I crossed the border at Agartala. As soon as I arrived in Comilla it cleared up and I haven't had any rain further. Still, some places were not possible or recommended to visit.
One could say that the pouring rain was not a good start for Bangladesh but in fact it did show me Bangladesh is very interesting in this time of the year. The monsoon rains had flooded almost everything. Rickshaws were fully covered with raincoats and you needed that on the way to the border. But once the rains stopped within a day the land which was totally drowned, dried up and the farmers went back to work.
Getting there and away
Most visitors will arrive in Bangladesh by either air or bus from Calcutta. Some do Bangladesh as a one day stop over, I met a guy who had exactly 9 and a half hours to see Dhaka. Dhaka's international airport serves many international destinations and Biman airways is still one of the cheaper companies despite its reputation.
After Dhaka I took a bus to Kolkata (Calcutta). The border between Bangladesh and India has been since long troublesome. Fortunately the sky has cleared up and there is the Calcutta-Dhaka (1999) and the Dhaka-Agartala (2001) bus lines.
Although the road condition is excellent, it is still a long bus ride. You might be quicker flying.
I recommend to use local transport to go around, especially in Dhaka where traffic is chaotic everywhere. In Chittagong and Cox Bazar it was mad at some places but mostly it was no problem.
There are always plenty of rickshaws and taxis. I would recommend using the trishaws as they can take back lanes. And you don't want to be in a long traffic jam. Cycle rickshaws are hard work, do pay the guys well, many do not earn more then about US $2-3 a day.
Where to stay?
Bangladesh has at the major tourist destinations hotels at western level. However, outside the main tourist attractions you will find nice, clean and usually spacious local styled hotels and guesthouses.
Most people need a visa for Bangladesh. I got mine without any problems in the consulate in Agartala. Others get theirs in Calcutta. Only single entry visa's will be issued. But you can get them usually the same day for an extra fee.
Lonely Planet and Rough Guide are good guidebooks for Bangladesh.
Other places I visited in Bangladesh:
Personally I would recommend Bangladesh, from what I have seen it is worth a second visit. There's plenty to see, and the people, well... they're amazing!
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Capital of Bangladesh, Dhaka is a huge metropolis. There's plenty to explore. From the Lalbagh Fort to Sonargaon, eatery and getting there away info, check it out:
Sonargaon - Panam Nagar
Only 29 km away and a great day out of the turbulent city, Sonargaon has a lot of archeological values but it's also a good way to meet some amazingly nice locals.
The centuries old Lalbagh Fort is a must see in Dhaka. It's an oasis of peace inside the hectic city. The buildings are beautiful preserved and worth an afternoon visit.