Sharing borders with India and Myanmar, the People’s Republic of Bangladesh is a place that you might want to visit if you are excited about adventure off the well-trodden path. Stretching upon 147,570 square kilometres and boasting a massive population of 163 million, it has already become the eighth most populous country in the world. With its Bay of Bengal maritime region, it complements its lack of land space to some degree but the general population density does not go under 1,000 people per square kilometre. This means that agoraphobic people should research ahead before embarking on the plane (wink). So, without further dithering about, let us see what this proud South Asian country has to offer us!
1. Language barriers:
Well, the thing is that in Bangladesh, the official language is Bengali and it is spoken by 98% of the population as their mother tongue. What this directly translates into is that you should learn the following set of words: “salaam alaikum” (peace be upon you). While this will get the hellos and goodbyes out of the way to some degree, you should also know that English is still widely spoken. Colonial times still have a mark on the country but in this case it makes it easier for tourists to get by. And, like always, target the younger generation with simple sentences – you do not need to go Tolkien on them and watch them blink in confusion. Stick to simplicity and be rewarded with warmth!
2. Off the beaten path:
Bangladesh is by no means a tourist-flooded country as most people stick to the Bahamas or the Maldives but those intrepid people who thirst for adventure will not regret breaching its borders. You will rarely see people photographing landmarks or flashing their fancy smartphones as Bangladesh is modest and almost spiritual in nature. Remember, however, that the lack of tourists is made up for a hundredfold when it comes to the local population, so you still might have to deal with crowds.
3. Public transportation:
Roads in Bangladesh are generally in a pretty bad condition and driving rules are always bent or broken. What this means is that you cannot avoid a horrendous experience if you choose to rent a car there. Low-cost buses, while dirt-cheap, are so overcrowded that people will be regularly seen riding on their roofs or their steps. To add to the inconvenience, they do not even stop in stations; they merely slow down so that passengers may hop on and off. If you are not in the mood to deal with nose-blocking miasmas and sardine-like packed vehicles, just stick to your feet or a bike. Hell, even a scooter is better. On the good note, though, flights in Bangladesh are so cheap (especially when bought in advance) that they are more than recommended.
While most western countries are more than accustomed to the concept of tipping, the case is entirely different in Bangladesh. Due to the general poverty that is rampant throughout the country, leaving extra is not something that the locals practice every day. Tipping, thus, has never really entrenched itself in the consciousness of the local population and is by no means expected. If, however, you choose to leave a tiny bit of extra (something like 2-4%), you will be thanked a million times as it displays and insurmountable amount of gratitude. Furthermore, if you really want to go out of your way to make a beautiful waitress smile, you can raise that to 10% and you might even see tears. So, long story cut short: there is no need to tip but if you do, people will love you for it!
5. Drink and eat:
The food in Bangladesh is extremely tasty as spices there are varied and exotic by all standards. This, however, should not be charged into full-throttle as you should always keep a close eye on what you consume. Street stalls, like in India, are by no means recommended and should be avoided as no one can guarantee absolute freshness to you. You can contract nasty parasites and/or diseases if you ever catch yourself eating underprepared foods. Just stick to fancier restaurants and supermarkets – oh, and while you’re at it, always drink bottled water. Additionally, know that alcohol is in no way predominant in the country. You will have to stick to the expat bars/restaurants in Dhaka (the capital city) if you want anything fancier than tea. Note that alcohol is neither completely legal, nor illegal, and it is often linked with morality – so, keep this grey area in mind before drinking beer on the streets!
Did you enjoy our list? What experiences have you had in Bangladesh and what unforgettable memories have you taken home with you? Tell us all about in the comment section below and be sure to leave nothing out! Oh, and do check back from time to time for some exciting new updates! Safe travels!