Dhaka, the craziest city in the world!

dhaka,crowded,bangladesh

Forget, Delhi, Mumbai, Johannesburg, Panama City, or even Bogota. None of them even get close to Dhaka when talking about madness and craziness. Those cities are so well organized compared to Dhaka.

I decided to fly to Dhaka and Bangladesh only the night before I landed at the airport in Dhaka, after delayed flight from Kathmandu. Oh, but I’m used to it.
All my previous flights out of Kathmandu always delayed so I was not really surprised when my flight this time was only 7 hours delayed, – still an improvement from my last flight which ended up getting delayed for 1 week!

And everyone that have flown out from Kathmandu airport knew, that this is the worst airport in the world to get stuck on.

So when I finally arrived in Dhaka at 3 am, with no accommodation booked or no idea where to go, i got extremely relieved when the passenger next to me on the flight offered me to use his private driver who picking him up at the airport, to drove me to a guesthouse in a good area. Thanks to Karma!

But, looking for a place to stay at 4am is never a good idea, especially when you never have been to the city before. We ended up driving around for more than 1 hour, and the Lonely Planet Bangladesh 7th edition showed to be as useless as midget on a basketball team. We finally found a place to stay around 5 am.
Dhaka is divided into 17 districts or, locals said Thanas. But you don’t have to visit all of them. This is the 6 most important for tourists.

Old and Central Dhaka- The madness, the history, the pollution and the dirt cheap areas
Gulshan/ Banani/ Baridhara- An upscale area with embassies, trendy crowd, and upscale restaurants. Nothings special here for tourists to see or do.
But if you get tired of the madness of old Dhaka, this is a good area to seek out some air-con restaurants or western food.

Uttara- northern part of Dhaka, close to the airport. If you are flying out early, this is the area to stay in. This is an upscale area with expensive guesthouse and western restaurants.

dhaka,bangladesh,people,crowded
Normal street view
20121126_111155154 2-01-9.jpg
Normal street view

If you want to experience the real Dhaka, you have to stay in Old Dhaka.
This Thanas offers totally different world from Gulshan.
Even some of the local I talked to in Gulshan said they had not been to the old part of Dhaka in years, and only crazy and poor people would consider going there.

So, it is a perfect destination for me.
Old Dhaka is an exhausting place, with its noise, sound and high level of pollution. It’s the first time any city really got to me.
When I went back to my guesthouse around 6 pm, (everything was closed down by then) I was done, completely done.

I rarely feel exhausted from traveling anywhere in the world. But in Dhaka, when I getting back to my tiny room, with no windows was pure heaven, the air-con and tv was a big plus!

Dhaka is not about historical sights to see, they have a few of them, but the main thing to see in Dhaka is the daily life.

dhaka,bangladesh,people,crowded
Local bakery.

So, if you are planning to visit Dhaka, I would recommend you to get up very early before the cities alive. Walking around the small streets in the early morning was pretty peaceful but yet not clean. Any Indian city is like Singapore compared to Old Dhaka when it comes to cleanliness.

One thing I learned not to care about while traveling is when people staring at you. Especially in un-touristy places. I guess they are not used to see a white traveler with a big curly afro every day.

dhaka,bangladesh
Locals are not used to the tourists.

Normally, I don’t care about that anymore. But locals in Dhaka took it to a new level. Like this photo, when I was just having a light lunch with a chai, more than 30 people starring me at the same time, a new personal record!

dhaka,bangladesh,people,crowded

All life in Bangladesh and Dhaka happens around the river, so one of the minimal things to do in Dhaka is to get on a small boat at the river.
But try not to get rip-off like I did, even that I agreed on a price for a boat and driver to take me down the river, after about half the way they stopped the boat and demanded me to pay more to take me back to land.
Even they only wanted 4 dollars more, it’s still annoying for me.

I really enjoyed my time in Dhaka and Bangladesh, but it’s not for the faint hearted and the typical backpacker that only got experience from South Asia and Europe, it’s a hard place to travel, very few people speak English, and more or less no tourist infrastructure.

You have to do everything yourself, the main bus station in Dhaka is the most chaotic place I have ever been, with close to a thousand, with no marking, no signs, just had to walk around for about 30min and shout the name of the destination I wanted to go to.
A lot of fun.

The Chittagong Hill Tracts is great place to head next if your are traveling in Bangladesh.

Additional info about Dhaka.

Accommodation.

When deciding where to stay in Dhaka you have to know what you want to do, since getting around the city can take all day.

If you’re having an early flight or train you have to stay in the Northern part of the city in the area of Gulshan or Baridhara. There’s guesthouses/hotel all around Baridhara but not much budget options. Most places big bathroom with western toilets, good showers, and the bedroom got good air-con, fast wi-fi and satellite tv.Prices range from 20usd+.

In Old Dhaka, Hotel Al-Razzaque seems to be the foreigners place to stay, it’s far from fancy, the rooms are tiny, but you get your own bathroom, tv, and air-con. It’s not clean. 4usd

On the ground floor of the hotel is a large and popular restaurant, busy any time of the day with Bangladeshi families and businessmen. Food is pretty darn good. From 0.6usd

Money/Price

1USD – 88TK

Dhaka is cheap, very cheap even compared with India and South East Asia.

There’s very few ATM and more or less nowhere to exchange money in Old Dhaka. So if you need to exchange money or to withdraw money you have to head to one of the fanciest areas like Gulshan and Baridhara where you can find ATM everywhere.

Most ATM seems to accept foreigner bank cards, booth visa, and MasterCard.

1L Bottle of water – 15TK.
0.33L Coke/Pepsi – 25TK.
Meal in a local restaurant – 50TK to 150TK.
Meal in a good restaurant – 450TK to 1200TK.
Hamburger meal with fries and drink – 350TK.
Coffee in a coffee chain – 150TK.
Pack of Cigarettes (Marlboro) – 200TK.
Beer local 0.5L can – Couldn’t find any.
Beer imported 0.33L (Carlsberg) – 400TK.

Gasoline (1 liter) – 100TK.

Beer.

Couldn’t find any kind of local beer, just international brands like Carlsberg, Tuborg, Heineken, and Fosters.

It’s hard to find beer and alcohol I Bangladesh, you can not buy alcohol in shops or supermarket.

The only place to find it is high-end restaurants and hotels, but all of them allowed me to take it with me, as long as I packed it down in my backpack and didn’t show it to anyone.

Safety.

I personally had no problem in either Dhaka or Bangladesh, but Dhaka is still one of very few places anywhere in the world I didn’t feel comfortable to take up my camera to take photos.

BUT

4 out of 6 friends that have been to Bangladesh have got robbed there. So it’s a country people should be careful when traveling around.

 

Like it? Share it! Pin it!
dhaka,bangladesh,crazy

9 Comments
  1. Interesting…I’m all about spontaneous trips too, and quite used to ending up in different destinations than planned. And yes, you are dead on about the KTM airport. Can’t imagine being stuck there on delay…even a trip to the bathroom their requires bravery and the ability to hold your breath for as long as necessary — unless you’ve spent enough time in Delhi to get used to the smell of pee.

    I’m curious though, did you arrive on a VOA? I nearly did a visa run to Dhaka last month until reading that it can be hit or miss for whether or not foreigners can actually get their VOA, and therefore recommended everyone gets a pre-approved visa first.

    1. Lucky they are planning a new airport in southern Nepal these days 🙂 but I think the old and awful airport got its own kind of charm, just shows how far behind Nepal is the rest of the world.

      YES I got VOA, was very easy and straight forward, 51usd. The only hassle is there’s only one counter that’s handle VOA so if there’s more then a few people getting VOA, it gone take time waiting.

      The guy handing the visas was very polite and helpful.

      A Swedish friend flew into Dhaka 10.08 this year and he got VOA without any problem at all to. So it shouldn’t be a problem.

      Christian

  2. I live in Canada but I am from Dhaka originally. My family is still in Dhaka.This was an interesting read for me seeing the country through a different perspective. I myself have not been to a lot of the old parts growing up in whats considered the more elite part of Dhaka i guess and safety is another issue.
    I noticed that you only mentioned budget accommodations and guest houses. Dhaka does have great hotels with all the modern amenities and everything you can find in the west.Those are more expensive but due to the exchange rate even that will be seem cheap esp compared to Europe and other countries in South East Asia.
    Its great that you ventured out there because as an independent individual in Canada I probably would not go to those parts by myself even though i lived there till i was 19.

  3. Hi, I’m Matt from Indonesia.

    Few weeks ago I hosted a Bangladeshi CS member in my room. It makes me interest to visit Dhaka, his capital city. But, after I read this article, Godness.. I think Jakarta is nothing compared to Dhaka lol

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.