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Backpacking in Bangladesh

I had just finished my contract teaching English in Thailand. Personally, I had now been in Asia well over a year and felt quite a home in the continent. That was until I went to Bangladesh. Suddenly, I was out of my depth. My experience Backpacking in Bangladesh was something else entirely. What a ride.

Backpacking in Bangladesh
Backpacking in Bangladesh

Backpacking in Bangladesh; My life plans:

1) Finish teaching contract in Chiang Mai

2) Travel around Asia (mostly Southeast Asia) for as long as my money lasts on a ridiculously cheap budget

3) Get my Australia working-holiday visa, and reach without flying after we touch down on our first destination

My Asia Travels Begin; Bangladesh

Sounds pretty easy, right? So I wanted to go to India to start and then pretty much loop across the whole continent over the next year or two. But it didn’t quite work out like that. Rather than stick to my plan and go straight to India from Thailand, I found a super cheap flight to Bangladesh. And with that, my trip to every country in the world truly began.

I roped two friends into the crazy trip (Tom and Andy). We flew from Bangkok to Dhaka, the Capital of Bangladesh. As I was semi-permanently living in Thailand, the week before we set off was inundated with leaving parties, sad goodbyes and tearful partings. So I didn’t really get time to actually plan anything for the trip or find out about the places to visit in Bangladesh once we arrived.

So we went backpacking in Bangladesh without a plan. That’s the best way if you as me. Upon boarding the flight, found ourselves as the only Europeans in a 1970’s airplane on Air Bangladesh one-way to Dhaka.

I had no idea what language they spoke, what their currency was, what the climate or cuisine was liked, if they spoke English, I had no accommodation booked, no idea if there was anything to see and no direction in which to travel. Here we go.

Backpacking in Bangladesh
Backpacking in Bangladesh; Dhaka

Landing in Dhaka

Straight after landing the plane, we were swamped by Bangladeshis. People stopped and stared, jaws dropping, giggling, pointing, running up and touch us. In fact, people running up to us in awe and amazement became quite a theme throughout my time in Bangladesh. I never really got used to it although I can’t deny it is good fun.

Also, should you ever happen to be in Dhaka please walk into the middle of the street, stare straight up in the sky and point for about 15 seconds. Then quickly have a look around you. I guarantee at least 20 people will be standing still looking directly up trying to see what the crazy white man is pointing at. It’s a phenomenon.

Unique Japan
Unique Japan

Backpacking in Bangladesh
Backpacking in Bangladesh

Old Dhaka; $3 a night hotel split 3 ways

We managed to get some money from an ATM. Soon a rickshaw ‘taxi’ (a guy cycling while pulling a homemade wooden cart) took us to a hotel. It was 45 degrees and I had no idea where we were going. But we went straight to the old city, amidst a lot of shocked faces. Here we found a hotel for around $1 a night. No air conditioning, no cold water but cheap and on a budget of 5 GBP a day that was the most important thing at this stage of my life.

We checked in and went for a walk. Wandering around old Dhaka was an experience in itself. Never in my life have a seen such an overpopulated place. It was literally difficult to walk due to the sheer amount of people. And the rickshaws were everywhere, thousands of them, pouring out of every alley, ringing their bells to tell you they are coming and you need to get out of their way.

cheap hotels in Bangladesh
My hotel in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Backpacking in Bangladesh
Backpacking in Bangladesh; Rickshaws in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Culture Shock

The culture shock was so large and I was so far out of my comfort zone that my head was spinning. But what can you do?! We are here now. So we got stuck in, overheated, under-nourished. But accepting that we were going to sweat a lot each day.

We accepted we were going to be dirty. Accepted that it was going to be difficult but we were seeing things that most people will never see and experiencing a country that most people will never visit. Soaking up such a different culture is the reward for all the stress. And it more than outweighs the negative aspects.

Friendly locals

As it turns out, the people of Bangladesh were so friendly and open that retrospectively I was ashamed I judged their country. They were so happy that we had made the effort to come there.  Anyone who could speak any English would spot us in the distance and sprint to us to see if they could help.

It had been nearly a day since we arrived and we hadn’t ventured to an actual restaurant yet. But our stomachs were yelling out to us so we had to take a leap of faith

Backpacking in Bangladesh
Restaurant in Bangladesh; Backpacking in Bangladesh

The photo is from the second restaurant we braved. The food in Bangladesh was delicious, honestly. It tended to be quite a sweet, scented rice mixed with chunks of meat with lime squeezed over it. I couldn’t get enough. The same couldn’t be said about the drinks. The restaurant owners loved having us sit down in their place. So they would rush over with some sort of milk, perhaps goat milk? Anyway, it was revolting. Vile, gag-inducingly sour but we had to take it on the chin, finish it and conjure a thankful smile.

Fake smiles

The fake smile was a work of art though, especially in countries where the locals are so friendly. You have to smile because they are so nice but you don’t want to smile too much or you could end up with 3 more glasses of the goat’s pee. So through trial and error, you discover the tipping point and now I am a master!

Backpacking in Bangladesh, goats on the streets
Making our way back to the room

So day 1 and 2 were under our belts we felt a lot more at ease on our backpacking in Bangladesh experience. The stress had subsided and the travel euphoria was taking over. I love that feeling. Knowing you are lucky to have the opportunity to be there, you want to savour every sight, smell, sound because you may never return to this place. And not knowing what to expect with every corner you approach but relishing the excitement of it all was just the adventure I was looking for.

I’ll chat some more about what we did when Backpacking in Bangladesh tomorrow – what a truly unique country.

Travel insurance for Bangladesh

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Got a question? Wanna comment? I'd love to hear from you

49 thoughts on “Backpacking in Bangladesh

  1. Pingback: Things to do in Dhaka; My Travels acrossBangladesh
  2. It seems you enjoyed the tour in Bangladesh. Yes, Bangladesh is a country full of adventures and thrilled. Who visits this country will be amazed by the natural beauty of Bangladesh. You will find here everything/every kind of person. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  3. Such an interesting read … I was impressed by everything: from the “taxi” to how the hotel and restaurant look! I do not know if I will go to Bagladesh …. thanks for the exchange!

  4. Bangladesh has many popular tourist spots without the capital of Dhaka. I focus here about only sea beach. Bangladesh has top tow sea beach. One is Kuakata and others is the longest and secure sea beach is cox’s bazar. cox’s Bazar has warm sea water which is shark this beach is totally secure for tourist. I have a blog about cox’s bazar please visit my blog

  5. I couldn’t stop giant throughout this post, especially once reading your post regarding “Sharing prostitutes in Bangladesh? Error, No Thanks” I used to be shocked however you have got taken all of your intimidating experiences to a distinct dimension that was thus amusing and constructive.
    I appreciate your method of seeing things even as they are- not judgment or being insecure of them. And it absolutely was brave that you just select previous national capital to measure rather than Gulshan or Dhanmondi- folks area unit a lot of real in previous national capital and possess distinctive culture aside from a lot of or less western influenced neighborhoods(which you’ll be able to have anyplace during this world)

  6. Hi, Johnny

    Thanks to exploring Old Dhaka, your travel story was true but funny! I hope you will come to Bangladesh again to discover more about the natural beauty of Bangladesh. You will be amazed at seeing the real information and photos about to travel in Bangladesh —

  7. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed your visit. Next time visit get some planning & visit some more places. And you’ll be amazed to see that Bangladesh has a vast area to explore. Thanks.

  8. Hi Johnny,

    It would be nice if you can add the publishing date with your posts, so that readers can understand if the information provided is current or out-dated. For example, you said you stayed in a hotel which cost you $1. I don’t know if it is a typo, but if not, that would be really unbelievable now a days. You need to spend at least $5 if you want to stay in a any kind of hotel in anywhere in Bangladesh. Interesting read though!

    I am writing a blog about traveling Bangladesh, which your reader may find interesting if they want more information on Bangladesh:


  9. I went to Bangladesh last June (2014). What an experience! Didnt see anyone abusing saw few beggers and the people are awsome mate! I liked your blog but surely a bit of history would have enlightened the readers. Im from dirty old India but am not ashamed to say I loved Bangladesh.

  10. Very nice article. Did you ever go to Saint Martins island in Bangladesh? Time is coming. If the weather is ok dont miss the only coral island in Bangladesh..

  11. Can you please tell me the name of the hotel you stayed at or any other cheap hotels/hostels in Dhaka. thanx

  12. Hi Johnny,

    Just read your article. Happy but a bit :(. Anyway you had come here and its your experience. I just wanted to know if you were visited Dinajpur(north of Bangladesh). The famous ornamental Kantaji Temple is located there. Dont miss it next time if you are across there.

  13. I could not stop laughing throughout this post, specially after reading your post about “Sharing prostitutes in Bangladesh? Errrr, No Thanks” I was surprised how you have taken all your daunting experiences to a different dimension that was so amusing and constructive. I appreciate your way of seeing things just as they are- not judging or being insecured of them. And it was brave that you choose old Dhaka to live instead of Gulshan or Dhanmondi- people are more genuine in old Dhaka and posses distinctive culture other than more or less western influenced neighborhoods(which you can have anywhere in this world)

  14. This sour goat’s milk you talk of can only be salty lassi, I imagine. I cannot think of any milk that is gag-inducingly salty other than yak’s milk which could only be found a few thousand miles north from where you were.

    Salty lassi is actually a delicacy to the Asian/Middle-Eastern palate. Shame you didn’t take to it!

  15. I was googling for China, Bangladesh travel related information and reached here on you blog. Very positive writing about Bangladesh and i am amazed by all your interesting experience in Bangladesh. Thanks a lot for sharing…

  16. Hiya..
    loved your blog!!
    It was Interesting yet I learnt ALot (Wish school would be more like that)
    Anyway.. I want to do the whole backpacking across Asia thing.. But I honestly don’t know where to start.

  17. Feel sorry for you, man. You’ve probably landed on one of the worst parts of Bangladesh. Have you gone to Gulshan or Dhanmondi? It’s very developed there. If you want a sh!t experience, just go to Africa, not Bangladesh.

    1. thanks for your comments, but there’s really, really no need to feel sorry for me bro. I had an awesome time in Bangladesh, really amazing. Also, i’ve been to more than 25 countries in Africa and I didn’t have a sh*t experience in any of them either, thanks for the tip anyway 😛

  18. Your writing is very nice. I like it . But i think you should be more honest with it . I hope you understand what i am saying. And its seems that u love visiting our country i think u should read our history . Then u will totally understand us. And for those who want to visit bangladesh you should know we may be very poor and we welcome tourists but the bangladeshi people are very touchy about our country heritage custome . And we are very nice with friends but if you show any disgrace. Well i just want come here u dnt want us as your enemy.

  19. hey man, where did you get your tourists visa for bangladesh (do you need one) i tried to get one in chiang mai and they said that i need an employment certificate

    1. i did mine in Chiang Mai mate – in some small ‘consulate’ office, it was all seemingly very unofficial and cost about $100, but got it back in 2 weeks

    1. the people are very poor, but i think tourism will open people’s mind to this unexplored, awesome place 🙂

  20. Wow, the blog is taking off big time! I must say your travel writing prowess is growing in leaps and bounds. Hilarious and interesting post…Can’t wait to read more!

    My friend had an experience of being briefly in Bangladash in the 90s – strangely, her memories are similar to yours. She remembers being mobbed everywhere she went:)

  21. wow – sounds like you had a crazy time there – would love to visit that place! thanks for sharing your adventures – just found your blog, and think it rocks! 🙂

  22. Wow, looks like you had a great time in Bangladesh 🙂
    Being “logically” from that part of the world, i can see where you had your issues.
    How many days did you spend in B’desh?? Did you catch up on some Bangla 🙂

    1. Catch up on some Bangla?! My head was spinning so fast from the culture shock i was struggling with English lol 😛 I spent almost 3 weeks there i think – took a steam boat down from Dhaka to Kulna near the Bay of Bengal, amazing! I’m gonna write about it next so i wont tell u too much now hehe! Thanks for reading Joy – have u ever made it there?

  23. I was laughing while reading that entire post, thinking back to my own experience there, which was quite similar of course. I remember crossing the street in Dhaka and being bumped in my legs by cars that simply refused to stop at all.

    But once you get comfortable, although I’m not sure it’s possible to get too comfortable over there, the people of Bangladesh do make it an enjoyable place to visit in the end.

    I’m looking forward to reading more…

    1. hey mate – did u had to Kulna and then onto Calcutta? such an awesome trip 🙂
      also, on a different note – cheers for the cruise ship info, im lookin into it at the mo!

  24. haha, very funny calvin 😛 you dont have time to worry about that – the fact that the country doesnt use any knives or forks is difficult enough to deal with, eating just with ur rite hand is harder than u think!

    1. I don’t know why you didn’t go to places like Puran Polton, Dhanmondi, Gulshan, Banani. There you could find restaurants where you can eat clean food with forks and spoons. Every city of Bangladesh has those restaurants. A bit expensive in comparison to those you went, but much cheaper when you think of the European food price.

      Bangladesh is a Muslim country, normally they pray 5 times(now praying lesser), so they do ablution 5 times which more or less keeps their hand clean, this fact plus the fact that the Muslim prophet used to eat using his hands has lead Bangladeshis to eat traditionally by hand. But if you want difference, you will find, just a bit more expensive but then again expense comes with quality.

      The same goes for hotels as well, you can find nice hotels in Fokirapool, may cost you at most 20 dollars per night, I can assure you, you’d have TV, electricity.

  25. You’re right about it being a place not many of people would dream of taking a vacation. The sweat, scented rice mixed with chunks of meat doesn’t fly well for me though. i mean who wants the cook’s sweat on their food? 😛

    1. Hi Johnny, I felt sorry for the bad first impression of Bangladesh. You went to the proper tourist attractions in the city but your experience turned bad because of the lack of proper information.

      Interested readers can find here a list of the 7 best things to do in Dhaka for the ultimate experience and avoiding a bad experience like yours:

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