Dhaka to Khulna; Taking the Rocket Paddle Steamer Boat
Bangladesh was proving to be a real adventure. There were lots of things to see in Dhaka, but we wanted to see all the top places to visit in Bangladesh, so it was time to say goodbye to Dhaka. Besides, after that run-in with the Bangladesh secret police and the prostitutes, leaving was a good choice! We wanted to go from Dhaka to Khulna, but rather than take a 12 hour bus, we had heard about a traditional rocket steamer boat (gotta love boats!) which plies that route once a week. What a trip it turned out to be.
So if you’re going from Dhaka to Khulna, this is the BEST way to travel in Bangladesh. My blog post should help you understand how the rocket steamer works, the schedule, the experience etc. Check it out:
What is the Rocket Paddle Steamer in Bangladesh?
The ‘Rocket’, as it’s known, is the colonial-period paddle steamer boat that runs daily from Dhaka to Khulna (actually on a little further to Morrelganj) and back. It stops at some lesser-known ports along the way too on its 2-day journey.
The boat is a wonderful throwback a century or two. The rocket is a super fun way to cross Bangladesh and IF you can secure a first-class cabin, then it’s a comfortable way too.
The Rocket Paddle Steamer Boat Route
First of all, you need to know: Rocket or Launch. The rocket paddle steamer is the iconic boat. The one you should try to take if you can. But it doesn’t go every day. In fact, it only goes TWICE A WEEK now. However, you can take a different boat from Khulna to Dhaka, or Dhaka to Khulna, on every day of the week except Sunday. But it won’t be the ‘Rocket’. That will be a standard boat known as a ‘launch’, not the ‘rocket’ steamer. Still a fun adventure. Just not quite as cool.
I took the steamer from Dhaka Sadarghat riverfront all the way to Khulna. But the route has slightly changed now. You can take it from Dhaka to the end of the line at Morrelganj. Or you can hop off at the stop before last, at Hularhat. It’s actually slightly closer to Khulna that the last stop.
This is the route map/journey (ignore the blue lines thought, the boat doesn’t fall the roads!)
Paddle Steamer Tickets, Prices and Schedule
All tickets are managed by the Bangladesh inland water transport corporation (BIWTC). Reservations are made through them directly. Or, more easily, through an agent with a little commission. There is no way to book online. That means if you can’t find an agent, you have to go to the office in Dhaka, or Khulna. If you want a 1st class cabin, you’ll almost definitely need to book in advance. I managed to get a 2nd class cabin for us about 4 days in advance, 1s was sold out. 3rd is always available. Because they’ll just squeeze as many people on the floor as possible.
Dhaka Office: BIWTC. 5 Dilkush, Dhaka. 029559779. 9am to 5pm.
ROCKET STEAMER SCHEDULE:
The rocket used to depart every day from Dhaka except for Fridays. BUT since the rocket fleet is getting smaller and smaller here is the 2019 updated info:
Dhaka to Khulna on Wednesday. Dhaka to Barisal on Saturdays. Returns on Tuesdays and Fridays.
*Remember there are ‘launch’ boats running every day. You can still travel. It just won’t be on the rocket steamer.
ROCKET STEAMER PRICES:
Dhaka to Morrelganj/Khulna: 3740Tk/$44 (1st class), 2100/$25 (2nd class), 230Tk ($3!) (3rd class).
If you don’t go all the way to the terminal station, the prices are of course a little cheaper.
ROCKET STEAMER CLASSES:
There are 3 classes:
1st: 2 Bed Cabins with fans, TVs, clean white sheets, food included, and access to the 1st class dining cabin
2nd: 2 bed cabins. No sheets, or food.
3rd: Access to the boat only. Find a spot on the floor and that’s it. No food, no bed. Nothing.
LAUNCH TIMETABLES AND TICKETS
The standard ‘launch’ ferries have multiple boats. Dhaka to Khulna/Morrellganj run twice a day. About half the price of the rocket steam. If you want first a first-class ticket, it’s still advised to book in advance but it may be possible to get it last minute.
Taking the paddle steamer form Dhaka to Khulna; My Experience
I recently read a book called ‘The Lunatic Express’ and I had to giggle when I saw that boat journies in Bangladesh are amongst the most dangerous boat journeys in the world. Apparently, over 1000 people die each year on Bangladesh ferries. The highest ratio of deaths to journeys in the world. I’m glad I had read the book prior to our departure or our $4, the two-day journey mightn’t have felt quite as good value. However, the actual rocket steamer we rode has never sunk. So that was reassuring at least!
The ridiculous hospitality of our adopted Bangladeshi family had continued as Raul had arranged family of his to meet us in the Khulna port when we arrived which removed some of the trepidation that I was constantly flooded with throughout Bangladesh. So we boarded and off we went! The three of us had our own cabin which apparently was one step down from the luxury travel but a hell of a step up from 200 people squeezed head to foot in an open room on the basement of the boat so we were happy enough.
I headed to the back of the ferry and had one long gaze back at Dhaka, it had been a hell of a start to my new backpacking life and one that would hold me in good stead in the years to come.
Dhaka had been a hectic place but one worthy of a visit for sure. Thanks to the ‘Rocket’ we felt as if we were leaving in true Bangladeshi fashion. This boat was an experience itself. And I was relishing every moment. The scenery over the next 40 hours was amazing and the widespread damage from all the flooding is there for anyone to see. This country seems bereft of any hills, mountains or hump of any description! As we meandered down the river we passed scores of ‘ports’ where the people were full of frantic smiles, laughs and waves.
To be honest the 40 hours or so flew by. We had constant visitors peering into our cabin making sure the rumours they heard about the 3 young white guys were true. Wandering around the boat kept me occupied for a long time too. As did fighting off the various insects and cockroaches that were cohabiting our cabin for the evening. Before too long we were approaching Khulna which would be our next and last leg of the Bangladesh adventure, praying that Azim would be waiting for us at the port. We had Kolkata, India as the next stop on our journey. India is calling.
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