Bangladesh is mainly composed of vast, low lying alluvial plain, cut by networks of rivers, canals, swamps and marshes. The network of rivers contributes to the socio-economic life of the nation. The main rivers are the Ganges, the Jamuna, and the Meghna, which after joining has created the largest delta of the world. The hilly regions lie only on the North-east and the South-eastern part of the country and some areas of high lands lie in the north and north-western part of the country.

Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated (150 million people) countries of the world with an area of 55,598 square miles. The country is bounded by India to the west, north and east, by Myanmar to the southeast and by Bay of Bengal to the south.

Dhaka is the capital of the country and a major commercial, manufacturing and cultural centre served by the nearest port Narayanganj.

Climate and clothing

Bangladesh generally enjoys a tropical monsoon climate. While we have six seasons, three seasons are mainly prominent – summer, monsoon and winter. The winter is normally from November to February with usually a temperature of about 20° Celsius. The Monsoon starts from July and lasts till October. This period accounts for 80% of the annual rainfall and is the principal season for floods. Tropical cyclones however occur during April to November. The summer is normally hot and humid at about 35° Celsius. 

The last couple of years have seen a sudden change in the climatic pattern, mostly felt through a chilly winter, with temperatures scaling down to as low as 6° Celsius in late December to mid January. The most ideal time to visit Bangladesh, visitors coming in the winter should be carrying warm winter clothing.

If visiting during the summer, you are advised to wear loose fitting clothes made of cotton fabrics. Female visitors could choose to wear clothes that would cover shoulders, upper arms and legs while going out to public places. For places outside Dhaka one might prefer ‘Shalwar Kamiz’ (similar to loose trouser, long loose shirt and scarf) as that is one of the traditional dresses worn by most Bangladeshi women. This however is not mandatory!

A sunscreen lotion could be of great help in our summer.

Health Precautions

Even a few years back, the city air used to be filled with smog that was caused by emission of vehicles – especially three-wheeler auto-rickshaws. You will not experience this so much these days after the faulty vehicles had been restricted from plying the roads, but if you move more towards the city center, or the older parts of the city, it still may begin to bother you. A growing number of people now wear cloth-made masks as a measure to avoid inhaling the polluted air. If you are traveling by a car it is advisable to keep the windows rolled up. 

While many internationally acclaimed travel guides have identified Bangladesh as a Malaria prevalent country, and advises travelers to take specific drugs before entering and/or during stay in the country, it actually is not required if you are planning to remain only in the capital city. Malaria has been controlled quite successfully in the large cities and almost across the country. However, the problem still exists quite rampantly in a few pockets, especially in the remote hilly areas in the South-East.

Dengue fever, quite unknown to this country about two decades back, has found its way into Bangladesh over the last few years. Prevalent almost exclusively during the late monsoons, the disease spreads through the bite of a certain large mosquito. Incidentally, the mosquito bites only during early mornings and early evenings. So it is advisable to carry an insect repellent.

We would request you not to drink water from taps, as it may not be safe for drinking. Bottled drinking water is available all over the country. While buying water bottles, please ensure that the seal on the cap is not broken, and that there are no precipitates, which might result from improper or prolonged storage.

If you are on any regular specific medication, for any medical condition whatsoever, you are advised to carry your own medical supplies, as some foreign medicines are not always available in our local medicine stores. But for general medicines that are purchased over the counter, you need not bother carrying them, because, we not only have almost met our own need, Bangladesh is now exporting some medicines to different countries across the globe.

There are no immunization requirements while entering into Bangladesh.

Culture and our people

The Bangladesh population is ethnically fairly homogeneous although there are 47 minority groups with their own rich customs, culture, language & practices. People here practice various religions – Islam, Hinduism, Christianity & Buddhism, but the majority practice Islam. The religion (Islam) constitutes a strong social force and the mixture of Islamic ethos and the indigenous traditional culture of Bengal have gone into the shaping of a cultural heritage that is unique to Bangladesh. The literacy rate is about 60%. People mostly speak Bangla but in urban areas English is widely understood. With the introduction of Cable Television Network across the country, Hindi is also widely understood nowadays. 

People mostly use their right hand, as that is the norm in Bangladesh. For passing on or accepting things the right hand should always be used and the left hand in this context should preferably be avoided. People in Bangladesh mostly use their right hand while eating. However, if you have an impairment in your right hand, your limitations in this area will be readily accepted by all.

Our people are very warm and hospitable. They take especial interest in somebody who is a foreigner. Please do not feel uncomfortable if you feel people are watching you. It is only because they understand you are new to the culture, and so are on their toes to come to your aid. If you warm up to them or simply smile back, for them it could well be a day to remember!

Bangladesh is rich for its traditional and cultural festivities that go on round the year – with a predominance in the winter. The year starts with a month-long international trade fair in January. This is followed by a month-long book-fair in February encompassing the Language Martyrs Day on 21st February commemorating the brave countrymen who laid down their lives to establish Bangla as the State Language in 1952. UNESCO has now declared this day as the International Mother Language Day. March 26 is celebrated nationally as the Independence Day. April hosts a weeklong festival to celebrate the Bangla New Year on April 14. December 16 is also celebrated nationally as the Victory Day. In between, religious, traditional and cultural festivities add color and spices to the lives of Bangladeshi people.

All traffic moves on the left hand side of the roads and all vehicles are right-hand-drive. This might call for a little extra caution for visitors coming in from countries where traffic moves on the right hand side of the roads.

The main entry point

The main entry point for visitors is the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, which is about a 20 minutes’’ drive from the diplomatic areas by car. We have two other international airports in the country at Sylhet and Chittagong also, located North-East and South-East of Dhaka respectively.

Going Places

Though not known to many visitors, Bangladesh is a tourists’ paradise! The country has a rich heritage of historically important built structure, and at the same time is a playground of natural beauty. On the one hand, you would find historical or religious structures that date back by centuries, and on the other hand, there are modern infrastructures of architectural interest.

Wherever a visitor would wish to go outside Dhaka, there is a good road and some or other form of comfortable transportation – air, bus or launch – to take you there!

All hotels and modern guesthouses can arrange site-seeing trips to any of these locations. If you have the time to visit any, please ask at the Reception Desk of your hotel or guesthouse for any help in this regard.

Some recommended places in and around Dhaka:

Visits (day-trips) to any of these sites can be arranged from your guest house on advance booking and payment.

If you are willing to stay on longer and visit some other tourist spots far away from Dhaka, those recommended are:

Eating out

Over the last decade, Dhaka has seen the mushroom growth of restaurants even in Gulshan and Banani areas. There are all sorts of restaurants – Bangladeshi, Chinese, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Lebanese, Mexican, Spanish, Turkish, Vietnamese etc. Western food is available in all major hotels and most of the big restaurants in the city. But local dishes are normally far better and more exotic. Most local specialties are usually served with rice and based on chicken, mutton or beef. We would like to recommend seafood (particularly prawns) and kebabs.

Shopping

Bangladesh is reputed for her handicrafts. Exquisite hand-made articles with a large variety are readily available and prices are reasonable. Cottage industry products like fabrics, printed sarees, pink pearls, wood products, coconut masks, folk dolls, shital pati (mattress having cooling effect), terracotta toys and jute products for decorative purposes are very typical of Bangladesh. Brassware, delicate silver trinkets, embroidered silk sarees, Jamdani sarees, scarves, purses, bamboo decoration pieces, cane & conch shell products, gold and silver ornament, jute carpets and a host of other attractive handicrafts can be bought in the shops, at the handicraft sale centers and galleries in the cities and also at tourist spots.