Bangladesh's claims to fame are not, perhaps, the most immediately enticing. Lying between India and Burma in the low-lying Ganges Delta, half the country is under flood during the annual monsoon, placing it precariously on the front line of global warming. This is also the most densely-populated country on earth, for its size, and one of the world's poorest. And yet this is a destination that rewards travellers richly. Here you'll find images of the subcontinent that are fast disappearing from India itself: legions of colourful cycle rickshaws throng the streets of Dhaka, and the Sundarban mangroves are one of the last redoubts of the Royal Bengal Tiger. Bangladesh may be ecologically fragile (hence the global warming tours), but its watery world is also fascinating to explore by boat. Above all, you'll meet people as friendly as they are resilient, with a life-affirming faith in the future.
If you are a female traveller don a salwar kameez to deflect male attention.
Pack a head torch for the power cuts or buy a storm light once you have arrived.
Be weather savvy; pack sunscreen for the sunny months or, if visiting in monsoon season, take appropriate clothes and waterproof bags to protect your belongings.
Hand sanitiser can help protect against stomach upsets. Always get local advice about safety.
Time your visit wisely as the weather in Bangladesh can be extreme and during monsoon season more than 50% of the country is under water.
Summers (March-June) are hot and humid.
Monsoon season (June-October) is also hot with torrential downpours.
Winters (October-March) have pleasant temperatures. Cyclones, tornadoes, tidal bores and floods occur almost annually.
Shahjalal (DAC) 20 km from Dhaka.
When in Bangladesh do as the Bangladeshis do, and jump on a boat. The rivers are the lifeblood of the country and water travel offers the double benefit of being a convenient way to get around and an absorbing cultural experience.
Buses are without doubt the most panic-inducing of all the public transport options. It is about time the decrepit trains went to that great railway in the sky but alas, they are still in operation. Despite being old and slow, they are preferable to the buses.
In larger towns there is an abundance of taxis, baby taxis and rickshaws. Self drive car rental is not available but you can rent cars with drivers.
Motorbikes can be bought or hired and while they are a good way to dodge inner city traffic, biking elsewhere is not for the faint of heart. Be warned: the roads are poor, the local driving habits will make your hair stand on end and accidents are common, often resulting in vigilante justice.
Some roads, namely the perilous Dhaka-Chittagong and Dhaka-Bogra roads are best avoided altogether.
Shahjalal (DAC) 20 km from Dhaka.
Don't expect any posh pads here: accommodation in Bangladesh is as down to earth as it gets. Dhaka offers some decent hotel chains and good guesthouses, but outside the major cities standards are low. In out-of-the-way places NGO guesthouses provide clean, cheap rooms. You will be hard pressed to find non smoking rooms. If mixed-sex couples want to share a room it would be a good idea to say they are husband and wife. Houseboats are a great way to experience river life.
Unsurprisingly for such a waterlogged country, fish is always on the menu. Rice and lentils are staples too. The so-called honey months of June, July and August spawn some seriously tasty fruit (mainly mangoes, jackfruit, lychees and green coconuts).
Dhaka has upmarket eateries but throughout the rest of Bangladesh hygiene standards leave a lot to be desired. Try and accept invitations to dine at local houses as the best food you will come across is home-cooked Bangladeshi fare prepared with lashings of TLC.
The Chittagong Hill Tracts are a fascinating but dangerous area where ethnic violence is common. Theft is a problem be wary of groups of thieves using CNGs (three wheeled motor rickshaws) and try and avoid travelling alone on public transport at night. You could encounter corrupt officials during your stay.
Road accidents pose more of a risk than disease, but malaria does occur in parts of the country.
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