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  • A backpacker’s guide to Bangladesh

    Dhaka, photo by joiseyshowaa on Flickr

    Officially, Bangladesh has only existed for about 40 years, but the history of this small country goes back for thousands of years. Located in the shadow of its much more famous and/or powerful neighbors India and Myanmar, Bangladesh is another one of those countries that no one tends to hear much about except when disaster strikes.

    And as poor and insignificant as Bangladesh might be on the international political scene, but it has lovely scenery, national parks where tigers roam, huge mangrove forests, countless mosques and the longest beach in the world. The best way to experience all of this is not in the comfort of a tour, but by getting down and dirty with only a backpack and a map. Here is a backpacker’s guide to Bangladesh for travelers who yearn for adventure.

    Transport

    photo by reivax on Flickr

    Because Bangladesh is relatively compared to its neighbors with booming economies like India, prices are lower and it is very easy to travel on a tight budget. Although you can find hotel chains like Sheraton, or popular  fast food restaurants,  going local is cheaper and far more enjoyable.

    Going somewhere by bus instead of by plane (although domestic flights are quite affordable and convenient) is an adventure by itself, and it you are planning to get out of the cities and explore the countryside you will have no other option but make use of local means of transport like rickshaws, bans (a type of three-wheeled bicycle), and the crowded buses that sometimes take passengers on the roof.

    Trains are also an option, but although the tickets cost about the same as bus tickets (and sometimes cheaper), train trips take much longer. A popular and affordable way to get around Bangladesh is by ferry – there are tour operators who offer scenic sightseeing trips, or regular ferries that transport locals.

    Accommodation

    Larger cities in Bangladesh have their fair share of luxury accommodation, but although the budget options are not quite as obvious, there is a huge variety of cheap hotels and hostels in the country. Some economy hotels have rooms for as little as a couple of bucks, but the service and the amenities reflect the price – usually no hot water or air conditioning. In larger cities and in the capital of Dhaka you can find backpacker hostels that cater to the needs of budget travelers.

    Food

    photo by Steve Evans on Flickr

    Bangladesh is a paradise for a foodie low on money, because there are many delicious traditional dishes to be had for a very affordable price. For less than $2 you can have a full course meal with several cups of tea. Fancy restaurants will serve western food too, but the traditional ones are naturally a cheaper option – and a much more interesting one.

    Food is traditionally eaten with fingers, which can take a lot of practice to master – so when you’re eating in a neighborhood restaurant you can expect a few muffled laughs. It’s even cheaper to buy food from a market, but the selection is limited and missing out on properly prepared Bangladeshi cuisine is a shame.

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