Why Bangladesh Will Make You Question Everything the Media Says
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Is Bangladesh safe? It is a country of tigers, jungles, beaches, and noisy cities. Ninety percent of the nation is strict Sunni Muslim, but Bangladesh also has some vast cultural influences from its neighbor, India.
If you read the news or listen to the media chances are you will think that Bangladesh is dangerous. The USA embassy has a travel with caution warning when traveling to Bangladesh.
This gives Bangladesh a unique atmosphere – a hybrid between India and the Middle East.
At first, Bangladesh challenges you around every turn. The country lacks significant tourism infrastructure, and there is a good chance you’ll find yourself out of your comfort zone for your first few days. However, as you settle into the country, you’ll soon find it charming.
By the end of my three weeks in Bangladesh, I had fallen in love with its people, food, and landscape. It is a country I loved and was insanely sad to leave. And since booze is all but illegal there, that is saying something.
Still, because the country isn’t set up for Western tourism, you should know what to expect before planning your visit. This post will help present the essential things you need to know before traveling to Bangladesh so you can judge for yourself whether Bangladesh is safe for you.
Is Bangladesh Safe – What to Expect When Visiting
Crowds and Stares
Bangladesh does not see many Western visitors. In fact, in my entire time in the country, I saw just four other Westerners. They were volunteering at a local hospital, and awe seeped across their faces when I told them we had come to Bangladesh to travel.
Because there are so few Western travelers, crowds and stares follow you wherever you go. Whether you are sipping a cup of chai tea or buying snacks at a hole in the wall shop, people will stare and in some cases gather around you.
I’ve experienced crowds like these in other remote places, like in the middle of nowhere in Kazakhstan, India, Nepal, and Mongolia. But in Bangladesh, it happens nonstop, no matter what you are doing. Although it does happen a little less outside bigger cities like Dhaka.
At first, the never-ending sea of stares is unsettling. But once you realize it’s not considered rude to stare in their culture staring, you’ll learn the source of these stares and crowds is curiosity, not hostility.
After that, you’ll start to feel a lot safer in Bangladesh. After a few days, you’ll find yourself entirely used to people looking at you or those around you as you go about your daily tasks.
Women get more stares than men. I traveled Bangladesh with a woman who was very respectful of the country’s cultural customs and kept covered from neck to foot our entire visit.
Despite the blistering heat, she never uttered one complaint. She did have piercings and tattoos, and she is someone Bangladeshi men are not used to seeing, so we might have attracted more stares than usual.
A big part of feeling safe in Bangladesh is getting involved with the people. After you get used to the stares and crowds, you’ll find Bangladesh has some of the most amazing people in the world.
I know many bloggers say that (insert country of choice) has the best locals, and I’ve met thousands of friendly locals on my travels. But, in Bangladesh, I was blown away by the kindness of the people.
Seriously, once you smile or even show the people the slightest bit of humor, they open their hearts to you. Bangladesh’s people are curious about Western life, like to joke, and always go out of their way to help travelers without expecting anything in return.
However, to go up into the towers, a ticket is required. It goes without saying (though, I guess I am saying it) that Notre Dame is a must when planning the perfect Paris Itinerary.
My Favorite Memories of Bangladesh
Here are some of my favorite memories of the people while traveling in Bangladesh.
Police Driving Us to Dinner – One evening we found ourselves scouring the streets in search of a specific restaurant. Unable to see it, we asked a group of policemen for directions. They immediately stopped what they were doing, pulled over a tuk-tuk, hopped in with us, and we all drove to the restaurant together. When they dropped us off, they then refused to let us pay for the tuk-tuk ride.
Dancing with Hare Krishnas – One day, on the advice of our hotel manager, we decided to head to the floating market in the middle of nowhere. We arrived only to find the market had already finished for the day. Not wanting to waste the journey, we decided to take some dirt paths from the village and see where they lead.
After about 15 minutes, we stumbled on a smaller town of Hare Krishna’s. As soon as one of them saw us, he gave a loud cry, grabbed us by the arms and lead us to the center of the village. His cry called everyone from the fields and forest to the town center, and before long, we had over 50 people playing in awe of the two weird Westerners who had somehow stumbled into their lives.
A village elder brought out a bongo drum, and we spent the next two hours singing, dancing, eating, and taking hundreds of selfies. They did ask for a donation at the end, but it was next to nothing compared to the amount of fun and food that forced on us.
Getting on the News – While visiting a mosque, we stumbled on a local news team doing a story on the Star Mosque. When they saw us, they explained they were about to go on live tv and asked us to be a part of the program. A few minutes later there we were on that we stand in the mosque and tell what we thought about it on live TV.
Presents for Nadja – We shared our hotel in Coxs Bazaar with a family with two little girls. They were so taken aback by Nadja that they went to the market and bought her necklaces.
Paying Local Prices – In many Asian countries, travelers pay a little higher price. Bangladesh is the only country in the world where I have had other locals come over and insist on the stall owner that I pay the local fare.
Having Local Help – The few locals that spoke English went out of their way to help us. A few even gave us their phone numbers and insisted that we give them a call if we had any problems.
Is Bangladesh Safe to Travel?
Yes, I believe Bangladesh is safe. Apart from the country’s initial culture shock, Nadja and I never felt in danger or threatened.
The people are warm and overly helpful, and getting around the country on buses was secure and safe. By the end of our time in Bangladesh, we were sad and longed to stay longer.
Let’s talk about a few things you should know to ensure you have a safe visit to Bangladesh.
Bangladesh Doesn’t Have a Big Tourism Infrastructure
Bangladesh gets a lot of tourist from India and other surrounding countries, but as I mentioned above, it doesn’t get many Western tourists.
Westerners are rare because the country is new to people’s travel radar. The country isn’t set up for tourism. This is not Thailand. There are no VIP trains, air-conditioned buses, tourist streets that serve hamburgers and pasta, or happy hour specials. To get around, you’ll have to take local buses or trains. While there are not many hostels, luckily hotels are inexpensive. Many restaurants don’t have menus in English (if they have menus at all), and very few people speak English. (Almost like English in Italy, but not as bad).. I love this sort of travel, but it isn’t for everyone.
Bangladesh is safe, but specific areas of the country are not recommended for visitors. Explicitly, the US government warns travelers not to venture into the eastern side of the nation.
This is a shame because there are many gorgeous hikes and treks located in this area. You can still embark on these hikes at your own risk, but you are required to apply for a permit a month beforehand and hire a local guard. I would say the best way to stay safe in Bangladesh is to avoid these areas and stick to the main tourist trail.
What do you think? Do you think that Bangladesh is safe to visit?
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