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Bangladesh - Getting there & away, getting around

Bangladesh - Getting there & away

Although Dhaka International Airport is far from being a major Asian crossroads, there are plenty of international flights. Indeed, many travellers use Dhaka as the gateway to the Indian subcontinent to take advantage of cheap fares from Europe. Bangkok and Kolkata are the main destinations for flights in and out of Bangladesh. The airport departure tax for international flights is US$7.50.

The situation with overland crossings to/from India is vague. The main crossings are at Benopol-Haridispur (on the Kolkata route); Chilihari-Haldibari (on the Darjeeling route); and Tamabil-Dawki (on the Shillong route). If officials tell you that you cannot cross elsewhere, be sceptical, insistent but polite, since travellers have been crossing in small numbers at Hili-Balurghat, Godagari-Lalgola and several other border crossings.

Overland routes between the subcontinent and Myanmar have been closed since the early 1950s. Even if the border was to be opened in the future, it's likely that all the formerly navigable roads across the frontier have long since been devoured by the jungle.

Getting around Bangladesh

Internal transport in Bangladesh is cheap. The rule is: if you want a seat get there early and learn to shove, kick and gouge like the rest of your travelling companions. Biman, the national carrier, has flights radiating from Dhaka to 10 Bangladeshi cities, including Chittagong and Cox's Bazar. Flights are cheap but are still more than three times first class train fares. There's a US$1.20 departure tax on domestic flights.

Bangladesh has a fairly extensive system of passable roads but they are chokka with buses. Bus drivers in Bangladesh are among the world's most reckless, as evidenced by the incredible number of bus accidents occurring every day. Trains are a lot easier on the nerves, knees and backside, and those plying the major routes are actually quite good, at least in first class. However, travelling by rail between Dhaka and points west is quite complicated for three reasons: unbridged rivers requiring crossing by ferry, circuitous routing, and differing gauges between the east and west sections of the country.

The distinguishing feature of internal travel in Bangladesh is the presence of a well-developed and well-used system of water transport, though travelling by boat is slow. A trip to Bangladesh which does not include taking a trip down a river is like going to the Alps and not skiing or hiking. The famous 'Rocket' paddlewheel steamer runs from Dhaka to Khulna four times a week, but there are plenty of other fascinating ferries to catch.

Self-drive cars are not available in Bangladesh. It is, however, inexpensive to hire chauffeur-driven cars in major cities. In cities you'll find rickshaws and autorickshaws which are inexpensive once the compulsory bargaining process is completed.

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