Dhaka City Guide
A whirlwind of a city, Dhaka, with over 18 million residents, is the capital and heartbeat of Bangladesh. Settled in the 1st century, the city has been held by numerous countries throughout the ages, each leaving a mark on the food, culture and architecture. While not for the faint-hearted traveler, those ready to dive into an adventure will find Dhaka an intriguing and invigorating experience, and will leave forever changed.
Located in Southwest Asia, Dhaka sits on the Buriganga River, at the mouth of the Ganges Delta; with a hot, tropical climate, the city receives over 80 inches of rain between May and October. Travelers are advised to book their trip during the drier months, as flooding can be an issue.
Visitors to Dhaka should be prepared with a selection of common phrases in Bengali or Urdu, as many residents don’t speak English. Simple manners and courtesy will aid travelers greatly, as the Bengalese are a very friendly people open to tourism. Tourism, while slowly growing in Dhaka, is still rare, and visitors might find themselves followed by friendly crowds of locals who are simply curious about different cultures and ways of life. Foreign men should not offer to shake hands with local women unless the women offer first, and visiting women should dress conservatively so as not to offend cultural norms.
How to get there and get around
Most visitors fly in via the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, though you can arrive by train. With over 18 international cities connecting with Dhaka by air, it isn’t hard to find a flight.
Most visitors rent taxis or rickshaws while in town. Driving on your own is not recommended, and rental cars are not easy to find. Be adventurous and try a cattle-pulled rickshaw. Whatever you choose, just sit back and try and relax; the first forays into the city often alarm visitors, as traffic is chaotic.
What to see and do
As the largest city in Bangladesh, Dhaka offers a wide range of cultural, historical and active pursuits. There are often festivals and fairs taking place, and tourists are welcome to view and take part. Often special foods are served only at such events, and there is dancing, music, parades and plays put on by collegiate, religious and civic groups.
For those who love to shop, Dhaka presents a treasure trove to be discovered. From booths at the many bazaars, to shops and malls, goods are affordable, often handmade and abundant. Shankaria Bazaar, known locally as Hindu Street, was settled by Hindu artists over 300 years ago, and is one of the oldest in the city. If you want to find all your Bangladeshi souvenirs in one stop, check out Aarong, which offers the largest selection of quality clothing and handcrafts in the city. Government-sponsored to help provide higher-paying jobs for the locals, it is a one-stop for everything location, including a café where to have lunch.
For those who enjoy seeing ancient houses of worship, Dhaka has several; be sure to visit the Armenian Church of the Holy Resurrection, built in the 17th century, as well as the Musa Khan Mosque, dating from the 14th century. Another popular site is the Dhakeshwari Temple, built in the 1200’s.
There are several museums throughout the city, all of which have low admission fees and are places of quiet respite from the noisy traffic and the heat outdoors. Other much-visited attractions include the Lalbagh Fort, from the 17th century, the Pink Palace, also known as Ahsan Manzil, and the Liberation War Museum.
What to eat
The food options of Dhaka seem endless; if you don’t fill up just eating at the many street vendors, head down to Banani Road 11, which has cafes and restaurants that offer everything from western-style burgers to pasta, pad thai, curries and stir-fry’s. Food is very reasonably priced in Dhaka; often two people can share more food than they can eat for under $10. Fresh fruit and vegetables are available at the markets (look for the giant Spice Market in town) as are cheap and healthy snacks on the go.
Look for the bakeries and sweet shops; they are an important part of daily Dhaka life. Sweets are sold by the kilogram, so ask for recommendations at your hotel for popular flavors before you go in search of satisfying your sweet tooth.
Be prepared to be offered a lot of Cha, a highly caffeinated cup of sweet, milky tea; it is the beverage of choice in Dhaka. Alcoholic beverages are mainly served in private clubs and hotels.
Where to stay
There are plenty of places to stay in Dhaka, though choosing your accommodation or apartment rental can be overwhelming. Let World Escape help you find your perfect place.