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Bangladesh - Underrated Budget Travel Destination

Bangladesh may be single most overlooked destination in the world for budget travelers. While nearby India is seeing tourism begin to boom, Bangladesh, and its capital city of Dhaka, is largely ignored. the lack of tourist attention is mostly the result of the high levels of poverty, but also because Bangladesh tends not to cater to the conventional tourist (or budget tourist for that matter).

The idea of exploring a largely unseen and impoverished nation might make even the most experienced of travelers cringe, but others will jump at the opportunity to explore a place few others can claim to have been. For me, there is something oddly attractive about a traditionally "non-tourist" destination; you aren't likely to run into groups of other westerners, and you can be sure that most of your cultural experiences and interactions are genuine.

One large misconception about Bangladesh is it's apparent lack of safety and adequate health care. While health care does continue to be an issue, especially for the poorer natives, safety shouldn't be a concern. from what I have heard and experienced, travelers in this country rarely see any violent or even petty crime. After getting past the initial culture shock and adjusting to the dense crowds, you will be able to enjoy one of the purest and most "non-touristy" places on earth.

Visa Information Tourist visas to Bangladesh are readily available for Americans, and can last anywhere from three months to a year (either multiple entry or single entry). A quick online search will provide you with a wealth of specific information on the different types of visas and their associated costs.

What to Pack? Find a happy balance of conservative but cool clothing. Lightweight cotton or sports wear can keep you adequately covered, although you might be better off buying some things at a market upon arrival. There are quality (and cool) local clothes available for ridiculously low prices. I hesitate to advise anyone on exactly what to pack; just have sense and realize where it is that you are going. Outside of Dhaka, you aren't likely to be able to find some "western necessities", so I suggest you pack accordingly if you plan on exploring outside the capital city.

How to get there? Flights into Dhaka will likely run you slightly more than $1, 000. Flights into Calcutta (In India, but not too far away from Dhaka by train) may or may not be cheaper, it just depends on when and with whom you choose to book your flight. I mention Calcutta because this city may serve as a wise entry point for the more inexperienced traveler. Dhaka is insanely crowded (it makes New Delhi look like Casper, Wyoming), and while Calcutta is not exactly lacking in population, it does have more amenities and may serve as a nice introduction to this region of the world.

How to get around? Bangladesh is the land of the rickshaw. Man powered people carts run the streets in Dhaka, and they are extremely cheap to use. If you are looking to move a bit faster, motor powered auto-rickshaws are also plentiful. If you are looking to travel outside of Dhaka, the country has an extensive train system with ticket fares so low, they will surely blow your budget traveling mind. Visit the Bangladesh government railways site for more information.

Where to stay? There are plenty of guest houses that can be inhabited for well under ten dollars a night. While some of these places have been reviewed online, most have not. Cheaper guest houses can and should be discovered upon arrival (You aren't likely to encounter any vacancy issues in Dhaka). Again, do not let safety be major concern; just be a smart traveler and use common sense.

What to see? A tough topic to cover considering the fact that just stepping outside of your guest house is an experience all its own. Definitely try to catch a cricket match in Dhaka Stadium (just one of it's many names). The bat sport is huge in Bangladesh, and if you find yourself able to take in a match, it is an experience you aren't likely to forget. Old Dhaka should also be explored for its various forts, markets and monuments. Many Web sites list good "tourist" destinations, but I would say that Bangladesh is a country best explored without a formal guide book.

Things to be aware of... travel smart and use common sense (this cannot be stressed enough). As a budget traveler in a developing nation, you can easily find yourself in some less than desirable situations regarding your passport, money or health. Stick to bottled water and bring a good antibiotic (Ciprofloxacin has been a lifesaver for me, but ask your doctor about this before you depart).

The official language is called "Bangla" or "Bengali" (English should get you by if necessary). I always suggest that, regardless of the length of your trip, you should try and make an effort to learn some basic words and phrases in the native language. This linguistic effort will surely be rewarding for both you and the locals.

By B.L. King - B.L. King is a freelance writer with considerable experience in athletics, emergency medicine and the outdoors. Today he spends most of his free time playing sports, traveling and keeping up with the latest...  

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