5 unique experiences in Dhaka that most of us miss out on

Dhaka has a long way to go before it becomes a conventional tourist destination. Nonetheless, tourism is common in the 400-year-old city. There is a fixed rounded up list of places that people always go to whenever they visit Dhaka.  But Dhaka has more to offer than Lalbagh fort, Jatiya Sangsad and the National Museum. There are a ton of places to visit and things to do outside of what the brochure or your tour guides tell you about.

Whether you are visiting Dhaka for the first time, or you’re a local who wants to experience this city like never before, here are the 5 things you must do to complete your Dhaka experience.

1. Embark on a spiritual journey in Hussaini Dalan 

Hussaini Dalan Muharram Dhaka
Hussaini Dalan during Maharram

The Hussaini Dalan serves as the main Hussainiya in Dhaka. The shrine is a major gathering place for Shia Muslims, followers of the grandson of Prophet Muhammad. It was originally built during the latter half of the Mughal rule (17th Century) and patronized by prince Shah Shuja, son of Emperor Shah Jahan. The structure has an elegant Mughal and British architectural style. Followers of the Shia community come here to say their prayers; the atmosphere is amazingly calm and serene. You can feed the ducks in the adjacent ponds, listen to the sermon and exchange deep philosophical talks with the clerics.

Pro tip: Visit during the Muharram festivals. You can see and even take the part in the vibrant Muharram parades.

2. Visit the historic Ruplal House

Ruplal House Dhaka
Ruins of Ruplal House

The Ruplal house in Farashganj of old Dhaka is a mansion built in the late 19th century by Armenian Landlord Aratun. Ruplal brothers bought it in 1835 and hired Martin and Company of Calcutta for renovations. Ruplal House and Ahsan Manzil, which is nearby, used to be the ornament of Dhaka back in the day. The area was the residential area for the rich merchant class and top-posted British officers. Ruplal house hosted a lot of cultural activity of the time. Gurus of Indian classical music like Ustad Alauddin Khan, Ustad Wali Ullah Khan and Lakshmi Devi regularly hosted shows. Ruplal house was also politically important during the Renaissance period.

Ruplal house was expensive to build on site. The structure features an Indo-Greek architectural style, massive blocs, porticos, tinted glasses, ballrooms and feast halls. There used to be a clock tower on the top which was damaged by an earthquake. The fall of Ruplal House began after the Ruplal family left during the partition in 1947. Now the Ruplal House is jointly owned by several private and commercial owners.

Visit Ruplal House to find bits and pieces of the old glory days of Bengal. Dhaka boasts a number of establishments which remind us of our glorious past. Ruplal House is just one of the many.

3. Grab lunch in Beauty Boarding

Beauty Boarding hotel Dhaka
Beauty Boarding

Beauty boarding is a famous hotel, or as its commonly known, a boarding house. It also has a restaurant that serves Bengali food in a traditional homely atmosphere. The building was originally a zamindar house. A local rented the house in 1951 and then turned into a boarding house and restaurant. Located near Banglabazar book market, the spot became popular with the local book traders, literature aficionados, poets, and artists.

In terms of its intellectual importance, Beauty boarding can be compared to the Coffee House in Kolkata.

The boarding was a regular spot for poet Shahid Qadri and Nirmalendu Goon who stayed for five years in the boarding. Poets like Shamsul Haque, Rafiq Azad and Shamsur Rahman used to gather for their evening tea.

Pro tip: Beauty boarding doubles as a great background for your photos if you want to keep some mementos of your visit to the land of Bengal.

4. Go book hopping in Nilkhet

Nilkhet book market Dhaka
Nilkhet book market

Nilkhet is the second largest book market in the country and a heaven for book lovers. 2500 shops are crammed together. The shops sell local prints and second-hand copies of original books. Bookworms of Dhaka, especially the students, go to Nilkhet for the best deals on books.

Pro tip: Looking for a rare book? Chances are you’ll find an original first edition copy of it, tucked somewhere in the piles of books that are on display. Make sure you bargain hard to get the best deals.

5. Take a boat ride in Buriganga

Buriganga river ride in Dhaka
Boatride in Buriganga

Buriganga is the major river on which the city of Dhaka stands. On it, is Sadarghat, the largest river port in the country. Hire a boat for an hour from Sadarghat, for only 200 takas per hour. The boatman will take you on a river ride to the other side of Dhaka. On a clear sunny afternoon, see the Dhaka skyline. Ahsan Manzil, the palace of the nawabs of Dhaka, will be visible from the river. Stay to enjoy the sunset. You’ll see hundreds of people commuting and crossing the river on wooden boats.

Riding a boat in Burganga is a chance to spend time in the calm waters, away from the bustling city while getting intimate with the lifestyle of the locals.

The best part of Dhaka is its people. What the city may lack in traditional grandeur and glamour, is made up for by the kind-hearted, lovely and forever curious people of this magical city. Open up to Dhaka, and it will open up to you with its four hundred years’ worth of culture, history, and tradition.

With Sabira Mehrin of Wander Woman: Creating a community of independent women travelers

Like many patriarchal societies, girls need permission to do basic things in life– to stay out after dark, to get a job, to make their own career choices. In this context, there are still women who are pushing boundaries and venturing out on their own. One big change is that more woman are now travelling and seeking adventure.

Read more: These 4 apps will make traveling a lot easier

What is Wander Woman?

Among many things, Wander Woman is a travel company– by women, just for women. Wander Woman started out as a Facebook group but is growing into so much more. The group currently has 10,030 members.

Wander Woman comes with one sole purpose – bringing all women together in one platform to share the love for travelling around the world.

Travelers post their tips, ask for help to navigate blocks in their journey and share their stories. Solo travelers can also coordinate with each other, form groups for short trips based on common interests.

Read more: 5 countries you can travel to without a visa if you’re Bangladeshi

Who is Sabira Mehrin?

Sabira Mehrin is the founder of Wonder Woman. She is full of life and full of determination. She is trying to bring women together, help them travel and see the world, while creating a community of cool explorers that help each other.

She is also efficient. She has to figure out how to deal with her biggest challenge in administering a facebook group and keeping the group authentic. “I was very picky! I only wanted member with authentic profile, with legitimate work portfolios- and it was extremely hard to administer the group. So I made the best use of all my time- in traffics, and such.”

Why Wander Woman?

In a little more than 12 months, Sabira Mehrin has turned a small Facebook group into a full-fledged start-up. But what made her want to create this group in the first place?

“When I was a student in IBA, I used to participate in global business competitions and conferences. All of them were organized by big companies. So whenever I traveled, I never faced any kind of hassle in the process of purchasing tickets and all. All of these were done by the professionals.

But when I got into job and started planning a self-funded trip for myself for the first time, I realized I only knew few people who could give me the right kind of information. Also, while researching, I came across very few Bangladeshi travel bloggers. So I saw the lack of information, the discrimination, and saw that the issues were mostly for the women. And I thought, how can I create a platform that makes it easier for women to travel? And my best friend gave me the idea to start the group- just to assess the situation. I opened the group and added 200 people. And from there it started to grow, and it didn’t stop!”

Why do people trust Wander Woman?

There are a lot of factors at play when it comes to woman and travel- including safety, reliability and of course, trust issues. However, the closed nature of the group, the direct interactions and careful moderation has led to a thriving community with trust.

When we asked this question, Sabira exclaimed with genuine surprise, “I don’t know! They just do! I have spoken to so many parents about permissions and stuff, and they all seem to come around after talking to me! And I feel privileged to be blessed with this type of trust. So if anyone has trouble getting permission for solo trips, just show your parents our group! Let them see that it is safe, and we will do our best to give you the best experience possible!”

What’s next?

What’s not next is a typical, commercial agency. Sabira keeps that in mind as she finds partners to help her build the community. “When we first started out, a lot of travel agencies reached out to us. But I soon figured they were all being very commercial. We would prefer if we could find people who were more interested in building the community with us.

Sabira has big plans for Wander woman for 2019. “Wander woman got registered”, she said. “We want to make travelling more accessible to the students in near future. And I know that people believe that wander woman is a little too niche, but I refuse to compromise the quality of our packages. So we might not reach out to the the mass market just yet. Let’s see what happens!”

Read more: 5 tips for the solo traveller in Bangladesh

Tips for a solo traveller?

Sabira is an avid traveller. So when we asked her for tips she said, “Solo travelling is about two things- courage and planning. You don’t have to be fearful, necessarily, but you need to be cautious. So while some places are safer than others, you can still make the best of your situation by being smart. I have come across so many helpful people, help was coming from unexpected places whenever I was in a pinch. That was really surprising for me.”

Read more: 4 Bengali traveling myths that are completely wrong

So if you are a girl and you love travelling, do check out their group! Because there is something for everyone!

Travel solo at least once in your life, it can be enriching

Traveling has always been one of our top choices for choosing what to do in upcoming holiday seasons. However, as our lives get hectic- the fond memories from our childhood of travelling with our family simply become memories that are difficult, or in most cases impossible to relive. In addition, knocking your best friends on Facebook to check their schedule and plan trips result in nothing but utter disappointment, as you find them drowning in deadlines or juggling a hundred things going on in their lives.

So, do you let go of your plans and spend the vacation like a typical weekend with Netflix and pizzas? Of course not.

Solo trips to the rescue! Although solo trips are not a popular choice or a choice for many at all, they are an incredible life-experience. Today, we bring you some reasons to consider travelling solo at least once to have the experience of a lifetime!

Confidence and Responsibility

Solo trips would surely help you gain confidence as an individual. You initiate conversations, get to know people and enjoy little things you normally wouldn’t. Moreover, as a solo traveler, you would also seem more approachable and locals might start the conversation themselves. As you explore and return from the trip, it would also clear your misconception of solo trips being anxiety-inducing, no-good trips. Additionally, solo trips teach you to be more responsible as you take care of your belongings, passport, and other documents and try your best to avoid any danger in the foreign country.

Moreover, solo trips are more peaceful and therapeutic as you escape from your daily life. You can get away from people you know and spend more time with yourself at a quiet cottage. This also means giving yourself the opportunity to step out of your comfort zone. Imagine giving yourself a fake identity to strangers like all those times in the movies; fun, eh?

Make friends along the way

One unique and wonderful aspect of solo trips is that it also gives you the opportunity to meet more locals. When going with your family, friends or your significant other to a trip- it is given that you would go to have all your meals with them or sit next to them in public transportations, movie theatres and amusement park rides. However, travelling solo lets you meet people along the way and do the activities with them, which can be very fun.

A big advantage travelling solo brings is the reduced waiting time. For example, from perceiving theme parks as a noisy, rowdy place filled with screaming kids, crowds and endless walking, you would perceive it as the truly magical place it is meant to be- simply because of the amount of time you save skipping lines and entering as a solo rider. I had a similar experience in Universal Studios Singapore and I cannot describe the sheer happiness as you cross the long queues, get on your ride as a solo-rider and look at all those people waiting in groups.

Step out of your comfort zone

A solo trip like any other trip lets you meet new people and experience new cultures, traditions and food. However, it also lets you do those to a greater extent as you step out of your comfort zone, transform into a more confident, responsible and ‘fun’ individual and surround yourself with people living their life to the fullest to be a part of them.

So go out there, plan a trip for yourself and experience the magic. After all, a solo trip can be exciting, nerve-wracking and rewarding all at the same time; let go of the fear, have one for the first time and you shall find yourself planning the next one soon enough!

Staying at small hotels when traveling is the best thing ever, here’s why

I learned a new word the other day. Scintilla. Which means, a tiny spark of a feeling. Beautiful, isn’t it? Ever since, I’ve been dying to use the word properly, somewhere relevant. And when I got the green light from my editor to write about the hotels I stay in when I travel, I found an opportunity to use this word in a proper relevant context.

That’s right, a tiny spark of a beautiful short-lived moment is exactly how it feels to stay in small mid-range hotels. You see, hotels are not just a bed to sleep at night. They are much more than that. They are a collection of stories and experiences, a platform where travellers pass by and stop for a while, leaving their own stories and memories. When you think about it like that, hotels are no less than storybooks. And the small hotels? The stories formed in these small hotels are just cosier than the ones in five-star hotels.

Here are a few reasons why staying in small hotels is better than you think.

1. Easy on the ol’ wallet

Staying at small hotels-HiFI Public

To get the obvious out of the way, small hotels don’t take a toll on your wallet. Most of the small hotels are priced cheap to mid-range. There’s no point in paying a hefty sum of money to stay in a hotel if you’re planning to just spend the nights over there and go exploring the entire day. But of course no harm in paying for a bit of extra luxury either. No one’s judging.

2. A cosier environment

Staying at small hotels-HiFI Public

Small hotels offer you something that high-end hotels won’t. A cosy homely feeling that you won’t find anywhere else. You’ll find fellow travellers as you crammed in a small lobby or small rooftop makeshift eatery that’ll serve you authentic local delicacies. Or the receptionist who’ll always greet you with a smile and go out of his way to help you travel a bit easier in the region.

3. Authentic cultural experience

Staying at small hotels-HiFI Public

High-end hotels play it by the book. The more or less same amenities and the same experiences everywhere but in a different style. That isn’t the case with small hotels. Most small hotels are located in a local neighbourhood, run by the locals, offering the best of the local cultures. If you truly want to experience a region, try staying in one of the small hotels for the best authentic experience.

4. A story to tell

Staying at small hotels-HiFI Public

There’s always something different about each of these hotels you’ll ever stay in. Each one has a different story to tell and a different experience awaits you in each one. I’ll never forget the lovely 2 AM conversation I had with the front desk clerk of Chinatown Inn in Kuala Lumpur. Or that one time I slept in and the family that runs Bich Duyen Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City cooked me a warm breakfast because it was too late in the day to find breakfast in the city.

These are the experiences that don’t go on your Instagram. But these are the experiences that make travelling worth your time and money.

I call myself a traveller when in reality, I really haven’t travelled much. But in this short span of my travelling journal, I have come across experiences that I’ll cherish forever and stories that I’ll keep telling every day. If you’re travelling somewhere new, don’t hesitate to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. Because when you open yourself up to the new and the different, that’s when you truly travel.

10 cities to visit under budget

In this hectic life of work, studies and constant roundabouts of quizzes and deadlines, our lifestyle somewhat becomes mundane. Travelling is one of the many ways let off some steam. But, what holds back most of us from travelling is obviously the cost of it. The plane fare, hotel, food and the list goes on.

But fret not. We have ten cities for you to visit under a budget of 40,000 BDT.

Because life starts when you really start living and we want to give you a nudge on that!

Read more about countries that don’t require a Bangladeshi visa: https://hifipublic.com/en/2018/09/28/5-countries-you-can-travel-to-without-a-visa-if-youre-a-bangladeshi/

K for Kathmandu

Born in a valley, Kathmandu is surrounded by the Himalayan mountains. And is known for the mountains, temples and the cleansing of the spiritual aura. It is truly a magical place to be if you want to surround yourself with the mystery of nature. Kathmandu has all of it.

Darling Darjeeling

Darjeeling: An experience of a lifetime 36

From an unworldly sunrise at Tiger Hill to hot steaming momos in Batasia loop, the adventures in Darjeeling would be one of the most magical trips you can afford to do in a budget. It is also very well known for the temples it bears such as the Japanese Temple and Peace Pagoda, Observatory Hill and Mahakal Temple. But one can never be in Darjeeling and not see the monasteries! With unusual architectural style and great historical background, each monastery s have a story to tell. Samten Choling Monastery, Yiga Choeling Monastery, Dali Monastery and many more awaits!

Read more about Darjeeling here: https://hifipublic.com/en/2018/12/25/darjeeling-an-experience-of-a-lifetime/

Yes, to Paro!

Surrounded by mountains, this small town in the peaceful country of Bhutan can be your ultimate getaway. From the ancient Rimpung-Dzong fortress in Paro valley to a spectacular hike to Tiger’s nest, Paro never falls short on adventures and surprises.

Into the dreamy world of Kashmir

If you are a new traveler and Kashmir is your first place to travel, then kudos to you because it is a very good place to start your journey to the unknown. Kashmir is well known for rafting, hiking and of course the mountains! November is a good time to visit since there aren’t many tourists seen around the popular spots. Try to stay around the local areas or get acquainted with a local family to know Kashmir better. Multi day trekking, horseback riding, hiking in Sonamarg, rafting at Lidder River and many more exciting trips awaits!

Sin Chao Hanoi!

Capital of Vietnam, Hanoi is a crowded city of night market and venturing into places like the Hoan Kiem Lake, eating the best delicacies in Tai Hien Street, traveling to Ni Ling, Sapa Valley and many more beautiful places. The living and food costs are affordable and you can take a motorbike taxi for going to places for saving some extra bucks.

Read more about Vietnam here: https://hifipublic.com/en/2018/06/08/travellers-notebook-ho-chi-minh-city-alternate-title-in-the-land-of-the-blue-dragon/

Yangon

The former capital city of Myanmar Yangon is known for the Pagodas because of their magnificent architectural designs and the tranquility of being in a space which promotes spiritual cleansing. If you are interested in taking pictures of rich designed buildings, church and temples and Pagodas, Yangon is your spot!

Explore Phnom Penh

If this is your first trip to Cambodia, then you better grab a list because Phnom Penh has many things to offer for you to explore in a very affordable rate. Starting from exploring the beautiful royal palace, to walking around the National Museum to taking a ride by the ferry out to Koh Dach is honestly a dream come true.

Cleanse your soul with Chiang Mai, Thailand  

Starting from having a heart to heart conversation with the Monks of Wat Pha Temple to adoring the elephants and spending a handful amount of time with them, Chiang Mai has endless possibilities for you to escape reality and explore the beauty and joy of nature. If you are into adventure then do not worry because Chiang Mai, has zip lines, paragliding, rock climbing and many more!

Manila, Philippines

10 cities to visit under budget

Manila is one of those places you can travel by yourself given if you have the right maps and instructions. The city holds historical representation through Intramuros, indulge in the most delicious delicacies in Binondo, the Manila Chinatown and various other museums and palace.

Jakarta, Indonesia

10 cities to visit under budget 1

We cannot finish this list without including Jakarta, one of the most budget friendly places of all times. Jakarta is a friendly place with cheap transportation, beautiful monuments, amazing nightlife and delicious street food. Indulge yourself with the best things when you travel here

One of the key things to do before travelling anywhere on a budget is listing down places you want to stay and travel to. Let this year bring you joy and many adventures to enjoy!

4 Bengali traveling myths that are completely wrong

Traveling is something we Bengalis love to do. We might act a bit old school when comes it, but you would rarely find a Bengali who doesn’t fancy traveling. Back in the day, our parents would probably start planning for a tour six months before a vacation starts. Now, in the age of information technology we fancy eating street food in Bangkok one fine morning and we might find ourselves doing it the next weekend. And yet, few old timer traveling myths still remain embedded in our habit.

Here are 4 such traveling myths that are completely wrong.

Myth 1: You need to buy plane tickets months in advance to get the best deals

Wrong. This might have been true ages ago when air traveling was not as frequent as it is now. Back then, airlines would hike up the ticket prices at the last minute because options were so few.

These days, it’s the opposite. With so many budget to high-end options, airlines scramble to fill in half empty seats as the date of departure comes close. Moreover, if you try to book a ticket months ago, you are most likely to see the static prices rather than dynamic ones. The ideal time to book your air ticket would be 4-5 weeks in advance.

Myth 2: Packages know best

While some packages might offer convenience once in a while, in most cases packages will rip you off. And the offers are almost never the best you can get. Comes with the added hassle of doing everything by the package terms and conditions.

If you try and explore by yourself, chances are you’ll cover the trip with half of what the package programs ask of you and get more out of your traveling.

Myth 3: Duty Free is a good bargain

This is a very common myth among those of us who frequent in airports. Duty Free items means that they are not taxed. However, it doesn’t mean anything about retail prices. There’s a higher chance that you’ll find the same goods at a much lower retail price in local market.

Myth 4: It’s a good idea to change your currency at the airport

4 Bengali traveling myths busted 2

Almost never. At airports, the transaction fee is built into the exchange rate percentage. And that means you’ll get a bad rate at airports almost all the time. It’s better to change your currency from your bank before traveling. Or do it in a local money changer once you reach your travel destination.

These 4 apps will make traveling a lot easier

Travelling isn’t like it used to be before. You set out with a paper map in your hand and face things as they come your way, that’s not only old school but time consuming, to say the least. And there are so much to see and so many things to do in a new place that it baffles our minds.
Thankfully, the age of information technology is upon us and as always, it boils down to mobile apps.

Here are 4 apps that will help you plan efficiently and get the best out of your next travel destination:

1.Google Trips

4 apps to make your travelling easier

It’s safe to say that you can trust Google with your eyes closed. Google has rarely gone wrong with their ventures and Google trips isn’t one of the odd ones. Google Trips is a simple, straightforward app that stores your ticket and hotel reservations from your linked Gmail account, your day plans and your saved places all in one place. It also recommends you nearby points of interest and places to eat.

Google Trips also offer customized day plans with routes mapped out for you. Simply brilliant.

2. Culture Trip

4 apps to make your travelling easier

Culture Trip offers detailed reviews and blogs from professional travelers and travel guides. Want to learn how to travel like a local in a new place? Culture trip should be your go to. Culture Trip’s blogs are simply the best thing for you if you want to truly experience a new culture.

All you need to know about a place will be available to you down to the last detail. From guides to the best locations to where you’d find the best street food stall, Culture Trip has it all.

3. Lonely Planet

4 apps to make your travelling easier

What started as a small venture by a traveler couple, quickly turned into a global travel guide that’s known all over the world. Lonely Planet’s travel guides are detailed, has reviews from locals and other travelers and an interactive map that shows you exactly where all the points of interests are.

Lonely planet offers the best-verified insights to a location and the city guides are really all you need while travelling.

4. TripAdvisor

4 apps to make your travelling easier

From the best hotel deals to the cheapest flights from different airlines, TripAdvisor covers virtually everything travel related. TripAdvisor certified hotels and restaurants are considered the best experiences by travelers all over the world. You’ll find reviews and recommendations from locals and seasoned travelers. And the TripAdvisor forums are insanely helpful in planning out your travel itinerary. Ask away anything you want to know and you’ll definitely get a reply.

These days TripAdvisor has become more like a traveler social media that lets you create a profile, a travel timeline, share your pictures and stories and a lot more.

5 visa free countries for Bangladeshis

Visa processing is one of the most troublesome parts of travelling to a foreign land. Getting an approved visa takes a fair amount of time and money in most cases, not to mention the long list of requirements that come with it.

Consider getting a Thai visa, for example. You have to show your bank solvency, your purpose letter for visiting Thailand, hotel and plane booking confirmation and so on. That’s not all, they’ll even call your universities or workplace to check if you really are who you say you are. Combine that with a hefty sum of money a.k.a the processing fee and the uncertainty of not getting approved, and that’s your Thai visa processing experience.

Bangladeshi passport ranks 94th in the Global Index of Passports, making it one of the weakest passports in the world in terms of ease of travelling. But even being ranked in the lower half of that list allows us to travel to 41 countries without a prior visa. Not so bad for starters.

Here are 5 such countries you can travel to without a visa. Pack your bags and pick one from the list.

1. Bhutan

travel from bangladesh without visa

Bhutan, the small Himalayan country full of happy people, requires no visa for Bangladeshi citizens. Drukair or Royal Bhutan airlines operate flights from Dhaka to Paro. You can also travel by road through India. In that case, you must get a transit visa for India.

2. Sri Lanka

travel from bangladesh without visa

Sri Lanka offers Bangladeshi citizens on arrival visa. Famous for lush green hills, ancient Buddhist ruins and beautiful sunny beaches, Sri Lanka is a beautiful destination for a quick trip outside the country. Jet Airways operate flights from Dhaka to Colombo with one stop in Delhi.

3. Nepal

travel from bangladesh without visa

The daughter of Mount Everest, Nepal has on arrival visa facilities for Bangladeshi citizens. Visit Nepal to experience a rich cultural heritage of the Nepalese people and lose yourself in the magnificent serenity of the Himalayan mountain range in Pokhara.

4. Indonesia

travel from bangladesh without visa

Famous for its beautiful beaches and green countryside in Bali, Indonesia requires no visa at all for Bangladeshi citizens. There are no direct flights to Indonesia, but Malindo air operates from Dhaka to Bali with a long layover in Kuala Lumpur. Find out what you can do during a layover in Kuala Lumpur here.

5. Jamaica

travel from bangladesh without visa

The land of the famed Caribbean pirates requires no visa for Bangladeshi travellers either. Visit the Jamaican islands if you’re in for something different than usual. The experience, far from home, is one of a kind. The country of Usain Bolt welcomes you.

A few more countries that don’t require prior visas for Bangladeshi citizens include Maldives, Fiji, Rwanda, Barbados, Myanmar and Kenya.

Thank you for reading this article. If you like our content, support us and help us grow by sending your feedback, suggestions, stories and questions to [email protected]

In Kolkata, the city of joy

One of the oldest and the busiest cities in the world, Kolkata nicknamed the city of joy, is also the proud holder of a very befitting title, the cultural capital of India. The city of Kolkata is full of people, colours, scents and noises of all kinds and a rich cultural heritage to boast about.

Kolkata is a coveted destination for all the history buffs, cultural explorers and spiritual travelers. This is the city that saw the rise of modern India and is the birthplace of the Bengali renaissance. For someone from Bangladesh, there is no better destination to travel to if you want to embark on a journey of discovering your roots and heritage.

Anyone who is looking for the experience of a lifetime on a tight budget, the city of Rabindranath and Satyajit Roy welcomes you.

Kolkatay Shwagotom
Traveling to Kolkata from Bangladesh is as easy as it gets. There are trains, which take roughly 8 hours, daily buses from Dhaka with a journey time of 12 hours (+ horrible Dhaka traffic) and of course aeroplanes that will land you in Dumdum airport in just about 2 hours or so. Indigo airlines would be the cheapest option if you’re planning to catch a flight.

Trains and buses will cost you the same, which would be a lot cheaper than an aeroplane. Trains operate between Dhaka to Kolkata four days a week from Kamalapur, tickets are sold as early as one month prior to your travelling dates. Check with the railway website for more information on timings and other details.

A number of buses operate daily on the Dhaka-Kolkata-Dhaka route. The best option would be to get a ticket for the BRTC-Shyamoli service. The staff is efficient and helpful and will get you a “VIP privilege” during land immigration, which can be a lot confusing than regular airport immigration. A round trip should cost you around 4000 or less, including taxes and other charges.

Kolkata New Market

A place to stay
If you’re traveling by bus, they’ll drop you off right in the heart of the city, Marquis street. Just adjacent to Marquis street, is Sudder street, the central backpacker’s district. You’ll find a number of cheap to mid-range hotels on Marquis and Sudder street. Just walk into any if you haven’t pre-booked one.

If you’re looking for a cheap stay with quality rooms, check out Ashreen guest house on Cowai Lane. Right in between Sudder street and Hogg’s market, the Ashreen guest house has 3 star rated rooms, in terms of quality, for a jaw-dropping cheap rate. Just don’t expect a proper 3-star hotel facility. You get what you pay for.

Many of these hotels are in heritage buildings that are hundreds of years old and are meant to keep it that way. Whether you’re looking for a heritage stay or a quality upgrade for a little value for money, finding a stay in Kolkata is an absolute no-brainer.

Explore, explore and explore
Kolkata is a crowded and crammed city. It has its own fair share of dirt and filth. But every street in Kolkata has some sort of history and culture associated with it.

The streets of Kolkata are a bold mixture of the old and the new. When Job Charnock of the East India Company first arrived in the banks of Hooghly in 1686, he realized the potential of the region for English settlement. For the next 150 years, English colonists would clear the jungle of Hooghly and establish roads, erect buildings in British architectural style and turn Kolkata into the first capital of the British Raj in India. Kolkata still bears the sign of its glorious past. Old British colonial buildings still adorn the streets of Esplanade and Park Street. The Park street cemetery houses the graves of 200 years old British families who were the first to arrive in India.

College street houses the largest street book market in Asia alongside the Calcutta University, the first institution for westernised higher education in India and Asia. Calcutta University and the subsequent educational institutions in Kolkata would, later on, produce some of the brightest minds in Bengal and create an educated and politically conscious middle class who were the pioneer in the movement for Indian independence. The college street is also home to the infamous Indian Coffee House. The intellectuals of Bengal would come here often to discuss literature, politics and everything in between over a cup of coffee.

This is the same coffee house Manna Dey wrote his famous song about. And it is believed that Roma Roys and D’Souzas really did exist.

There’s Victoria Memorial, a magnificent structure built by the British in memory of Queen Victoria. Built with a mixture of Victorian and Mughal architecture in style, Victoria Memorial was quite literally erected because the British happened to be jealous of the Taj Mahal in Agra wanted something as magnificent as Taj Mahal for the Empress too. Whether it served its purpose or not is of course, for you to decide.

Victoria memorial Kolkata
Victoria Memorial

St. Paul’s Cathedral is near to the memorial. It’s an 18th-century church built in English-Gothic architectural style, for the increasing number of English populaces in the city. The church is open to all and visitors are expected to maintain civic and silence when visiting the church. The church also houses a number of Graves inside its walls. Some of these graves belong to prominent British bishops, reformists and Lords who died in Kolkata.

St. Paul's church Kolkata
St. Paul’s

Birla Planetarium, the second largest planetarium in the world is close by and Birla Mandir, a magnificent temple with intricate marble stone carvings on its walls, is about 20 minutes taxi ride from the planetarium.

The famous Howrah bridge stands proudly on the Ganges river. Go to the Mullickghat flower market very early in the morning to witness one of the largest flower markets in Asia alongside the morning view of the Hooghly bridge.

Jorasanko Thakurbari, the ancestral home of Rabindranath Thakur is a must visit. The house is now turned into a museum and you can get inside the rooms Rabindranath and his family used to stay. The house also served as a center for intellectual practices during the renaissance period and now doubles as the Rabindra Bharati University. Satyajit Ray’s ancestral home is also nearby.

Tagore house Kolkata
Tagore’s house

Visit the Indian Museum, the largest in India to witness the vast and rich collection of our ancient civilisation and heritage. Top it off with a quick visit to Sir Stuart Hogg Market, commonly known as the New Market. The market built mainly for the British back in the 1800s now houses hundreds of shops that sell everything from antiques to traditional clothes. Shopping in the Hogg’s Market is an unforgettable experience.

Visit the Kalighat temple. The largest temple devoted to Goddess Kali or Durga. It is one of the 51 Shakti Pithas in Hindu mythology. According to some historians, the etymology of Kolkata is directly related to Kalighat. Mother Teressa’s house, Nirmal Hridoy, is right adjacent to the temple.

KolkataAbove everything, the most important aspect of traveling that I’m an advocate of is that, take random aimless walks down the streets and alleys of a city. Breathe in the smell of the city as every city has a smell of its own. Experience lives of the locals like the locals do. If nothing else, it enriches the soul.

The magnificent culinary journey
It is needless to say that food in Kolkata are practically crafted to our taste buds. The street foods are to die for. In Madge lane, right opposite to the New Market, you’ll find stalls selling hot Pav Bhaji, Chicken Paneer Kebabs, Chow mein etc. Don’t forget to try the Kulfi Falooda.

In New Market, you’ll find Nizam’s which have been around for 100 years selling delicious Kosha Manghso, Chicken Roll, Chicken Kabirazi etc. Head over to Baba Rolls in Park street to try the mouth-watering hot kathi rolls. The momo chain “Wow Momos!” sells some of the best pan-fried momos in the continent.

In college street, you’ll find Hindustan Dhaba. They sell the best Punjabi thali in the city. A hearty lunch at the dhaba is not only easy on the wallet but also one of the most delicious meals you’ll ever get to try. The juicy butter chicken and tandoor roti alone is enough to make one come back to Kolkata just to try it one more time.

Food in Kolkata
Thali in Hindustan Dhaba

You’ll, of course, go to the coffee house when on College street. One heads up is that the coffee at the coffee house is nothing special to be absolutely honest. But it’s the conversation that people come here for, not the food.

You’ll find some of the best South Indian idly and dosa in Friend’s Eating House behind the new market and their masala chai is a must try. There’s a small stall in Hartford Lane, near Ashreen guest house, that sells snacks like sandwich, omelettes, toast, chai and many more. They open early for breakfast and close late at night. Head over there for a cheese omelette if you’re not feeling too adventurous. The boy who runs the stall is a talkative young chap who can recommend you a thing or two.

And the best for the last, Roshogollas. Kolkata would not be Kolkata if there were no roshogollas. Try Bheem Nag and KC Das to taste these delicious sweets and maybe get a box or two home.

Getting around in Kolkata
At times it feels like Kolkata never moved on from the colonial times at all. 1958 models of Hindustan Ambassador yellow taxis and Royal Enfield motorcycles ply the streets along with trams, a forgotten mode of transport in most parts of the world.

Kolkata has the oldest running tram system in the world right now and getting a tram ride is a part of the Kolkata experience. Human run rickshaws are still found in the streets.

There are of course buses and conventional Uber rides. Kolkata also has a metro line which happens to be the first and the oldest underground metro in India. Travelling in the metro is cheap and fast for covering long distances. However, get one of the trademark yellow taxis to cover short distances and places where the metro will not go. Make sure you bargain well. They’re not very costly anyway.

Biday Kolkata
As night falls over this 300-year-old city, you should take a long look at the city from somewhere high enough that overlooks the old colonial buildings and crowded streets. The scent of incense would swirl into the sound of Azaan and the church bells would remind you that time is almost up.

You’ll get your return bus tickets from the same counter where you were dropped off. Or you could always take the train or the aeroplane, the choice is up to you.Kolkata taxi

As your bus/train will keep taking you further away from the city, you wouldn’t know what it is that’d keep calling you back. Is it the coffee house? Esplanade? The yellow taxis? Or is it the hundred years old night over Hogg’s market that stands witness to numerous events of history and culture? You will only know if you get back again. Kolkata, as always, welcomes you.

5 tips for the solo traveller in Bangladesh

Travelling in Bangladesh can get pretty hectic and confusing at times, especially if you’re travelling solo. But if you planning to ditch your group and set out alone into the unknown, you need to know that it isn’t as hard as it is made out to be. If you can remember some basics, you’re good to go.

Here’s a hands-on guide to help you navigate through the jungles and alleyways of this land of adventure. Buckle up.

Pack light (Comfortable clothes, Accessories, Medicines, etc.)

If you’re travelling solo, chances are, you’ll be backpacking in most places. Even if you’re not, there’s no point in carrying loads of trousers and tees on a trip.

Pack light, take only the essentials.

It’ll help you move faster and it’ll be easier for you to keep your belongings in check. Make sure you carry a few wearables, nothing too heavy or uncomfortable, considering we’re not travelling in winter. Remember, you’re on a trip, not casually hanging out in Dhanmondi Lake.

It’s not important that you look your best, but that you feel your best.

So be comfortable and chill out. If it’s summer, always keep a water bottle in your backpack. Bangladesh is a humid country. 

Do not forget your phone charger, earphones. Pack a few common medicines for headaches, stomachaches and such, just to be prepared. 

Get small packets of toothpaste, soaps, hand sanitizers etc. You never know where you’ll be staying.

Always keep mobile data on your Phone

The worst part about travelling solo in Bangladesh is probably the lack of navigational accessibility. The roads and streets aren’t marked. The local people will definitely cooperate but sometimes mislead too. If you’re looking for directions or trying to select the best routes to your destination avoiding traffic jams, Google Maps is your best friend.

Keep some mobile data always to help you find your way.

Also, you need to maintain a Snapchat streak, right? (No? Okay)

Communicate with the locals

You’ll need to talk to people on your journey. There’s a lot of talking involved. You’ll need to ask for directions, clarify your intentions of travelling to a place (I know right?) and so on. But most importantly, people in Bangladesh are generally curious and they’ll ask you a lot of questions and try their best to show you around and help you. Be nice to them and they’ll be nice to you. Bangladeshi people have the reputation of being the nicest people on the planet. You’ll get a glimpse of that reputation when you’re out on the streets.

Keep in mind that Bangladesh is a conservative country and it will be better to maintain appropriate attire to avoid harassment. Especially if you are a woman travelling alone. It will be best to get used to people staring at you. Most of the time, they stare because they’re curious.

Know about the fares when taking a rickshaw or a taxi. You have to bargain right to get a good deal on fares. Ask the locals for help and they’ll gladly help you out.

Keep your documents organized

Keeping your travel and personal documents safe and organized is one of the most important parts of your preparation. Keep your tickets, hotel reservations, your ID etc. all organized in a wallet. Keep your money and your credit card safe. If something gets lost, the return policy isn’t particularly user-friendly in Bangladesh.

Always keep some extra cash in hand, merely a precaution.

Be safe

Although it’s generally safe, it doesn’t hurt to stay prepared. Small robberies, muggings and stealing isn’t uncommon in Bangladesh. Keep a pepper spray or a small knife with you to stay vigilant. Don’t get trigger happy though.

Travelling solo can actually be more fun than travelling in a group. You get your own freedom to relax and explore. If you do it the right way, travelling solo can be the best experience ever. So, follow these checklists on your next destination and most importantly, do enjoy.