Money & costs
Whatever budget you’re travelling on, you can be certain that you’ll get more for your money in Bangladesh than just about anywhere else on earth. If you’re the type of traveller who sees a cockroach-infested room as just a place to sleep, then you’ll enjoy Bangladesh. For as little as Tk 60 you can have a room all to yourself, for Tk 30 you can get an enormous meal and for around Tk 5 you can buy a street snack. A backpacker looking to stretch the pennies can easily get by on US$6 a day or less. At the ‘you only live once’ end of the spectrum, you can pay a couple of hundred US dollars for a lavish room, and buy a meal of the same quality and for the same price that you would expect at home (though travel at this end of the scale is only really feasible in Dhaka and Chittagong).
Most people, even those who are confirmed budget travellers elsewhere, travel on a midrange budget in Bangladesh. For between Tk 400 and Tk 1000 a night you will be able to find a nice place to stay with all the necessary amenities. A Tk 120 meal is large and tasty. In the way of transportation, there is a range of classes on trains and boats, and different types of buses, which offers enormous flexibility when weighing up value and comfort. A couple staying together in good quality hotels, travelling on 1st-class train carriages and eating in decent restaurants should budget about US$15 each a day.
The local currency of Bangladesh is the taka (Tk; rhymes with Dhaka), which is further divided into 100 paisas. There are 10, 20 and 50 paisa, and Tk 1, Tk 2 and Tk 5 coins. There are notes in denominations of Tk 1, Tk 2, Tk 5, Tk 10, Tk 20, Tk 50, Tk 100 and Tk 500.
Torn notes may be refused by merchants. Most banks will exchange them for you.
Bangladesh is a long way behind much of the world when it comes to banking and exchanging money. Most banks outside the big cities won’t exchange money in whatever form you present it – even dollar or euro cash receives wide-eyed stares of bewilderment. It’s best to change as much money as you are likely to need in Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet. You might get lucky elsewhere, but many travellers find themselves getting caught short when no bank for miles around will exchange money or travellers cheques for them and every ATM spits out their card in disgust!
Major towns and cities have ATMs, and there appear to be more on the way. However, the vast majority don’t accept foreign bank or credit cards. The most reliable are those belonging to Standard Chartered Bank, Dutch-Bangla Bank and HSBC, and with any of these three you shouldn’t have any problems with a Visa card, but Cirrus or MasterCard might present problems. Unfortunately, these machines are only found in the biggest towns and cities. ATMs are usually open-all-hours guarded booths.
It is a good idea to bring US dollars with you to change into local currency when you can’t change travellers cheques or use a credit card. US dollars are the preferred currency, with euros running a very distant second. Again, only banks like Standard Chartered and HSBC in the biggest centres are likely to change cash for you.
At some banks you may have to show your passport even when changing cash.
Cash advances on credit cards can be made at Standard Chartered and HSBC banks. HSBC ATMs do not accept Cirrus cards.
There are a few authorised moneychangers that legally convert cash on the spot at good rates. They’re open all hours and can convert taka into US dollars as well. If it looks like a well-run establishment, chances are it is.
With the liberalisation of the economy, there is essentially no black market.
Put simply, don’t bother! Only the biggest international banks are likely to accept them and even then it will be with great reluctance.