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Air

Airports & Airlines

There are three international airports in Bangladesh:

Dhaka Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (DAC; www.shahjalalairport.com)

Chittagong Shah Amanat International Airport (CGP)

Sylhet Osmani International Airport (ZYL)

In practice, the vast majority of foreign visitors arrive at Dhaka’s Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport. It’s pretty basic for a capital-city airport but it has money-changing facilities, including ATMs that accept foreign cards, some duty-free shops and a couple of restaurants.

There’s an official taxi rank, although it’s cheaper to try your luck with taxis and CNGs (auto-rickshaws) outside. The 30-minute haul to Banani, the first prominent residential neighbourhood on your way into the city, will cost you Tk 750 by taxi or Tk 300 by CNG. If you ask your hotel for an airport pick-up, expect to pay around Tk 1000.

The unofficial airport website has a useful flight-status feed.

Biman (www.bimanairlines.com) is the national carrier of Bangladesh. It's a scruffy and curiously disorganised operation, but the fleet is fairly well maintained and the airline has a good safety record.

Asia

There are direct flights to/from all nearby Asian countries. Most connections are through Dhaka, from where you can get particularly cheap flights to Thailand, Malaysia, India, China and the Middle East. It is also possible to use Chittagong airport for India and Thailand. Sylhet’s airport has occasional international flights such as those to Mecca during the Hajj pilgrimage.

Australia

It's easiest to fly to Australia on board carriers such as Thai, Tiger Airways or Air Asia, which go via Bangkok, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur respectively.

Continental Europe

There are plenty of flights linking Dhaka with European countries such as Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, which go via Dubai, Istanbul or Kolkata.

UK & Ireland

You should get some well-priced fares to and from London, mostly via the Middle East. Biman Bangladesh, the country's national carrier, incidentally has direct flights to London from Dhaka, and can sometimes give you the best deal despite not guaranteeing you the most luxurious flying experience.

USA

There are basically two ways to get to Bangladesh from the USA. From the west coast, virtually everyone flies to Dhaka via Bangkok or Singapore. You can also fly direct to India and connect from there, but it may cost more. From the east coast, most people fly via Europe.

Departure Tax

The departure tax for leaving Bangladesh by air is included in the price of air tickets.

Land

Bangladesh shares several border checkposts with its neighbour India, and many of these allow civilian transit between the two nations. Crossings such as Benapole, Tamabil and Akhaura remain popular with tourists, and have fairly good road transport networks on both sides.

Border Crossings

There are numerous points in Bangladesh where you can cross the border with India, but only six or seven are set up with immigration facilities to service foreigners. At the time of research there was still no border crossing with Myanmar (Burma).

The same system is in place for all of these crossings (apart from the direct train to Kolkata), although differing levels of stringency are applied at each.

If you’re leaving Bangladesh and entering India, the most important thing to remember is that you cannot get an Indian visa at any of the border towns, so you must have already sorted this out, preferably in your home country. Foreigners can try to get an Indian visa in Dhaka and Chittagong, but it’s a bureaucratic nightmare, and many travellers leave the visa office empty-handed.

If you’re coming into Bangladesh from India by land, note that you cannot get the same visa-on-arrival that you can get if you fly into Dhaka airport, but you can get Bangladesh visas in Kolkata and Agartala (Akhaura), as well as in New Delhi.

If you plan an overland departure from Bangladesh after your visa has been granted, you are supposed to pick up a change-of-route permit from the Immigration and Passport Office in Dhaka. In any case, crossing the border also requires you to pay a Tk 500 departure tax, which you can deposit in advance at select Sonali Bank branches in the country. The departure tax is critical, but the permit itself isn’t asked for these days, so in practice you don’t need it.

Be aware that visa regulations for Bangladesh change on a regular basis. For the latest information, double-check with the Bangladeshi embassy or consulate in your country.

Customs at land borders are fairly lax with foreigners. The same rules regarding what you can bring into the country (in the way of cigarettes and alcohol) apply at border crossings as at airports, though in practice a blind eye is usually turned to your luggage at land crossings.

Most Popular Crossings

Kolkata The twice-weekly train that connects Kolkata with Dhaka is comfortable and hassle-free. Apart from immigration formalities at the border, it’s direct and nonstop.

Benapole Main border town on the road route to and from Kolkata. Has direct bus links to Dhaka, Khulna and Jessore.

Akhaura The other major border for India’s northeast tribal states. Agartala on the Indian side has a domestic airport and a place to process Bangladesh visas. The Bangladesh side has a train station with links to Dhaka, Srimangal and Chittagong.

Burimari Bangladesh’s gateway to Darjeeling, with transport links via the Indian town of Siliguri. Entering Bangladesh, most people head to Rangpur, but there is a night bus to Dhaka.

Tamabil Linking Sylhet with India’s northeast tribal states, Tamabil isn’t a place to linger, on account of the open mining that goes on around the border (cough! splutter!), but you’re only two hours away from Sylhet by bus.

Akhaura

This border (open 8am to 6pm) is the closest one to Dhaka and links Bangladesh with India’s northeast states. There’s a departure tax payment desk (10am to 3pm Sunday to Thursday) by immigration where you can pay your Bangladesh departure tax, and unofficial moneychangers operate on both sides of the border.

On the Indian side, the border is 3km from Agartala (rickshaw Rs 50), which has an airport, 12km away, with flights to Kolkata and Guwahati. Agartala’s Bangladesh visa office is about 2km north of Ujjayanta Palace.

On the Bangladesh side, the border is 4.5km from the town of Akhaura (shared auto-rickshaw Tk 20, rickshaw Tk 50), which has a train station with direct trains to Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet. The Sylhet trains all pass through Srimangal (three hours). The Chittagong trains all pass through Comilla (two hours). If there’s no reserved seating left, just buy a standing ticket and pile on. There are plenty of places to eat by the train station.

You can also get to Dhaka, Sylhet and Srimangal by bus via Chandura (shared auto-rickshaw Tk 60), a junction 20km away on the Dhaka–Sylhet Hwy.

There are direct buses to Chandura (Tk 120, three hours) from Dhaka’s Sayedabad bus stand.

Feature: Selected Trains from Akhaura

Chittagong

Train Name

Mohanagar Provati

Departs

10.42am

Arrives

3.40pm

Fare (1st/Shuvon)

Tk 180/80

Off day

none

Chittagong

Train Name

Paharika Ex

Departs

3.25pm

Arrives

8.20pm

Fare (1st/Shuvon)

Tk 180/80

Off day

Sat

Chittagong

Train Name

Mohanagar Godhuli

Departs

7.27pm

Arrives

12am

Fare (1st/Shuvon)

Tk 180/80

Off day

Sun

Dhaka

Train Name

Upakul Ex

Departs

9.30am

Arrives

1pm

Fare (1st/Shuvon)

Tk 130/75

Off day

none

Dhaka

Train Name

Mohanagar Provati

Departs

11.38am

Arrives

2.50pm

Fare (1st/Shuvon)

Tk 130/75

Off day

Sun

Dhaka

Train Name

Upakul Ex

Departs

5.50pm

Arrives

8.30pm

Fare (1st/Shuvon)

Tk 130/75

Off day

Wed

Dhaka

Train Name

Mohanagar Godhuli

Departs

7.28pm

Arrives

10.30pm

Fare (1st/Shuvon)

Tk 130/75

Off day

none

Dhaka

Train Name

Turna Ex

Departs

3.40am

Arrives

6.40am

Fare (1st/Shuvon)

Tk 130/75

Off day

none

Sylhet

Train Name

Paharika Ex

Departs

1.05pm

Arrives

6pm

Fare (1st/Shuvon)

Tk 155/90

Off day

Mon

Benapole

The Benapole border (open 6.30am to 6.30pm) is on the main road route to and from Kolkata.

On the Bangladesh side, there’s a departure-tax payment desk (Sunday to Thursday) by immigration. Once over the border you can pick up buses to Kolkata, or trains from nearby Bangaon.

Coming into Bangladesh, Benapole is about 2km from the border (shared CNG Tk 10, rickshaw Tk 20). The local bus stand has regular buses to Jessore (Tk 50, one hour) and one to Khulna (Tk 130, 2½ hours, 11.30am). Before you reach the bus stand, you’ll see a handful of private coach companies on your left, with regular services to Dhaka (non-air-con/air-con Tk 600/1050, 9am to 9pm, eight hours). There’s an AB Bank ATM opposite the bus stand. Otherwise, you’ll see plenty of private money-changers near the coach offices.

If you get stuck here, the Parjatan Hotel, just past the bus stand, away from the border, is decent and has a passable restaurant (mains Tk 100 to Tk 200; 7am to 10pm).

Via Kolkata
Bus

In Kolkata, more than a dozen daily buses leave from Marquis St, bound for Dhaka (Rs 830 to Rs 1430, 13 hours), via Benapole, where you’ll have to complete immigration formalities. Bus companies running the service include Shohagh Paribahan (www.shohagh.biz) and Green Line (www.greenlinebd.com).

Train

The Maitree Express (Rs 520 to Rs 1355, 12½ hours) to Dhaka departs Kolkata (Chitpore) Station at 7.10am on Saturday and Wednesday. Buy tickets not from the station, but from a special desk at the Eastern Railways Foreign Tourist Bureau.

Burimari

This border (open 9am to 5pm) is used by travellers heading for Darjeeling.

Heading to India, most travellers come from Rangpur. First take a bus from Rangpur to Patgram (Tk 140, four hours) then take a CNG (Tk 20, 20 minutes) or bus (Tk 20) for the remaining 13km to the border. Pay your departure tax at Sonali Bank in Rangpur. You can change money unofficially on the Indian side of the border in Chengrabandha, from where there are regular buses to Siliguri (Rs 50).

Coming into Bangladesh, there’s nowhere to change money; not officially, at least. There’s one night bus to Dhaka (Tk 700, 11 hours, 6pm) run by Shah Ali Paribahan, 200m past the border. Otherwise you need to catch a tempo to Patgram then a bus to Rangpur (last bus 7pm).

If you get stuck in Burimari, the very basic Shekhar Plaza, a green two-storey hotel on your left as you walk from the border, is the best you’ll get. No English spoken.

Hili

This little-used border (open 9am to 5pm) is the closest to the Unesco-protected ruins of Paharpur. There’s nowhere to pay the Bangladesh departure tax, except at the Sonali Bank in Rangpur.

Coming from Bogra, you need to catch a bus via Jaipurhat, from where it’s Tk 40 by bus to Hili. Hili bus stand is a Tk 30 CNG ride from the border.

Coming from Rangpur, you have to catch a bus first to Fulbari (Tk 60, two hours) then to Hili (Tk 30, one hour).

The Indian side of the border is also known as Hili. You may be able to get onward transport to Kolkata (Rs 400, 12 hours) from the border, or else go via Balurghat, 20km away. The nearest train station is Malda.

Coming into Bangladesh, there’s nowhere to change money. You need the Hili bus stand for Paharpur and Bogra (via Jaipurhat), but you can catch buses to Fulbari (for Rangpur) on the roadside, 200m past the border. Shyamoli Paribahan, 100m from the border, has four buses to Dhaka (Tk 450, seven to eight hours, 6.30am, 11am, 2.30pm and 10.30pm).

Sona Masjid (Gaud)

Another infrequently used border post (open 9am to 5pm), Sona Masjid is ideal if you want to explore the ruins of the ancient city of Gaud, which lie scattered on both sides of the border.

Leaving Bangladesh, you’ll probably have to come from Rajshahi, where you'll also have to pay your Tk 500 departure tax at Sonali Bank. Once you’ve had your fill of ruins on the Indian side of border, you’ll be able to find onward transport from Gaud to Malda, 15km away, from where there are trains to Kolkata or Siliguri, for Darjeeling.

Entering Bangladesh, there’s nowhere to change money. Buses to Rajshahi (Tk 150, three hours) leave from a small T-junction, 250m past the border.

Tamabil

The border checkpost (open 8am to 5pm) closest to Sylhet is busy, mostly with trucks filled with rocks and coal from the open mines around here, but a few travellers also cross. There’s no departure-tax payment desk, but Sylhet has a number of branches of Sonali Bank.

The border is a two-minute walk from where the bus from Sylhet drops you (walk up to your right). Once in India, it’s a 2km walk to the town of Dawki (taxi Rs 50), from where buses run to Shillong (Rs 110, three hours).

Entering Bangladesh, buses to Sylhet (Tk 60, two hours) run from the main road just beyond the border post until around 8pm. There’s nowhere to change money, but the guys in customs may be able to help you out.

Siliguri to Dhaka Direct

Some private agencies run direct buses from Siliguri to Dhaka (Rs 800, 16 hours). Try Shyamoli. You’ll have to complete immigration formalities at Chengrabandha.

Feature: Bangladesh Departure Tax

You must pay a Tk 500 departure tax (sometimes called a ‘travel tax’) if you’re leaving Bangladesh via a land border. However, it isn’t as easy as just handing over your last few taka as you pass through customs. It has to be paid into a branch of Sonali Bank. You will then be given a receipt as proof of payment, and it is this receipt that you hand over as you leave the country. Some border crossings have a small bank desk by immigration (such as Benapole and Akhaura), but they remain shut on Fridays and Saturdays. Otherwise, you need to pay the tax at a proper branch of Sonali Bank, although you can do this at any branch in the country.

Remember, banks in Bangladesh are always closed on Friday, and usually Saturday too.

Sea

There are currently no international passenger boat services to Bangladesh.

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