Bangladesh Discovery

October 2nd–October 15th, 2016

Small Group Cultural Adventure tour to the 'Land of Smiles!'

14 days

Too often over shadowed by its more glamorous neighbours, Bangladesh represents a truly undiscovered corner of Asia, one where few travellers visit. It is their loss. Bangladesh is packed full of delights, and our group tours and tailor made holidays reflect the very best of these. Search for wildlife such as tiger in the magnificent Sundarbans National Park, explore tribal villages and tea estates in the hills, experience the joyful chaos of Dhaka – an adventure in itself! – and take one of the best river journeys in Asia. Bangladesh isn’t everyone’s idea of a holiday, but that’s probably why we like it so much – join us on one of our group tours to Bangladesh and fall in love with this fantastic country.

With Undiscovered Destinations you join an elite group of travellers – you’re not just another tourist. Our group tours are conducted with the utmost sensitivity towards the places that we are travelling through, ensuring that our environmental and cultural footprint is as small as possible.

Our tours visit some of the most remote places on our planet, where conditions can sometimes be challenging and infrastructure is often lacking.

Travelling in the destinations that we visit requires a good deal of understanding that often standards simply won’t be as they are at home. While we aim to make your trip run as smoothly as possible there may be times when we need to ask for your patience while we rectify any problems.

Our tours are not luxury tours they are small group adventure tours.

The trips are not designed to shield you from the realities of life in the countries visited, in fact we aim to show you as much as possible of the realities of life in the destination. In many of the countries that we operate in, tourism is in its infancy and although we strive to maintain as high standards as possible there may be occasions where you encounter discomfort, inconvenience or frustration. It is important that you are prepared to accept these countries as they are.

We have a great mix of people of all ages on our tours, ranging from their 20s to their 70s and over. There may be single travellers, couples or a group of friends and they have travelled from all over the world with different expectations and backgrounds. An open mind and a willingness to try and understanding different cultures is required by everyone in the group.

Itinerary

Day 1 – Dhaka
On arrival in Dhaka, transfer to the hotel. Time permitting, explore Dhaka and get to grips with this vibrant city. Overnight Rosewood Hotel or similar.

Day 2 – Dhaka
Today we have a Dhaka city sightseeing tour. Places of interest include the Ahsan Manzil (the pink palace), Shakari Bazar (Hindu street), Dhakeshwari Temple, Armenian church and the Star Mosque. Overnight Rosewood Hotel or similar. (BL)

Day 3 – Dhaka – Bogra
Early this morning we travel to Bogra district (210km), enjoying the rural countryside & stopping en route at anything of interest that we may see. On arrival in the afternoon, we will visit Mahastangarh, the world heritage site and famous Buddhist monastery dating back to the 3rd century BC. Overnight at Hotel Naz Garden or similar (BL)   

Day 4 – The Chars of the Jamuna River
After breakfast we will drive to Sariakandi (45km) to visit the Chars of the Jamuna river. We take a boat along the Jamuna river and see how river erosion and flooding affect the lives of local people. In the late afternoon, we will drive back to Bogra. Overnight at Hotel Naz Garden or similar (BL)

Day 5 – Paharpur
Today we will drive to Paharpur to visit this famous Buddhist world heritage site. This is the most impressive archaeological site in Bangladesh and it dates from the 8th century AD. Later in the day we will visit the Hindu Terracotta temples in Overnight at Hotel Nice or similar, Rajshahi (120km) (BL)

Day 6 – Khulna – Mongla
Early morning train journey to Khulna (approx. 6hrs). Arrive Khulna in the afternoon and then transfer to Mongla to embark on the Sundarban cruise boat. Enjoy the riverside life of Bangladesh. Overnight onboard. (BLD) 

Day 7 – Sundarbans
Spend a full day exploring the Sundarbans by boat. This is the planet’s largest mangrove forest, the home of the Royal Bengal Tiger and many other mammals and birds. You cruise both the larger rivers and are able to enter smaller canals for maximum opportunities to see wildlife. You will also be able to go ashore to walk through and experience the forest first-hand. Overnight onboard. (BLD)

Day 8 – Sundarbans & Khulna
A morning in the Sundarbans and we proceed north to the Pashur river and arrive back at the port in Mongla. After lunch we will disembark our boat and drive to Khulna, stopping off on the way to visit the the famous Sixty domed Mosque near Bagerhat. Overnight at the City Inn, Khulna (BL)

Day 9 – Khulna – Sylhet
Early this morning we drive to Jessore (65km) and fly via Dhaka to Sylhet. Sylhet is 250km north east of Dhaka and has a much more relaxed atmosphere than the capital. We will take a short city tour to explore this afternoon. Overnight Hotel Metro International or similar. (BL)

Day 10 – Jaflong
Today drive to Jaflong (60km), one of the most scenic areas in Bangladesh, close to the Indian border. Here we can see how the local people are collecting stone, with great opportunities to see a different side of Bangladeshi life and superb chances for photography. Visit the village across the river to meet Khasia tribal people and see their daily lifestyle. Return to Sylhet and visit the shrine of the great saint Hazrat Shah Jalal. Overnight Hotel Metro International or similar. (BL)

Days 11-12 – Srimongal
A morning drive to Srimongal (100km). We spend two days exploring the area around Srimongal, perhaps the most beautiful region of the country. We hike in the Lawachara Forest Reserve, with its numerous species of birds and primates including the extremely rare Hoolock gibbon, which we hope to spot. We also take a boat trip in the Hail Haor wetland sanctuary, locally renowned for its waterbirds. Other visits include the charming tea plantations and villages of the Monipuri tribal people for an insight into their daily lives. Overnight at Nishorgo Eco Resort or similar. (BL) 

Please note that the walk in the Lawachara Forest Reserve requires strong sturdy walking shoes/boots and it is advisable to also wear long socks and long trousers for this walk.

Nishorgo Eco Resort is locally owned and managed accommodation on the edge of the Lawachara Forest. The rooms are basic and either bamboo huts on stilts or mud walled rooms. They have bathroom facilities and a fan but no A/C. It is very basic accommodation but full of character.

If you wish to upgrade you accommodation here we can offer the Grand Sultan Tea Resort, just a few hundred metres away. This is a 4 star international hotel. Upgrades start from £110 per person, contact us for details.

Day 13 – Dhaka
Return to Dhaka (175km) and on our way we visit Dhamrai (40km from Dhaka), a small market town once famous for its fine pottery, brass casting and other traditional arts. Some are still being practiced today. We’ll be hosted by a family that has been casting brass for over 200 years. We return to Dhaka an check-in to our hotel. Overnight Rosewood Hotel or similar. (B)

Day 14 – Dhaka
Transfer to the airport for your onward flight. (B)

This is an itinerary of Undiscovered Destinations, sold with permission by Special Group Tours

 

Notes

Group Tour Essentials

Visas

Most nationals including UK, EU and US visitors require a visa for entry to Bangladesh. UK passport holders can get a visa from the Bangladesh High Commission in London or a visa on arrival for the purpose of official duty, business, investment and tourism. Visa extensions are available at the Department of Immigrations and Passport of Bangladesh. To apply for Bangladesh visa in London, applications must be submitted to the High Commission in a prescribed visa application form in duplicate along with 2 recent passport size photographs and the original passport. An invitation letter from Bangladesh may be required which we can provide by request. Please note that visas are usually only valid for 3 months from the date of issue.

Passports

It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, valid for at least six months after the date of return to the UK.

We strongly advise that your passport contains a minimum of two blank pages, as this may be a requirement of the local immigration authorities. In addition certain countries will stipulate that the two blank pages are opposite each other. If you are unable to meet these requirements you may be refused boarding by your airline or denied entry by the immigration authorities.

For specific information about the requirements for your destination please check with the country’s embassy or consulate. Alternatively UK citizens can visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice 

Airport Tax

No departure tax is payable locally when leaving by air.

Note: A departure form is required for immigration officials on departure. You can get these forms from the check-in desk or immigration desk. Staff at the airport have been known to ask travellers for their passports and to provide these forms and complete them on behalf of travellers. This is not an official service and they will expect a tip for this service.

Health and Immunisations

As with travel to most parts of Asia, we strongly recommend that you contact your doctor’s surgery or a specialist travel clinic for up-to-date information, advice and the necessary vaccinations. For a visit of less than one month, almost certainly you will be advised to have immunisations against the following: Diphtheria and Tetanus, Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Meningitis. The use of a DEET-containing insect repellent is highly recommended.

Insurance

What should my travel insurance policy cover?

  • medical and health cover for an injury or sudden illness abroad
  • 24 hour emergency service and assistance
  • personal liability cover in case you’re sued for causing injury or damaging property
  • lost and stolen possessions cover
  • cancellation and curtailment (cutting short your trip) cover
  • Extra cover for activities that are commonly excluded from standard policies, such as certain sports

The policy should cover the whole time that you are away.

Your policy may also have:

  • personal accident cover
  • legal expenses cover

Common travel insurance policy exclusions

Always check the conditions and exclusions of your policy:

  • most policies will not cover drink or drug-related incidents

You must take reasonable care of your possessions or your policy will not cover you. 

Practical information 

Local Currency

The currency is the taka, and it is not possible to purchase them overseas. Change any currency you have back to USD, GBP or EUR before departure. For current exchange rates visit www.xe.com. 

Where currency can be exchanged

Both Euro & US dollars can be changed after arrival in Dhaka airport or they can be changed with local money exchanges in the city. Please note that exchange rate at airport is never as good as in the city. Although Bangladesh has many ATMs, some of these do not accept foreign cards – your guide can give advice on which ATM’s to use but we do not advise relying on ATM’s alone for money. There are a number of exchange booths in larger towns and cities. US dollars are the best currency to bring to Bangladesh for exchange purposes.

Credit cards and travellers cheques

We do not recommend that you bring traveller’s cheques as they can be extremely difficult to exchange. Credit cards are generally only accepted in the more expensive shops and restaurants.

Best time to go

Of course Bangladesh is more than just a land of flooded rivers, which is the perception many would be travellers may understandably have. For the informed, it can be a year round destination, although the most comfortable time to visit is winter. It is hottest from April to mid-June, the pre-monsoon spring. By mid-June the monsoon begins to cool things off slightly, though it remains muggy. Nonetheless it is a fascinating time to visit, as the whole country seems to fill up with water. Of course this can affect transport and flexibility must be built into any carefully laid plans.

Main Language

Bangla (also known as Bengali) is the national language. There are also a number of indigenous languages such as those spoken in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Most educated people and those coming into contact with tourists speak some English. 

Main Religion

Around 83% of Bangladeshis are Muslim, 16% are Hindu, leaving Christians and Buddhists to make up the remaining 1%.

Food and drink

Bangladeshi cuisine is quite similar to Indian cuisine, although without the vast variety of dishes. A typical meal consists of curry, with rice, vegetables and lentils. Meat tends to be either chicken, beef or mutton, and is eaten here to a greater extent than in India. Bangladeshis are great fish lovers as well. Alcohol is not widely available – generally it can be found in government owned shops, although they may be tucked away, out of sight.

If you have any special dietary requirements you must notify us at the time of booking. While we will make every effort to cater for you, we cannot guarantee that this will be possible.

For visitors Bangladesh is a relatively cheap country. A 1L of bottled water or a can of coke will cost about 100 taka. A tasty simple lunch or dinner can cost from 250 taka although you can pay considerably more in an international style restaurant. Travellers should note that for religious reasons alcohol is not widely available.

Transport

Our tour in Bangladesh will either use private cars or private buses, as well as trains. We also use a cruise boat in the Sundarbans, and a domestic flight to return to Dhaka afterwards. The standard of roads, vehicle maintenance and driving is very poor. Many of the tarmac roads are in a state of disrepair. Others, particularly in the countryside are little more than dirt tracks. Drainage is poor and flooding is common after rainfall. Roads are often unlit and it is not uncommon after dark to encounter cars, buses, trucks or motorcycles driving without lights.

Local conditions

Travelling in the destinations that we visit requires a good deal of understanding that often standards simply won’t be as they are at home. While we aim to make your trip as comfortable as possible, please be aware that we are often visiting remote or less developed regions that may have little infrastructure. While we aim to make your trip run as smoothly as possible there may be times when we need to ask for your patience while we rectify any problems. 

What to take with you 

First Aid Kit

The first thing on your list should be a first aid kit. Whilst there is no undue cause for alarm, travellers are best advised to travel well-prepared and to be adequately immunized. A good insect repellent and bite cream is advisable. 

Clothing

When it comes to clothing it is usually recommended that lighter clothes are worn through the day, and warmer ones at night. A hat is also advised to be worn through the day to protect from the sun, especially on the boat trips. Bring at least one piece of waterproof clothing for any days that the weather may be wet or windy.

You should bear in mind that Bangladesh tends to have a conservative attitude towards dress. Women, and also to a certain extent men, will find that the way they dress will often determine the degree of respect they receive from both men and women.

Mosques, temples, churches and synagogue are places of worship and visitors should be modestly dressed. Admission might be denied to men and women wearing short pants/skirts, sleeveless t-shirts/blouses. Bare shoulders and mid-riffs are not permitted and should be covered with shawls. 

Footwear

For most of this tour, sandals or flip-flop style footwear is adequate. We would recommend that you also bring something sturdier such as trainers or comfortable walking boots/shoes. In addition, long socks and trousers should be worn in the Lowachara Forest Reserve.

Luggage

Your luggage should not exceed 20kgs (44lbs). One large suitcase/rucksack, and one small hand luggage rucksack is acceptable. 

Other

Suncream/sunblock is a must – please ensure you bring enough as it may not be available locally. Insect repellent, including a bite spray will also be useful to have. Accommodation in Bangladesh can be basic, and on one or two occasions bedding may be limited to a bottom sheet and blanket. A torch or head lamp may come in useful in certain areas.

If you are a light sleeper, we would advise ear plugs. Bangladesh is not a quiet country and traffic noise, dogs howling and even the neighbours talking can keep you awake at night.

Fitness

This tour does not require any special degree of fitness but you will find it more enjoyable if you are reasonably fit and mobile. There are occasions when you will be climbing in and out of small boats, walking up steep steps and using small ladders and wooden walkways. 

Cultural and environmental guidelines

You are certain to come across beggars while on tour in Bangladesh. Every traveller has different perspectives on this and ultimately the choice is up to you. Many sources recommend that you watch to see if local people give, and then follow their lead with genuine beggars. We do not recommend giving money, sweets, pens etc to children begging on the street as this can encourage a begging mentality and can lead to children choosing to beg rather than go to school.

If you do wish to bring donations of pens, books or children’s clothes, these would be gratefully received by our local team who will distribute them to the most suitable causes.

Local people will be delighted to see any pictures of your family, home, town, workplace or friends if you think this is appropriate.

Haggling is a way of life in Asia when making many purchases, especially with tourist souvenirs. Usually, but not always, the vendor will start with a price that is higher than they are prepared to accept, and the buyer is expected to haggle. There are no hard and fast rules with this – some vendors may initially quote a vastly overinflated price, others may start with a price close to the true value, while others may just present you with one price and not be prepared to discuss it. Although many tourists may feel uncomfortable with this, it’s important to remember that this is best entered into in a relaxed manner. Once you have agreed upon a price, it is extremely bad form to then not pay this. Please also bear in mind that a small amount of money to you can be a relatively large amount for the vendor, and that it is not necessarily best practice to ‘beat the vendor down’ to the lowest possible price. Remember that they also have a living to make.

Bangladesh is not a quiet country. Even in the remotest of places there might be a temple, mosque or church festival, a dog howling at the moon, or just a normal conversation being conducted at top volume … We recommend you bring earplugs should you be sensitive to noise.

Please do not buy any products made from endangered species – this is not sustainable and hastens the species’ decline.

Photography

You should always ask permission before taking anyone’s photograph and respect their decision if they say no. Taking photos of military installations, state buildings, and airports can lead to problems with local authorities. If you are unsure about whether it is acceptable to take a photo, please ask your tour leader or guide.

Tipping

Tipping is common practise in Asia. In Bangladesh, most workers will expect a small tip, anything from 20 Taka upwards depending on the service provided. Your guide will be able to suggest the appropriate amount. At the end of the tour, if your principle guide, together with the driver have been helpful then you could think about tipping them. The amount can obviously be left to you. 

Foreign Office Advice

We constantly monitor the advice posted by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). In particular we will always advise clients of any travel warnings. At present there are no warnings against travel to the parts of Bangladesh that we visit on our Bangladesh Discovery tour. Please feel free to contact us should you have any specific concerns or would like to know in detail what measures are being taken to ensure visits remain trouble free and without incident.

It should be noted that this information applies to British citizens. Other nationals are asked to check the current position of their respective government. 

Further Information

Public Holidays in Bangladesh:

25 Dec   Christmas Day

21 Feb   International Mother Language Day.
9 Mar     Eid-e-Milad-un Nabi (Birth of the Prophet).
26 Mar   Independence Day.
14 Apr    Bangla New Year.
1 May     Labour Day.
2 May     Buddha Purnima.
20 Jul     Shab-e Barat (Ascension of the Prophet).
2 Oct      Durga Puja (Dashami).
20 Oct    Shab e-Qadr (Evening of Destiny).
7 Nov     National Revolution Day.
16 Dec   Victory Day (Bijoy Dibosh).

Some of these holidays such as those associated with Ramadan are based on the lunar calendar and so vary annually.

Dates are for guidance only and may vary year to year

Electrical Supply

Generally electrical supply is 230V/50 Hz and plugs have two round prongs. Many places also have the English 3 pin sockets. Our advice is travel with an adaptor and to check the voltage locally. 

Recommended Reading 

Bangladesh – Lonely Planet

Stuart Butler

Expatriate Games: 662 Days in Bangladesh

Mark Trenowden

A History of Bangladesh

Willem Van Schendel

 

IMPORTANT NOTES – PLEASE READ

Please note that the information provided is correct at the time of writing but may change. It is intended as a guide only. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health visit http://www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.ukor contact your local healthcare provider.

In addition we strongly advise you to check the information and any travel advice provided by your government. For British citizens you should visit the Foreign Office website www.fco.gov.uk.

Furthermore, you should be aware that any travel warnings or advisories may affect the validity of your travel insurance. Therefore, at the time of booking your tour it is essential you check any restrictions on cover with your insurance provider. 

Issue Date – 27/10/15 AE 

 

Jim Louth – Director and founder of Undiscovered Destinations

Jim developed his passion for travel from a young age. Firstly, thanks to his father’s employment with British Rail and the concessions on offer, he explored Europe by train. After leaving school Jim began to travel further afield; Greyhound bus across America, an independent overland trip through Africa and the Trans-Siberian railway all by the time he was 20. A couple of years living and working in New York were followed by a two year stint teaching English in Brazil, plus plenty of travel in between. It was then time to settle down. Jim was delighted when his application to work for the UK’s leading independent travel agency Trailfinders was accepted. This meant a move to the north east of England, which he now considers to be very much home. After five years with Trailfinders it was time to take the plunge and to set up Undiscovered Destinations. Since then there’s been no looking back as Jim has developed his love for travel into a highly successful business. When asked what motivates him, Jim always gives the same answer ‘That’s easy. It’s the fact that I know we’re making a real difference, opening up countries to the potential of responsible tourism and the benefits that this can bring.’

Favourite country/destination – Bangladesh.

Best travel experience – Cruising down the Ganges Delta onboard a 100 year old ‘Rocket’ paddle steamer.

Describe yourself in 3 words – Adventurous, Considerate, Curious.

If I had a superpower it would be – Bring more equality to the world.

Toll Free Tel: 1 866-725-5250
specialgrouptours@yahoo.com

Dates and Prices

Code Date Price Availability
BBD/16-02 2 Oct 2016 $4000 Guaranteed
BBD/16-03 26 Dec 2016 $4000 Guaranteed
BBD/17-01 11 Feb 2017 $4000 Guaranteed
BBD/17-02 7 Oct 2017 $4000 Available

Single Supplement $525 USD each

Please note that single rooms cannot be guaranteed on the boat trip in the Sundarbans, even with the single supplement payment.