Bangladesh’s capital city is not a destination for the faint-hearted. More than 18 million people crowd the energetic metropolis of Dhaka, and at a mere 315-square miles, the population density alone guarantees this city is always abuzz. Add to that more than 400,000 rickshaws cramming the city streets, and it soon becomes apparent that, despite the never-ending traffic, Dhaka is a city that is constantly on the move. Still, for visitors who can keep pace with this ever-changing capital, Dhaka is a gem of a destination simply waiting to be discovered.
Dhaka is the most modern city in all of Bangladesh, though traces of the city’s past can still be found throughout areas like Old Dhaka. Historic architecture defines this neighborhood, which is pointedly less affluent than areas like upscale Gulshan. Fishermen’s boats line the waters of the river Buriganga in Old Dhaka, while historic monuments dot the landscape of the 17th century Lalbagh Fort. One of the true stars of Old Dhaka, though, is Shankharia Bazaar, Also known as Hindu Street, this colorful area of Old Dhaka is filled with everything from fragrant flowers to handcrafted kites. Many of the stalls double as workshops for the artisans who set up shop in Shankharia Bazaar, too.
Nearby, the grand pink hues of Ahsan Manzil, also known as the Pink Palace, offer a respite from the constant bustle of the city and are a sharp contrast against the muddy banks of neighboring Sadarghat, the city’s main waterfront that sees a constant flow of fishermen and boats.
Speaking of contrasts, a host of religious sites — mosques, churches and temples — reflect the various religious influences of Dhaka’s past and present. Museums and parks round out the cultural offerings of Dhaka, and if you are looking for a taste of the finer side of this dynamic city, the upscale restaurants of the Gulshan and Banani neighborhoods are sure to impress.
The best time to visit Dhaka is between October and March, when the weather is generally cool and dry. The off-season runs hand-in-hand with monsoon season from April through August, and while cheap flights to Dhaka can be found during these months, the hot temperatures and high humidity levels can be daunting for visitors.
Rickshaws are plentiful throughout the city and provide a low-cost way to get around Dhaka. Be sure to negotiate a price with the driver before getting into the rickshaw. A public bus system also maintains routes throughout the city, though a lack of information in English can be frustrating for international visitors. Taxis come in two colors in Dhaka: black and yellow. Black taxis are basic and often lack air conditioning, while yellow taxis will always have air conditioning. All taxis should have meters to determine your fare.