Next Stop Dhaka On Biman Bangladesh?!

Yesterday I posted about the confirmed travels I have coming up, as well as the trips I’m considering. There are a lot more airline products I want to review, and the more new airlines I review, the longer my list of airlines I want to review gets. So while I love reviewing more products, it’s almost frustrating, because my list keeps getting longer, rather than shorter. 😉

There were a lot of great suggestions from you guys on more airlines and products to try. Based on my travels lately, the more random the airline, the more I’m into it.

For example, someone suggested Royal Brunei. I’d love to fly Royal Brunei (and I’ve been wanting to for a while), though as far as I know there’s no way to redeem partner miles on them, and I’ve never found a discounted business class ticket on them. I don’t know any other airline which simply doesn’t discount business class. If I’m missing someone or anyone knows of a reasonably priced way to fly with them in business class, I’d love to hear it.

Update: It seems like Royal Brunei is in fact a Cathay Pacific Asia Miles partner… hmmmm…

Air-India-First-Class - 34
Royal Brunei 787 at London Heathrow Airport

One reader suggested Biman Bangladesh:

Fly Biman Bangladesh Airlines Executive Class onboard B777-300ER. But only after flying the ones that you really want to review…..

Okay, this one really intrigued me, as it was never really on my radar. The only thing I know about about Biman Bangladesh is that I’ve seen some of their past-their-prime planes at some airports, like Kuala Lumpur.

Biman-Bangladesh
Biman Bangladesh A310 at Kuala Lumpur Airport

However, Biman Bangladesh is refreshing their fleet, and even has some 777s that are only a few years old. In my opinion, they also have what must be one of the most gorgeous liveries out there.

I started looking at fares on them, and they have some extremely reasonable business class fares. For example, you can fly roundtrip from London to Dhaka via Sylhet in business class for ~$1,300 roundtrip:

Bangledash-Fare

Those are two 10+ hour flights, plus a short hop from Sylhet to Dhaka.

Biman

This would also be a unique opportunity to visit Dhaka. Based on what I’ve heard the city has extreme poverty, so if nothing else I’m sure it would be eye opening.

Ultimately this is Biman Bangladesh, so I wouldn’t come in reviewing it the same way I would a first world airline, especially in a market which otherwise doesn’t have much competition. However, I think it would be fascinating to see what their product, service, etc., are like.

Is flying Biman Bangladesh a crazy idea? Has anyone been to Dhaka?

Comments

  1. I’ve been to Dhaka. It’s an interesting city. It’s makes Calcutta seem mild by comparison.

    Bangladesh is great, but you’ll be worn out after three days in Dhaka.

  2. Duh, go for it! You should also add DrukAir, the flag carrier of Bhutan, to your list. Flew them last year from Bangkok to Paro. As an AvGeek, you can YouTube what it looks like to land in Paro, which is a one-of-a-kind experience. Going to Bhutan would also give you a chance to stay at and review maybe the most unique SPG properties anywhere, the Le Meridien Thimpu and Le Meridien Paro. Oh, and Bhutan is probably the most gorgeous, unique country I’ve ever been to. Size of Connecticut and there are exactly zero stoplights in the entire country. If you’re still not convinced, Google “Tiger’s Nest Monastery.” You’re welcome. 😉

  3. Go for it, seems fun!

    If you want something completely random, how about Nature Air? 😉 They fly Twin Otters (I think from the late 1960s) into remote parts of Costa Rica. Not much for “service”, but the views are great, and their livery is amazing. Plus you can’t go wrong with a trip to Osa Peninsula (incredible nature and luxury lodges, although no Starwoods or Hyatts haha).

  4. @ Keith — To clarify, US citizens can get a visa on arrival, right? Just want to make sure I read entry requirements correctly.

  5. I’ve been to Dhaka twice. Be careful. Its pretty intense. And make sure you get a room facing the back side of the hotel you are staying at, though I am sure you already are aware of this. There is not much to do. I really enjoy India and have been 50 times. Bangladesh is much different.

  6. Lol Ben Schlappig that’s the country my parents are from and funny enough his firm brokered the 777 deal. Historically Biman has been losing money and Craig service (depending on who you ask, locals love it and expats hate it) but corruption is tearing the airlines apart. With that said I did fly their 777 j class which is an angled lie flat, it’s okay for short haul. I would also recommend visiting Dhaka and other parts of Bangladesh it’s truly a beautiful place if you can overlook the poverty. There are few Spg and Radisson properties. Also go in the winter as summer is brutal and monsoon season creates floods. Feel free to reach out to me for any advise.

  7. @ digdoug — Okay, I’m intrigued about the comment about getting a room facing the back side of the hotel. Is it just that you don’t want to see what’s happening on the streets, or…?

  8. @ Ben no u need a visa before hand and it’s pretty expensive. I would arrange everything before hand. If you are serious about this I can have my driver pick you up as it can be tricky for foreigners.

  9. All of the people getting hacked to death in the last couple of years would be enough to give me great pause before visiting. (Granted bad things can and do happen everywhere though)

  10. @ Ryan — Hmmm, good to know. The IATA visa & passport and information database said the following for US citizens visiting Bangladesh:
    “Nationals of USA with a return/onward ticket and traveling as tourists can obtain a visa on arrival for a maximum stay of 30 days. They can apply to extend their stay.”

  11. Wooow…i have been commenting here for a while….for reviewing biman b777-300er Executive class from london to dhaka via sylhet….IT WOULD BE GREAT….THANKS LUCKY….

  12. I know you have been to some pretty out there places, but Dhaka will still be eye-opening. You may have also seen that there has been some terrorist attacks targeting foreigners in recent months. If you go, stay at the Westin in Gulshan. I would not advise leaving the hotel, even for a short walk around the neighbourhood. Even though it is the wealthy/diplomatic area of the city, it is still poor. You will be surrounded by beggars and there really isn’t much to see.

  13. Awesome. But a waste of time. I already know the review. The worst flight in your life because they didn’t smile at you at least ten times during the flight and kiss your butt cheeks when deplaning

    If you fly exotic airlines be open to exotic experiences instead of assuming how the culture and service you are used to is the best and using it as a benchmark to compare all your other experiences against and point what failing grades each exotic airline should get.

  14. You should fly Virgin Australia to SYD, then Garuda to AMS/LHR before getting to your SWISS flight!

  15. Just remembered a funny story … I was super late for my departing flight out of Dhaka back to Delhi. My host called someone who called someone. Upon arrival at the airport my SUV drove behind the terminal and headed directly to the plane. I got out of the car and walked right up the stairs onto my commercial flight. People were smoking on the flight too 😛

  16. I already started to refresh your blog page every second to see if you have posted your review of flying Biman. 🙂 Cannot wait!!!! BTW, the Le Meridien Dhaka looks fantastic.

  17. I’ve been to Dhaka. The Westin is nice. The traffic is horrific. If you have a chance, arrange a tour of the parliament building, the “Jatiyo Sangshad Bhaban,” it’s an architectural masterpiece designed by American architect Louis Kahn.

  18. @Ben yes that is the law, but their immigration when a plane lands is a nightmare. They have consulates in DC, NY and CA. I will also find out. Bangladesh hosted the cricket world up 4 years ago and here is the promo to see what u r getting into.
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_fNgVOQOa4
    Majority of the country does the speak any English unlike India where English is their primary language so get a guide thru the hotel.

  19. Having just entered with a US passport, you do not need a visa before arrival. It will take 20-30 minutes when you arrive, assuming it is not busy. There will be people trying to help you who will in turn ask you for money, even for literally pointing to a desk. In my experience, the visa on arrival agents just want the money. I do not mean to paint such a negative view, as I found Bangladeshis to be extremely welcoming as a whole, but extreme poverty is a serious problem.

  20. I was fortunate to visit Bangladesh while I was in college as part of an environmental science class. Dhaka is a fascinating city, and because it’s so off the beaten path, there is a sense of authenticity to it, especially in Old Dhaka. I highly recommend going!

  21. Yes I suggest a hotel room facing the back because when the bombs go off they generally blow out the front of the hotel rooms as the vehicle approaches the hotel. Its a dangerous place for Americans in my opinion. 24 hours would suffice. I agree with Colin above.

  22. @Ben if you are serious I am sure you can get a free ticket from Biman they do have a small operation in NY as they have been trying to bring back their JFK-DAC route back online for some time.

  23. This time try jet airways.. New routes to Canada via AMS from India. Also they fly to Singapore and other destinations

  24. @Ryan …I am speaking in the unlikely event that something could happen. Threats are very real. There is a reason America and the UK both have travel warnings for Bangladesh at the moment, especially in light of the July bombings in the diplomatic enclave.

  25. @Ben and @digdoug. There was a recent Isis attack about a month ago at a resturant frequented by expats. So yea wait till December/January as the country is somewhat tense right now.

  26. Yes, US citizens can get visas on arrival. I found Dhaka to be not that different from Kolkata or other Indian cities. The citizens are friendly and helpful, and most are not overtly religious. The status of women is similar to that in India, i.e. high for a Muslim country. We wandered everywhere in the old city on foot and by rickshaw.

    As for safety, of course, the bigger risk is being in certain US states, where the citizenry are all armed to the teeth, openly carrying machine guns and bazookas and hand grenades and who knows what else. Dhaka is safer.

    I’ve heard nothing good about Biman, however.

  27. There has been a scary number of violent attacks in the past few years. The targets have been among others, foreigners, non-Muslims, homosexuals, and bloggers. In fact the first few prominent deaths were secular bloggers…..

  28. Been to DAC and as previous posters have said, I can confirm one can get a VOA as a US citizen ($51 fee if I am not mistaken which needs to be paid in cash but please double check as I am going off memory). Once I even obtained a transit visa, which from what I was made to understand is only offered if one flies Biman (I flew in on 9W and out on TG). I would recommend the Westin. The new Le Meridien is a bit out of town though closer to the airport and doesn’t feel as luxurious. DAC is the only airport where I have been stuck in such bad traffic (due to a religious procession) where I got out of the car and walked with my bag for the last mile or so.

  29. You should try AirSerbia’s brand new business class in A330 (1-1-1 configuration) from New York to Belgrade and maybe Aeroflot business from Belgrade to Moscow since you liked it there or maybe Montenegro airlines from Belgrade to Adriatic coast Montenegro on Embraer 190.

  30. If you just want to say you’ve done it, Royal Brunei operates regional flights in SE Asia. They must be affordable if flying regionally. It too is a dry airline.

  31. I flew through Daka on the way to Bhutan… Druk Air flight attendants were amazing. Let’s just say the passengers were not.

    Good luck!

  32. I’m a US citizen of Bangladeshi descent and I flew QR to Dhaka in March. I got a visa on arrival for a $50 fee + $1 VAT. I paid in USD with change given in Taka. It’s a disorganized process that takes 20-30 minutes at the VOA counter immediately on the right as you walk through the door to the immigration hall, but it then means you can walk straight past the obscenely long immigration lines which can take 2 hours, so overall the VOA process saves time.

    I’m not aware of any bombings that have destroyed the facade of any hotel. It’s traffic hell but it’s not a war zone. There are State Department warnings for a lot of places that are still safe enough to go to as long as you don’t take unnecessary risks. The Holey Bakery attack could have taken place in a lot of countries.

    The Westin is the best hotel in town and it’s in the only part of town that foreigners would want to stay in. You definitely want to arrange for their car service to pick you up though. Leaving the airport is a horrific process and I couldn’t imagine trying to figure it out yourself after arrival. I’d use the concierge to arrange any excursions you want to do too. There is not a lot of tourist infrastructure so you need a local to arrange any day trips. There are limited sightseeing opportunities anyway.

    Dhaka also has service on Druk to Paro, which is a much more worthwhile tourist destination. If you did a Bangladesh side trip it would make the most sense as a stopover on the way there or to Nepal. Those are both incredible places to visit.

  33. Crazy train of thought here, but…. if Dhaka is one of the worlds poorest cities, and you’re going there just because of the flights, why not turn it into a mini humanitarian mission? I’m thinking of orphanages or hospitals or something like that. If you have to buy a visa, and pay for hotels, it really shouldn’t be a large incremental cost. Maybe equal to the amount of Krug you can drink on Cathay Pacific? lol. I know your blog is all about reviews of airlines, hotels, and the like, but my two cents is that it would just be a cool aside. Plus, you could possibly even run a fundraiser ahead of time – readers might chip in on the donation portion. Just an idea.

  34. I went to Dhaka near the end of last year and found it worthwhile for an off-the-beaten path (for an American, at least) adventure. The people were very kind and I had a couple of great meals and saw some interesting sights. The air quality, unfortunately, was quite poor, so you might want to invest in a mask, especially if you’ll be riding in tuk-tuks, an adventure in and of itself! There’s a great shop called Aarong for buying locally made goods that is well worth visiting for the quality of the products and the support it gives to the community. Enjoy!

  35. As CanesLawMarty, Druk Air (Druk means “dragon”) could be fun. The flight in is actually pretty cool, and Bhutan really is one of the most beautiful places on earth. The service on the airline is fine, nothing jaw-dropping (I flew business round trip), but I’m not sure anyone expects jaw-dropping on such a short-haul flight. There were a ton of people who got off at the Dhaka stopover on the flight up, nobody got ON at Dhaka, though. Do let us know if you go!

  36. Visa on arrival is easy, as with anywhere just have your paperwork. Bangladesh is an interesting place! I flew there on dragonair via Hong Kong and then flew some of the local airlines to get from Dhaka to Jessore (US Bangla and United Airways, not to be confused with United airlines). The local airlines are a real experience!

  37. @Ben I would very strongly recommend that you to have visa, hotel, reliable pick up from the airport, etc clearly sorted out well before stepping on that plane. Bangladesh is the most intensely overwhelming place I’ve ever been to and nothing really works the way it’s supposed to. I wouldn’t count on a smooth visa on arrival process.

  38. It’s interesting different experiences people have in Bangladesh. I went multiple times last year, always visa on arrival, no issues, sometimes can take a while though depending on if a flight comes in right before you. I Traveled alone as a woman, no issues but different precautions. Missed my local connection due to a 15 hour delay out of Dfw with a forced night/ day in Hong Kong (no complaints on that from me)! Showed up in Dhaka with no hotel arranged or car as I was 2 days late. Got a SIM card, Made a call, 20 minutes later a car is there to pick me up and take me to a decent enough hotel for the night (I learned the first time not to sleep in the airport there, but even that wasn’t so bad). It’s not Europe or the US, but the people are friendly and helpful and things aren’t that difficult. Especially in Dhaka, they are used to foreigners as a lot of aid workers/ diplomats, etc are there (that’s why I was there).

  39. Lucky, if you’d like to get an idea about Dhaka, there is an Amazing Race episode that showcases the city nicely. Yes, the poverty and crowding, but also some very nice examples of the friendliness and kindness of the locals. Keep an eye out for the Sprite bottle….

  40. A review of animal Bangladesh would be fascinating to hear!

    However, I will warn you that I have been to Bangladesh and you need to be very careful. Be careful with your drinks and the restaurants you go to. Officials, especially at the airport, can be very corrupt and security screening is practically non-existent. Also, ensure you get a room on the floors 2 or below.

  41. Hey Lucky, I’m from Dhaka and it’d be amazing if you could experience Bangladesh’s flag carrier. Biman is definitely not QR or SQ, and I think the highlight will probably be the hospitality compared to luxury, but it’d be wonderful if you gave it a try just to explore something new.

    There are 3 SPG hotels in Dhaka, with a Le Meridien very close to the Airport. There’s also Radisson, a Pan pacific, and InterContinental and few other international hotels. Dhaka is definitely NOT the best destination in the country, and you’ll like encounter lots of traffic, and sometimes people gawking at foreigners (you might just become a celeb for a while) but it’ll certainly be a new experience for you if you’re looking to explore new places.

    All that said, and as much as I hate to say this, this is not the best time for a trip to Dhaka, because recent events have been very unfortunate. If you do make your mind for visiting there and need more info then you could make a post and I (or maybe other BD readers) will gladly answer !

  42. Ben, I have a number of ex-pat relatives living in Dhaka. They started a software development outsourcing firm there. They refuse to fly Biman. However, that was with their older planes. How dangerous can a 777-300ER be?

    I’ve been to Dhaka twice and LOVE it! It’s one of my favorite places ever. Here are links to three of my albums of photos, which I think you’ll enjoy:
    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152513205878326.1073741839.698198325&type=1&l=68f1108d20
    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152513248453326.1073741841.698198325&type=1&l=9419f1528f
    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152513236008326.1073741840.698198325&type=1&l=1982d09aa8

  43. @Ben regarding the Visa issue The U.S. Department of State (who I always use for entry requirements, as they constantly update with info from the Embassy in the country) says that it is a VoA system but they recommend you get one on advance, however for such a short stay I am not sure what is needed. If visa is an issue theyly have transit visas for 72 hours (or the next flight) for $20 and you could continue to HKG vs back to London as some countries don’t allow transit visas with a return to the same place. Transit could be a good bet and maybe stay for a day or two as I am sure you can find a connecting point that only flies 3x a week.

    Feel free to contact me if you have questions.

    https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country/bangladesh.html

    http://www.bangladeshconsulatela.com/visa.html

  44. My last flight on Biman was on a 707 ( only about 30 or 35 years ago but long after most had been retired). They had the cheapest Singapore-Bangkok flights , along with PIA ( from memory also. 707).

  45. @Ben: I have flown to Dhaka frequently when I was working on a city lifestyle piece sometime ago. The city is charming in an old fashioned way. There is poverty – but that shouldn’t dissuade you from visiting the city. Bangla is the national language but many do speak English (especially those in the service industry). Just like any other city, be careful with your belongings and do not traverse into isolated areas. The infrastructure is poor so use pre-paid cabs. My T-mobile phone worked just fine there. There are beautiful hotels in the area (I usually stay at the Westin since they treat me very well). I certainly wouldn’t worry about the terror threats above – your chances of being gunned down in LA are much greater. The country is predominantly Muslim, so therefore be polite and courteous to customs. Dhaka is the capital of Bangladesh and is frequented by foreigners so the people are quite used to foreigners traveling through. Since you are staying for a short time, frequent the established restaurants (I prefer street food but the hygiene can create problems for short stays). The Gulshan and Banani districts are hip and cater to wealthy where you can find just about any type of food you desire. During the early morning, I recommend a trip to the Botanical Gardens to get away from all of the activity which is typical of cities in Asia. My favorite moments in Dhaka: visiting a chai (tea) stall in the evening and having locals come and ask me questions on my home and what I do and then basically being invited to sit with them, eat, drink and talk about normal life, etc. They said that they call this ‘adda’ or just a time to sit down and talk about the world and spend time.

    I have flown Biman Biz before. Better expectations than the big three in the US but lower than the 4 star Skytrax airlines. Let’s say 3.5 stars if there was such a thing. My experiences are based on 17 visits in 6 months in 2013. However, as is Asia, things are developing at a much more rapid pace than in our part of the world – so I could be very much be outdated on the happenings in Dhaka.

    Check out some interesting recollections on a blog of a close friend of mine (not plugging her blog, just fyi). https://www.wildfrontierstravel.com/en_GB/community/blog/post/dhaka-the-worst-place-in-the-world-possibly-the-friendliest

  46. @Ben – oh and to add, yes visa on arrival is possible, but I encourage you to get a visa before-hand. I have had some colleagues who have had a difficult time (lengthy wait to just bureaucratic harassment) getting the VoA.

  47. For Royal Brunei, try looking for either DPS-BWN-DXB or BKK-BWN-DXB. One way should be around just below USD 1,000.

  48. There is much merit to TravelinWilly’s idea of combining a trip to Dhaka with a hop up to Bhutan. Dhaka must be an exhausting city to visit, both on the mind and body. A respite in peaceful Bhutan would be a wonderful antidote and a fascinating juxtaposition to the chaos of Dhaka. And the trip report would surely be wildly entertaining.

  49. I am Bangladeshi citizen who grew up in Dhaka, and even I would think twice before getting on a long haul flight in Biman. But I have heard about certain revamps they are going through, and $1300 for a business class ticket is quite a bargain!

    Avoid western food, you will miss out on all the amazing Bengali food during your stay.
    Get breakfast at a restaurant chain called “Star Kabab”, it is a very local thing to do. Quite possibly the unhealthiest breakfast you ll ever have. Its something I do every time I go back! 🙂

    Also, Sylhet is very well known for its tea gardens and a gorgeous place!

    Actually I could go on and on.

    Honestly, from what I have heard, Dhaka has not been as lively as it usually is after the terrorist attack in Holey Artisan Bakery. I still hope your stay will be pleasant, most of my friends who have visited from US/Canada have loved it over there!

    Feel free to email me if you want to know more about the city and places to go to.
    I lived there, pretty much all of my life!

    Safe travels!

    Abir.

  50. Lucky, have you considered Cox’s Bazar? I flew over the area and it looked beautiful….not to mention the mere name of the place sounds so exotic!

  51. I had the privilege of flying on Biman’s last DC10 operation, on one of their “scenic” 1hr flights out of Birmingham UK going back a couple of years, was a truly special experience! Plane was extremely tired, it rattled and shook but that all added to the fun. They served us a drink and even had an option between still water or a Capri Sun (orange juice) I have some photos somewhere…

  52. do you think you could review air astana? they are partners with lufthansa miles and more, and asiana’s programme

  53. I *loved* Dhaka, but it’s the craziest place I’ve ever been. If the sheer volume of bicycle riskshaws isn’t enough, seeing cars driving the wrong way on the highway at near-highway speeds was exilharating and terrifying. Make sure you hire a driver — renting a car there would be very difficult.

  54. Haha
    Miss lucky wont go to bangladesh period
    Could you imagine her stepping off the plane covering her face with a lavender scented hanky
    Haha

  55. You can get often get discounted business class fares on Royal Brunei on their LHR-DXB routes.

    Also worth trying Air Astana, which is Kazakhstan’s national carrier. New planes with lie flat seats in business. Plus it is Kazakhstan!

  56. As a frequent and recent visitor to Dhaka, my experience the past 3 years is that the immigration process couldn’t be easier with visa upon arrival taking maybe 5-10 minutes.

    Be sure to have the phone number of your hotel and the reservation confirmation available. This is essential. You have to fill out a form, pay $50, then they ask how long you’re staying, why and where, and then they whack your passport and you’re on your way. The visa upon arrival desk is the first area you come to on your right as you enter the arrivals hall, as OP have mentioned. Once you have the visa, exit on the left side of the arrival desks, go get your bags; you don’t have to wait in the long lines for returning nationals.

    Immigration officials are not rude or corrupt, but are completely professional, and quite friendly given the opportunity. Being cooperative, open and courteous will result in twice as much good will coming back to you. You will find typical Bangladeshi hospitality expressed everywhere. As a foreigner, you are an honored guest.

    Be sure to arrange for your hotel to pick you up. You will be met inside the terminal by the driver.

    Be aware that the city is presently very tense after the numerous terrorist attacks and police raids, leaving dozens dead, in the past few weeks. It would be foolish to walk around most parts of the city.

    US Embassy personnel are forbidden to go anywhere except in Embassy cars (some of which are armored); non-essential personnel have been sent home. The situation is that bad. Be sure to have Global Rescue protection in place, in case it’s necessary to do a security-related evacuation in the case of a terrorist attack or other emergency.

    Remember, the US Department of State is strongly advising against travel to Dhaka presently. Rich Westerners are very obvious targets for kidnapping, machete, knife and gun attacks. In the case of the Holey restaurant attack, apparently confederates tipped off the assailants that a large group of foreigners was on the premises. You get the idea.

    If you do go, probably the best hotel is the Six Seasons, on the lake in Gulshan 2. It’s about a 10 minute walk from the Westin, to the West, and 10 minutes to the US Embassy to the East. It is one of the best small hotels in Asia… lovely rooms (get a suite), boutique, beautiful decorations, excellent food, and several men with automatic shotguns standing guard outside 24/7 (same at the Westin). Inquire by e-mail for rates (about $150++ under current conditions).

    Such hotels also have x-ray baggage scanners and you will be frisked after going through a metal detector. The Six Seasons is less of a target because it’s not an American chain, and is frequented mainly by Bangladeshi and Asian visitors. It is also a kind of country club for rich locals to have parties and meetings there.

    It can take from 20 minutes to 2 hours to get to Gulshan 2, which is really the only option in terms of location (it’s the most attractive part of the city, thus almost all the embassies are there, or in the neighborhood adjacent to it).

    Contact me directly if you want more details.

    About Biman, be aware that they go through managing directors about once a year, that the airline is forbidden to fly to many countries, and for good reason: corruption, maintenance and security. Air traffic control is very iffy. Many approaches at night result in a “go around” because of conditions on the ground. This even happened to the prime minister’s flight the other day. She was not pleased.

    I fly frequently on Biman within the region, and many of the planes are in the shake, rattle and boom category. Expect high-school cafeteria grade food or below (in business class). It’s really low rent, Lucky.

    Bangladesh as a nation is (or was) rapidly approaching middle-income status, and is definitely not characterized by “extreme poverty”. It’s rising rapidly, and Dhaka is a bustling, prosperous city, with continual construction and expansion.

    The political and security situation is very dangerous at the moment, and no amount of wishful thinking can make that go away. Traveling to the country is somewhere between foolish and very risky now. Security force killings of suspects, and lethal attacks on the security forces and their families, are happening on a daily basis.

    And it’s monsoon, meaning torrential rain, and generally sloppy conditions.

    Do you really have a need to go?

  57. Ben – I am Bangladeshi-American and spent many years in Dhaka. You’re right – there is a lot of income disparity there but it is a wonderful place. You should visit. Stay at the Westin (during my wedding we had over a 100 people fly in and stay there and they enjoyed it). I haven’t flown Biman in years but hear they’ve really improved…lot of my friends who normally fly Emirates or Qatar have been flying it to London. And if you need any local contacts let me know. If you go late December I’ll be there too! Safe travels!

  58. @Ben,

    When staying at hotels in countries with quite relaxed building regulations, it is often advised to stay on the first or second floors – even if you are staying in a 5* hotel. Many hotels in less developed countries only have fire escapes/fire ladders which cover the first couple of floors and not upper floors. In a place like Bangladesh, there are often fires or emergencies and you should ensure that the floor which you are staying on on has adequate emergency exits, should there be an emergency. It is often surprising that even some of the world’s leading brands do not have fire escapes on every floor in some of their hotels.

    I would, personally, recommend staying on the first floor. Then, you have access to a terrace, are less susceptible to theft or break-ins to your room and, in the case of an emergency, have a great chance of a successful escape than staying on higher floors.

    Even when staying in hotels in Western countries, it is often recommend to stay on floor 5 or below, as fire exits do not always cover floors above those. Of course, there are exceptions to all of these and hotels in more developed countries are probably built slightly sturdier; however, it is always something worth considering.

    Just on an other point – whenever staying at a hotel, even in Europe, the US or wherever you are – you should always check that your nearest emergency exit is not locked. Whenever checking into a hotel, I always do this. It is surprising the amount of hotels which do this and most people don’t even notice. Some hotels lock their fire exits (and I’m not talking about these automatic-locks which open when an alarm rings but actual locks) to prevent burglaries and people coming in through the first exits from the outside. I have caught numerous luxury hotels do this and it is totally unacceptable. The hotel is endangering the lives of everybody on that floor as, in the case of an emergency, people would have fever routes to escape the building. Whenever I catch a hotel with locked fire exits, I always bring it to the attention of the General Manager – most of whom are usually unaware that it is happening. While many countries will have individual laws about fire exits, it is in direct violation of recommended international building regulations to lock any fire exits while the building has people in it.

    Just some food for thought and some things to consider next time you stay at a hotel!

  59. Lucky – you might want to think about Turkmenistan Airlines. Flew them last year in business class from Beijing-Ashgabat. Fully flat beds in business class and brand new 777-200LR planes. There’s an in flight entertainment seat but they don’t have any entertainment. Food and service as bad as expected.

    Turkmenistan has a plan to copy Turkish Airlines and building Ashgabat into a hub airport. They flew from London and Frankfurt to a number of destinations in Asia. Just a thought if you need to get to Asia next time for a positioning flight.

  60. This may no longer be accurate information but, years ago we nabbed a business class deal out of Bangkok on Royal Air Brunei to Darwin and back, I forgot how much it was, but it must have been a deal as we didn’t think twice about buying it. All I can remember is how fascinated they were with my Jewish Husband (then boyfriend) who ordered a Kosher meal — imagine that a Kosher meal out of BKK on Royal Brunei. The seats back then were huge old lazy boy style – it was a comfortable flight. The lounge was kind of a joke and they still have squat toilets as an option in the airport. Given the turn to the extreme right in Brunei I can’t imagine wanting to ever fly them again and I would suggest you cross them off your list. After all I don’t think the Sultan needs you support. But if you want to book a flight next time you are in BKK go to one of the discount travel agents on Soi Ngam Duplee I am sure they will hook you up.

  61. I visit Bangladesh often and travel around the country, I am very familiar with the ground reality there, a few things I will mention:

    1) Visa – On Arrival for US citizens, line is not bad, with the exception of when several planes land at the same time. They will ask you the address/hotel name where you are staying and phone #, so have that handy. When you come out of the airport, its pretty hectic for 2 reasons, its usually very hot/humid and Dhaka is very crowded.

    2) Hotels – there are many many nice hotels to choose from, just do a search on Kayak for Dhaka. Some of the upscale ones are Marriott, Westin, Sheraton, and Pan Pacific Sonargaon. Some good areas to stay in are: Gulshan, Baridhara, Uttara. There are many nice local hotels (equivalent to 3/4 stars in US) under $60/night with restaurants on site.

    3) Transport – Its much better to have you own car and driver, which can be easily arranged. A car with driver for the whole day will cost you about $40/day all inclusive. He’ll take you everywhere you want to go and wait for you.

    4) Things to do – Its a very cheap country to travel in, you get very good bang for your USD. The traffic in Dhaka is no joke, try to avoid rush hour, or just accept it as inevitable as locals do. I would say the #1 attraction in Dhaka in the food. They have international level Japanese/Korean/Thai/Italian/dessert/whatever you feel like eating/etc. restaurants that would cost 100s of dollars for a meal in western countries for pennies on the dollar. There is a Sushi restaurant that flies in fresh tuna from Sri Lanka twice a week and dinner there costs $30 tops. Just google restaurants in Dhaka, there are a LOT. It seems like peoples’ favorite pastime over there. I recommend trying a new place every meal. Other than food, the best places to visit are outside of Dhaka, Sylhet (northern eastern part of the country) is probably the best place in my opinion. Its not that crowded, its clean, its cooler because of the higher elevation, and there are many daily flights for $30-$50. Its very green and picturesque with rolling tea gardens. There are several nice resorts there for lodging. Also, I would avoid Old Dhaka all together, its a hot crowded mess.

    5) Security – Take precautions as with anywhere, but its pretty safe, even with the latest shenanigans (after which, there has been a crackdown by the Police on crime). There are foreigners crawling around everywhere. People are very friendly and everyone is ready to take pictures with you. Expect staring, its not unfriendly and is normal there. Avoid street food/tea stalls, if you do eat it, take a bottle of Mylanta or Immodium with you. Drink the bottled water, DO NOT DRINK TAP WATER. Some streets are dirty with mud/garbage, but others are clean, all depends on the neighborhood. I don’t really buy the bologna about staying on certain hotel side/floors, its not that kind of country. Probably safer than Europe or Chicago right now.

  62. To add to my above post, as far as Biman, I have flown their now retired DC-10s, including the very last DC-10 in service in the world. It now sits in the Boeing Museum in Seattle. They were old, but a treat to fly on for aviation enthusiasts. Currently, Biman has a problem maintaining their schedule, longs delays are not unusual. The pilots and crew are friendly and professional. Their food is not extravagant, but tastes better then the US big 3. I was once served goat curry and rice with a side of spinach, which looked like IDK what, but tasted surprisingly good. Tasted like real food, not like a bland microwaved TV dinner from the 80’s, which is what some airplane food tastes like to me. Their flights from UK are fine, the ones departing from the middle eastern countries are full of lower income laborers in economy.

  63. I flew Biman to Dhaka last month, it’s quite comfortable, nothing special but much worth the price

  64. @Lucky – How about trying the premium cabins on some of the LCC’s like Air Asia X and Scoot?

    You could do Biman to DAC and then come down on SQ to SIN or MH to KUL to take the aforementioned airlines. Maybe Scoot to Sydney and then catch Virgin Australia back to LAX!

  65. Completely echo what Frog said about having transportation, hotel, visa, embassy info all arranged ahead of time. Bangladesh is in a unique class of country where almost anything goes and it feels like chaos most of the time. That said, I think Dhaka is probably a better place to visit than Chittagong. I flew in and out on Emirates. If you do go to Dhaka, check out the mosquitoes in the airport. I’ve never seen so many bugs inside a building. Spent the entire time swatting. Also arrivals and departures are often delayed by fog in Dhaka.

  66. Yes, Dhaka does have extreme poverty. But not any more than any other South Asian city. It also has great monuments, historical sights, cultural venues, intellectual places, great restaurants, business and everything you would expect in a city. It has as many mosques as rickshaws. And the traffic is horrendous but that is a sign of economic growth. Scenery along the Buriganga river highlights a very ancient civilisation centred on trade. Northern Dhaka has all the modern amenities you would expect. And the British built Dhaka University and surroundings are a wonderful escape from the hustle and bustle.

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