Dhaka, Bangladesh Report of what it's like to live there - 01/29/11
Personal Experiences from Dhaka, Bangladesh
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
I've been going to middle school while my parents work at the embassy
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Most housing for expats is in the diplomatic enclave in the areas of Baridhara and Gulshan. There are large houses and apartments. The commute time varies greatly, based on traffic, but most people work and live in the same area. There are a lot of bicycle rickshaws on the road.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Some local stores (like Lavender) carry everything at pretty cheap prices. Local vegetables are cheap, but fruits are expensive.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
I would ship my favorite shampoo and DVDs, as all of the ones here are pirated.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
KFC and Pizza Hut (not good) are here and about the same price as in the States. There are good Thai, Korean and Western restaurants which are expensive. Local Bangladeshi food is quite cheap.
5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?
I've never seen organic food or gluten-free products. Many people are Hindu so there might be more vegetarian options.
6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Mosquitoes are very common and worse in the winter.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
We use the pouch. I'm not sure about the local post office.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Cooks, cleaners, drivers, day guards, and nannies are available and cheap and cost less than $200/month.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There is a gym at the American Club, and AISD has a new gym. I haven't seen any outside of these.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
There is an ATM at the embassy.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There are Christian services available at the Westin.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
There is English cable with 80 channels for about $15/month.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Zero. Most people speak at least a little English.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
There aren't really a lot of sidewalks outside the diplomatic enclave.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Bicycle rickshaws are very cheap for short distances. Taxis are usually only found at the airport but are NOT safe. Nobody takes buses or trains.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Bring an SUV. The right-of-way on roads goes to the bigger automobile.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, but it slow and around $50/month.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Grameenphone is better than Banglalink because of better connections.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
Yes, at least 2 weeks.
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Not really unless you work for a foreign company or NGO.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Girls should dress conservatively. Guys can wear whatever they want.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
In the diplomatic enclave it's usually safe. During hartals (government-organized strikes) it can be dangerous.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
There are some pretty good hospitals, but if you have an issue they usually send you to Bangkok.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Good to moderate depending on the part of the city. Baridhara is good, but outside can be bad.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
From January to early March the weather is a bit milder. The rest of the year is quite hot. Summer and early Fall is the monsoon season and Spring is the hottest part of the year.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are Grace School, Green Herald, and American International School Dhaka (AISD). Most embassy kids go to AISD. The high school has an IB program. The are lots of extracurricular activities for high school and less options for middle school. The school uses Macs over PCs.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
There is a school psychologist. There are no special classes. There is at least one special needs kids in the middle school.
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
AISD has a preschool for kids 3 and older. Nannies are cheap.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
There is SAISA, which competes international in tennis, swimming, track and field, basketball, volleyball, and soccer for high school. Middle school has swimming and track as part of SAISA. There are intramural basketball, soccer, and volleyball for middle school which also compete against local schools and lots of after school sports for elementary.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
The community is rather big but spread around.
2. Morale among expats:
Pretty good. People seem to be happy.
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Not much. It seems to revolve around the American Club and visiting other expats.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
The school is good and a lot of families are happy with Dhaka because of the school. Others might find it boring because there is not a lot to do other than go to the American Club.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
The people have problems with Pakistanis, and it is a male dominated society.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Boat trips down the river.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
You can have custom furniture made. They have tea plantations and river boat rides outside the city. In Dhaka, the American Club has swimming, gym, playground, tennis, and a good restaurant.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
custom-made teak furniture.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
The clothing is very cheap and mango season is delightful.
11. Can you save money?
yes, if you don't buy imported fruit and have your cook buy local foods
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, I made lots of friends here.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
3. But don't forget your:
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Lonely Planet Bangladesh
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
Amazing Race Dhaka
6. Do you have any other comments?
I thought that it would be a really tough place to live at first, but it was not nearly as bad when I got here.