Dhaka, Bangladesh Report of what it's like to live there - 04/27/10
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?
United States is my home base. About 24 hours flight with at least one stop.
3. How long have you lived here?
I have been living here for seven months.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Government, U.S. Embassy.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
For families, the houses are usually gigantic. For singles and couples, there are some great apartments near the embassy. It takes me 5-10 minutes to walk to the embassy, but I do happen to live near it.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
In Dhaka almost everything is half the price of what you would pay in America. But only if you buy local brands. It all depends on how picky you are.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
More electric APS units.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
A&W, KFC, BFC, and Pizza Hut are all in Dhaka. Overall, western brands are limited. However, there are many good restaurants at great prices for Indian, Thai, and Bengali foods. Less so for Italian and Japanese.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
There are lots of mosquitoes here, and I would recommend bringing lots of mosquito repellent. There are quite a few ants as well, but ants are not much to worry about.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Embassy personnel use the pouch/DPO.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Very affordable. Most expats have a cook, a gardener and a driver.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
At the American Club there is a small one. The American School has aerobics classes.
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?
Very few places accept credit cards, and there are very few ATMs. Cash is king. The embassy has an ATM and a bank branch to cash checks for their personnel.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Some for daily life, but it is not essential for embassy personnel.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
This would be an extremely difficult post for anyone with major dissabilities.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
There are small baby-taxis (3-wheeled gas powered), and rickshaws are everywhere.
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?
Right-handed driving is the norm. However, we brought our American-style car here and have not had any problems. Driving is extremely aggressive here, so your car may get scratched at some point. Traffic is very difficult here.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, most people use Agni. Speed is adequate, not ideal. The electric box burns out often due to power outages, but Agni is very prompt to repair it.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
They are cheap here. Do not bring one from USA.
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?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Fair but cheap.
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?
No, but there are invaluable volunteering opportunities.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Conservative for the locals. Casual at the embassy.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Most of the time I feel safe when I walk to work every day. My wife jogs every day. There is the occasional mugging, but much less than in any major city in USA.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
The embassy has a health unit with a medical doctor for embassy families. Three local private hospitals have made many improvements for expats in Dhaka. Gastrointestinal problems are the most common issues for expats. There is no malaria in Dhaka, but we have dengue occasionally.
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?
The air in Bangladesh is polluted (as it is in many developing countries) and you do see a lot of trash being burned. Overall, it is as one would expect.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
In Dhaka it is a lot like southern Florida. It is most of the time between 80F-90F degrees, and most of the time it is humid. During the winter the mornings were a little chilly, but during the afternoon and evening it was warmer but still humid. If you go to SriMongol during the winter, it can get cold. In southern Bangladesh there is some flooding, but if you are in Dhaka there is nothing to worry about.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
AISD is the most popular choice, and the teachers there are great. My children love AISD. It is gigantic, with a giant soccer field and a pool. Academically it is great. This is one the main reasons families bid and/or extend their tour here.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
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?
Most people send their preschoolers to the French school or to the American School, both are fine.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, there are tons, but mostly at the school.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Moderate, very international.
2. Morale among expats:
Families tend to have good morale due to a great school. Singles have a harder time
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?
It is difficult for singles. Families mostly go to the American club or local restaurants.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Mostly this is a good post for families with young children. High schoolers do benefit from a good school as well, but they have a harder time socially. It is not as good for singles.
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?
Some people do stare at you because you are very different. You get used to it after a while, and most do not mean any harm.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
I have been to the Sundarbans and it was a blast! We saw crocodiles, fish, deer and wild boar. And some people say they saw a bengal tiger, which is hard to find in the Sundarbans. I also have been to SriMongol plantations, and they were incredible.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Going to Old Dhaka was fun. The Sundarbans jungle tour in a boat is a great experience.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
There are great deals on export-level clothing and on brass items.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
It is a friendly culture and the food is great. You get to save lots of money, as food, restaurants and services are cheap. If you like warm weather, you will like Dhaka.
11. Can you save money?
Yes, particularly if you are not picky for American items only.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, with a family. Not if I were single.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
3. But don't forget your:
sun tan lotion and mosquito repellent.
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Forget the books, gather information on the internet. It is more actualized. I was amazed by the lack of good book information for expats coming to Bangladesh.
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
Same as above.
6. Do you have any other comments?
Most of the expats who come to Bangladesh and do not do well are those that come with a preconceived notion and only wish to fulfill it once they get here. The culture truly is a warm culture, and there is great food -- if you like it spicey.