Bangladesh Driving Guide 2021
Visit Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest located in the country of Bangladesh. Rent and drive your own car and get an international driving permit to maximize your trip. Here’s the guide to give you the best travel experience of your lifetime!
December 27, 2020
You’ve decided to visit the beautiful country of Bangladesh, and you’re interested in driving around the country to see as much as possible. That’s great news because it is possible to drive in Bangladesh if you have the right documentation and guts to do it. Yes, the guts to do it! Driving in Bangladesh isn’t for everyone, as it can be quite a scary experience. Actually, the leading cause of death in Bangladesh is fatal vehicle accidents because of the inexperienced, unlicensed, untrained, and aggressive way people drive. This is not to say you shouldn’t drive in the country. Driving in Bangladesh is the best way to see it on your time rather than going with a group that will have set time schedules for everything you do in the country. Just be sure to learn as much as possible about driving in the country, stay alert at all times, drive aggressively, and read this driving guide.
About Driving in Bangladesh
Bangladesh is a beautiful country with a lush green landscape and many waterways. Tourists often visit Cox’s Bazar, which is the longest Sea beach in the world (measuring 120km). Forests abound, and most people head to the Sundarbans Mangrove Forest, which is a UNESCO world heritage site. The major draw to the forest is the wildlife, especially the last remaining Bengal tigers. Chittagong Hill-Tracts is another amazing landscape to experience, which is known for its rolling hills along the Sangu river. In addition to the tranquility of the landscape of the country, you’ll also be able to enjoy the tea gardens. Visiting the gardens and tasting the many types of teas will help you see why many people decide to visit Bangladesh every year. Other places to include in your itinerary are Rangamati, Paharpur, St. Martin’s Island, Gaur, Sylhet, Barisal, Puthia, Mosque City Bagerhat, and Sonargaon.
While there is a lot of public transportation options and excursions tourists can take advantage of when sightseeing in Bangladesh, many people decide to drive so they can take their time and see more of the country. Since the country’s driving rules, laws and way of driving differ greatly from that of the United States, it’s important to know what they are before getting on the road in the country.
What to Expect When Driving in Bangladesh as Opposed to the Usa
Driving in Bangladesh can be exciting or frightening depending on how you perceive the drivers in the country. No matter if you’re driving in the city or countryside, you’ll likely come across Bangladesh drivers who essentially drive any way they wish without much care for those around them. This means crossing lanes without notice, taking the right-of-way even though they don’t have it, and blaring their horn whenever they feel they should have priority over a road. While there are speed limits, most of the time drivers don’t abide by them because controlling all the drivers on the roads can be quite a challenge for law enforcement.
People who are most surprised by the way Bangladesh drivers drive are those from the USA or English. Anyone who has driven in Asia or India is used to the haphazardness of the driving in Bangladesh, so it’s not that big of a deal to them.
Quick Tips for Driving in Bangladesh
Unless otherwise noted, urban speed limits are 25 km/h, rural speed limits are 30 km/h, and highway speed limits are 80 km/h.
- Fixed cameras are prohibited in Bangladesh, but mobile ones are allowed.
- Drivers drive on the left side of the road in Bangladesh.
- The minimum age to drive a vehicle is 18 years old and to rent one it’s also 18 years old.
- Blood alcohol content when driving is 0.0.
- The emergency number is 999.
- Documents needed to drive in Bangladesh are driving license, passport, International Driving Permit (IDP), registration, and insurance.
- No phone use while driving unless hands-free.
- Seat belts are required while driving in Bangladesh.
What You Need to Drive in Bangladesh
Be prepared to drive in Bangladesh with the necessary documentation. You will need to bring your US driver’s license, passport, and IDP. You must apply for the IDP in the United States before your trip and have it with you when you rent a vehicle in Bangladesh.
The rental company you choose should have registered vehicles, and you can purchase the insurance through the company.
How to Get an International Driving Permit
You must have an international driving permit (IDP) if you rent a vehicle in Bangladesh. It serves as a valid form of identification and has your name, photo and driving information on it. Getting one requires the following things:
- Access to the International Drivers Association online
- All information necessary to complete the forms and application
- A clear copy of your official driver’s license from your home country
- Two copies of a passport-sized photograph for ID printing
- Some way of paying the affordable fee
As long as you provide all of this information, everything will be processed smoothly and you can get your International Drivers Permit in a very short amount of time. Any errors or missing information slows down the process.
Renting a Vehicle in Bangladesh
As long as you have your driver’s license, IDP, and payment card, you will find that the mechanics of renting a car in Bangladesh are practically identical to renting in the US. You will even see the same companies, especially if you rent a car from the airport. These include Avis, Hertz, Budget and all the rest.
Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, has many places where you can rent a vehicle. For the best vehicles, be sure to use a reputable company. There are many people who are trying to make a living by renting out vehicles, but those vehicles may not be maintained well, so there’s more chance of them breaking down.
You should expect to pay at least Tk 4000 a day to rent a vehicle. This does not include fuel and other driving expenses.
Hiring a driver is an option, but you will have to pay for the driver’s food and lodging as you tour the country. Fortunately, these costs are not as much as most people would suspect as the food isn’t expensive in the country and lodging won’t be the best in the area for the driver. In any case, be sure to ask how much it will cost to have a driver, including the food and lodging, before deciding to go that route.
If you decide to rent a vehicle outside of the capital city, it may be difficult. There aren’t many rental companies and finding one that has good vehicles can be even more difficult. The good news is if you’re lucky to find a rental company with good cars, you’ll pay much less than renting one in Dhaka.
Get the insurance when renting a vehicle in Bangladesh, even if you have insurance in the United States because your existing policy won’t cover anything if you get into an accident. If you decide to forgo the insurance, you may end up having to pay thousands of dollars to repair the rental and the other driver’s vehicle. Insurance rates depend on the type of coverage. Most rental companies will offer collision or loss damage waiver or super collision damage waiver, which simply frees you from any financial responsibility in an event of an accident.
Manual transmission is the standard in Bangladesh, so if you can’t drive a manual, you may not be able to rent a vehicle. If you’re lucky to find an automatic, you’ll end up paying much more for it because it’s not as popular. Knowing this, it’s a good idea to learn how to drive a stick shift before you visit the country. It will make it much easier for you to rent a vehicle and save you some money, too.
Unless you want to rent a van or truck, you’ll end up with a small vehicle. Smaller vehicles are preferred in Bangladesh because they can fit more of them on the roads, especially those that are narrow. While you may not feel safe in a small vehicle, you may not have much choice unless you want to get a van or truck. Of course, if you decide to get the van or truck, you’ll end up paying more for it.
The Minimum and Maximum Age for Driving
Many Americans will be surprised to know Bangladesh doesn’t only have a minimum age for driving, but a maximum one too. The minimum age is much older than in the United States – 18 years old. This is likely due to the hazardous conditions of the roads throughout the country.
There are two types of licenses in the country – professional and non-professional. Professional licenses are given to drivers who are 20 years old or older and non-professional ones for those 18 years old. Professional licenses enable drivers to transport people and charge for it. You may find many people in the country offering to drive you places because that’s how many of them make a living.
Drivers under the age of 21 cannot drive medium or heavy motor vehicles. They also can’t drive large vehicles with 20 or more seats.
The maximum age is 65 years old. Tourists who are over 65 years old will not be able to drive in Bangladesh, unfortunately.
Drinking and Driving in Bangladesh
There is no tolerance for drinking and driving in Bangladesh. The country is Muslim and it’s against their religion to drink alcohol. They strongly believe that it is detrimental to their health. Many places do not sell alcohol and the places that do only sell it to foreigners or those of a different religion. Since the country is mostly Muslim, it’s not a surprise that there is no tolerance for driving under the influence of alcohol (or drugs). The Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) limit is 0.0. Anyone who is caught drinking and driving may be jailed for three months or more depending on the number of offenses.
This can be a nightmare for tourists who are caught drinking and driving and then sent to jail. Tourists may be sent back to the United States or imprisoned for their time. It’s best to refrain from drinking at all if you’re driving in the country.
What to Do If You’re Stopped by the Police While Driving in Bangladesh
Police stops are common in Bangladesh. During a traffic stop, you’ll be asked to provide your driving documentation to the police officer who will review it all for legitimacy. Since many drivers are unlicensed in the country, they check this first. Police are lenient with tourists because they want more people to visit the country. It brings in revenue and the country has a poor economy.
You may receive a ticket, but the chances are unlikely. You’re more likely to get a parking ticket for parking in the wrong spot than get a ticket for doing something wrong on the road. If you do get a parking or traffic ticket, you should pay it immediately by following the instructions on the ticket. Ignoring it may get you into trouble in the future.
You should be calm and confident when you get pulled over by the police if you are following the driving laws, which are lenient in this country. Pay particular attention to the traffic signs and speed limits just like you do in the United States and you will not have a problem.
Road Conditions in Bangladesh
The road conditions in Bangladesh are much different from those in the United States due to its political situation. While driving in Bangladesh, you may find logs, boulders, trash and burning tires in the middle of the roads to block people from traveling down them. Many tourists have been stranded on roads because of the blockages.
Protests are also common in Bangladesh. People will block the road and chant loudly until they get their point across to whomever they are trying to reach. It could be hours before it’s over and the only choice is to turn around and drive the opposite way. In some cases, there won’t be a way around them, so you’ll just have to wait until it’s over.
The roads are often extremely crowded, especially in the cities. While this may seem typical for large cities, the crowded roads are a bit different in Bangladesh. In addition to vehicles, there are bicycles, rickshaws, three-wheeled mini taxis, trucks, and large buses taking over the roads. Pedestrians will often weave in and out of traffic as well without much care.
Many Bangladesh drivers do not have a license, are aggressive, and take risks that most Americans would shake in fear over. Untrained drivers often cause accidents, which then just increases the traffic issues on the roads.
While being aware of other drivers, it’s also important to pay attention to the conditions of the roads while driving in Bangladesh. Many major highways have numerous potholes, sudden drop-offs, and barriers. Most drivers know the streets well. You will often see them weaving in and out of the way of these road hazards. Those who are unfamiliar with the roads are the ones that end up having the most trouble.
Be aware that there isn’t sufficient lighting on the streets in Bangladesh and some areas have no lighting at all. Vehicles may not have headlights that are strong enough to illuminate the road ahead. Drive slowly in these areas allowing others who are more familiar with the roads ahead.
Bangladesh drivers believe larger vehicles have the right-of-way. Watch out for drivers in large trucks because they will do what they want to do without consideration of other vehicles around them. This includes running red lights, so be extra careful at intersections.
Horns and high-beam headlights are often used in Bangladesh to warn people that you’re coming. This is true throughout the day and night, so be prepared to hear the horns late into the night while trying to sleep in your hotel room.
The road conditions, inexperienced drivers, and carelessness of driving causes many accidents, especially fatal ones. Whenever there is an accident in which a pedestrian or cow has been struck, crowds will gather and what they do is unpredictable. Some people will try to help those who were injured, while others may try to harm those who they believe were responsible for the crash. In some cases, death often occurs from the crowd’s abuse and it’s common for vehicles to be set on fire because of the crash. So, if you end up in a car accident, it’s best to seek safety at a police station. Get away from the scene as quickly as possible without bringing much attention to yourself.
While it may look fun to use public transportation, such as rickshaws, it’s not a good idea. Rickshaws, buses, and CNG vehicles often get into accidents. Some public transportation vehicles are driven by criminals trying to appear innocent.
How to Read the Road Signs When Driving in Bangladesh
Road signs are quite different from those in the United States. Knowing what they mean will help you stay safe while driving in Bangladesh.
There is a Give Way line on Bangladesh roads. This is a line that dictates where you should practice what a sign communicates. For instance, you should stop at the Give Way line when there is a stop sign or a yield sign.
Most of the signs in the country are self-explanatory and similar to those in the United States. Since people drive on the left side of the road, the signs are on the left. Sometimes, there are signs on the left and right to bring more attention to them.
Red signs indicate a warning – something you need to pay attention to while you’re driving. It can also indicate that you’re not supposed to do something, similar to the Do Not Enter sign in the United States.
Blue signs are information signs, which will tell you where to go on certain roads. For instance, the roundabout sign is blue with arrows in a circle to indicate the direction of traffic.
You will likely see black signs and those just signs to let you know what is allowed. You may see a black car, truck, bicycle, or bus sign and that just means those modes of transportation are allowed on the street.
You can use GPS in the country, as long as your phone works. Most cell phone providers will require you to let them know you are traveling internationally, and you may need to pay an extra fee to use your phone there. It is recommended to use your GPS in Bangladesh to help you navigate your way around the country.
Dealing with Traffic in Bangladesh
Traffic in Bangladesh is worse than any traffic that Americans have experienced in places like Los Angeles, NYC, and Boston. It can take hours upon hours to get through the City of Dhaka, and there’s nothing you can do about it but to sit there and wait to get through it.
This doesn’t stop people from honking their horns, getting mad, and becoming aggressive. Tourists are especially prone to getting upset over the amount of traffic in the city. When you’re on vacation, sitting in traffic is the last thing you want to do.
If you’re trying to visit Dhaka, it’s best to walk than drive. Park on the outskirts of the city, and walk your way through to see it. Just be careful of the roads, as people who are in the traffic will move any chance they get and you may be in their way.
When traveling outside of the city, you’ll likely see that it’s not as bad because there are not many people on the road. Dhaka is where everything is, and outside of the city is very rural. You’ll find some houses and farms, but that’s it. It’s also where all of the beauty is in the country, so if you can’t stand the city traffic for the time you’re there, it will be worth it for the views of the countrysides.
Driving on Highways in Bangladesh
Be prepared to see cars, trucks, and buses fly past on you on the highways. While the speed on highways is 80 km/h, many people do not follow it. This, of course, puts them at risk of getting pulled over by the police but that’s not enough of a threat for them to slow down. What this means is that you should stay in the lane with the least number of vehicles and stay away from fast-moving ones. This does not mean that you should change lanes when you see a vehicle approaching behind you because that person may change lanes to go around you and then you’ll end up driving right in front of that person. Instead, just be mindful of those drivers coming up behind you and stay in the lane to see if they go around you. If you’re ever unsure where you should go, pull off to the side of the road if there is sufficient room. It’s better to do that than to drive very slowly in the lane causing people to have to stop short behind you.
Driving at Night in Bangladesh
It’s not a good idea to drive at night in Bangladesh. If you’re driving in remote areas, it is likely that you won’t have any street lights to guide you and that includes illuminating road signs. While your car will have headlights, they won’t be much help in the pitch darkness. If you find yourself driving at night, be very careful and go slow if you can without putting yourself in danger. Drivers who are familiar with the area don’t need as much light to see the roads, so they will likely drive around you. Driving at night also increases the risk of being a victim of crime, especially car-jacking or mugging. Be sure to keep all of the car doors locked and do not roll down the window or open the car door for any reason when you’re stopped. If the car breaks down, stay inside of the vehicle and call roadside assistance. This information should be in the packet you received from the rental car company. Only get out of your car when help arrives for the vehicle, and be cautious while outside as cars drive by you.
Driving with Young Children in the Vehicle
Bangladesh does not have a child restraint law, meaning children do not have to be in car seats. The United States has strict child restraint laws, so not having any in Bangladesh may be concerning to those who want to bring children to Bangladesh.
You have two options if you’re planning on driving in Bangladesh with children. You can bring your car seats from home. Vehicles have seatbelts, so all you have to do is secure the car seat to your rental car.
You can also purchase car seats while in Bangladesh. Despite there not being a law about using them, many parents in the country use them to keep their children safe while they are in the car.
Try not to be too surprised when you see the car seats in Bangladesh because they are very different from American ones. Most of them are simply a harness that attaches to the back of the seat in the car. The child is placed in the middle of the seat, and a flap comes up between the legs with two straps coming down over the shoulders. It’s simply a way to secure the child to the back of the vehicle’s seat.
While it is allowed to have the child sit in the front passenger seat, most American parents know that is not safe for children because of airbags. If an airbag deploys, it could suffocate the child. This is why it’s better to secure the child in the back seat of the vehicle.
Weather Concerns to Be Aware of When Driving in Bangladesh
Pay attention to the weather when you’re traveling in Bangladesh. The country has a subtropical monsoon climate. Intense storms with high wind speeds are common. Floods, tropical cyclones, tornados, and tidal bores can happen at any minute during the monsoon months, which can quickly stop tourists in their tracks.
When driving while it’s raining, be sure to drive slowly with windshield wipers on at the necessary speed. If the rainfall become intense, pull over the vehicle and wait until it calms down.
Any severe weather will be broadcasted, so stay inside whenever there is a report of it. Flooding will damage the rental vehicle and can cause you to get into an accident. Do not take the risk. If you don’t have to leave your hotel room, don’t do it. If you can pull over, do it.
Any vehicle problems incurred during inclement weather will be taken care of by the rental company if you have insurance. This is why it is important to invest in the insurance they provide. You may not want to pay the money each day for it, but it can save you in the long run if something happens to the vehicle.
WEARING SEAT BELTS IN BANGLADESH
Bangladesh has no seat belt laws. Most people do not wear them, but as an American, you’re probably used to wearing them. It’s a good idea to keep up the habit because of the high death rate as a result of car accidents in the country.
Many vehicles in the country do not have seat belts in front or back seats. Rental vehicles will have them because they are imported from Japan where it is mandatory to use seat belts.
You will find that seat belts are just the same as the ones in the United States. To ensure that they are operating correctly, pull quickly on the top part of the seat belt. If it stops, it’s working well. You should test the seat belts as soon as you get into the vehicle at the rental place. This way you don’t run the risk of driving around with a seat belt that can’t save you in the event of an accident.
Driving from Bangladesh to India
India borders Bangladesh, so many tourists want to cross over to India as part of their visit to the country. When driving in Bangladesh, there are some things you need to know if you want to go to India.
The India – Bangladesh border can be crossed at Petrapole and Benapole. It is the busiest border crossing between the countries. The problem is that no car can cross the border into India. The only way to do it is to take a specific bus for traveling from Bangladesh to India and vice versa.
Many tourists will return their rental car to take the bus to India. They can then rent a vehicle in India to drive around that country. When coming back to Bangladesh, the India rental vehicle will have to be returned before crossing over again.
You will need a VISA to cross the border. If you don’t have one while in Bangladesh, you can get one at the immigration office at the border. It should take about an hour depending on how many people are trying to get one at that time.
Itinerary for Driving in Bangladesh
If you’re unsure of how to drive through the country to see as much as possible, follow this route through it. This will take you through a nice tour in which you’ll be able to see the most amazing sights you’ll never forget.
Start in DHAKA, the capital city where you’ll see where the country is run. It’s where all the historical monuments are, such as the Liberation War Museum, Parliament House, and Dhakeshwari Temple.
This small town used to be the business capital of Bangladesh, but now it’s in ruins. Even so, it’s still a great place to go to see the Sonargaon museum which displays various pieces of art, crafts, and tools.
This is the next stop on your road trip through Bangladesh. It’s on the way to Chittagong and has signs of civilization from the 7th-8th century. You can see what excavators have found and visit the Second World War cemetery.
This is the largest port city in the country, and has an amusement park called Foy’s Lake Amusement World. It also has a Butterfly Park, Ship Breaking Yard, and Patenga Beach. Don’t leave the beach before you taste some Bangladeshi street food – it’s delicious!
Bandarban is the Hill Tracts region, and it has the highest peaks of Bangladesh. Feast your eyes on the small waterfalls and beautiful mountains all around you.
This beach city is just four hours from Bandarban and considered as the longest beach in the world. It’s a great place to relax and eat some great food. As part of your day tour of the area, you may consider going to St. Martin Island by way of one of the boats available. It’s the only coral island in Bangladesh.
Barisal is a small town with rivers and fields. It’s a nature lovers paradise. You will see wildlife roaming freely and you’ll truly connect with nature. The only snag in this stop is that it’s a 12-hour car ride from Cox’s Bazaar, so it’s best to leave Cox’s Bazaar in the morning to reach Barisal at night and then spend a day or two in the area before going to Sundarbans.
Sundarbans is where the famous mangrove forest is – Bangladesh’s main tourist attraction. See the Royal Bengal tigers and join a tour so you can really see everything the forest has to show you.
Sundarban is the last stop on the road trip. Many people will return their rental vehicle to fly back to Dhaka or drive back.
Drive in the Beautiful Country of Bangladesh
The beauty of Bangladesh won’t be easily forgotten if you have a chance to visit it. Many people don’t talk about the country because of its poor economy, but it truly is a beautiful country.
When driving in Bangladesh, just remember to be very careful. People do not take care of themselves and others as much as they do in the United States, and it only takes a minute to see the risks that are being taken on the road. As long as you wear your seatbelt and pay close attention to the vehicles around you, there shouldn’t be any problems getting around the country. Dhaka is the busiest area, but once you’re out of it, you won’t see as many vehicles around you except for the few speeding drivers on the highway.
The country is generally safe. The only crimes committed against tourists are usually pickpocketing, so be sure to keep your money and valuables hidden and unreachable. While in the car, keep your doors locked to prevent carjacking. Always lock your vehicle when you park it and keep valuables from view.
When bringing children to the country, be sure to either bring a car seat or purchase one when you get there. Use the car seat in the backseat where it is safer. This way if there is an accident, you’ve taken the necessary precautions to keep your children safe.
Despite all of the safety warnings with driving in Bangladesh, have a good time. You will quickly learn how to drive around in the country with others who may not be as experienced as you. Always remember to just let them go ahead and to not get upset at what they do. Road rage won’t help the driving situation in this country, so just take a deep breath and take in the sights, sounds, and life of Bangladesh.