Moving to Bangladesh: Country Guide

A city of the sky line of Bangladesh with a lot of buildings

From mosques and palaces, to beaches and jungles, Bangladesh offers a mesmerizing experience for expatriates seeking a new adventure in life. In urban Bangladesh, the streets are bustling with activity, with rickshaws and traffic cascading in all directions. Tourists, expats, and locals all feed off of the country’s unique Asian culture, taking in everything from the capital of Dhaka, to the remote jungle lands that surround the borders. In this guide, you’ll find out everything you need to know about living in Bangladesh, including employment, weather, emergency situations, social etiquette, and much more. 

Quick Facts

Capital: Dhaka
Population: 156.6 million (2013)
Major language: Bengali (Bangla)
Major Religion: 90% Muslim, 9% Hindus and 1% Buddhist and Christian minorities.
Currency: Bangladesh Taka (BDT) = 100 paisa
Time zone:  UTC/GMT+6 hours
Emergency numbers: 999 (Emergency Dispatch), 8-665-513 (Police), 199 (Medical), 9-555-555 (Fire)
Electricity: 220 volts AC, 50Hz (British-style three-prong plugs, standard European rounded two-pin plugs, rounded three-pin plugs and American-style plugs with two flat pins)
Drives on the: Left

Getting Started

Climate and weather  
Nestled between India and Burma, Bangladesh is a small country with a hot, tropical climate. From late May to early October, the country experiences a monsoon season characterized by heavy rains and widespread flooding. In fact, about 80 percent of Bangladesh’s rain falls during monsoon season.
Following the monsoons, the country is cooled from late October through early March. During this post-monsoon season, temperatures average 10 degrees Celsius in the country’s coldest month, January.

If you are visiting Bangladesh during the summer months, you should wear light, loose fitting clothing. Be sure to pack your rain jacket and umbrella if you plan to be in the country during the monsoons! On the other hand, if you plan to visit the country during the winter, warmer clothing is advised; especially for the northern mountain regions which experiences significantly colder weather than the rest of the country.

After securing yourself employment in Bangladesh, you will need to take the necessary steps to ensure that you have the correct visas ready prior to your departure.​ This documentation process takes some time, so be sure to plan ahead!

To start, as a future expatriate working in Bangladesh, you will most likely apply for a tourist visa. This type of visa allows you to be in the country for 30 days, depending on your country of origin. Be sure to consult with your nearest consulate to figure out which visa is the best for your journey to Bangladesh.

To be considered for a Bangladeshi visa you will need the following documents:
·    Valid passport,
·    Hotel confirmation
·    Letter of invitation
·    Letter from company & Letter of invitation from company based in Bangladesh including the traveler’s name and passport number (For business travelers, only).
Some individuals do not need a visa depending on their country of origin. Check with the closest Bangladesh consulate to find out if you require a visa before beginning your journey abroad.

From flats and houses to buying property, Bangladesh offers an abundant source of affordable housing options for everyone.

When securing housing in Bangladesh, there are many options available to you. To narrow down your choices, first decide on an area that you would like to live in. Many expatriates find that the residential areas in Dhaka, such as Gulshan and Banani, are the most comfortable and convenient.
After deciding which location is perfect for your stay in Bangladesh, you can begin to look into the types of property available. You may choose to rent an apartment or even purchase a house or plot of land. Since most expats are only in the country for a short period of time, renting an apartment is usually the most cost-effective option.

The Bangladeshi education system is divided into multiple levels and may be confusing for foreigners. There are three main educational systems: the General education System, Madrasah Education System, and the Technical-Vocational Education System. Madrasah provides a religious-based education while Technical-Vocational studies often offer courses specific to various applied and practical areas of science, technology and engineering.

Levels begin with primary level education for 5 years, junior level for 3 years, secondary level for 2 years, higher secondary level for 2 years and tertiary level education. Although the Bangladeshi government offers free education for children in secondary schooling aged six through eighteen, many children are forced to withdraw from schooling due to poverty.

During a child’s educational career, he or she is given the option of receiving their education in English or Bangla. If you choose to send your child to a private or international school, he or she may be subjected to the use of English-based study media while government-funded schools often provide Bangla-based study media.

If you are worried about your child’s educational transition from schooling in your home country to schooling in Bangladesh, you may wish to look into sending him or her to an international school. There are many international schools located in Bangladesh including international schools offering Australian, British, Turkish, etc., curriculum.


The official language of Bangladesh is Bengali, also known as Bangla. The majority of Bangladesh’s inhabitants speak Bengali; however, there are many people across the country who speak English and Urdu, as well.

Bengali is heavily influenced by phrases from the Islamic and Hindu religions. Depending on the region you are in, you may notice many variations of Bengali being spoken. Some of the language’s words are even adopted from the English language including words such as “tebil” (table), “television”, “telephone”, “video” and “radio”.

As an expatriate worker in Bangladesh you may find that it is difficult to conduct business in the country without a basic knowledge of the Bengali language. After all, Bengali is the country’s main business language. While most business will be conducted in Bengali, you will find that some businessmen may choose to communicate in English, as well.

Social etiquette 
In Bangladesh’s hierarchical society, a person’s position and age earns them respect and wisdom. When in a group, the most senior person (by position or age) will often make the important decisions. This social norm carries into the workplace, as well.

Muslim and Bengali cultures mix throughout the country with many Bangladeshis holding cross-cultural beliefs. For example, many Bangladeshis believe in Shamanism and the powerful fakirs (Muslim holy men/exorcists/faith healers), Ojhaa (shamins with magical healing powers), and Bauls (religious mendicants and wandering musicians). These folk traditions and believes are incorporated in the many Bangladeshi customs involving music, dance and literature.

Bangladesh’s social etiquette is based off of these multicultural beliefs. Greetings are conservative and often only take place between members of the same sex. Men may exchange gentle handshakes, while women are rarely introduced. (Only offer a handshake if the woman you are introduced to extends her hand first).

Due to the country’s emphasis on hierarchy, be sure to properly address a person while acknowledging their seniority. For example, if the person you are addressing is older than you, you may call them by their first name and a suffix that clarifies the person’s relationship with you.

As you travel around the country, keep these cultural differences in mind in order to avoid appearing offensive or ignorant. Bangladesh’s social etiquette has deep religious roots. Keep an open mind and respect the Bangladeshi beliefs!

With a large portion of Bangladesh bordering India, many Bangladeshi dishes are similar to Indian cuisine. However, some of the best dishes found in Bangladesh are unique to the country.

Most dishes consist of fish, rice, and grounded spice paste and can be enjoyed in tea stalls, on the street, in canteens, restaurants and village homes.

Popular Bangladesh dishes include:
·    Korma, bhuna, masala gosht, and dahl (Curries) served with rice
·    Shami kebab (a small patty made of minced meat)
·    Fresh and smoked hilsa and bhetki (fish dishes)
·    Chotpoti (Chickpea, potato, eggs, and spices stew)
·    Misti Dhohi (Sweetened yogurt)

Bangladesh is home to many unique drinks including specialty teas, yogurt and fruit drinks. Whether you are enjoying a small cup of chai between meals or staying hydrated with all natural coconut water, there is truly something for everything.

Some exotic Bangladesh drinks that you should try while visiting include:
·    Chai (Milky sweet tea)
·    Lassi (Yogurt drink)
·    Green Coconut Water
·    7-Layer tea (Combination of black tea, green tea, condensed milk and various spices)
Since the majority of Bangladesh’s population are Muslim, there are very few places were alcohol is sold. As a foreigner, avoid drinking alcohol on Friday, the Muslim holy day.

With a large population of Muslims, many Bangladeshi holidays are of Islamic descent. The country celebrates a wide range of religious, public and national holidays.

Some Bangladeshi holidays include:
·    Shahid Dibash (Language Martyrs’ Day)
·    Shadhinota Dibôsh (Independence Day)
·    Pôhela Boishakh (Bangla New Year’s Day)
·    Me Dibôsh (May Day)
·    Vesak/Wesak/Vesakha (Buddha Day)
·    Eid ul-Fitr (marks the end of Ramadan, a period of Muslim fasting & intense worship)
·    Krishna Janmaashtami (the birth of Krishna)
·    Durga Puja (Vijaya Dasami)
·    Eid ul-Adha
·    Bijôe Dibôsh (Victory Day)
·    Bôrodin (Christmas Day)

Cultural faux pas
·    Do not eat, pass dishes, drink, shake hands or pass business cards with your left hand. Reserve these activities for your right hand. In Bangladeshi culture, the left hand is considered unclean.
·    Do not attempt to shake hands or touch a Bangladeshi woman. It is considered inappropriate for members of the opposite sex to engage in such contact. Instead, place your hand on your heart and give a slight bow to greet.
·    When sightseeing, you must ask permission to enter a mosque. Enquire if you may enter and if you may take pictures. Be sure to dress conservatively by covering your head, arms, and legs. You will be required to remove your shoes before entering, as well.
·    Always remove your shoes before entering someone’s home. It is okay for you to remove your shoes using your left hand. Leaving your shoes on in someone’s home is considered rude.

Getting In Touch

The international dialing code for Bangladesh is +880. Across the country, the quality of mobile phone service varies.  Coverage is usually the strongest in main towns and cities. More remote regions may not provide adequate service.

If you are living in an area with poor mobile service coverage, you can take advantage of the region’s public telephone booths. These public phones are most likely to be found in the town’s marketplace and in post offices.

Unfortunately, there are many barriers to accessing the internet in Bangladesh. Internet providers require high service charges and unless you are willing to pay high prices for private internet usage, going online might not be affordable.

In some areas, you may be able to access the Internet at one of the country’s few internet cafes. If you are staying in a hotel in Dhaka or Chittagong, Internet access may be provided to you as a guest.

Postal services  
The national post office of Bangladesh provides many services such as domestic and international mailings, banking and online parcel/letter tracking.
When sending mail internationally, it typically takes three to four days for airmail to arrive in Europe. If you choose to send international main via surface mail, it may take up to several weeks for delivery. Packages sent via airmail are sent in blue boxes while packages sent through surface mail are mailed in red boxes.

Often, expats find that Bangladeshi postal services are unreliable. Packages may never be delivered and valuable items should never be sent through the mail. If you must send a package containing objects of value, use a private mailing service that is more reliable.


The job market
Despite the large population of people living in poverty and recent corruption of economy, Bangladesh is slowly getting back on its feet.

More than half of the Bangladeshi population is employed in the agriculture sector (specifically in rice farming) and the country also has booming textile and garment industries.

While searching for employment in Bangladesh, you will find that positions are often available in the country’s pharmaceuticals, shipbuilding, ceramics, leather goods, and electronics sectors. The country also has a growing manufacturing and industry sector with many new jobs available in garment and apparel production.

Income tax
As an expatriate working in Bangladesh, you will be charged an income tax on all income earned; including both income earned while in Bangladesh and foreign income received from Bangladesh sources. Only exempt income will not be charged an income tax.
The level of taxation depends on your residential status within a tax year. Bangladeshi residents are taxed on worldwide income while foreign nationals are usually only taxed on income received while in Bangladesh and foreign income earned from Bangladesh sources. On the other hand, those who are not residents of the country will be taxed only on income from Bangladesh.
Residency is based on the number of days you spend in Bangladesh during one income year. You will be considered a resident if you spend 182 days or more in the country. You may also be considered a Bangladeshi resident if you spend 90 days or more in the country and have previously resided in Bangladesh for more than 365 days during the four years prior.

Business etiquette 
Business in Bangladesh is quite formal. Upon meeting someone for the first time, men will shake hands and politely nod to females. To address a male, use the term “Bahadur” (“Sir”). While addressing a female, you may call her “Begum” (Madam”). These names are appropriate to use before you are invited to call your partners on a first name bases.

After an initial introduction, you can begin to exchange business cards. Be sure to transfer your card using your right hand. You may choose to include your educational qualifications on your card (such as university degrees), as these are highly valued in Bangladesh. When you receive a card, carefully look it over before putting it away. Commenting on the card and reading it through shows respect.

During meetings, try your best not to get angry or show strong emotions. The Bangladeshis believe that doing so will make you “lose face” which is unprofessional.  You must also aim to avoid putting anyone in such a situation where they lose face.

With its unique location in Southeast Asia and its affordable cost of living, Bangladesh is becoming an appealing retirement destination for those who are looking to settle in a very rural country.

Many people are hesitant to retire to the country due to its large population of poverty. However, with careful planning prior to retirement, you can avoid areas struck with extreme poverty.  By living in an urban Bangladeshi region, you can live comfortably.

The official currency of Bangladesh is the Bangladeshi taka (BDK, Tk). Banknotes can be found in denominations of Tk1, Tk2, Tk5, Tk10, Tk20, Tk50, Tk100, Tk500, Tk1000. This currency also includes coins that include Tk1, Tk2, Tk5, Tk10, Tk25, Tk50.

Cost of living 
While the poverty rate of the country is particularly high, the cost of living in Bangladesh is surprisingly affordable. Food, housing, and leisure activities can be found for fairly low prices depending on location. Rent per month is very inexpensive, especially in Dhaka, the country’s capital.  By exploring your options, you can live in Bangladesh on a particularly low budget.

Expat banking in Bangladesh may prove to be very difficult. With long processes for international transactions, foreigners face difficulties when transferring money and opening accounts.
Banks have varying schedules depending on the bank and its location. Usually, hours of operation include Sunday through Thursday, between 10am and 4pm.  Due to the large population of Muslims, banks may close during the afternoon for prayers and food. Select banks may offer services on Saturdays and in evenings, as well.


Healthcare facilities in rural Bangladesh are often underfinanced and underdeveloped with less than favorable standards. As you travel closer to the urban centers, especially in the Dhaka (the country’s capital), you will find that there is a significant improvement in hospitals and doctors’ offices. While urban facilities may be better than those of rural areas, the country’s overall healthcare is still fairly poor.

Private Medical Insurance
While having private health insurance isn’t essential, it may be best for you to purchase your own plan while working abroad. Without the proper coverage treatments, procedures, and visits to the hospital will earn you out-of-pocket expenses. In fact, Bangladesh does not offer any public funding cover for expatriates. So, be sure that you have the proper amount of coverage in case of a medical emergency.

In case of an emergency while in Bangladesh, you are encouraged to dial the emergency dispatch line at 999. (Specifically, if you are facing a medical emergency, you may choose to dial the country’s medical line at 199 to request an ambulance). If you are in an extremely rural region, you may need to dial local emergency numbers in order to receive medical help. Before traveling, look up the emergency numbers for the area you will be visiting.

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