Bangladesh transport 2015 1/3 – Planes, Trains and Automobiles – and buses, CNG’s, motorbikes, rickshaws, bicycles

In Bangladesh the modes of transport are Planes, Trains and Automobiles – and buses, CNG’s, motorbikes, rickshaws, bicycles and boats.  I didn’t catch a boat, but here is what I learnt on the rest.

PLANES

At Dhaka (DAC) the Domestic Terminal is just a few minutes walk from the International Terminal.  It’s to your right as you come out of the Customs area. When I was there, when I reached the domestic terminal  the door was blocked and I had to go outside. There are sales windows for the different domestic airlines as you walk outside to the entrance door into the terminal.  You can buy tickets there for domestic flights.

Inside the domestic terminal (landside) there are seats, toilets, and the airline check-in desks. That’s it. No shops or anything else.  Except mosquitoes. Lots of mosquitoes. If you want any information you need to ask the airline staff, as information boards don’t work and there are no announcements.  Some men hang around and want to try to help you – and then want money for it.  All they will do is ask (the airline staff)  the same questions you can ask.  Or it could just be a friendly fellow passenger – you have to judge. So have some mosquito repellant with you, some water to drink, and every once in a while ask the staff if you can go through into the boarding area.

United boarding pass

United boarding pass

Once they say OK they’ll issue the boarding card at the desk and you can go through security. It was a very cursory check – no interest in your PC or any liquids.  And the security gate beeps for everyone, so they give you a quick pat down. Women have a special curtained off pat down area, but most passengers are men.

There is a small pastry shop airside where you can buy drinks. A coke cost Tk50.  Again, if you want any information you need to ask the airline staff, as information boards don’t work and there are no announcements, but sometime staff call out flight departures. I asked people who were queueing if the flight was for my destination, as I was nervous about just not knowing what was happening.

Then when the flight is ready you board a bus to the plane.

United flight from DAC to CXB

United flight from DAC to CXB – plane is an ATR 72-212A

On my flight to Cox’s Bazar, out of about 80 seats on the plane there were only 13 passengers.

2 + 2 seat configuration

2 + 2 seat configuration

So the flight attendant said to sit anywhere I felt like.

snack supplied

snack supplied

snack

snack

After takeoff we were served a snack.  It was mostly cloudy once we ascended, but I caught some glimpses of the ground.

Cox's Bazar terminal

Cox’s Bazar terminal

the tarmac and plane

the tarmac and plane

CXB is a small airport and you just walked from the plane to transport.  No need to enter the terminal unless you have luggage to collect.  Transport consisted of CNG’s and rickshaws.  I caught a rickshaw, so I will deal with them next.

RICKSHAW

rickshaw

rickshaw

In some countries they are called trishaws, as I believe the original rickshaws are simply a man pulling a two-wheeled cart with one or two passengers onboard. And the word comes, I believe, from the Japanese jinrickisha = person power wheel (cart).

You have to catch rickshaws if you want to get around. Or spend double on CNG’s.I wrote the following in my blog about preparation for the trip: “First you ask at hotel or shop what a fare should be.  Then check that with driver. He will first ignore the question and ask you to get on.  When you insist, if he speaks some English you can say the amount.  If not, say in Bengali or show him the (money) notes.  Then bargain. He will almost never accept the local fare.   So it will still cost more than you’re told.  When you arrive and give the agreed amount he’ll look aggrieved and moan for more.  Easiest is just to hand him the money without looking at him and stride off giving him little time to react – and then ignore it if he calls out. Just don’t forget anything on the seat. An example, the hotel in Chittagong told me it would cost Tk50 to get to a restaurant I named. none would do it for less than Tk 100.  A rickshaw agreed finally to Tk 40, but even when I gave him Tk50 he moaned and groaned for more. And for the return journey it was even harder…”  Local residents, of course, don’t have these problems.

They will take two people and their luggage – if it will go on your lap or stay on your back.

rickshaw

rickshaw on a rainy day

On a rainy day they put the hood up and a sheet of plastic in front of the passenger compartment.  You still get wet, but not so bad. And they’ll charge more for the rainy trip.

These guys have a hard life and you feel humanity for them, but when they use tricks and are dishonest, then all you want to do is pay the agreed fare and get on with your trip.

I asked a resident about the rickshaw business. Rickshaws cost TK20,000+ to buy.  Most drivers rent them. The daily rent is Tk90 – 120 depending on the condition of the rickshaw.  In the tourist season a driver can earn Tk1 – 2,000 per day. Other times, not very much.

They are used to carry all sorts of cargo around, too.

carrying stuff

carrying stuff

carrying stuff

carrying stuff

carrying stuff

carrying stuff

 

CNG

CNG

CNG

Logically I should deal with the CNG next. This means Compressed Natural Gas, which is the fuel they run on. Actually I only caught one once, so I am no expert. They cost more to ride than a rickshaw, but being a more solid vehicle should be safer, they are obviously faster, being powered, and can be used for longer distances. Establishing the fare is the same procedure as a rickshaw.  They are also used shared, but I don’t know how that works.  In Cox’s Bazar and Srimangal the CNG’s are open, but in Chittagong and Dhaka they are enclosed with mesh and lockable.

CNG in Dhaka enclosed with mesh

CNG in Dhaka enclosed with mesh

Apparently thieves and robbers would get in and rob the driver. Now with the lockable mesh he can control who gets in.

riding in a CNG

riding in a CNG

BUS / COACH

One choice for travelling between towns / cities is a bus or coach.  There are cheaper companies with very old battered buses that have little leg room and are often packed with people, and more expensive coach companies where the vehicles are less battered and have more leg room.  As road transport is much more dangerous than rail I wanted to avoid buses altogether, but from Cox’s Bazar there is no train, so a coach it had to be. But seeing the country from the road gives you a better idea than from the train or plane of everyday life, so I think one coach journey is a good idea. Apparently the Dhaka – Chittagong road route is the most dangerous in the country, and thus should be avoided.

I can’t really generalise with just one coach journey, so I’ll relate my experience of the trip from Cox’s Bazar to Chittagong as follows: Local residents recommended Green Line, which has two offices in Cox’s Bazar, so I decided to buy a ticket for the next day. I hoped the more expensive bus would be safer, with better tyres, brakes and driver. I think that is partly true.

coach ticket

coach ticket

Easiest would be if the hotel just got me a ticket, I thought. The receptionist  in the hotel wanted me to use another company and was reluctant to give information on Green Line.  The fare for the other coach company was TK800 according to him. Instead I spent Tk30 for a rickshaw to the office, and bought a ticket for the next day for TK650. Nothing seemed to be fully booked so I had a choice of times.

Here is the route map:

route from Cox's Bazar to Chittagong

route from Cox’s Bazar to Chittagong

I followed our “progress” on Google Maps as we proceeded.

One of the Green Line offices in Cox's Bazar

One of the Green Line offices in Cox’s Bazar

The ticket suggested being at the office 15 minutes before departure.  Departure was 9AM, and arrival time 4.30PM.  Seven and a half hours for a distance of about 140KM! The office has a toilet, and is clean enough.  You can eat nearby.  As usual there was no information about actual arrival of the coach and departure thereafter.  It’s a matter of asking the staff when one arrives if that is the appropriate one.  Each coach has a number, and the conductor of the coach before mine came into the office calling out the number – also in English – “601”.  Then later 602 arrived – about half an hour later.

20150423 (9) (Copy)

You can put luggage in the hold, but I kept my bag with me, although it appeared the hold was safe enough. Departure was 37 minutes late. Plenty of leg room, and a 500ml  bottle of water was supplied. And the coach was quite empty. No onboard toilet, though.

quite spacey interior

quite spacey interior

We went through some countryside but also many villages which were very slow going, and sometimes stopped.  After a couple of hours we stopped for a break at Green Line’s rest stop at about 11.30, which had a restaurant and facilities.  That was the only stop, though.

we stopped for a break

we stopped for a break

We stayed about 30 minutes. Continuing, and it became more and more urban.  So many villages, and so many jams. We crossed a lot of rivers and streams.  And a great many brick factories – which apparently supply 1% of the GDP. Apparently the coach wouldn’t drop off anyone until it arrived at the terminal. We arrived about 3.15PM.

At terminal I asked how to get to station and  a rough price.  Tk100 by CNG.  But I had to pay Tk130.

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