Paola, our honorary member from Dhaka, continues informing us about life in her hosting country, Bangladesh, with this thorough article on Dhaka Airport – thanks a lot Paola!
Hazrat Shah Jalal International Airport (the name changes according to which political party is in power) is commonly known as Dhaka Airport.
Note: I am writing this in March 2013, at a time of serious political unrest, with frequent general strikes (Hartals) and violence: exercise extreme caution when travelling to and from the airport, and get advice from your Embassy.
An excellent place to get the latest information about anything in Dhaka is the Facebook page Deshperate in Dhaka: it’s a closed group, so if you will plan to visit Dhaka, ask to be added to the list of members before you come.
Dhaka airport can only be described as chaotic and shabby: if have to go through it, keep your wits about you and arm yourself with a good dose of humour.
Situation in relation to the city centre: the airport is situated about 17 kilometres north of the city centre and 8 kilometres north of the expat areas of Gulshan, Baridhara and Banani.
How to get there
Bear in mind that Dhaka traffic is horrendous: it can take you an hour and a half to cover ten kilometres. It is slightly better at weekends and at between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.
Most good hotels have a shuttle service. There are plenty of cabs, but it is best to travel by private car or hotel shuttle. There are some reliable taxis: the best way to find one is to get a recommendation via the Facebook page Deshperate in Dhaka. A recent rumour has it that a bus that runs from the Radisson Hotel (situated five kilometres from the airport on the way into the city and the expat areas) to the airport which takes a route through the army grounds. This is useful on Hartal Days as it avoids the main roads.
There is a National and an International terminal. The information in this article is about the International terminal. There are plenty of porters and trolleys, but the chaos and crowds which welcome you as you arrive at the airport are scary. It’s best to get in our out as quickly as possible, preferably accompanied by someone who knows their way about.
At the time of writing there is no strict security to get into the airport: your luggage is scanned and there is a cursory body scan.
There are plenty: check with your airline.
Slow and not particularly friendly
There is a small, often crowded, but adequate business class lounge upstairs in the departure area. Non-business class passengers can access this by paying about fifteen Euros.
There are plenty, and most are on the lower end of the spectrum of cleanliness: the one in the business class lounge is the best, and the one near the upstairs restaurant is cleaner than the others.
There is an ATM and an exchange booth in the arrivals hall
There is a café upstairs in the departure area.
There are a few in the departure area, but don’t get your hopes up for anything exciting!
Free wifi access is available in the upstairs café and in the business class lounge
The only good hotel near the airport is the Radisson
When you arrive, it can easily take over an hour for your luggage to appear on the belt. If you can’t find it, check at the beginning of the belt as bags are often dumped there if there is too much on the belt.
For some nationalities, (for example, the U.S.) visas are available on arrival: check with your Embassy.