This article is part of a much longer and comprehensive work that we are translating from Italian for you. Aim of the complete article is to provide expat women arriving in their new host countries with some general information if they find themselves in an emergency situation with regard to their safety and health. We thank Paola in Bangladesh for this valuable information, and we invite you to come back and visit us to appreciate the article in its entirety once it will be translated.
What you are about to read has been written before the recent turmoils that are shaking Bangladesh. In this precise moment (5th March) be very cautious and don’t move around without contacting your Embassy. We think of all the people that lost their lives and are very close to Paola and all other expats in Dhaka and everybody else in this difficult moment.
The Expatclic Team
This article will only cover Dhaka, as that’s where most expats live in Bangladesh.
Risks for women
Normal common-sense rules apply in Bangladesh as in any country where there are a lot of people and a lot of poverty: do not carry valuables, do not wear expensive jewellery, do not walk about alone at night. People are generally very friendly, and it is unusual to be hassled, except by beggars.
Bangladesh, although secular according to its constitution, is 95% Moslem. Out of respect for the local culture, it is advisable for expat women in Dhaka to wear loose-fitting trousers and loose tops with sleeves. You do not need to cover your head, but it’s good to always have a big shawl or scarf with you. It’s wise to dress modestly even if you go out jogging in a park: an expat woman who was jogging in leggings and a T-shirt was raped recently.
Areas to avoid
Most expats in Dhaka live in the northern suburbs of Gulshan, Baridhara and Banani, and the heavy traffic makes it difficult to go anywhere else. It’s wise to keep an eye on the news (you can see an online edition of one of the main English language newspapers here) as there is frequent political unrest. During hartals (general strikes) it is advisable to remain within the Gulshan-Baridhara-Banani area.
Means of transport
Few expats in Dhaka take buses or CNGs (the local equivalent of tuk-tuks) as these are very crowded and uncomfortable. Driving is hazardous, the roads extremely busy, and traffic rules non-existent, so many expats employ a driver. Some expats in Dhaka take rickshaws, others don’t. There have been many handbag-snatching incidents where rickshaw passengers have been targeted: a motorbike or car will drive up very close, snatch your bag, and zoom off. Since zooming off is not easy in the usual traffic, these incidents generally occur at weekends or during hartals, when the roads are less busy. Many people say the rickshaw pullers are sometimes in league with the thieves. If you choose to use rickshaws, you should try to always use the same driver: they all have mobile phones and can be easily contacted. It’s a question of balancing freedom and safety…
For health-related matters, most expats in Dhaka use the ICDDRB travel clinic, which also has a branch at the International School. Dr Dawn Rees who works there is specialized in gynaecology and dermatology. She may refer you to the United or Apollo Hospitals. For delivery, expectant mothers generally go to Thailand or their home country: among other concerns, the caesarian section rate here is extremely high. For more information on the health situation in Bangladesh, see my Expatclic article here.
Women’s Support Groups
The best place to get any information, support, advice you want about Dhaka is the Facebook group Deshperate in Dhaka.
Other than that, there is an active British Women’s Association, which can be contacted through their Facebook page. Although the members are predominantly British (or married to Britons), they have a quota for members of other nationalities.
For expats in Dhaka, it is difficult to survive without being a member of one of the many expat clubs (Nordic, Canadian, German, Australian, American etc.) And once you have joined one club, your membership card will grant you access to most of the other expat clubs. The expat clubs are a great place to find sporting activities and make friends.
Dhaka is not an easy posting, but often the tougher postings are the friendliest for expats!