I love a good list. I love writing them, but I especially love crossing things off them. It’s a real sense of accomplishment. And yes, I am one of those people who will write something on a list just so I can cross it off, even if it’s already done.
So, where is my list for this trip to Bangladesh? I realised about six weeks ago that I was hideously under-prepared for the one journey that actually takes quite a bit of planning. In this case, I also have to consider the needs of my nine year old son who is travelling with me. There are three major things we need to prepare for in particular: Visas, Heath and Clothing.
VISAS. Australian passport holders require a visa for entry into Bangladesh. No visa, no go. Now, in Australia visas for Bangladesh get issued at the Embassy in Canberra and there are conflicting reports as to how long it should take, what paperwork you need and so forth. Always check with your travel agent or with a registered visa service such as CIBT Visas for the most up-to-date advice and application forms regarding visas. In our case, our tourist visas took about ten days and were processed smoothly, but I have heard several cases first-hand which have taken considerably longer than that. Always allow adequate time for visa processing.
It’s also a really good idea for Australian travellers to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade through their Smart Traveller program. Registration is quick and means that in case of an emergency DFAT is aware that you are in the area and can contact you and/or your contacts back in Australia. Register here.
HEALTH. The standard of medical facilities in Bangladesh is poor and is very limited outside the capital, Dhaka. Therefore, as a traveller you really need to seek professional medical advice prior to your trip to make sure you have all the recommended vaccinations and are armed with all the medication you need to help you in case you become ill. This is particularly important when you are taking young children to underdeveloped nations. My son and I saw the Travel Doctor a month ago and so are all set having been jabbed for Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Tetanus, had an oral vaccine for Cholera and then a pile of potions to stop any midnight toilet dashes and infections while we’re travelling. We’ve also got an industrial sized containers of hand sanitiser, DEET insect repellent and sunscreen.
Fact or fiction? A colleague told me that her family swore by red cordial when travelling through Asia and the Indian subcontinent. She said that a drink of red cordial each day helped to protect the gut and none of them ever got “Delhi beli”. As a result I also have a litre of concentrated red cordial to take with me. Have you heard of this? I’m fascinated to try it out!
I also can’t stress enough how important having a really comprehensive travel insurance policy is when you travel, especially to countries such as Bangladesh. Make insurance a priority in your trip budget.
CLOTHING. My golden rule of travel is to always be respectful of other cultures and to do my best to assimilate where possible. I try really hard not to cause offence and to minimise cultural discomfort. For this trip, we’ll be heading into rural villages with the charity, Symbiosis International, so it has been recommended that wearing traditional clothing will help me (and the locals) to feel more comfortable. It’s not an attempt to blend in – somehow I think that a tall, large white woman and her fair-haired, blue-eyed son are going to stand out incredibly regardless of how we are dressed. However, as Bangladesh is a traditional Muslim society, wearing clothing that draws attention to the female form won’t help anyone, particularly as we visit women’s groups and people’s homes.
Very fortunately for me, Symbiosis have generously given me a massive box of women’s clothing from which I managed to find three outfits that are suitable. They are essentially a three-piece set – baggy pants which taper at the ankle, a long, loose-fitting top which comes to below the knees and the orna – a long piece of material worn over the chest and over the head as needed. The pants are a bit short and the tops not quite as long (or loose!) as they are meant to be, however I am pretty happy with what I have managed to get. Slip on shoes or sandals are the best footwear as I’m told I’ll be taking my shoes off as frequently as in Japan – every time you enter a house, a place of worship and so on. My faithful Birkenstocks are about to get another workout!
Packing? That’s a whole separate blog! But for now I feel confident that the major items are ticked off the list. Hang on, I didn’t have a list…
Get Tourist Visas See Travel Doctor Get suitable clothing ready
Ah, that feels better!
x Sonia x