Taking the train in Bangladesh

Watching the news, you could be forgiven for thinking that Bangladesh was not so much a country as a disaster zone.  But you'd be surprised.  It is a fascinating country with a rich and varied history and at present fairly few tourists.  Bangladesh has a largely British-built rail network linking most major towns and cities, including Dhaka & Chittagong.  The network is divided into two halves, eastern and western, by the great rivers which divide the country itself.  The western network is largely broad gauge, the eastern network largely metre gauge.  Unfortunately, connections between these two networks are often poor.  There is a railway route map at www.railway.gov.bd.

  Dhaka to Chittagong train service

  Getting to Cox's Bazaar

  Calcutta (Kolkata) to Dhaka by 'Maitree Express' train

  Calcutta (Kolkata) to Dhaka by bus

  

  How to travel overland train travel from Europe to Dhaka

  Train travel in India

  Train travel in Pakistan


Useful country information

Train operator:

Bangladesh Railways (BR), www.railway.gov.bd 

 

Time zone:

GMT+6 (no daylight saving in 2010 or 2011, but there was in 2009).

Dialling code:

 

+880

Currency:

1 = approx 110 Taka.   $1 = 76 Taka.    Currency converter

Tourist information:

Tripadvisor Bangladesh page   Health & vaccinations

Hotels:

 

Hotels in Bangladesh

Visas:

UK citizens need a visa for Bangladesh, see www.bhclondon.org.uk.

Page last updated:

2 January 2020


Dhaka - Chittagong by train...

There is a good train service between the capital city, Dhaka, and Bangladesh's second city, Chittagong.  Dhaka & Chittagong are both in the eastern half of the country on the metre-gauge train network, linked by fast daytime InterCity trains and two good overnight trains with sleeping-cars.   Here is an example timetable of the best trains which you can check for the latest version at www.railway.gov.bd:

 Dhaka ► Chittagong

 Train number:

788

704

4

702

2

742

 Type:

Intercity

Intercity

Express

Intercity

Mail

Intercity

 Name:

Sonar Bangla

Express

Mohanagar

Provati

Karnaphuli

Express

Subarna

Express

Chittagong

Mail

Turna

Express

 Days:

not Saturday

daily

daily

not Friday

Daily

daily

 Dhaka depart:

07:00

07:45

08:30

15:00

22:30

23:30

 Chittagong arrive:

12:40

14:55

18:30

20:30

07:50

07:10

Dhaka = Dhaka Kamalapur station.

Intercity = Fast quality train, restaurant car, recommended.  AC class seats, snigdha, 1st class, shuvon chair, shuvon & shulov seats.

Turna Express = Overnight quality intercity service with air-conditioned AC class 2-berth sleepers, AC class seats, 1st class seats, shuvon chair, shuvon & shulov seats.

Sonar Bangla Express uses the latest carriages, delivered in 2016.

Express = Slower than InterCity trains.  Air-conditioned AC class seats, 1st class seats, shuvon chair, shuvon & shulov seats. 

Mail = Slower overnight train with AC class 2-berth sleepers, 1st class 4-berth sleepers, 1st class seats, shuvon chair, shuvon & shulov  seats.

not Sunday = daily except Sundays;  not Friday = daily except Fridays.

 Chittagong ► Dhaka

 Train number:

701

721

3

703

787

1

741

 Type:

Intercity

Intercity

Express

Intercity

Intercity

Mail

Intercity

 Name:

Subarna

Express

Mohanagar

Provati

Karnaphuli

Express

Mohanagar

Goduli

Sonar Bangla

Express

Dhaka

Mail

Turna

Express

 Days:

not Friday

not Sunday

daily

daily

not Saturday

daily

daily

 Chittagong depart:

07:00

12:30

10:00

15:00

17:00

22:30

23:00

 Dhaka arrive:

12:40

19:30

20:10

22:15

22:40

07:20

06:30

 Fares

 Dhaka - Chittagong one-way fares per person, in Taka...

 AC class berth

AC class seat

Snigdha

1st class berth

1st class seat

Shuvon Chair

Shuvon

Shulov

1093

731

610

635

425

320

285

160

1 = approx 115 taka.  $1 = approx 75 taka.

Children under 3 travel free, children aged 3 to 9 half fare.  Children 10 and over pay the adult fare.

You can check fares at www.railway.gov.bd.

How to buy tickets...

Bangladeshi Railways now have an online ticket service, see www.esheba.cnsbd.com, but it only works with Bangladeshi bank cards and tickets are only sent to Bangladesh mobile phones, so it's no good for overseas visitors.  The high-quality InterCity trains are very popular and often leave full, so make reservations at a station as soon as you can, or find a suitable local travel agency who will arrange tickets for you.  Feedback appreciated.

Classes of accommodation...

There are a variety classes on Bangladeshi trains, where AC means air-conditioned...

- AC class berth.  These are air-conditioned 2-berth sleeper compartments on the best overnight trains.

- AC class seat.  The best accommodation on daytime trains.  Air-conditioned, carpeted cars with reclining seats, all reserved.

- Snigdha.  These are AC class air-conditioned reclining seats cars with TV screen.

- 1st class berth.  1st class berths are arranged in 4-berth sleeper compartments on overnight trains.

- 1st class seat, all reserved.

- 2nd class shuvon chair.  Shuvon means better looking, a second class chair car with reclining seats, all reserved.

- 2nd class shuvon.  More basic seating than shuvon chair cars, all reserved.

- 2nd class Shulov.  Shulov means easily available.  These are second class cars with bench seats.  Unreserved seating, often crowded.

What are Bangladeshi trains like

Dhaka-Chittagong InterCity train   First class air-con seats on a Dhaka-Chittagong intercity train

AC class air-conditioned intercity car on a Dhaka-Chittagong train.  Photo courtesy of Bob Hindley...

 

AC class seats on a Dhaka-Chittagong train.  Photo courtesy of Bob Hindley...

Snigdha seats on a Dhaka-Chittagong train

Snigdha AC Chair Car on the Subarna Express intercity service between Dhaka and Chittagong.  Photo courtesy of Sumit Chowdhury.

First class AC 2-berth sleeper on the Dhaka-Chittagong overnight train

 

Buying tickets at Dhaka station

Above:  AC class 2-berth sleeper on the Dhaka-Chittagong night train (bedding provided).

 

Above:  Buying tickets at Dhaka station.  Both photos courtesy of Bob Hindley...

Travellers' reports...

Traveller S.P Chattopadhyay reports:  "I travelled via AC sleeper  on the overnight inter-city express, and trip was comfortable and uneventful.  Train arrived at platform in Chittagong "new" station about 45 minutes ahead of departure time of 11pm.  Compartment was clean, but the linens looked worn.  AC was working well and arrival into Dhaka was on time at 6:20 am.  I was able to buy the ticket the day before departure, without any problems. I would recommend this train over intercity bus travel between the two cities which involved traffic tie-ups and harrowing over-taking/lane-changing in face of unheeding opposing traffic!"

Traveller Maggie Brown reports:  "I travelled from Dhaka to Srimongel in July 2011. I went up to Srimongel in a 2nd class carriage with reclining seats without air conditioning, but with the windows open and fans.  On the return journey we were in a first class cabin that seated 4 with seats that faced just one way with A/C.  Srimongel is north of Dhaka and famous for its tea plantations and 5 layered tea.  It's a popular weekend trip with the few tourists and also locals.  Both journeys were comfortable but the 2nd class journey was far more interesting as there was a constant stream of vendors coming up and down the aisle and you could look out of the window.  With the fans on and windows open it wasn't uncomfortably hot at all.  In the first class A/C cabin the windows were frosted and closed and there was nothing to look at except an empty wall. On both journeys the train was late (between 30 minutes and 90 minutes late). It took about 4 hours."

Cox's Bazaar...

There is no train service to Cox's Bazaar (Bangladesh's prime beach resort), but you can take a train from Dhaka to Chittagong then a bus from there.  Bus information not available.

2nd class seats on a Bangladeshi train   2nd class train seats in Bangladesh

Above:  2nd class seats on an express from Dhaka to Srimongel. Photos courtesy of Maggie Brown...

Can you help with information for this page?

If you have any photos, travel reports or information which would be useful for this page, please e-mail me!


International links

Calcutta to Dhaka by direct international train...

A new train service started on 14 April 2008 between Calcutta (Kolkata) and Dhaka.  Called the Maitree Express (Friendship Express), it's run jointly by the Indian Railways & Bangladeshi Railways.  Train service from Calcutta to Dhaka had been suspended since the India/Pakistan war in 1965 so this is a major step forward in the relations between these two countries.  It was increased from twice a week to three times a week in 2015 and now runs at least 4 times a week.

 Calcutta ► Dhaka

 

 Dhaka ►Calcutta

    Maitree Express

Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday,

  Maitree Express

Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday

    Train number:

3108 or 3109

  Train number:

3107 or 3110

0 km

 Calcutta Chitpur station depart

07:10

 Dhaka Cantonment station depart

08:16

122 km

 Gede (Indian time) arrive

09:25

 Darshana (Bangladeshi time) arrive

13:10

 Gede (Indian time) depart

09:30

 Darshana (Bangladeshi time) depart

13:30

-

 Darshana (Bangladeshi time) arr.

09:40

 Gede (Indian time) arrive

13:40

 Darshana (Bangladeshi time) dep.

10:00

 Gede (Indian time) depart

13:45

538 km

 Dhaka Cantonment station arrive

16:05

 Calcutta Chitpur station arrive

16:00

Remember that Indian time is GMT+5, Bangladeshi time is GMT+6, so there's a 30 minute time difference.  Times shown above are local time for the location concerned.

The distance is 538 km (336 miles) of which 122 km (76 miles) are in India, 416 km (260 miles) are in Bangladesh.  Gede is the Indian border point, Darshana is the Bangladeshi border point. 

Customs and immigration are now done at the start and end points, i.e. Calcutta or Dhaka, they no longer take place at the border.  You must report  for boarding 2 hours before departure.

Trains 3107 & 3108 use Bangladesh Railways carriages.  Trains 3109 & 3110 use Indian Railways carriages.  Both trains have a catering car.

You can check these times and fares at www.railway.gov.bd, look for the Maitree Express link.  See also travelplanbd.com/maitree-express.

 Fares

 

Non-AC seat

AC seat

AC first class

In Bangladeshi taka

?

2,500

3,400

In Indian rupees

?

1,345

2,015

Children under 5 half fare, 5 and over full price.  $1 = 85 taka = 70 rupees.

Which class is best?  AC seats and non-AC seats are in fact identical, and similar in layout & appearance to Indian AC Chair Class.  The only difference is that AC seats are air-conditioned with sealed windows and therefore cooler and less dusty, non-AC seats have opening windows and therefore better views and photographic opportunities.  AC first class has seats in air-conditioned compartments with sleeping berths for lying down (yes, even though it's  daytime train!).  Choose whichever class you like, all are acceptable.

How to buy tickets:  Tickets go on sale 60 days before departure in Calcutta, only 10 days before departure in Dhaka, and sales close 3pm the day before departure.  In Calcutta, buy tickets at the Fairlie Place reservation centre at the Foreign Tourist Reservation Counter, open 10:00-17:00 Mon-Sat, 10:00-14:00 Sundays.  In Dhaka, buy tickets at Dhaka Kamalapur station ticket office, open 09:00-17:00.  Passports & visas must be shown when booking.  Only one-way tickets can be booked.  There is no online booking.

Daily alternative train+bus link:  There are two train links from Calcutta (Sealdah station) to the India/Bangladesh frontier, one to Gede and one to Bangaon.  At Gede, the Bangladesh railway station of Darsana is a 1km walk across the frontier, for trains south to Khulna or northwards, but not to Dhaka.  At Bangaon, it's a short walk across the frontier to Benapol station on the Bangladeshi side for a daily train to Khulna (but again, not Dhaka).  Please confirm that foreigners are permitted to cross at your chosen crossing point.

Traveller Sascha Zaman travelled Dhaka to Calcutta in January 2009:  I took the train recently and it was quite good.  Although I travelled first class (because that was still cheap, about 20 Euro), so I do not know how the other classes are.  Anyway, the train left quite punctually at 8.30am and at about 2.30pm we arrived the border.  Bangladesh emigration was very easy, though it took almost 2 hours. Then a short train ride to the Indian side.  There it is a bit annoying, as it took another 2 to 2 hours, because as the train is coming from Bangladesh they are really strict with luggage control.  They searched everybody and everything, so it takes quite a while.  At about 6pm the train departed again and we arrived on schedule exactly at 8.30pm. So the train ride itself was just about 7 hours or so, but it was still fairly ok."

Additional feedback would be very welcome!

The Maitree Express about to leave Dhaka for Kolkata   Maitree Express from Dhaka to Kolkata swaps engines at the border.

The Maitree Express about to leave Dhaka Cantonment for Calcutta.  Photos courtesy of Sujan Bhattacharjee

 

The train swaps a Bangladeshi engine for an Indian one at the border. 

Bangladeshi carriage on Maitree Express at Calcutta

A Bangladeshi Maitree Express at Calcutta.  Photo courtesy of Sudip Nandy.

Calcutta ▶ Dhaka by bus...

Direct air-conditioned long-distance buses link Calcutta with Dhaka several times daily, taking 8 or 9 hours.  The bus fare costs about $10-$12 one-way.  No known websites. 


Find hotels in Bangladesh

My favourite hotel search site: www.booking.com

www.booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally prefer booking my hotels all in one place here.  You can usually book with free cancellation - this allows you to confirm your accommodation at no risk before train booking opens.  It also means you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary, and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when putting a trip together.  I never book hotels non-refundably.  I have also come to trust their review scores - you won't be disappointed with anything over 8.0.

Tip:  It can pay to compare prices across multiple hotel sites:  HotelsCombined.com is a price comparison site which compares hotel prices on Booking.com, Hotels.com, Expedia, Accor, Agoda and many others.  Though if there's not much in it, I prefer keeping all my bookings together in one place at www.booking.com.

Other hotel sites worth trying...

Backpacker hostels...


Flights

Overland travel by train & bus around Bangladesh is an essential part of the experience, so once there, don't cheat and fly, stay on the ground!  But a long-haul flight might be unavoidable to reach Bangladesh in the first place.  For flights to Dhaka, start with Skyscanner.

skyscanner generic 728x90


Travel insurance & credit cards

 

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

Take out decent travel insurance, it's essential...

Never travel overseas without travel insurance from a reliable insurer, with at least 1m or preferably 5m medical cover.  It should also cover cancellation and loss of cash and belongings, up to a sensible limit.  An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheaper than several single-trip policies even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I have an annual policy myself.  Here are some suggested insurers.  Seat61 gets a small commission if you buy through these links.

In the UK, try Columbus Direct or use Confused.com to compare prices & policies from many different insurers.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65, see www.JustTravelCover.com - 10% discount with code seat61.

        If you live in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites.

  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

Get a free Curve card to save on exchange rates & foreign transaction fees...

 

Curve card

Most banks give you a poor exchange rate, then charge you a currency conversion fee on top.  A Curve MasterCard means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, 500 per month at time of writing.  The balance goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.

How it works:  1. Download the app for iPhone or Android.  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to most European addresses including the UK.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, just like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance onto whichever of your debit or credit cards you choose.  You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I have a Curve Blue card myself and it's great - I get some commission if you sign up to Curve, but I only recommend such things when I've read up on reviews and tried it myself.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card. Use code MAN61 to get 5 cashback after signing up and using your Curve card the first time.

 

Express VPN

Get a VPN for safe browsing when you travel.  VPNs & why you need one explained...

When you're travelling you often use free WiFi in public places which may not be secure.  A VPN means your connection to the internet is encrypted & always secure, even using unsecured WiFi.  In countries such as China where access to Twitter & Facebook is restricted, a VPN gets around these restrictions.  And lastly, you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geographic restrictions which some websites apply - for example one booking site charges a booking fee to non-European visitors but none to European visitors, so if you're not located in Europe you can avoid this fee by browsing with a UK IP address using a VPN.  VPNs & why you need one explained NordVPN & ExpressVPN are the two best buys and I use ExpressVPN myself.

 


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