This article provides information on how to book an overnight cruise from Dhaka to Khulna Rocket Steamer, the costs and how to visit the Bangladesh Sundarbans.
Spending the night on an early 20th century paddle steamer while cruising down the waters of Bangladesh is a must-do when in the country. It is a memorable experience and provides a nice contrast to the initial buzz of Dhaka.
During the little research we had done about things to do in Bangladesh, we stumbled upon what seemed to be a great activity: an overnight cruise from Dhaka to Khulna and then reach the nearby Sundarbans: the largest mangrove forest in the world.
We wanted to visit the Sundarbans so we inquired about booking a cabin on a rocket steamer in Bangladesh.
PART I – The Rocket Steamer Experience in Bangladesh
Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC)
5 Dilkusha, Dhaka.
Office hour: Sunday – Thursday: 9.00 am – 5.00 pm
The office is located in a multi-story building and is very well indicated. You have to go there in order to book a cabin on the rocket steamer – over the phone can seem unreliable, but as long as you don’t make any payments, it doesn’t hurt to call to put your name down and pay upon arrival in Dhaka. You can also book a “camping” spot on the deck, which will be much cheaper and where majority of locals sleep, you just need a sleeping bag. We booked our cabin the day before leaving.
We were directed to the reservations’ office where we watched the reservations’ manager finish his lunch for 7 long and quiet minutes. When he finished, we were able to talk about the trip, procedure, costs etc.
Our overnight was in September. The rocket steamer goes to Hularhat (about 90km from Mongla) and Morrelganj, in Khulna (about 40km from Mongla).
|Dhaka – Morrelganj||3,400 Taka (USD $43.50)||2,100 Taka (USD $26.50)|
|Dhaka – Hularhat||2,740 Taka (USD $35)||1,700 Taka (USD $22)|
*Costs as of September 2013
We booked our cabin in 2nd class (which was more than acceptable). The two of us paid 2,100 Taka (USD $26.50) for a clean cabin with two beds and a fan. We shared bathrooms with the other 2nd class guests.
The cabin was clean, comfortable but extremely hot at night.
Boat leaves at 6pm from the Sadarghat on the Buriganga river. The sunset accompanied our departure from Dhaka, creating beautiful landscapes. The atmosphere on the boat was overall surprisingly quiet. Second class cabins are on one end of the boat while first class cabins are on the other end. In between classes is the deck where locals sleep.
Meals are prepared on the boat but you can always bring your own food to avoid an extra expense. We could opt between Bangladesh cuisine or English cuisine – due to miscommunication (we said ‘yes’ to “English?” understanding he wanted to confirm we spoke English…..#travelfail) we ended up paying 1,070 Taka (USD $14) for an average English dinner when we would have enjoyed the local cuisine much more and paid much less.
The next morning, we enjoyed country sceneries before reaching our destination in the early afternoon.
We walked through the small town, to find a bus heading to Mongla. We were welcomed like celebrities…more J than me, though some people acknowledged my presence. People were greeting him, asking him to take pictures with them, shaking his hands, thanking him for visiting the country. Something we had yet to experience during our travels through Asia.
By the time we reached the bus station, we encountered some language barriers trying to explain we wanted to reach Mongla.
After a long ordeal and many many helpful people, we understood there were no buses leading to Mongla. A man offered to drive us there for 350 Taka (a little under USD $5) on his motorcycle. It was about a one-hour ride through small country roads– this is where having a school size backpack each came in handy; the three of us would not have fit on this man’s motorcycle had we had 40-liter backpackers. Without any other alternative, we gratefully accepted, hopped on and drove through different villages and enjoyed exquisite, bucolic landscapes on the way to Mongla.
For additional information, read:
PART II – The Sundarbans Experience in Mongla, Bangladesh
Where to Stay in Mongla – Mongla Hotels & Accommodations
At the time, I had only one hotel name for Mongla: Hotel Bangkok. There is not much to say about this hotel apart that it is cheap, facing the river, as basic as can be and well-maintained. We paid 600 Taka (USD $8) for a room with fan, mosquito net, and bathroom. The staff is nice though didn’t speak much English.
Hotel Pashur is another possibility, on the other side of the river but more expensive: USD $22 for a double room.
Things To Do in Mongla: Visit the Sundarbans
In order to visit the Sundarbans from Mongla on your own (as opposed to being in a tour),
- Take a boat from the Mongla pier: you can hire a boat for a set fee to take you there and back. We paid 800 Taka (USD $10), another probably tourist-inflated price. The ride was a bit less than an hour each way.
- We were taken to the Karamjal Wildlife Center. Buy an entrance ticket at 345 Taka per person (under USD $5), which includes a mandatory guide.
- Walk through the mangrove forest. While there’s a great chance you won’t see a Bengal Tiger during your visit, you will see monkeys, crocodiles and spotted deers since the Sundarbans are a great wildlife sanctuary– the whole visit will take about an hour overall.
Not sure if I would recommend this particular experience of the Sundarbans. Without having done much research, this is the best we could do but you might be better off booking a tour offering a more intimate look of the Sundarbans and avoid paying a high cost to visit this overall disappointing zoo – but we enjoyed the boat ride.
We did not see any other tourists while in Mongla but the town is welcoming and has many cheap, delicious food options.
How To Get Away – From Mongla to Dhaka/Chittagong
Our next destination on the itinerary is Cox Bazar. In order to get there by bus, we had to get back to Dhaka, then to Chittagong then to Cox Bazar. We spent the whole day and a half in transportation.
Another option is to book a round trip on the rocket steamer and enjoy a tranquil cruise back to Dhaka. In hindsight, we would have preferred that option by far.
From Dhaka, you can take the train to Chittagong (Cox Bazar is not served by train) and then a bus to Cox Bazar.
View more travel tips to visit Bangladesh.
Did you take the rocket steamer? Anyone spent the night on the deck? How was your visit to the Sundarbans? Share your travel experience with us! We love to hear from you.
Happy Travels !!xx
By Rolling Coconut