Dining opportunities in Dhaka range from street food costing no more than a dollar a meal, right through to upscale restaurants spanning every cuisine under the sun. There’s also a surprising abundance of fast food options around the city, with all the usual players represented. Common local dishes to try if you get the chance include Shahi biryani, fuchka (or panipuri) and chotpoti.
Traditional cuisine is incredibly accessible throughout Dhaka, with countless street vendors offering the pinnacle of convenience. Part with no more than 50 cents and grab a pitha or a cup of badam vaja. A few dollars will get you a beautiful sit-down meal at one of Dhaka’s famous traditional eateries such as Al Razzaque Restaurant or Hazir Biriani.
It’s not all curries, rice and lentils in Dhaka - the city also boasts a large number of delightful bakeries selling all sorts of sweet treats, from sticky pastries to macaroon cakes and beyond. Don’t hesitate to ask the shopkeeper for their recommendation if the selection on offer is a little overwhelming.
Just as difficult to ignore is the high density of Chinese restaurants in Dhaka - an unsurprising phenomenon given the city’s proximity to China. Bamboo Shoot (Gulshan), Mainland China (Uttara) and New Cathay (Banani) are all worth a visit if you happen to be passing by.
Dhaka’s best retail opportunities are found not in shopping centres but in the buzzing market districts. Banga Bazar in particular is a bargain hunter’s paradise. The precinct’s tiny walkways are often tightly crammed with people; but the crowds are well worth it for the ridiculously cheap clothing items for sale.
Sankharia Bazar, also known as Hindu Street, offers a slice of variety in an otherwise Muslim city. A wealth of traditional architecture, a fascinating history and many small shops selling everything from musical instruments to stone crafts make Sankharia Bazaar a truly unique experience. The street is located in Old Dhaka, about 10 minutes’ walk from Sadarghat Boat Terminal
For more bargain shopping but in a cleaner and more spacious environment, head to New Market just two kilometres from Old Dhaka. Almost anything the imagination can conjure up can be found at New Market, with more than 400 shops spread across 35 acres. Look out for the bookstore corner, home to around 20 fascinating stores selling all sorts of weird and wonderful titles.
If the market environment gets a little overwhelming and a more modern retail experience is what’s required, pay a visit to Bashundhara City. This is the primary western-style shopping complex in Dhaka and unfortunately a sure sign of the huge class separation in Bangladesh. Boasting eight shopping levels, 2,500 stores and its own indoor theme park, Bashundhara City is a sure way to fill a day if all the main sights have been ticked off.