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Getting local: Dhaka Cycle Rickshaws

 

In Dhaka cycle rickshaws are the preferred mode of transport. CNGs (tuk-tuks, or auto rickshaws) are popular for longer trips, but for short trips of only a couple kilometers or less, cycle rickshaws are the go-to mode. They are quick, convenient, and cheap. The comfort is a matter of opinion, especially if you’re sharing with one or more adults. It’s also a rather bumpy ride. But they can be a lot of fun, swerving in and out of Dhaka traffic. And rickshaw drivers are usually reasonable about giving a fair price, but you do have to bargain.

 

The cycle rickshaw is so common that Dhaka, Bangladesh has been called the Rickshaw capital of the world. As this mode of human-powered transport is being phased out in other countries, in Bangladesh it’s only getting more common. It’s somewhat of a relief to Dhaka’s already polluted air that these 500,000 rickshaws aren’t belching out exhaust. It may be a strain for these butt-kicking rickshaw-walas, but they’re helping to save their city. Which brings up an interesting point. Most of the rickshaw-walas are not even from Dhaka.

 

Most are migrants from the countryside. The $50-some dollars they might earn cranking a cycle rickshaw is more than they would get farming back in their village. Their living conditions aren’t very good in the city, but most will put up with it for a couple weeks per month before going home.

 

Dhaka Cycle Rickshaws

 

Dhaka cycle rickshaw art

The mechanism of cycle rickshaws has changed very little over the years. So too has the rickshaw art. Rickshaws are intricately covered in artwork. Although what was once painted by hand are now mostly cheap and fast screen-printed versions. Most depict scenes from the Liberation War or Dhallywood movie stars.

Even though it’s a daily necessity for millions of residents, catching a Dhaka cycle rickshaw is certainly one of the highlights for travelers in Bangladesh.

 

Dhaka Cycle Rickshaws

 

Dhaka Cycle Rickshaws

 

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Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno has been traveling the world and writing about it for the better part of 15 years. His articles and essays have appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Times, and Transitions Abroad magazine. He blogs at Bohemian Traveler and edits the independent travel magazine GoMadNomad.com. He most recently set up a tour company offering authentic, small group tours at Unquote Travel. Follow him on Google +, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

3 Comments

  1. Intriguing pictures. I thought it was Kolkata first. Thanks for sharing.

  2. It’s like a cultural heritage since it is an ancient art of transportation. I also love how they use art to colorfully advertise their service.

  3. David Liew says:

    Seeing your pictures reminded me of my working trip in Dhaka during 1993. While travelling in these cycle rickshaws, I had the chance to be caught in the midst of cycle rickshaws own version of traffic jams. Imagine the numbers of cycle rickshaws jammed together in the town’s roads and intersections during the rush hour after work. The cycle rickshaws were banging against each other and the rickshaw wallahs were hitting each others rickshaws and loudly urging the one in front of them to go /cycle quickly. Such a babel of noise and language all around. Strangely, there were never cases of cycle rickshaws road rage happening, not too sure if things changed since then.

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