My Dhaka Diary, Part 2: Packing for Dhaka

My Dhaka Diary, Part 2: Packing for Dhaka

Fast forward six months from the initial placement offer, I am about to fly to Dhaka for six weeks, where I will live and work in a textile workers district near Dhaka. Before my Dhaka Diary continues to the actual trip, let’s talk about what to take on a work trip to Bangladesh.

It is, although I have been to the neighbouring countries India and Myanmar as a tourist, very much a journey into the unknown. What does one take for six weeks?

For holidays, I am very much a minimalist, a 35l backpack for 14 days will usually suffice. When I went to study in Japan for six weeks, I took my trusty old Tumi carry-on trolley (recommended, like a tank, great to haul heavy books and files around) and a 60l Lowe Alpine Appalachian Kinni backpack/duffle (not recommended, uncomfortable, PU coating peels off in a sticky mess) and I needed it. Now I want to pack much lighter but also not miss out on anything I might need there that’s not easy to buy.

So, I am taking a hand-me-down hardshell standard cabin trolley, a nice but somewhat small Wenger laptop backpack and my beloved Freitag F11 “Lassie” messenger bag.

Let’s pack it!

Total Essentials

This is pretty much the same for every trip.

  • Passport, doctors passport, National ID Card, 2 passport copies places strategically in each piece of luggage
  • Wallet with money and at least two credit cards. I am taking half my cash in Euro the other half in US Dollars
  • Driving Licence and International Driving Permit
  • WHO Vaccination Certificate
  • house keys
  • mobile phone (and a spare mobile with all my emergency contact on it)
  • a power bank – apparently power cuts are common and we have been instructed to keep our phone on at all times
  • any plug adaptor I might need, in this case a simple UK plug adaptor
  • spare prescriptions glasses or sunglasses


Tools of the trade

They take most room  in my hand luggage, to be honest

  • Laptop. I packed  my old laptop computer, erased most personal information on it except what I knew I might need during my stay.
  • Stethoscope, tendon hammer, oxygen monitor, auriscope
  • packet of medical grade masks – just to be sure – I tend to pick up every bug flying around
  • plenty of pens  – I love JApanese gel pens and have a decent supply
  • notebook


I am wearing the heaviest/bulkiest stuff which is

  • Carhartt cotton duck light brown work pants – smart and vaguely profesional
  • nice all-terrain daily walking shoes – I bought some Lowa Innox EVO GTX – super light, Goretex lined and comfy
  • a waterproof jacket – an old Goretex Berghaus jacket that has seen it all
  • a nice small black knit T shirt
  • Thin-ish hiking socks

And then, there wasn’t so much to pack, really…

  • Birkenstock sandals. Honestly I never travel without them. I have the basic Arizona style in a colours and will take the beat-up black ones
  • underwear – enough for 8 days. We do have access to a washing machine
  • another knit t-shirt. I am taking an old John Smedley. Yeah, a bit fancy but they are soo nice and look quite smart with the Carhartt pants
  • two short-sleeved loose shirts. An old Gap one and a nice blue and white ikat one.
  • comfy leisure pants. Beat up old Yoga pants
  • Pyjamas – yup, my home comfort pyjamas have to come
  • swimsuit – bit optimistic here as we are not living in an upmarket area with pools,  but doesn’t take much room
  • sewing kit – just a tiny one

Travel Medical Kit

Because it’s a country I don’t know, I am taking more rather than too little…

  • Paper tissues. Nothing worse than getting a cold and not finding nice soft paper tissues
  • a painkiller that I get on with well
  • Sinus congestion tablets
  • nasal decongestion spray
  • Aciclovir cream
  • Dexpanthenol (healing) cream
  • plenty of my prescription medicine
  • a light sedative. Sadly, there was no information available what is legal – I took the Lorazepam out just to be safe. I travel with the smallest package because I get really bad flight anxiety, haven’t taken them for years but it’s reassuring to have them. And I am really not sure whether my homemade hop tea will pass customs either.
  • plenty of dressing plasters for this blister prone person.
  • a couple COVID tests
  • some alcohol wipes and tea tree oil
  • Eye drops for dry eye (not sure of needed but there is a lot of air pollution, better have than not)
  • emergency dental filling – one of the OTC ones. Never needed it but better to have than not

Anything else

A few things that

  • Water bottle – I always have one, usually a 0.6l Sigg bottle. It is okay but one must be really careful with the seal as it isn’t always super tight
  • cosmetic products – I bring my favourite deodorant and toothpaste, use homemade vegetable soap (good for hair, too), decent moisturizer, nail file, hair pack. I pack one of my two toothbrushes and a deodorant in my hand luggage
  • Sanitary product  – I bring what I know from home and it doesn’t take much room. This is not the time for experiments

Nice to have

Anything that is an extra add-on but that I cannot live without

  • My camera+1 lens: I am looking to upgrade as my D7200 is getting on a bit, and so is my 18-200 Nikon VR lens – both have bits missing but still work – and it’s a bit heavy, too
  • Two books: one is vaguely Bangladesh-themed (by Zia Haider Rahman) , the other a bit of a brain massage read (by Elizabeth Day). I still love paperbacks instead of e-reader
  • a few packets of coffee – allegedly hard to come by on Bangladesh, and since we have a kitchen and some simple equipment, I am bringing a good supply.
  • Good strong Latvian instant coffee-ditto
  • a few packets of pumpernickel bread and a few small tins of vegan spread – ditto.
  • A large packet of German gingerbread bisquits
  • laundry net

And yes, I did a test packing yesterday, it is a bit of a squeeze, but it all fits. To admit, I had to take the standard size Christmas Stollen Cake out again, which definitely does under nice to have’s but I will have to consume that on my return  – it keeps for over a year, and it is the ideal gift to bring, very unique taste, sturdy, often comes in a nice decorative tin as well.



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