In this episode, I look at how much I spent on my trip to Bangladesh, what the Bangladeshi transport system is like, and why you can’t find a piggy bank in Bangladesh.
The Bangladeshi people are incredibly hard-working, welcoming, and kind but with all of that they still survive on tiny salaries compared to what we have in the US.
In this episode, I look at the Bangladeshi economy, why so many Bangladeshi people move abroad to find jobs, and how much I spent on my trip to the country…
“It cost about a million dollars per mile to put up a highway, and that’s a lot of money!” – Ben Jones
00:45 – How money is linked to time zones.
02:57 – How much people tip porters in Bangladesh.
03:23 – The number of Bangladeshi people who work abroad.
04:25 – How much health care costs in Bangladesh.
06:06 – Why infrastructure construction is delayed in Bangladesh.
07:45 – Why it’s so expensive to drive a car in Bangladesh.
08:58 – The starting cost for car insurance in Bangladesh.
09:37 – How much rickshaws cost in Bangladesh.
10:28 – The Dhaka stock exchange and how much my hotel cost.
11:15 – The market cap for the Dhaka stock exchange.
12:40 – How highways are built in Bangladesh.
13:39 – What Bangladeshi trains are like.
16:25 – Why there are no piggy banks in Bangladesh.
Connect with Ben Jones:
Welcome back to Money with Mak & G. As discussed last week, it was a very interesting travel experience to see my friends on the other side of the world. Always a learning experience and I was just landing in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. Super easy flight 8 hour flight from Istanbul, and now I’ve landed, but haven’t spoken to my wife or friends at all since the journey started.
I’m pretty comfortable with time zone changes, and Bangladesh is no different. It was 10 hours ahead of us in the eastern time zone. But, it was kind of weird when I started thinking about time zones. I asked myself whether or not money is tied to changing time zones. So, I did a little research. First, there are 6 time zones in the US which include Hawaii, Alaska, Pacific, Mountain, Central, and Eastern. Do you know how many are in China? Any guesses? Only one. The US is about 3,000 miles by 1,500 miles, while China is about 3,000 by 3,400 miles. Yikes!! So, how does this have anything to do with money? Well, it appears that when you move to daylight savings time in the US, they estimate it costs $434 million due to lost productivity. What’s that about? They say it takes time to adjust your body to the new sleep schedule, messing with your motivation and energy level at work. Then it seems you have an 8% greater chance of an ischemic stroke. That costs money to treat, AND then your hormones get messed up when you “fall back” making you eat more, and we can’t forget the mood swings when there is less light and depression hits. Who would have ever thought about that?? Not me. But, I looked at Nepal, the second stop on my trip, and guess what, it’s a time zone change that is UTC+5:45, which means it’s 10 hours and 45 minutes ahead. Welcome to the world.
Ok, so I landed at the Dhaka airport, and there were a lot of people. That’s pretty normal, but it didn’t change. The mad dash to get through customs, and I filled out my landing card but didn’t know where I was staying. I knew it was a hotel, but it was on email. I was tired and no wifi. The passport control officer didn’t want to let me pass, but a porter, sent by the hotel, wanted to help. He saw me, since I stuck out like a sore thumb, and started to nicely “yell” to the officer what he needed. Yes, welcome to Bangladesh. Another hurdle down. The porter was great. He was helpful, smiled, had a great personality, and spoke a little English, but let me use his phone and got me out the door. Even after waiting over an hour and a half for my 3 bags, he was positive about the situation. So, I was totally up to tip him. I found out tips are about 20 Taka per bag, so for 3 bags, that’s 60 Taka or 60 cents. Think about that for a minute. He does get paid from the hotel, but normally those are jobs based more on tips. That’s about 40 cents/hr.
That’s probably why 10 million Bangladeshi leave the country to work elsewhere, though the numbers are significantly down due to COVID. The last estimate I found was about 200k in the US. The biggest export whereby foreign currency comes to Bangladesh is the garment industry. The second cash inflow is from Bangladeshi workers, most in the Middle East, who send over $15 Billion back home. These are low-level jobs, because the educational system isn’t strong, and the economy in the country isn’t great. It’s a tough position to be in.
As I started to walk around, I notice things. I like to think I’m in pretty decent shape, but I was reminded pretty quickly that it’s all relative. I’m in decent shape by “US standards”. As I looked around I was feeling like a big white giant whale, and I probably weighed more than every other person I saw. I really need to diet. That’s always a money-saving tip, right? But, being overweight or obese costs money. Healthcare in a country like Bangladesh is very different. I was trying to remember how much my friend told me a hospital visit for COVID was. If I remember it was around $10 USD. Seriously. Crazy cheap, but I also remember they had less than 100 ventilators in the entire country, you know the ones that were crucial to keeping people alive in the US. That’s seriously scary. So, I had to ask myself the question what does a country half the size of the US pay for healthcare? As I’m about ready to give you the number, the US government seems to spend right around $2.8 Trillion. So, what do you think? Their budget for health care was a priority this year and they raised funding SIGNIFICANTLY in 2022 to not quite $3.8 million. Yes, I said MILLIONS. I had to do the math several times. That’s about 370,000 times more if adjusted for the population. That made my head hurt when I thought about that.
Ok, it was time to leave the airport. It was the fall, so not as hot as it could be. Air conditioning is a luxury because it’s expensive, but I take it for granted like most Americans. So, I wasn’t ready for a summer there. There were LOTS of people everywhere, honking horns, a little hard to breathe, and lots of traffic. I’ve found that when you grow up in a certain situation, you get used to it. And, when you don’t you notice. So, we grabbed my bags, made our way through the craziness you see at many airports, heard some yelling, and we were off. We were very close to the hotel, but with traffic, you can literally multiply normal travel time by at least 2 if not 4 or 5. You find out quickly that the infrastructure isn’t what you see in the west. Roads need repair, and there is always construction being done. There are a number of buildings that are partially built until they find more money to keep going. There’s a belief that “facilitating” payments need to be made to get the work done, thereby making it more expensive than in the US. If it’s already expensive to build and fix roads, and you have to add extra payments, it makes things very expensive which means it’s less likely to get done, if you know what I mean.
If I got it right from a quick Google search, to buy a home in Bangladesh, it appears interest rates are around 11%, with about 30% down and a loan period of 25 years. How would you like.
Anyway, I’m usually good with traffic, and for the most part, I was. But, the constant barrage of traffic is LITERALLY like playing a video game. You need to dodge cars, then there are these large buses that have scrapes from the front to the back and all the way around, it must have lots of “incidents”, and that’s on every public bus I saw. Don’t forget people walking across highways, rickshaws, motorbikes, CNG’s and more. I got to see 4 people on a motorcycle, with what looked like a 6-year-old kid squished in there. It’s expensive to drive a car, as gas is expensive because it’s imported. Plus, most people can’t afford a car, as we discussed. But, the CNGs are like motorcycles that have 3 wheels with a bench seat behind the driver wrapped in a metal cage. It’s pretty interesting, but it uses Compressed Natural Gas, hence the name CNG. It’s a fraction of the cost of gas, which is almost $5/gallon and is more expensive than in my neck of the woods in the US. But there is an energy crisis, which means they can’t afford to buy enough energy at a reasonable price and have rolling brownouts, which means the electricity is dropped for a period of time. We were at lunch and I took a quick video when the lights went out. It was weird, but nothing happened, everyone kept eating and life went on.
Hey, I’ve driven in at least a dozen countries which include the huge circle around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. It’s called the “Etoile” or the star. But, this was a different level of chaos, as there were fewer rules. But, when I think about money and traffic, I had to ask about insurance costs, because there seems to be a lot of risk with all the potential obstacles on the road, right?
Well, recently, car insurance was mandatory. I guess it didn’t really work, so it’s no longer that way. I’m guessing few people have it unless they have something really worth protecting. But, I still had to know what the starting price for car insurance would be. I was told it was around 500 Taka per month or $5 USD. Pretty crazy huh? Wouldn’t you like to see a bill that low?
If you walk anywhere around the city, you’re going to see a rickshaw because they’re everywhere. A bicycle with 3 wheels and a bench behind the driver. If you need to get home from the market, down the street, or around the corner, it’s very easy. Depending on distance, a short ride could be 20-50 Taka which is 20 to 50 cents. Longer rides could go over a buck. Being that I was much bigger than almost any passenger they’d ever had, I had to stand back when negotiating the price. The rickshaws are only for 2 people. When they saw me coming, they probably weren’t happy until it was over. Hopefully, an extra 20-cent tip would make up the difference. It looks like a tough job and a full-time driver makes well less than $10 a day.
After navigating the traffic, we arrived at the hotel without any issues, it was literally money central because I was right across from the Dhaka stock exchange. I did wonder what the equivalent in the US would be for a hotel with such a location. So I quickly glanced at prices in the financial district in our “capital” New York near Wall Street. Looks like it starts at $286 per night, but if you add taxes you’re quickly approaching $350 and I saw one that was around $2,000 with taxes on a low-budget travel site. Mine was $50 all-in. That was a great deal. Hot water, nice bed, nice location, toilet, free breakfast, and more. Plus, it had an air conditioner. SCORE. I was told the reason it was “so expensive” is that it was super close to the airport. Worked for me. I wondered about the market cap for the Dhaka stock market. You know, the number of shares times the price per share. It is 57,000 million USD versus 47,000,000 million USD in the US, so ours is over 800 times bigger. That shouldn’t be much of a surprise.
We did get to walk around a bit, but it got hot and jet lag was kicking my butt. So, I did get to rest up. When we did head out, we literally took hours to get 30 miles or so outside of the city, where I got to enjoy a special fish. It was funny that I was stopped and asked if I was some famous, rich, handsome soccer player. I guess the guy wasn’t wearing his glassed. I joked that we all looked alike. We had a good laugh at that. But part of the specialty was to grind up part of the tail and put it in a mix of spices and other stuff. And, if you’re lucky you get the sac of eggs too. I was full by that time. Since our timing was off we had to head back, and since the lights on the highway weren’t well-lit, so we missed our entrance to the highway a couple of times and went “off-road”. Exciting times.
I found the highways were pretty decent, but it appeared there wasn’t a lot of them and they were built in segments. When a new segment was built there was usually several inches between the old and new, which meant you’d do the 48 miles per hour speed limit, then slow down to go over the bump and do it again a mile later. Our highway system has over 160,000 miles, while they have around 2,500. At about $1M/mile that’s a lot of money. So, when we had to go to Kishoreganj which was about 100 miles outside Dhaka, it took about 4 hours.
The train was about the same, and we took it back to Dhaka. We had first-class tickets which cost about $3.50. We could sit down, enjoy the air conditioning and be comfortable. But, there were also standing cars which meant you stood for the entire 4 hours. Some people also rode on top, and I don’t think you pay for that, and it goes without saying it’s dangerous, people get hurt, but the system doesn’t seem to allow you to sue like in the US.
My friend’s family was amazing. They treated me extremely well and fed me well. They gave me a mosquito net which was fun to sleep under, but I wanted to be safe from Dengue Fever. And, I’m not sure where I got it, but I did get the trots. It was only for a day which I’m going to count as my diet. They had a doctor come over. Do you remember the $30 diarrhea kit I bought before the trip? They got me all the same stuff for less than $5, with a free doctor’s visit. Crazy. Since I have never seen this setup before, I have to tell you. My bathroom had a toilet, and sink, and right above the sink where we would see a light, there was my shower head. Yep, it was all in the same space, early showers were cooler, as the water on the roof would heat up during the day. But, it definitely made cleaning up anything in the bathroom a lot easier!!
Nepal was interesting due to the Himalayas. We also got to visit several Buddhist sites. The monkey temple and the Kopan Monastery were two of our favorites. The monkey temple is a Buddhist temple where you can worship and visit. Per the Time Travel Turtle website, it has an interesting story, in regard to the monkeys who wander the property. Be careful as they do get a bit aggressive, and they are mischievous. If you don’t know what that means, I’d google it. Anyway, here goes:
It’s said that the monkeys came into being when the Buddhist ‘deity’ Manjushri spent time on the hill where the temples are set on. He was meant to cut his hair short but instead, he let it grow long and got head lice. These lice then fell off and turned into monkeys and inhabit the area.
There you go. I got some amazing first-time yoga lessons in Katmandu from a yogi at the Sewar academy. My favorite move was the crazy loud-nose breathing you had to do when running. It was old-school yoga I’m told. I’m always up for a new experience.
On a final note, you might wonder why there are no piggy banks in Bangladesh. They do have banks and I got a coconut one, but no piggy bank. Bangladesh is 90% Muslim and has the third largest population in the world. Drinking alcohol and eating pork are against their religion. Since there are no pigs, there are no piggy banks. Hey, life is funny. In Bangladesh, I couldn’t drink or eat pork and in Nepal I could drink like a fish and eat pork but couldn’t eat beef. Go figure.
Thanks for being here, and we’ll see you next time for more money with Mak & G.