……what if conditions had been different? What if other foreign travellers (solo/group) visit Bangladesh and face difficulties like this? What if a traveller has been cheated or ripped off by a tour agent? Is there’s a proper way to create job opportunities for local guides or drivers and connect them with European Travellers? How do we engage the Western Travellers with local communities and exchange their experiences in a way that leaves both parties happier? What if someone arranges the whole tour for a Foreign Tourist and relax and enjoy the trip? All these questions were in Farjana’s mind and David thought the same.
The idea for Bangladesh Unbound was struck during a family trip when a few relatives of Farjana Mahmud whose are British Bangladeshi and their British friend David Johnstone came to Bangladesh in February 2015. David has fallen in love with this country from day one. He never thought the people of Bangladesh would be so friendly and hospitable. And never imagine he could find a place with almost no foreign tourists.
While they were in Sylhet, they were decided to visit the Bandarban & Rangamati, the Hill Tracts and the Tribal Region of Bangladesh. They were facing plenty of difficulties travelling there, including managing the authorization/permission from the Home Ministry of Bangladesh Govt. These places were highly restricted for foreigners. All of them are foreign nationals except Farjana and were travelling on their own. They didn’t have any proper papers/documents to get through the military check post. Even Farjana didn’t know the procedures of how or from where to collect these official authorization papers at that time. They were returned to Chittagong town by the security personnel and were advised to apply through a travel agent/company and make sure they have their reserved vehicle and a full-time guide with them during their stay in this region unless they can’t be able to get the permission.
They started searching on the internet and they found a local travel agent who assured them he could arrange the pass with other requirements, but he needed at least a week and payment in advance to arrange it. After the deal, they move to Cox’s Bazar and spend their time over there. A few days later, the agent informed them he couldn’t arrange the trip and he was sorry for that. When they asked him for a refund, he just denied it. Later, Farjana manages the permission papers, gets the money-back using her parent’s links, and arranges a private driver with a van and a full-time guide to take them to the Hill Tracts region. The guide was extraordinary and the driver was superb. They made the trip successful and memorable. But when both the driver and guide told them that they barely get foreign tourists like this and their financial conditions, all of them felt sorry for these two.
Bangladesh considers a Hidden Green Emerald outreach of the tourists according to many tourists books. It has many things to offer for international travellers to discover. But what was missing was a reliable way to bring local people with their knowledge and expertise together with travellers looking for an authentic experience. Shortly after coming home from that trip, Farjana began to put together a plan with David’s inspiration and experience for what such a service would look like. They needed to design a platform that would be reliable, trustworthy, and simple to use.
In April 14, 2016, Bangladesh Unbound was launched out of our office in Sylhet, Bangladesh. Today our network has grown to include many guides and drivers working all across the country. Bangladesh Unbound engaged so many local women and families with our activities which support them to empower and benefits economically so they can stand strong. We remain committed to the goal of giving travellers Genuine Experiences and also creating a way for local guides to work everywhere in Bangladesh that people want to visit.