The sounds of honking horns lull us to sleep at night and greet us in the morning. Incessant horn honking is probably the first thing that greets a stranger’s ear upon arrival in Dhaka. The horn is a means of expressing all kinds of things on the road in Bangladesh. It says “I am behind you, I want to pass you, I see you, hello, go head, don’t go ahead, move over, stop, hurry up.”These are things that drivers in many countries may try to communicate when they use their horns, but in Dhaka this is the language of driving. Actual traffic signals and signs are few and far between and rarely obeyed anyway. So how does one move through Dhaka’s daily, slow moving massive knot of cars, buses, trucks, CNG’s (a natural gas vehicle) and the ubiquitous rickshaw? Keep your hand on the horn of course!
This is why very few expats drive themselves in Dhaka. Most everyone has a driver or has drivers they can use when they need to. Driving here is a skill that takes a long time to master.
The only taxi is a rickshaws or CNG’s. The rickshaws are tons of fun but very bumpy and you might not always get to the correct destination depending on your communication skills in Bangla or your driver’s understanding of English. The rickshaws also have no lights so nighttime riding can be a bit hazardous. As for the CNG’S, they are not for the faint of heart or the prudent, since you are literally riding in a metal cage with wheels while perched above a tank of condensed natural gas.
The horns of Dhaka have taught me that what one culture may find as annoying and aggressive noise pollution, is to another culture the daily dialogue of just getting around town.