Sadarghat: The live and vibrant river port and waterfront of Old Dhaka

Sadarghat River Front, located in the southern part of Dhaka, on the river Buriganga, is one of the most dynamic places in Dhaka. Here, the Sadarghat Launch Terminal is one of the largest river ports in the world. About 200 large and small passenger launches depart and arrive at the terminal every day. According to the officials at the terminal, 30,000 people, on average, use the terminal for departure and arrival every day. Visiting this place is a pandemonium, you may see what you can never experience in this world.

The River Buriganga, though smelly and muddy, is the lifeblood of Old Dhaka. It’s fascinating to watch the large river ferries, overladen with people and local produce, and the loading and unloading activities to ramshackle warehouses on the riverfront. Triple-decked ferries are docked along the side of the jetty while small wooden boats pile their trade in between. The shrill of sirens sound like an air raid as boats depart and arrive from the countryside.

A photo of Sadarghat River Port in Old Dhaka

Sadarghat waterfront in Old Dhaka during sunset. © Photo Credit: Raw Hasan

A constant stream of humanity flows up gangplanks and on to ferries moored tightly together along rusting pontoons. Ship’s bells and klaxons, the cries of porters, vendors, and beggars, the muezzins announcing evening prayer – it is a cauldron of noise. It seems chaotic, but it’s one step in a well-organized supply chain across the country, dating back many centuries.

As ferries arrive, barefoot vendors leap aboard from nearby ships like attacking pirates. Amid the chaos, men kneeling on the top deck of ferries and praying towards the setting sun are seen. Wide-eyed families look as though they came from another planet. The children are often dressed in their finest outfits – little girls in pink and red frilly dresses.

Photo of passengers arriving at Sadarghat Riverport in Old Dhaka

Passengers arriving at Sadarghat Riverport in Old Dhaka. © Photo Credit: Raw Hasan

Among all the large ships are the tiny wooden boats cross the river with their single oarsman standing at their bows. These are the ones that you can hire to take you out to the middle of the river – where everything seems relatively calm. These are available almost everywhere along the waterfront, though most people hire them from around the Sadarghat boat terminal. An increasing number of foreigners in Dhaka are starting to hire boats out, so things are becoming more organized and most boatmen will know what you want to do. A lack of a common language isn’t much of a hindrance. It does, however, mean that prices are starting to rise.

There are some very luxurious launches and steamers here. These are commercial transport to the southern part of Bangladesh like Barishal, Potuakhali, and many more. Some available water transport routes that run from Sadarghat –
Dhaka to Barishal, Khulna, Patuakhali, Madaripur, and Chandpur. A new route to the main commercial city of the country – Chittagong is proposed to start in 2014 with seagoing vessels.

It’s really interesting to see the huge ferries. There’s a small charge to enter the dock, but most boats will let you aboard for nothing. A trip on a ferry or the Rocket Steamer (paddle steamer) departing Dhaka to Mongla via Khulna is, without a doubt, the best thing u could do in this city.

Busy, noisy, and dirty Sadarghat may seem not friendly for tourists but not seeing it is like not tasting a real Dhaka at all. It is the heart of Old Dhaka and is like the essence of it. Stays busy all day long, full of any kind of bouts and people. That is so authentic – just a true face of Dhaka’s everyday life. You may love it or hate it but it will not remain you indifferent and you will never forget it. Great place for those Kodak moments!

Sadarghat waterfront in Old Dhaka

Sadarghat waterfront in Old Dhaka. © Photo Credit: Eric Lynn.

Tips for visiting Sadarghat River Station

  • There is an entry fee of 5 TK per person to enter the port.
  • Sadarghat River Station is open 7 days a week.
  • You can hire little wooden boats to travel at Buriganga river on an hourly basis from Sadarghat River Station. Station for them you’ll find just beside the port.
  • Sadarghat River Station become most busy during early morning and in the evening. All the passenger boats arrive early morning and depart in the evening every day at Sadarghat River Station. The port becomes very crowded at this time. Rest of the day, there will not be much crowd here.

Have you ever visited Sadarghat River Station in Dhaka? How dynamic have you found it? Share your experience with us in the comments!

You might also be interested in reading 17 Best places to visit in Bangladesh not to miss and 101 Things to know about traveling to Bangladesh.

Check out our Old Dhaka Tour to visit the key attractions of New and Old Dhaka, including Sadarghat river station. The full-day tour starts from $70* US with an air-conditioned car, English-speaking guide, all entrance tickets, lunch at a local restaurant with authentic local food, a rickshaw, and a boat ride.

Check out our 1-7 days Bangladesh tour packages and 8-28 days Bangladesh holiday packages to visit Bangladesh with comfort.