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Belarus

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Hotel Belarus Minsk
Hotel Belarus Minsk - dream vacation

15 Storozheuskaya StreetMinsk

BonHotel Minsk
BonHotel Minsk - dream vacation

Pritytskogo Street 2Minsk

East Time Hotel
East Time Hotel - dream vacation

Vtoroy Velosipedny Pereulok 5Minsk

Belarus (Belarusian and Russian: ?????????) is a country in eastern Europe, home to 9.5 million inhabitants. The country has had close ties to their fellow East Slavic neighbours Russia and Ukraine.

Regions

The regions (oblasts) of Belarus provide no real guidance for a tourist. These divisions are of purely administrative nature, were created less than a century ago and have very little to do with historical, cultural or ethnographic matters.

Cities

City names are in Belarusian Cyrillic.

  • Minsk (?????) — the Belarusian capital and largest city, with over 2 million inhabitants.
  • Brest (?????) — regional capital on the Polish border with impressive architectural sights.
  • Polotsk (???????, Po?ack) — the oldest Belarusian city, notable for interesting buildings.
  • Gomel (??????) — also called Homel, is the second largest city in Belarus; located in the east.
  • Grodno (??????, Hrodna) — city close to the Polish and Lithuanian borders.
  • Mogilev (???????) — also called Mahiljou and Mahilyow, third largest city in Belarus.
  • Nesvizh (???????, Njasvizh or Nyasvizh) — with a UNESCO listed castle.
  • Vitebsk (????????) — fourth largest city in Belarus.

Other destinations

  • 1 Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park (??????????? ???? ??????????? ?????, Natsyyanal’ny park Byelavyezhskaya pushcha) — on the border with Poland, this primeval forest is a UNESCO World Heritage site
  • Mir Castle Complex (?????? ?????, Mirski zamak) — another UNESCO World Heritage site

Understand

History

See also: Russian Empire, Soviet Union, World War II in Europe, Holocaust remembrance

Originally part of Kievan Rus, Belarus was part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until the Polish Partitions in the 18th century. After over a hundred years of Russian rule followed by seven decades as a constituent republic of the USSR that were interrupted by a brutal Nazi occupation sandwiched in between years of Stalinist terror, Belarus attained its independence in 1991. However, under authoritarian rule, it has retained closer political and economic ties to Russia than any of the other former Soviet republics. Belarus and Russia signed a treaty on a two-state union on 8 December 1999, envisioning greater political and economic integration. Although Belarus agreed to a framework to carry out the accord, there has been little movement to implement it. The economy is mostly dependent on Russia, and the Belarusian government has taken a vitriolic, anti-Western stance. The country has not seen much structural reform in the past few years. Political and journalistic activity is tightly controlled.

Geography

Belarus is a relatively small country that covers a total area of 207,600 km² and is slightly smaller than the United Kingdom. The maximum distance from west to east is 560 km, while 650 km is the max distance from north to south. The country has over 11,000 lakes and a total of 91,000 km of rivers with significant areas of marshland. There are five major rivers in Belarus: the Nieman, the Dnieper, Sozh, Berazhina and the Pripyat. The latter flows towards the site of the former nuclear complex of Chernobyl (Ukraine), the scene of the nuclear catastrophe in 1986. Approximately one-fifth of Belarus's territory continues to be affected by fallout. About 40% of the country's landscape is covered by forests. Most of the country is flat and has vast areas of rolling countryside, but the highest point is Dzyarzhynskaya Hara at 334 m.

Get in

Visa-free entry

Citizens of the following countries do not need a visa: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Georgia, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macau, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Qatar, Russia, Serbia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Venezuela. In case of any change, consult the up-to-date list of visa-exempt countries.

Citizens of 74 countries (see list) do not need a visa for stays in Belarus of up to 30 days, subject to a limit of 90 days per calendar year, provided they meet the following requirements:

  • they enter and they leave the country via flights to and from Minsk National Airport
  • they have medical insurance valid in Belarus preferably purchased from a kiosk next to passport control at the airport for €1/day (bring euros or dollars with you to purchase)
  • they are not flying directly from or to a city in Russia
  • they have cash or proof of funds of at least 25€ per day of stay (not enforced for travelers from developed countries)

Visa-free entry only applies to visitors entering and leaving through the border checkpoint at Minsk National Airport, and, unless noted elsewhere, visa-free entry does not apply to travelers entering or exiting by train, bus, or car, or entering by plane at a different airport than Minsk. The cheapest flights to/from Minsk National Airport are usually to/from Vilnius.

Visa-free entry is not granted to holders of diplomatic, service or special passports and to travelers flying to Minsk from Russia or flying from Minsk to Russia. These flights are considered domestic because of the absence of border control between Belarus and Russia.

Citizens of Vietnam, Haiti, Gambia, Honduras, India, China, Lebanon, Namibia, Samoa must also have a valid multi-entry visa to one of the EU countries or to the Schengen Area. They also have to produce a stamp that they used this visa to enter the EU as well as return flight tickets from Minsk before the visa-free period expires.

Arrival and departure days are each considered as full days.

Foreigners can also travel visa-free for 10 days to a visa-free zone that includes Brest and Grodno, provided they obtain permission from a travel agency. See this page for details.

Foreigners can also travel visa-free for 3 days to Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park in western Belarus. To do this, you should "book tourism services" in advance and fill in a online form, after which a simplified visa will be sent to you by e-mail. Bring a printout of the visa and a passport and enter the park from Poland through the Pererov-Belovezha border checkpoint.

Required registration

Whether or not they need a visa, foreigners visiting Belarus must register with the local Migration and Citizenship Department within a period of 5 business days and get a registration card that is held until you leave the country. If you are staying in a hotel, this will be arranged by the hotel and the hotel will provide the registration card at check-in. Do not lose these papers.

Obtaining a visa if you need one

Obtaining a visa at Minsk National Airport

Belarusian visas can be obtained at Minsk National Airport (MSQ IATA) by nationals of countries with no consular offices of the Republic of Belarus for €90 or for €180 for citizens of countries with a Belarusian consulate. Standard documents including a letter of invitation have to be provided in advance. See Particulars of issuance of entry visas at the «National Airport Minsk».

Visa from a Belarusian Embassy

You can apply for a visa at a Belarusian Consulate or Embassy. The list can be found on the Foreign Affairs Ministry website.

Visas can be valid for one, two, three, or unlimited entries. They are to be used within the period indicated therein. A visa will take a full page of your passport so make sure you have at least one page free.

Visa fees and processing times

Tourist visa fees are approximately €60 for all categories of visa, for processing in 5 business days, or double the price for a 2 business day turnaround. Fees change so check with your local embassy for the current costs.

Japanese and Serbian passport holders are exempted from visa fees.

Documents required

In order to get a visa you will also need a passport and an invitation, other papers depending on the type of visa you apply for. There is a compulsory state medical insurance for visitors to Belarus if you do have a policy valid in Belarus. It is preferable to buy this from a Belarusian company, and its costs USD1 per day of stay.

To get a Belarusian business visa a foreigner has to present an invitation of any Belarusian legal entity officially registered in the Republic of Belarus. The invitation is to be written on letterhead paper and should contain name, personal and passport details as well as purpose and duration of visit. The invitation is to be signed and bear official seal of the inviting organization. Embassies or consulates (with the exception of Consular office at the National airport) can often accept invitations received by fax. Multiple business visa is obtainable against payment of USD300 from Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Consular department upon presentation of all required documents (contact phone + 375 17 222 26 61).

To get a short-term visa for private purposes (visiting Belarusian relatives, friends, other private matters) with a validity of 30 days, maximum for 1-, 2- or multiple entries for citizens of the EU as well as nationals of several other countries, such as Australia, Andorra, Argentina, Bahrain, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Chile, Iceland, Israel, Norway, Swiss Confederation, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Uruguay, Republic of South Africa and Japan, no visa support documents shall be required (letter of invitation etc. documents). Short term visas are available from Minsk airport, consulates and embassies.

To get a visa for private purposes a foreigner who is planning to stay in the country for more than 30 days has to present the invitation issued for a Belarusian resident by his citizenship and migration office. The original invitation should be handed over to the embassy/consulate or Consular office at the National airport in this case, any fax or photocopy is excluded. Multiple private visa is issued upon presentation of the original invitation to foreigners, visiting their close relatives. Very often Belarusian consulates grant private visas to the nationals of migration secure countries without any invitation papers.

Difficulties when applying for a visa by mail

Applying for a Visa for Belarus can be a very customer unfriendly experience. If you cannot apply for a visa in person, you SHOULD use the help of a Visa Processing Agency even though it will involve additional fees.

It is common that someone follows all application protocols for getting a visa but still gets denied due to a small technical error, such as a problem with the form of money order or a slight error in a filling out a form.

Communication with the embassies/consulates in Kensington (London, England), Vilnius (Lithuania), Moscow (Russia) can be poor especially by e-mail, post and via telephone. In addition, there have been reports of e-mail queries going unanswered and express Visa applications not being processed in the 48 hour period. They may call you with an update on an application but the communication can be poor or unclear with the caller not identifying themselves.

Extensions of visas and visa-free stays

In case of emergency such as hospitalization, it is possible to extend a visa or the visa-free stay upon the request to a local Migration office. An exit visa should be issued and a traveler will be allowed to leave the country through any border checkpoint by road, railway, or air.

If needed, private or business visas can be extended up to 90 days by the Minsk city citizenship and migration office (contact phone + 375 17 231-3809) or Regional citizenship and migration office in Hrodna, BrestMinsk, Mahilyou, Homel upon presentation of all the required documents.

Expired visas and required exit permits

If you have an expired visa, an exit permit will be required to leave the country. They are issued by Minsk city passport and visa office or Regional passport and visa offices in Hrodna, BrestMinskMogilev, Homel.

By plane

Several European airlines have flights to  Minsk National Airport, approximately 40 km from Minsk, including Belavia, Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Lot Polish Airlines, Air Baltic, and Czech Airlines.

The only national airline, Belavia offers competitively-priced direct flights. Flights to/from Vilnius costs as low as €40 and little advance purchase is required.

By train

Timetables

Timetable information is available here: Deutsche Bahn (DB), Polish trains PKP (English), Commonwealth of independent states (CIS) trains, Latvian trains 1, Latvian trains 2, Lithuanian train timetables, Trains and bus timetables in Baltic countries, Belarusian railway timetable or Estonian train timetable.

To/from Poland

Entry/exit points along the Poland/Belarus border include:

  • Ku?nica-Bia?ostocka/Hrodna
  • Terespol/Brest
  • Czeremcha/Wysokolitowsk

You can take a local train between the two corresponding border towns.

To/from Lithuania

The Vilnius<->Minsk takes 2.5 hours. You can buy the ticket online. Don't forget to enable the electronic registration, otherwise you'd still have to visit the ticket booth to acquire the ticket itself (if traveling from Vilnius, this may even not be possible!). Try not to book the trains that go to Russia since they are slower and don't always have the electronic registration option.

To/from Estonia and Latvia

There is no direct train from Estonia, but via track Tallin-Tartu- Valga/Valka (Valga/Valka is city at the Estonian/Latvian border.

There are a few trains that go to Riga. The name of the train station in Valka is Lugazi.

Customs controls on the train

Passport controls happen in the train itself. In the get in to Belarus direction, they happen typically even before the train leaves the station in Poland.

Customs controls happen in a room of the train station in the Belarus train station. You are most likely to have a short chat with a customs officer - the system of green (nothing to declare) and red (something to declare) streams and random checks of suspicious looking people in the green stream - everyone is presumed to be suspicious. In practice, the rules seem to be fairly standard - declare expensive goods, you can import/export a small quantity of alcohol, cigarettes, computer equipment for personal use. However, the formal content of the customs form asks whether you are carrying any publications. So if you have, e.g. a foreign passport, are carrying do-it-yourself-colour-revolution materials and you have that subversive look about you, then you will probably be giving the customs people a legal reason to detain you and/or deport you.

Warning: the customs room in the train station where you exit Belarus may be difficult to find (especially if you walk around the station rather casually and your Cyrillic is weak) and it closes a long time before the train leaves; if you arrive only 10 minutes before the train leaves, you will be refused customs control and access to the train. Customs may also be carried out at the border while on the train. It adds over an hour to the trip, but other than that, the officials are efficient and friendly. In Brest, you can safely board the train to Poland directly without passing the customs (they will be performed at the border).

By car

At the Terespol/Brest crossing, there are about six different controls. The Polish side seems to work quite slowly. Being on the outer border of the European Union, they check for stolen cars and wanted criminals.

After crossing the bridge over river Bug and getting on the Belarusian side, one has to show passports and gets a piece of paper with the car's registration mark on it. Then one goes to either green or red channel depending on whether a customs control is needed. In the green channel one has to complete two checks, the completion of each check is recorded on the paper received on entering the Belarusian side.

First passport, visa, and migration card checks are done by an officer who comes towards your car. They also check medical insurance and it is quite likely you will be forced to purchase the state compulsory medical insurance at the border for €1 per day of stay.

Second is the transport/car check, for which one needs to go to a special window towards the end of the customs area. You will be required to produce a "green card" (proof of insurance) valid for Belarus, or will have to purchase car insurance at the border for €1 per day of stay. You will also get another piece of paper with your car registration mark. You will need to show this one upon leaving Belarus.

With the stamped paper, one can go forward towards the last barrier. The officer there just takes the paper, checks that you have completed the controls, and lets you into Belarus.

It would be nice to believe that there's a Geiger counter to check for stuff which is radioactive from the Chernobyl accident, but it's unclear if this is used in practice - it's not done in any obvious way.

On leaving Belarus, one has to pay a special "environmental" tax before being allowed to enter the border control area. It costs €1, and in Brest is sold in a large building just before the border on the right.

By bus

Taking a bus from any border of the country of Belarus is easy.

From Tallinn, Estonia, there are direct buses to Minsk.

From Baltic countries: Olimp, Nordeka, Eurolines, Ecolines.

Taking the bus from Vilnius to Minsk takes 4 hours and is a fairly comfortable ride, as long as you stick to western international carriers such as Eurolines. From Kaunas you may travel to Minsk by Kaunas based Kautra company. It's advisable and cheaper to book tickets in advance by internet here. Journey takes about 5.5 hours. Buy your ticket in advance. Before beginning travel to Belarus remember to check that all your papers are in order meaning you have valid visa & Belarus state travel insurance for your trip. For example quick, easy and comfortable way to begin trip is to begin trip from one of the Baltic cities that have Belarussian embassy or consulate.

By boat

Belarus shares many rivers with its neighbouring countries, so it's no big surprise that in Belarus each major city has a riverport and possibilities for river cruises. The easiest way to check departure times, routes and availability is to call Belarussian River Steamship Company and/or Belarusian tourist companies. It is recommended to make cruise inquiries by phone. If you cannot reach one number it is good to call other numbers that company has (phone numbers and e-mail addresses can frequently change in Belarus).

Belarusian border crossing cruises are such as from Belarus, Polotsk into Latvia's Daugavpilis and Poland's Augustow chanel. Augustow chanal cruises departure from Belarusian city called Grodno and the route is via Neman river.

By canoe

Kayak paddling, rowing and canoeing are popular hobbies in Belarus.

In some cases with special pre-planning and preparations with the authorities and tourist agents one can cross the border also by canoeing.

By foot

Pererov-Bialowieza./Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park is the only border crossing for hikers and cyclists.

If you're at one of the double town crossings, e.g.

  • Ku?nica-Bia?ostocka/Hrodna
  • Terespol/Brest

there may be some places where you can cross by foot - e.g. because you're on the last day of your Belarus visa and you want to be sure not to overstay - but more likely you'll have to befriend some people in a car who will adopt you for a few hours and will (implicitly) pretend that you're travelling with them. The border guards have no problem with this. Remember that the people in the car are taking a risk as well as you - as far as they know you might be a National Endowment for Democracy agent who will be discovered by the Belarus border guard and get them into trouble. So if they are Belarusians and they ask for a fee of US$5 consider it fair. See the section By car above for what happens in your adopted car.

Get around

Belarus is not a large country, and a traveller can reach from one side of its border to the other in less than a day.

By car

Travelling by car will get you far, since the infrastructure in Belarus was well developed after World War II. Gasoline is relatively cheap by European standards; 1 liter of petrol costs 1.37 BYR (July 2018), with the price fixed by the government at all fuel stations on a daily basis. You can rent cars in Minsk at the airport or city from the major international rental chains or smaller local companies.

There are many taxi companies. Yandex Taxi, which can be accessed via its mobile app or the Uber mobile app, is the most popular and offers good prices if booked via the app.

By train

Travelling by train around the country will get you to a lot of desired destinations relatively cheap and fast. Timetables for all means of transports can be found here and for trains of course on the site of the Belarusian railway. Also, you will get a chance to capture a glimpse of Belarusian nature, as the forests and plains often start right on the edges of the cities. The country is mostly flat.

Train tickets can be bought in advance (usually 60 days in advance) on the Belarusian railway Web site. If your ticket includes an e-registration, you can print your ticket and directly board the train. If your ticket does not include the e-registration, you must first exchange it for another ticket at the station counter.

By bus

Inter-city buses are cheap, relatively comfortable and relatively punctual but may be more expensive and less comfortable than trains. Bus schedules can be found online here and [here. Note that some buses sell out, so it is better book the tickets in advance. They can be purchased in bus stations.

By minibus

Little minibuses (known as a ?????????, marshrutka), typically painted yellow, are generally cheaper than buses. Seats on inter-city ones can be reserved by phone or by walking up and paying cash.

Talk

See also: Belarusian phrasebook, Russian phrasebook

Belarusian and Russian are the two official languages. Both languages are part of the Slavic language family and are closely related, and there are many similarities between the two languages. Russian, in general, is more widely spoken by the population. According to the 2009 census, 53.2% of Belarusian residents considered Belarusian to be their native language and 23% predominantly speak it at home. Others speak Russian. It will be difficult to get by without some Russian or Belarusian.

Polish is spoken in the western parts, especially around Grodno. But most local Poles use their own dialect with Belarusian as the base and with only some Polish words and sounds.

English, on the other hand is not widely spoken in Belarus, but use is starting to increase. Younger people often speak some English, but older people rarely do.

See

The appeals of Belarus are little known to the average traveller, but the off the beaten track character of this unfamiliar country is exactly what makes it special to the ones that make it here. Much of the historic heritage was lost to World War II violence or to post-war communist planning, but there's more to see than one might expect at first glance. Take Minsk, the country's surprisingly modern yet fiercely Eastern European capital, bustling with nightclubs and modern restaurants but simultaneously a monument of Communist architecture and city development, as it had to be reconstructed completely in the war. It's home to the fine Belarus State Museum, the Independence Square (where democratic protests make world news every so many years), the former KGB Headquarters but also the humbling Zaslavsky Jewish Monument. Far more western is the border city of Brest, where you'll find the 19th century Brest Fortress, the site of a long and severe Operation Barbarossa battle and a monument of the Soviet resistance against the Germans.

There are four World Heritage Sites to see, although one, the Struve Geodetic Arc which provided the basis for the first meridian measurement, offers little more than an inscription to see. Of more interest for visitors however, are the late medieval Mir Castle Complex and the Nesvizh Castle of the same time. They are the best of the country's castles, but a few more can be found if you're interested. For a glance of 19th-century life, head to the Dudutki Open Air Museum. Situated near the sleepy, dusty village of Dudutki, this place brings traditional crafts, such as carpentry, pottery, handicraft-making and baking to life in old-style wood-and-hay houses.

The fourth World Heritage Site is a natural one. The primeval Bia?owie?a Forest covers part of both Belarus and Poland, with the Belarus side known as Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park. Few foreign visitors make it here, but the park is home to European bison, goose and other wildlife, and there's a small museum. Other good picks for a natural experience are the Pripyat Reserve and the Braslau Lakes.

Do

Buy

Money

The currency of the country is the New Belarusian ruble, denoted by the symbol "p" (ISO code: BYN).

Inside Belarus, you can get Belarusian rubles (but not always euros or US dollars) from automatic bank machines (ATMs) for standard types of credit/debit cards, and you can change U.S. dollars and euros into Belarusian rubles and vice versa at many exchange kiosks in big railway stations and the centres of big cities. Converting Belarusian rubles back into hard currency shortly before departure or once you are outside of Belarus will probably be extremely difficult, except in Lithuania, Latvia, and Moldova.

Be very careful: exchange kiosks will not exchange any note that is damaged or marked on but with a commission of 1-2%. Only take relatively new and undamaged foreign money with you.

Most larger supermarkets, stores and hotels have credit card terminals, but smaller shops often do not. Visa and MasterCard are accepted, but American Express is not.

Prices are typically much lower than in Western Europe, especially for supermarket food and the service industry.

The tipping situation is not particularly clear. You are not expected to tip in most situations, but in restaurants (especially higher-end), service charges may not be added to your bill; in that case, add around 10%.

Eat

In a nutshell: potatoes, pork, beef, bread.

If you are looking for a national gourmet meal - you are in the right place. Most of the products and ingredients are organic, and radiation levels are constantly checked in the food to avoid contamination.

Take fresh aurochs, and if you do not have any, you can use the elk instead. - From an 18th-century Belarusian cookbook

Modern Belarusian cookery is based on old national traditions, which have undergone a long historical evolution, with similarities to the Russian cuisine. But the main methods of traditional Belarusian cuisine are carefully kept by the people.

Common in Belarusian cuisine were dishes made with potatoes, which are called "the second bread". The Belarusians bring fame to their beloved potato in their verses, songs and dances. There are special potato cafes in the country where you can try various potato dishes. Potato is included in many salads and it is served together with mushrooms and/or meat; different pirazhki (patties) and baked puddings are made from it. The most popular among the Belarusians is traditional draniki (known as "latkes" to North Americans, but eaten only with sour cream, never apple sauce), thick pancakes prepared from shredded potatoes. The wide spread of potato dishes in Belarusian cuisine can be explained by natural climatic conditions of Belarus which are propitious for growing highly starched and tasty sorts of potatoes.

Meat and meat products, especially pork and salted pork fat, play a major role in the diet of Belarusians. One of the people's proverbs says: "There is no fish more tasty than tench, and there is no meat better than pork". Salted pork fat is used slightly smoked and seasoned with onions and garlic. Pyachysta is one of the traditional holiday dishes. This is boiled, stewed or roasted sucking pig, fowl or large chunks of pork or beef. Dishes prepared from meat are usually served together with potatoes or vegetables such as carrot, cabbage, black radish, peas, etc. It is characteristic that many vegetable and meat dishes are prepared in special stoneware pots.

Among fish dishes, the Belarusians prefer yushka, galki and also baked or boiled river fish without special seasonings. In general, the most common seasonings are onions, garlic, parsley, dill, caraway seeds and pepper; they are used very moderately in Belarusian cookery. The national dishes are hearty and tasty nonetheless. Among the fruit and vegetable choices are fresh, dried, salted and pickled mushrooms, and berries such as bilberry, wild strawberries, red whortleberry, raspberries, cranberries and some others. Of flour dishes, the most popular is zacirka. Pieces of specially prepared dough are boiled in water and then poured over with milk or garnished with salted pork fat. The Belarusians prefer to use whole milk, which affected some methods of making yoghurt and the so-called klinkovy cottage cheese. In Belarusian cuisine, milk is widely used for mixing in vegetable and flour dishes.

Signature dishes include Draniki, Potato babka, Knish, Pyachysta and Zacirka.

Foreign cuisine

There are several foreign chains in Belarus including McDonald's, KFC, and TGI Friday's. There are also French, Italian, and Asian restaurants. Pizza is a very popular dish at many restaurants.

Drink

Typical non-alcoholic drinks include Kefir, which is a sort of sour milk, similar to yogurt, Kvas and Kompot.

Vodka (harelka), bitter herbal nastoikas (especially Belavezhskaja) and sweet balsams are the most common alcoholic drinks.

Krambambula is a traditional medieval alcoholic drink which you can buy in most stores or order in a restaurant. It's a pretty strong drink but its taste is much softer than vodka.

Medovukha (or Myadukha) is a honey-based alcoholic beverage very similar to mead.

Sbiten is a combination of kvass, another common soft alcohol drink, with honey.

Berezavik or biarozavy sok is a birch tree juice which is collected in March from small holes in birch tree trunks with no harm to the plants themselves. There are several variations of this very refreshing alcohol-free drink, which is a good thirst-quencher in hot weather.

Sleep

Don't leave valuable items, such as computers, mobile phones, or wallets/cash in hotel rooms as there have been reports of thefts by housekeepers.

Learn

Russian language courses at the Belarus State Economic University [1] and the Minsk State Linguistic University [2].

Stay safe

Belarus has a moderate level of crime. Fortunately, crimes against foreigners are rare, though criminals have been known to use force if met with resistance from victims. Common street crime, such as mugging and pickpocketing, occurs most frequently near public transportation venues, near hotels frequented by foreigners, and/or at night in poorly lit areas. In many areas, you should be especially alert in metro and bus stations, as criminals have a likely chance in attacking you.

Avoid visiting night clubs and discothèques, as these are operated by criminal gangs willing to search for greater money, but street-level organized criminal violence is rare and does not generally affect expatriates.

Cyber-crime of all kinds is well-developed in Belarus. Merchandise orders with fraudulent credit cards, ID theft, hacking, blackmail schemes, and Nigerian-style advanced fee fraud are gaining in popularity. If you are doing business with persons or firms in Belarus electronically, you should proceed with extreme caution. Not only is electronic fraud common at ATMs and grocery stores, serious injuries have been inflicted during assaults at street-side ATMs.

If you participate in a street demonstration with political banners, expect to be detained within minutes. How fast you get out (24 hours or 24 days) depends on your connections, your social status, etc. Westerners especially should avoid any political discussions, protests, etc., due to the government's keen opposition to dissenting views.

Belarus is still largely a discriminatory society. Gay and lesbian travellers face widespread discrimination in Belarus, as do Jews. If you are in any of these categories, exercise caution if you decide to travel to Belarus.

Many demonstrations can be identified by seeing a red and white banner: a white background, with a strip of red going horizontally across in the centre, forming a white/red/white flag. If you see this flag, do your best to stay away from the demonstration.

Security personnel may at times place you, as a foreigner, under surveillance; hotel rooms, telephones, and fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched. Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with authorities; these sites are not always clearly marked and the application of these restrictions is subject to interpretation.

Visible and hidden dangers exist, including potholes, unlighted or poorly lighted streets, inattentive and dark-clothed pedestrians walking on unlighted roads, drivers and pedestrians under the influence of alcohol, and disregard for traffic rules. Driving in winter is especially dangerous because of ice and snow. Drivers are urged to exercise caution at all times.

The KGB in Belarus has not changed its name since the days of the Soviet Union - it is still called the KGB, and its habits have probably not changed much either.

Some ethnic Polish journalists and journalists with Polish citizenship had hassles with the authorities (ranging from being refused entry to a dozen or so days in prison) during 2005. If you have a Polish sounding name, you had better have good evidence that you're not a journalist.

Belarus police organizations are well trained and professional, but severely restricted by an unreformed Soviet-era legal system, corruption, and politicization of the police force and other government authorities. Due to low salaries, it is not uncommon for officers to collect bribes during traffic stops. Sophisticated criminal investigations are often inconclusive because of a lack of resources and/or political will.

Belarusians are extremely clumsy drivers.

Tap water is not safe for drinking. Buy bottles.

Toilets are very frequent in Belarus; however, they are usually neither free, nor adapted to wheelchairs. Also note they rarely have available paper (except perhaps in touristy places such as museums), and are often squatting-style.

Stay healthy

Belarus had historically maintained an excellent healthcare system, but the aftermath of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster severely damaged the medical care system. Medical care in Belarus is as a result neither modern nor easily accessible, which is made even harder for those who do not speak fluent Russian or Belarussian. Ambulances are poorly equipped and unreliable; a wait time of 30 minutes or more is not unusual. The fastest way to secure Western-level care is medical evacuation to the European Union.

Tuberculosis (TB) is an increasingly serious health concern in Belarus. Consider consulting with a doctor about getting vaccinated before traveling to Belarus.

The impact of the Chernobyl disaster on the food chain is an ongoing study. Food inspectors check food not only for bacterial contamination but also its radiation levels. Most food is considered safe, except if sourced from the banned regions within 50km of the Chernobyl plant itself or the second hotspot around the intersection of Russian, Ukrainian and Belarussian borders.

Respect

Since Belarusian, Ukrainian and Russian cultures are very close and thus share much in common, many of the same principles of behaviour that can be applied to Russians and Ukrainians, are also applicable to the Belarus populace.

Connect

There are 3 major GSM providers in Belarus, all of which offer prepaid SIM cards for Internet access and phone calls.

  • MTS - Has the best coverage
  • Velcom - Has good coverage
  • Life:) - Has the worst coverage of the 3 providers

You will need to show your passport at the point of purchase. All 3 service providers have plans geared for tourists that cost around 15 BYR and provide around 2GB of data, with more available for purchase at additional cost.

Belarus (Bradt Travel Guide)

Nigel Roberts

Lawyer-turned-author and charity worker Nigel Roberts is one of the leading experts on Belarus, a much misunderstood country that is gradually opening up more to the rest of the world. This new edition remains the only dedicated English-language guide to Belarus and will be of particular interest to the growing number of visitors from the USA interested in tracing the history of their Jewish families. The promotion of tourism to Belarus was growing rapidly when the first edition was published in June 2008, and the rate of growth has continued to the present day, not least due to the country’s increasing profile in world sport.

Belarus - Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture

Anne Coombes

Culture Smart! provides essential information on attitudes, beliefs and behavior in different countries, ensuring that you arrive at your destination aware of basic manners, common courtesies, and sensitive issues. These concise guides tell you what to expect, how to behave, and how to establish a rapport with your hosts. This inside knowledge will enable you to steer clear of embarrassing gaffes and mistakes, feel confident in unfamiliar situations, and develop trust, friendships, and successful business relationships. Culture Smart! offers illuminating insights into the culture and society of a particular country. It will help you to turn your visit-whether on business or for pleasure-into a memorable and enriching experience. Contents include: * customs, values, and traditions * historical, religious, and political background * life at home * leisure, social, and cultural life * eating and drinking * dos, don'ts, and taboos * business practices * communication, spoken and unspoken

MINSK, BELARUS. LOCAL GUIDE (1)

Masha Cheriakova

Read about who the Belarusians are and what you can do in Minsk!

Minsk. Belarus. Local Guide is the first complete travel guide with photos and illustrations in English to the capital of Belarus – Minsk. It has been written by a team of locals living in Belarus and abroad who find that their homeland has an undeserved negative stigma. The mission of the guide is to introduce Minsk and Belarus to foreigners like yourself who are keen to explore and discover a lesser known country right on your doorstep.

Minsk is a beautiful city with a unique mixture of post-Soviet and modern European atmosphere, full of interesting places to see and fascinating things to do! In the book, the authors share their love for their city with you. All the information you will read is a collection of local advice without any commercial or sales bribes. Making this travel guide 100% authentic and independent.

Inside Minsk. Belarus. Local Guide

A travel guide about everything to get you ready for your trip to the East, to Belarus, Minsk! In a humorous and illustrative way from locals’ perspective the compact guide shows everything there is to see and do. You will get information about preparation for the trip, who the Belarusians are, stereotypes, geography, history, languages, transportation, special events and festivals, souvenirs, districts of Minsk and regions in Belarus. You will find some local insights, what to do in Minsk with kids, what to buy in a supermarket and plan for a one-day trip.

Looking for even more information about Minsk and Belarus? Check out our travel platform about Belarus in English HifiveBelarus.com.

With the amount that you pay for the book you support us and our social mission of making Belarus English proof!

Why Belarus?

Belarus lies in Eastern Europe, between Russia and Poland and is gradually opening up to foreign tourists. There are several reasons why tourists should travel to Belarus:

to surprise people by saying ‘I have been to the least known country in Europe’! from February 2017 tourists from over 80 countries can travel to Belarus visa-free for 5 days (if they fly to Minsk airport). Belarus has a lot to offer to tourists – beautiful Soviet architecture, untouched nature that exists out of hundreds of lakes and wild forest, warm people who slowly started speaking English, good night and day life and a great cuisine!

Belarus (Bradt Travel Guide)

Nigel Roberts

This new, thoroughly updated edition of Bradt's Belarus remains the only full-blown standalone guide to the most westerly of the constituent republics that formed the Soviet Union prior to the break-up in 1991. Written and updated by expert author and Russian speaker Nigel Roberts, who has been travelling throughout the country for over 17 years, it is the definitive guide to understanding, and making the most of a visit to this much-misunderstood nation. Included in this new edition is a detailed focus on the capital city Minsk, the most likely destination for first-time travellers and now becoming a major European capital city thanks to an easing of visa regulations, as well as coverage of each of the other five cities and all six regions. Roberts draws on his years of experience and shares many stories and vignettes of his own adventures and experiences of everyday life, all of which help to bring the destination to life. In addition, there are recommendations and tips from his wide circle of contacts, including people at all levels of the tourism industry, charities working on the ground, local people and travellers from abroad, who regularly share details of up-to-the-minute information, changes and developments.With Bradt's Belarus enjoy the opportunity to put the cliché to the test; only ever described by Western media as ‘the last dictatorship in Europe', travellers certainly do have the opportunity to experience elements of life as it was lived in the days of the Soviet Union but can also see beyond the cliché as Belarus seeks to free itself from the Soviet past and establish its own heritage and place in the modern world. Discover beautifully preserved and restored museum towns such as Mir, Njasvizh, Novogrudok, Pinsk and Polotsk; see Soviet-style brutalist and modernist architecture; explore accessible national parks and vast areas of unspoilt wilderness, with ample opportunity to study flora and fauna; visit historic palaces and castles stunningly restored; and enjoy the unconditional hospitality of a people who are anxious to interact with visitors from the English-speaking world.

Belarus: Minsk (Photo Book Book 167)

Lea Rawls

Belarus is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe. Its capital and most populous city is Minsk. Over 40% of its 207,600 square kilometres (80,200 sq mi) is forested. Its major economic sectors are service industries and manufacturing Until the 20th century, different states at various times controlled the lands of modern-day Belarus, including the Principality of Polotsk (11th to 14th centuries), the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the Russian Empire.In the aftermath of the 1917 Russian Revolution, Belarus declared independence as the Belarusian People's Republic, which was conquered by Soviet Russia. The parliament of the republic proclaimed the sovereignty of Belarus on 27 July 1990, and during the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Belarus declared independence on 25 August 1991. Alexander Lukashenko has served as the country's first president since 1994. Belarus has been labeled "Europe's last dictatorship" by some Western journalists, on account of Lukashenko's self-described authoritarian style of government. Lukashenko continued a number of Soviet-era policies, such as state ownership of large sections of the economy. Elections under Lukashenko's rule have been widely criticized as unfair; and according to many countries and organizations, political opposition has been violently suppressed. Belarus is also the last country in Europe using the death penalty. In 2000, Belarus and Russia signed a treaty for greater cooperation, forming the Union State. Over 70% of Belarus's population of 9.49 million resides in urban areas. More than 80% of the population is ethnic Belarusian, with sizable minorities of Russians, Poles and Ukrainians. Since a referendum in 1995, the country has had two official languages: Belarusian and Russian. The Constitution of Belarus does not declare any official religion, although the primary religion in the country is Eastern Orthodox Christianity. The second-most widespread religion, Roman Catholicism, has a much smaller following; nevertheless, Belarus celebrates both Orthodox and Catholic versions of Christmas and Easter as national holidays. Belarus is a member of the United Nations since its founding, the Commonwealth of Independent States, CSTO, EEU, and the Non-Aligned Movement. Belarus has shown no aspirations for joining the European Union but nevertheless maintains a bilateral relationship with the organisation, and likewise participates in two EU projects: the Eastern Partnership and the Baku Initiative.

Russia & Belarus (Lonely Planet Travel Guides)

Mark Elliott

Cosmopolitan cities, bubbling volcanoes, spectacular mountains and breathtaking art - Russia is as diverse as it is dramatic, while Belarus satisfies those in search of a Soviet experience. Untangle the conspiracy theories and immerse yourself in the rich heritage - from Minsk to Moscow, Siberia to Kamchatka, make sure you're carrying this best-selling guide to the world's most enigmatic destination.Cultural Context - in-depth background information brings you up to date on Belarusian politics and Tuvan throat-singing.Discerning Reviews - hand-picked listings from our team of expert authors reveal Moscow's swankiest clubs and Siberia's finest adventure tours.140+ Maps - detailed, grid-referenced maps throughout.Comprehensive Language Chapter - includes Cyrillic script.

Belarus (Bradt Travel Guide)

Nigel Roberts

Belarus remains the most inaccessible, unknown and misunderstood country in Europe. This new guide – the first to focus on the Republic of Belarus – therefore offers a rare opportunity to study a country and its people as they really are, before the rest of the world catches on.Anyone with an interest in history and sociology will be fascinated by the continuation of traditional rural pastimes and industries where a horse and cart is still in use. There are also vast areas of marshes, lakes and rivers, which are of particular appeal to ecologists and environmentalists.Slav and Belarussian cultural monuments, churches, monasteries and castles dating back to the Middle Ages, are explored in detail.

Belarus, 2nd: The Bradt Travel Guide

Nigel Roberts

Mysterious and misunderstood, Belarus remains an enigma at the heart of Europe. This new edition of the first and only English-language guidebook to Belarus gives you all the information needed to get the best from this lost world. Explore Minsk, Belarus's modern city, built as a memorial to the glory of Soviet communism or step beyond the capital and find a wealth of riches that remain largely unknown to the outside world: the natural splendour of primeval forests, rivers and lakes; flora and fauna in abundance; stunning museums empty of visitors; rich culture and tradition; historical sites dating back to the Middle Ages; beautiful churches; Russian Orthodoxy and the genuine warmth of a people who believe that the rest of the world has either forgotten them or has no interest in their wellbeing.

 

Exercise a high degree of caution

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.

Crime

Petty crimes such as pickpocketing, purse snatching and mugging occur, particularly in the cities of MinskGrodnoBrestGomelMogilev, and Vitebsk. Such crimes are especially common after dark in and around hotels and hostels frequented by foreigners.

Theft is common on trains, particularly on sleeper trains. Be vigilant when crossing the border with Poland at Brest due to the risk of mugging.

Theft of luxury cars is common. Park your vehicle in a secure location or guarded lot and always keep valuables out of sight.

Demonstrations

Demonstrations periodically occur in the capital, Minsk, and other major cities in Belarus, following the presidential elections held in December 2010. Clashes with police occur and hundreds of people, including passers-by, have been detained, fined or sentenced to jail terms. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings as they have the potential to suddenly turn violent. Follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media.

Terrorism

On April 11, 2011, an explosion took place in a Minsk subway station, killing 14 and injuring more than 200 people. You are advised to use extreme caution when using the public transportation system.

Fraud

Automated banking machine (ABM) card and credit-card fraud is common. Use these cards only at ABMs located inside major banks. If you use a credit card for payment, pay careful attention when it is being handled by others during payment processing and check your statement frequently for fraudulent use.

See our Overseas Fraud page for more information on scams abroad.

Spiked food and drinks

Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum, or cigarettes from new acquaintances, as they may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery. Many adult clubs are managed by organized crime.

Road travel

Roads are generally in good condition; however, many may be impassable in winter. Drivers generally have little regard for traffic regulations and do not follow safe-driving practices. Horse-drawn carts are a common road hazard in rural areas. Radar traps are widespread.

The Belarusian government may enforce a requirement for special permits to travel in “protected border zones.” Information defining the parameters of those zones has not been provided. Be alert for warning signs, road barriers or border-guard posts. Do not cross into such areas without permission.

Public transportation

Use only officially marked taxis and do not share them with strangers. Fares vary greatly and vehicles are often poorly maintained.

Buses and trolleys are poorly maintained and are usually crowded and unheated.

Exercise caution when travelling by train, especially on sleeper trains to Warsaw and Moscow. Store valuables in a safe place and do not leave your compartment unattended. Ensure that the door is secured from the inside.

Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

General safety information

Ensure that your personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times.

Avoid showing signs of affluence and carrying large sums of cash. Always be aware of your surroundings.

Tourist facilities are limited and only available in the larger cities.

Security authorities may place foreigners under surveillance. Hotel rooms, telephones, fax machines and e-mail messages may be monitored. Personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched. Foreigners have been expelled from the country for working with Belarusian civil-society groups.

Emergency services

Dial 101 to reach fire fighters, 102 for the police and 103 for an ambulance.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Rabies

Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).

Tick-borne encephalitis

Tick-borne encephalitis is a viral disease that can cause swelling of the brain. It is spread to humans by the bite of an infected tick. Vaccination should be considered for those who may be exposed to tick bites (e.g., those spending time outdoors in wooded areas) while travelling in regions with risk of tick-borne encephalitis.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of vaccination is not required to enter this country.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in Eastern Europe, food and water can also carry diseases like hepatitis A. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in Eastern Europe. When in doubt, remember…boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in Eastern Europe, certain insects carry and spread diseases like Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, leishmaniasis, Lyme disease, tick-borne encephalitis, and West Nile virus.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.


Malaria

Malaria

There is no risk of malaria in this country.


Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, snakes, rodents, and bats. Certain infections found in Eastern Europe, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Medical care is limited and not up to Western standards. Private medical and dental offices can be found in the larger cities. In the event of a serious accident or illness, medical evacuation will be necessary.

Health tips

Many parts of Belarus were contaminated by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident, particularly the south valley of the Prypeć River and the vicinity of Gomel and Mogilev in the east. Avoid dairy products and locally grown fruit and vegetables as they may carry high levels of radiation.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

A serious violation may lead to a jail or death sentence. The sentence will be served in local prisons.

Dual citizenship

Naturalized Canadians do not automatically lose their Belarusian citizenship and are subject to Belarusian laws regarding citizenship and military service.

Identification

Always carry your passport, visa and migration card as you may be asked to prove your identity and date of entry into the country. Failure to provide internationally recognized identification could result in detention.

Illegal drugs

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict. Convicted offenders can expect lengthy jail sentences.

Illegal activities

Photography of military installations, public buildings and monuments may result in a penalty. Seek permission from local authorities before taking photographs.

Homosexuality

Homosexual activity is legal but is not widely accepted in Belarusian society.

Driving laws

An International Driving Permit is required.

When travelling by private vehicle, you are required to show ownership documents or a “power of attorney” letter at border crossings. These documents must be translated into Belarusian and certified at a Belarusian embassy. Third-party car insurance is mandatory and can only be purchased upon entry into Belarus.

Drivers of foreign vehicles must pay a fee to use Belarusian highways. Payments are collected at border checkpoints and vary according to the length of stay. Tolls are collected on major highways and payment is required in a foreign currency (euro, U.S. dollar, or Russian ruble).

Vehicles must have their lights on at all times from November 1 to March 31.

There is zero tolerance for driving under the influence of alcohol.

Money

The currency is the Belarusian ruble (BYB/BYR).

Credit cards are accepted by many hotels and stores, especially in Minsk. However, beware of credit-card fraud. Automated banking machines (ABMs) are available in major cities to withdraw rubles. Traveller’s cheques are not accepted for payment but can be exchanged at a bank for rubles.

You must pay for goods and services in Belarusian rubles. The use of foreign currency in cash transactions is prohibited; you can face arrest if you attempt to buy an item with currency other than Belarusian rubles. Exchange foreign currency at government-licensed booths only. A valid passport must be presented to purchase foreign currency.

When crossing one of the external border control points of the European Union (EU), you must make a declaration to customs upon entry or exit if you have at least €10,000 or the equivalent in other currencies. The sum can be in cash, cheques, money orders, traveller’s cheques or any other convertible assets. This does not apply if you are travelling within the EU or in transit to a non-EU country. For more information on the EU legislation and links to EU countries’ sites, visit the web page of the European Commission on cash controls.

Climate

This destination is not prone to natural disasters.

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