Traveling Luck for Belarus

Belarus is located in Eastern Europe, east of Poland.

Belarus has borders with Lithuania for 502km, Latvia for 141km, Poland for 407km, Russia for 959km and Ukraine for 891km.

Land in Belarus is generally flat and contains much marshland.

Belarusian land covers an area of 207600 square kilometers which is slightly smaller than Kansas

As for the Belarusian climate; cold winters, cool and moist summers; transitional between continental and maritime.

Belarusian(s) speak Belarusian, Russian, other.

Belarusian National Map

Belarusian Map

Regions of Belarus

After seven decades as a constituent republic of the USSR, Belarus attained its independence in 1991. 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, serious implementation has yet to take place. Since his election in July 1994 as the country's first president, Alexander LUKASHENKO has steadily consolidated his power through authoritarian means. Government restrictions on freedom of speech and the press, peaceful assembly, and religion continue.


Belarus Country Profile

Belarus's economy in 2005 posted 8% growth. The government has succeeded in lowering inflation over the past several years. Trade with Russia - by far its largest single trade partner - decreased in 2005, largely as a result of a change in the way the Value Added Tax (VAT) on trade was collected. Trade with European countries increased. Belarus has seen little structural reform since 1995, when President LUKASHENKO launched the country on the path of "market socialism." In keeping with this policy, LUKASHENKO reimposed administrative controls over prices and currency exchange rates and expanded the state's right to intervene in the management of private enterprises. During 2005, the government re-nationalized a number of private companies. In addition, businesses have been subject to pressure by central and local governments, e.g., arbitrary changes in regulations, numerous rigorous inspections, retroactive application of new business regulations, and arrests of "disruptive" businessmen and factory owners. A wide range of redistributive policies has helped those at the bottom of the ladder; the Gini coefficient is among the lowest in the world. Because of these restrictive economic policies, Belarus has had trouble attracting foreign investment, which remains low. Growth has been strong in recent years, despite the roadblocks in a tough, centrally directed economy with a high, but decreasing, rate of inflation. Belarus continues to receive heavily discounted oil and natural gas from Russia. Much of Belarus' growth can be attributed to the re-export of Russian oil at market prices.

Belarusian natural resources include forests, peat deposits, small quantities of oil and natural gas, granite, dolomitic limestone, marl, chalk, sand, gravel, clay

landlocked; glacial scouring accounts for the flatness of Belarusian terrain and for its 11,000 lakes

Belarusian religion is Eastern Orthodox 80%, other (including Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim) 20% (1997 est.).

Natural hazards in Belarus include NA.

Travel Advice on Belarus

Belarus

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with an amendment to the Entry Requirements section (removal of reference to foot and mouth disease).  The overall level of the advice has not changed.

SUMMARY

  • The threat from terrorism is low.  But you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by foreigners.

  • Visas are required to enter, or travel through, Belarus.  This includes anyone travelling by train on popular routes such as Warsaw-Moscow and St Petersburg-Kiev.  See the Entry Requirements section of this travel advice for more details.

  • Since January 2005, a new system of fees for drivers of foreign vehicles has been in operation.  Payments are collected at border checkpoints and will vary according to the length of your stay.

  • You must register your stay with the Belarus authorities if you intend to remain in the country for more than three days.

  • There are strong penalties for possession or use of drugs.

  • Avoid taking photographs of military or government installations.

  • Around 4,000 British nationals visit Belarus every year.  Most visits are trouble-free.  The main types of incident for which British nationals require consular assistance in Belarus are for difficulties with registration, passengers travelling through Belarus who do not have the required transit visa, and those requiring documents and legalisation of documents for marriage in Belarus.

  • We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  Medical insurance cover is compulsory for a stay in Belarus.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.  Please see:  Travel Insurance.


SAFETY AND SECURITY

Crime

There is little crime in Belarus.  However, you should be alert at all times to the possibility of mugging, pickpocketing and theft from vehicles or hotel rooms.  You should take extra care when travelling by train, as there have been instances of theft from travellers, especially on sleeper trains to Warsaw and Moscow.

Political Situation

Belarus Country Profile.

Belarus is governed by a strong Presidential system with security forces loyal to it.  Historically the authorities have shown little tolerance for their opposition counterparts.  This has often been reflected in the heavy-handed use of the security forces to disperse or intimidate opposition events.  You should therefore avoid any demonstrations or rallies.

Road Safety

British driving licence holders must possess a valid International Driver's Licence to drive legally in Belarus.  When travelling by private vehicle, you must be able to produce ownership documents or a letter of "power of attorney" at Custom's offices at border crossings.  Only originals of these documents are accepted.  You must have third party car insurance or you may get an “on-the-spot” fine.  But you can only buy this when entering Belarus.  Motorists should enquire at Customs’ border offices for information.

Since January 2005 Belarus introduced a new system of fees for drivers of foreign vehicles wishing to use Belarus' highways.  Payments are collected at border checkpoints and will vary according to the length of stay.

The quality of driving in Belarus is erratic.  Belarus' "A-class" highways are in average to good condition.  The condition of "B-class" roads varies considerably and some are impassable for periods in winter.  Drivers should note that road works and potholes are usually poorly marked.  Pony and trap combinations are a specific hazard for drivers in rural unlit areas.

You should observe the speed limit at all times.  The standard speed limit is 60 kph (37 mph) in built up areas; 90 kph (55 mph) outside built up areas; and 100 kph (62 mph) on motorways (Brest-Moscow).  Visiting motorists who have held a driving licence for less than two years must not exceed 70 kph (43 mph).  The authorities operate a nil-tolerance policy in respect of drink driving. You should drive with your lights on at all times between November and March.

Motorists should be aware that there may be long queues at the border, and that customs and immigration can be lengthy and bureaucratic.  You should ignore “private facilitators” who offer to help travellers pass through checkpoints and border crossings.  There are police checkpoints on routes throughout the country.  Drivers should stop at these when instructed, and have the vehicle documentation to hand, otherwise you risk a fine and delay.

Motorists entering Belarus should ensure that they do not overstay the temporary import terms for their vehicles.  Violation of the exit deadline may result in confiscation of your vehicle at the Belarusian border or if stopped at an in-country police checkpoint.

Air Safety

Some local airlines do not observe proper maintenance procedures.  For your safety, where possible, you should fly directly to your destination on an international flight originating outside the former Soviet Union and Central Asia.


LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS

Belarus has severe penalties for drugs-related crimes.  The penalties for possession of drugs range from fines to up to five years imprisonment.  Large-scale drug-related offences can result in imprisonment of between 7 and 15 years.

Homosexual relationships are permitted under Belarusian law.  However, Belarus remains a conservative society and the gay/lesbian scene is very low profile.  Few homosexuals openly declare themselves.

You should avoid taking photographs of all government buildings, military installations and uniformed officials.  You should also be aware that you could be fined for jaywalking.

You must complete a currency and goods declaration form on entering Belarus.  This must be completed accurately and must be stamped on entry by a Customs Officer.  You will not be allowed to take out from Belarus more currency than you originally declared on the currency declaration form on entry to Belarus.  You should keep these forms for the duration of your visit.  When leaving Belarus you will have to complete a new form but you should also have the original form to hand.  If you do not do so, your journey may be delayed and you may be fined.

If you wish to import goods or services for charitable purposes, you should consult the Belarus Embassy in London for advice about local procedures and tariffs.  If you think that your goods are subject to exemption from Belarusian taxation, you should obtain a written note from the Belarus Embassy in London, http://belembassy.org/uk, confirming this.


ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

Visas are required to enter or transit Belarus.  This includes anyone travelling by train on popular routes such as Warsaw-Moscow and St Petersburg-Kiev.  If you attempt to transit Belarus without a visa, the border authorities will send you to Minsk to obtain the appropriate visa.  You may also be required to pay a fine of up to $300 and you may face deportation.  Belarusian diplomatic offices and consulates issue visas.  In the UK, you can obtain visas from the Belarusian representation in the UK.
Anyone staying more than 3 days in Belarus must register with the local police office (OVIR) in the district in which they are staying.  If you are staying in a hotel this will be arranged by the hotel.  If you are not staying in a hotel this must be organised by your host.  There are fines for not registering in time.  If arriving at the weekend the earliest you will be able to register is Tuesday.  Tuesday will count as the first of the three days.

Since February 2006, you need to complete a migration card to enter Belarus.  Part B of the card will be stamped on arrival and should be retained.  You will need to return it when leaving the country.  The migration card must also be stamped at the local OVIR.  This is done at the same time as registration.  If you are staying in a hotel, they should do this for you.  You should state on the migration card the period that you intend to stay in Belarus.  If you decide to stay longer than the period stated, you should ensure you extend the validity of the migration card (and your visa if necessary) at OVIR.  A new migration card was introduced on 1 November 2006, which is common to Russia and Belarus. The format and procedures remain the same.
Before setting off, you should ensure that your passport has at least six months validity and two unused pages.

Single parents or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country.  For further information on exactly what will be required at immigration, please contact the Belarusian representation in the UK.


HEALTH

We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.  Please see:  Travel Insurance
There is no longer a requirement for British citizens to buy local medical insurance on arrival in Belarus and you should not be asked to do so.

Standards of health care are below that of the UK.

You should bring essential personal medications, as the availability of local supplies cannot be guaranteed.

You should take care to avoid certain foodstuffs (primarily local dairy produce, forest mushrooms and fruits of the forest), which can carry high levels of radiation as a result of contamination from the Chernobyl disaster.  You should not drink village well water as it is usually heavily contaminated with impurities.  In cities, you should first boil, then filter tap water before drinking.  We recommend that you buy bottled water.  This is widely available in shops.

The risk of radioactive contamination from the 1986 accident at Chernobyl in Ukraine is insignificant, other than within the exclusion zone immediately around the Chernobyl site, which includes the area close to the border with Ukraine in the south east of Belarus.  No special precautions are necessary.  You may find that access to this part of the country can be limited.

You should seek medical advice before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up to date.  For further information on health, check the Department of Health’s website at:  www.dh.gov.uk.
Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)
There have been no reported cases of avian influenza (bird flu) in Belarus during the current series of outbreaks.  But the World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed cases elsewhere in the region.
You should read this advice in conjunction with the FCO’s Avian and Pandemic Influenza Factsheet , which gives more detailed advice and information.


GENERAL

If things go wrong when overseas, please see:  What We Can Do To Help

Money

Sterling is not widely accepted for exchange into Belarusian Roubles.  We advise that you carry a mix of US Dollars and Euros.  Ensure you have enough money for the duration of your stay.

The number of ATMs is steadily increasing in major cities.  Credit cards are not widely used but can be used to withdraw cash at major hotels and banks.  Some large stores and restaurants will take them.

Only exchange foreign currency at Government licensed booths.  These can be found in or near major stores, hotels, banks and all shopping centres.  Non-compliance can result in fines and/or arrest.

Passports

The British Embassy in Minsk does not issue passports.  Applications for new passports are accepted in Minsk for forwarding to the British Embassy in Moscow for processing, but this may take up to four weeks.  If you use a courier you will have to pay the cost.