I love to discover new places on foot and if you anything like me then Minsk is the right place for you. Minsk is a very big city with long streets, wide squares and foot paths with grandiose soviet architecture and interesting monuments and sculpture and streets additional ornaments.
Interesting route would be between Independence square (via Oktobarskaya and Independence square) then trough Namiga street over bridge to the Old town. In sort term - History center of city Minsk, you can see over this area a huge pictures maps with sign on it as "исторический центр города Минска" (from Russian language in meaning "history center of city Minsk"). That area is things-to-do and you cannot missed. On that maps are indicated all places of interests. According State List of Historical and Cultural Values of the Republic of Belarus, there is many other places of interest all over City of great national and international significant. You can buy the same map on some kiosk or can enjoy in city with guidance. No fear for lost in big city as in some other big cites.
Traffic lights with time on it are big and have a patient with it. And be quick because the time for green light are shorter then for red and paths are wide and long.
So, put on a comfortable walking shes or snickers and grab your camera and enjoy in discover city in very hart of Europe. No need map but it is always good to have a map or some kind of guide so you don't skip something you would find later a interesting to see or do and record.
The Airport Bus service connects the main airport terminal building with both the central train and central bus stations in Minsk city.
It seems to me the service runs about every 40 or 45 minutes.
A single ticket costs 1900 Belarusian Rouble which is a miniscule amount compared to the 40 Euros I was quoted by the taxi company from my hotel.
The bus however is slow. It takes an hour to travel the 40km because there are several stops on the way. If you're not in a hurry and hate paying taxi rates then this is a good option.
I only took one journey on the Metro, mainly because I refused to pay what I thought was an excessive taxi fare from the railway station to my first hotel. Armed with my Bradt guidebook which featured a map of the Metro system, I figured out I had to go one stop to the crossover junction station before changing to the other line for a further one stop.
The guide book advised me about buying a Jeton which I managed to do from the ticket office. The helpful lady behind the desk was pleased with my one word of Russian. The plastic Jeton coin went neatly into the machine, the barrier opened and I was in the Metro system. Now I had to work out which way I needed to go. There didn't seem to be any helpful maps on walls but on the platforms there were signs indicating the final destination of the train and from this, with the help of my guide book, I managed to figure out the direction I should travel in.
I also asked a young man who looked the type who'd want to practice his English. Fortunately he spoke enough to reassure me that I was indeed heading in the right direction.
And so I made it out at Nemiga station which was the nearest to my hotel. From there it was a 5 minute walk to Hotel Yubileiny wheeling my suitcase behind me.
I felt proud that I'd managed to navigate my way around a metro that had minimal information for the non-Russian speaking visitor. Fortunately with only two lines to choose from the risk of getting hopelessly lost is fairly low.
The trains themselves were clean and fairly frequent. I was surprised how busy it seemed at 3pm in the afternoon - hardly rush hour.
As the train departure times from Vilnius to Minsk were simply not convenient for us, we decided to go to Minsk by bus
The route is served about 8 times per day by different companies. We took an Express bus, which left Vilnius at 12:30 h. We bought our ticket for 45 Litas (ca. 13 Euro) one day in advance at Vilnius' bus station.
The trip to Minsk via Asmiany (BY) took about 4,5 hours and included an approximately 45 minutes stop at the border.
In Minsk most buses arrive at the Central Bus Station, which is located just next to the train station. Unfortunately it was being renovated in summer 2011, so our bus teminated at the Eastern Bus Station (Vostochniy).
Another important bus station in Minsk is the Moscow Bus Station (Moscovsky), which is also situated east of the city centre in the vicinity of the National Library.
All bus stations are well served by public transport, although some research on which bus line to take might be recommended.
We left Minsk towards Brest with a train which arrived in Minsk from Novosibirsk in Russia. The train left Minsk at 12:20 h and arrived in Brest at 16:52 h.
We bought the tickets in advance at Minsk Passazhirsky railway station. The price per ticket for a platzkartny carriage was 21.530 BYR (ca. 3,00 Euro).
Train tickets can be bought at the counters in the left wing of the railway station building, whereas tickets for the local suburban trains are available in the right part of the building.
Apart from the train to Brest we also took a local suburban train (elektrichka) for our day trip to Zaslavl (see my off the beaten path tips). Local trains leave from the platforms to the right of the railway station building.
Other destinations which are served from Minsk include Berlin (D), St. Petersburg and Moscow (RUS), Odessa and Lviv (UA), Gomel and Hrodno (BY).
Minsk's modern Passazhirsky Railway Station is situated only 500 metres south of the Independence Square (Ploschad Nezavisimosti).
Minsk's extensive overground public transportation network consists of buses, trolleybuses and trams. Most routes are served from 5:30 h until 1:00 h.
Tickets for the buses and trams can be purchased from kiosks at many stops. In summer 2011 a single ticket cost 900 BYR, but already in February 2012 the price was risen to 1300 BYR. Tickets can also be bought from the driver for a slightly higher price.
When entering a bus or tram the ticket has to be punched in one of the machines inside the vehicle.
Bus number 100 serves a really useful route along Independence Avenue (Nezavisimosti prospekt), which is lined by many sights and monuments.
Minsk's Metro belongs to the public transportation network of the city. The metro was inaugurated in 1984 with the line Moskavskaya, which runs more or less along Independence Avenue (Nezavisimosti prospekt).
A second line called Avtozavodskaya was opened in 1990. It crosses the city from the northwestern to the southeastern districts.
To access the metro a plastic token for 900 BYR (summer 2011) has to bought from one of the booths inside the stations. It then has to be inserted into the slots of the barriers in front of the platforms.
Elektrichki are suburban electrical passenger trains, which serve a region around a big city. They are quite common in all ex-Soviet countries.
In Minsk most suburban trains leave from the platforms to the right of the main railway station building (Minsk Passazhirsky). Tickets can be bought in the right wing of the train station building.
Minsk's suburban trains can be used to get to the Minsk Sea (Minskoe More), which is a large artifical lake north of the city centre.
We used a suburban train for our day trip tro Zaslavl, whose train station is called Belarus. Since 2011 this route is also served by a modern Swiss style suburan train. The single fare to Zaslavl (Belarus) was 2000 BYR for the modern suburban train and 1550 BYR for an old style train (elektrichka).
All suburban trains to Molodechno seem to stop in Minskoe More and Zaslavl (Belarus).
Although Minsk is with more than 1,8 Million inhabitants a big city, it is best explored on foot. Most of the main sights are concentrated within the area between Independence Square (Ploschad Nezavisimosti), Victory Square (Ploschad Pobedy) and the Trinity Suburb (Troitskoye Predmestye).
Especially along the wide Independence Avenue (Nezavisimosti Prospekt) many architecturally interesting buildings from Soviet times can be seen, so a walk along this street is definitely a must.
It is rather convinient to go to Belarus by train.
What was strange that on my way from Moscow to Minsk none asked me to show my passport. There is no border between countries, but what is more strange that even train conductors asked only for ticket.
One more interesting fact. At some big railway stations in former Soviet Union there is an interesting tradition - when train is departing towards Moscow one of the famouse millitary marches is relayed via station broadcast system, usually it is March "Farwell of Slavonic Woman". I saw custom is alive in Minsk and in Feodosia (Ukraine).
Background music and text is here: "Farwell of Slavonic Woman"
(Midi file is here: Proschanie Slavyanki , Karaoke version (with better music) is here: Proschanie Slavyanki )
Minsk, as capital of Belarus and very big city (having around 1,7 million people population) has all kinds of transportation - buses, trolleybuses, trams and metro. Public transport operates from about 05:30 AM to 01:00 AM.
Here you can see more expensive - use public transportation as mini buses or taxis. I was using only bus and trolleybus here. It was recommendation to use Minsk metro, but its line was not suitable for us.
Recently arrived in Minsk at 0300 in the morning, and needed a taxi to the airport (Minsk 2). There were a few taxis waiting outside the front of the station. They didn't hassle me. My driver was extremely helpful and accepted Russian currency. Maybe this is obvious, but I didn't want to get involved changing currrency for only one thing in the railway station at 3 in the morning!
He charged me 1000 Roubles which seemed fair to me.
There are around 20 trains between Moscow and Minsk daily. All of them have sleeping coaches and travel time takes between 7,5 and 12 hours.
It is better to travel by trains organized by Belarus railways then Russian Railways, as they have better service, carriages are clean and meals/drinks are very cheap. Belarusian trains usually colored blue and Russians trains are green.
The best trains are 003/004, 001002, 007/008, 009/010, 013/014. Price depends on the train and season, but in general one-way ticket price for 1st class is 150 USD, 2nd class 60-100 USD, 3d class 30-45 USD, for real backpackers there is cheapest seating class for 17 USD :)
You can buy ticket in internet on Russian railways site www.rzd.ru, but remember that anyway you have to get original ticket in ticket machine in railway station or ticket sale point in Russia. It is not possible to buy ticket in the Belarusian railway site, but tickets in Belarus cost always cheaper, so if you don’t travel in peak dates (weekend, holidays) then it is better to buy tickets in Railways station in Minsk.
Walking in city centre of Minsk is quite simple. Main sights are in walkable distance, but only Belarusian National Library is a bit further. For sightseeing of most of soviet style buildings it is possible to walk Independence Avenue (Nezaleznosti prospekt).
The Metro in Minsk (Мінскае метро) was opened in '84 and it has 2 lines for a total of 23 stations.
The Moskovskaya line has 9 stations and goes from SW to NE.
The Avtozavodskaya Line has 14 stations and goes from NW to SE.
The 2 lines cross in the very centre of the city, at the Kupalauskaja/Kastrychnitskaja (Купалауская/Кастрычнiцкая) stations.
Yeah, the crossing station has different names depending on the line you are on... and that's not the only problem: there are different names in Belarusian and Russian languages! Officially all stations have the Belarusian (new) name and that's the name you read on trains, but in many stations there's still the old Soviet/Russian name, which sometimes can be totally different. And the people are more used to the old names... That can make a bit of confusion. The Kastrychnitskaja for example is better known as Oktyabrskaya.
To add more confusion the station by the Independence square was called Lenina (as the old square name), then Nezalezhnascy (like the actual square name) and now Lenina again...
BTW, once you get used to cyrillic alphabet and Russian/Belorusian names, going around with the metro in Minsk is rather easy and it helps a lot to move along the big spaces of the Belarusian capital.
There are no tickets, but tokens (Гетон) like in all Soviet metros. One Гетон costs 600 Roubles (about 20c€).
Stations can be very nice, expecially the old Soviet ones, with marble everywhere, nice lamps, hammers & sickles and paintings of proletarians. The new ones are more modern but usually with much less charme. Stations are usually very clean and trains too. I foun it 100% safe to travel on the metro at any time of the day and night. There's often police outside and indide the trains.