Belarus is a stunning country but it has a long way to go before improving its public services like border control or catering. Majority of employees of the banks, shops, police e.t.c. come across as very rude. They need to learn to smile even if they don't like the job they do. Such a bad attitude puts off foreigners a lot which is a shame as this country can be such a wonderful travel destination! It is very unspoiled and its people are really hospitable and kind - hearted. If you don't speak Russian at all, find a volunteer- guide before you travel. This will be easy because there are lots of people out there who will help you with your trip just for the sake of practicing their English while showing you around the country.
After arrival on your place of destination you are obliged to register yourself at the local authorities during 5 working days. If you do not register this you can have problems on the border while leaving Belarus. The fine can be even up to 250 USD. When you stay at the hotel or go on organised trip by a travel agency all formalities should be arranged by a hotel/agency.
I registered myself and I had to:
1. Fill in a registration form in 2 copies.
2. Deliver 2 photos.
3. Pay an administration fee of 15.150 roubles (app. 6 USD) on the given bank account.
4. In May 2005 I had to buy a medical insurance although I bought such in Poland. Due to changes in law in Dec 05 for Polish citizents such medical insurance is required when you applicate for visa in Belarussian embassy in Warsaw. Without it you do not obtain the visa. So in Dec 05 I had to present already bought medical insurance.
5. The person who invited me had to submit an application for the registration.
6 I had to write an application asking for my registration at the person who invited me (of course in Russian).
A lot of bureaucracy - last 2 points in my opinion are completely unnecessary becasue of point 1 ! Genreally I lost 2,5 hours and still think it was no so bad.
Go to the local authorities with somebody who knows Belarussian or Russian and do not buy a medical insurance at your country as you still need spen money on Belarussian one.
I would like to say that I have just returned from a trip to Belarus and it was absolutely fine. You do not need to pretend to be poor, you do not have to run if you see policemen (though it's true that you shouldn't pester them). My border crossings were fine. My passport was looked at but I wasn't even asked any questions. The people are lovely and friendly and crime is incredibly low. This site nearly put me off going to Belarus in the first place, but now I'm really glad I did.
And by the way you can get a visa in Warsaw non-express within 2 days, it's not very much hastle and it costs no more than in the U.K.
So stop stressing people!
Try not to speak about politics with local people. It is dangerous not for you but for them. People could disappear in this country without leaving a trace. It is not a fake.
Each evening there is a "TV show of one actor". "Bat'ko" (Father) could speak for two or more hours without a break.
But... Do not think that people of Belarus suffer seriously from that. As far as I know state of public opinion in Belarus, results of recent elections are not a fake. Majority loves and supports "batko".
Stay away from the protests. I myself didn't have any troubles because I didn't come to Belarus to support their opposition nor to take a part in any rallies. So one night after some street protests I walked through the streets of Minsk, and a policeman stopped me near Oktobarskaya Square and asked me where I go. He spoke Russian but I understood him, and when he saw that I'm a friendly foreigner he just let me go. So, like I said many times, an innocent man has nothing to be afraid of.
In Belarus and all CIS states you have to put an eye on your passport.
It is your key for getting out of this countries.
So you should always have it with you!
Tip: Make a copy of your passport and visa number.
If you drive with other friends change this copies with each other.
If you lose your Passport you have to contact your embassy immidiately.
Even if you are interested in this theme you should avoid to talk about this with belarussian people.
Many of them are very afraid to talk about politics because they don't know which persons they can trust. Many agents of the belarussian secret service try to find out the political opinion of this people.
If you talk about politics it is also a risk that you talk with an secret agent.
So NEVER talk about politics in Belarus even if people ask for your opinion,
Be very careful as it could happen to you...
while I traveled in the Bus: Euro Lines, it was clear we should have some stops in the road to have a break and lunch or dinner...one of the famous Bus stops not far from Minsk was near a beautiful view but of course the restaurant was near a swamp...
there were hundreds of the mosquitos and bugs, they even entered the bus because the stupid driver didn't even closed the door...
it was really hell till we killed all the little vampires and also could sleep after suffering from scratching souveniers... please be careful from such kind of bad moments and at least if you can't avoid the stop, ask the driver to close the doors !!! Grrrrrrrrrrr (^*+%^$$@#@****
With a Visa for Belarus, you need to register your stay with the authorities within 3 days of your arrival. If you stay at a hotel, they do it for you. If you rent a flat, you need to get the owner to go with you to the local Police Station.
Be warned - This process took me a total of 6 hours over 2 days at the Police station. My friend and I had to:
1. Meet the Immigration Officer
2. Get an official to fill in forms in duplicate
3. Obtain photcopies of passport/visas
4. Pay a fee to the Police authority at a bank
5. Pay an official to complete registration cards
6. Get the cards stamped by another official
This is typical Belarus beaurocracy! You can try to avoid registering, but someone I know did this and they had a lot of trouble getting out of Belarus and you can incurr a fine at the border. Apart from the waiting, we passed straight through passport control when leaving.
If you are travelling to Belarus with your own car be prepared for a long wait at the border. We arrived at the Border with Poland at Brest and then waited for 9 hours! The wait is due to the lack of Border Checkpoints and the large number of cars at that time of day. We expected a 2-4 hour delay but not this!
When you finally arrive at the checkpoint, you are given a piece of paper that needs to be stamped by every official for: Passport, Vehicle registration, Vetinary Control, Health Insurance, Customs etc. The big problem is, unless you speak fluent russian, you are at the mercy of the border control staff. The system to get all the required stamps is nothing short of chaos! There are no english forms or signs telling you which way to go to get your various forms completed. The staff are incredibly rude and intolerant of non-russian speaking people. They will rip up a form in front of you that has taken 10 minutes to complete because you put something in the wrong column. Without the help of a friendly Dutch guy who spoke russian, we would probably have gone back to Poland!
I dont think I will take my car into Belarus again. It was too stressful for my entire family. The immigration control at the airport is much simpler.
Coming home we waited again - this time for 12 hours! It meant we had to add an extra day to our holiday and reschedule all our accomodation along the way. Perhaps one of the smaller control posts would be better, or travelling in the middle of the night?
Anyway, don't say I didn't warn you!
Belarus is not exactly what I would call a democracy (no offence meant!) when it comes to the demonstrations of protest against the government.
They are usually dispersed by police with frequent use of violence and those who look like they might be at the heart of the trouble (attention! - a foreigner would be considered just such a person!) would be the first to reach the police station.
The only warning I can give is dont look too well dressed and give the indication of wealth. The average monthly wage for a Professional Teacher in Belarus is just 100 U.S.D. so be concious of what you are saying and what you are buying, it may take a whole year for the average Russian to buy something that you can buy in 3 seconds, be aware and not too ostentatious. Crime is quite high in Belarus and so is Corruption just like anywhere else in the world, though maybe more so here. Be aware of the relevant Embassy or Consul in case of necessity.
Be careful the police will try their best to give you a hard time. If they know you have money they will try to give you fake tickets for stupid things. We got pulled over three times in about two hours.
Not very pleasant side of home country description... But I think I would better tell you in advance, and probably that would help you to avoid being disappointed later.
1. Try do not use overcrowded public transport during peak hours. There could be pocket robbers.
2. When traveling by car, don't stop in the night on the road. Use motels, campings or special parkings.
You should be very careful on the road. I heard a lot of stories about gangs. And in Brest border jam some guy bumped our camper. It has Finnish plates and he thought to get some money. Poor guy!
Traffic police is trying to get bunch of money from foreign cars. Watch out speeding 'cause roads are very good!
59, Pobediteley Ave, Minsk, 220035, Belarus
Good for: Families
For Soviet citizens it was always practically impossible to lodge in a hotel "Intourist". The best...more
13 Kirova str., Minsk, 220040, Belarus
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Solo
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