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    Despite being landlocked, Belarus is a country apart set apart from its continental neighbours. It has stoutly resisted integration into Europe as well as the embrace of capitalism shown by other former Eastern Bloc countries.

    While such isolationism has its negatives - the tyrannical rule of its president and its stringent visa requirements foremost among them - Belarus's Soviet-era atmosphere and relative isolation are also its primary attractions.

    Not many visitors include Belarus in their summer vacation plans, but those that do get to experience a portion of Europe almost entirely free of consumerist trappings, litter, and advertising.

    Moreover, foreign investment is discouraged and private enterprise is virtually non-existent, which results in a country that has evolved little in the last 20 years, providing visitors with a sense of time standing still.

    There is no doubt that in many ways life in Belarus is hard for the populace, and the country has suffered more than its fair share of misery in its history, including losing more than two million of its people (particularly Jews) during the Nazi occupation of World War II.

    In 1986, Belarus suffered the fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster just across its border in neighbouring Ukraine. Yet there is much that is bright and beautiful in the culture and natural attractions of Belarus.

    Beyond the clean Stalinist lines of its capital Minsk, the tiny towns and villages of Belarus have medieval atmospheres and the national parks contain mysterious forests, murky bogs and swamps, thousands of smooth lakes, and a fascinating array of unspoilt eco-systems, fauna, and flora.

    Visitors are encouraged to enjoy the great outdoors in the Vitebsk Region, where there are almost 50 designated tourist routes involving hiking, cycling, boating, hunting, and fishing. While hotels and health spas offer rest and relaxation, there are also art and music festivals throughout the region.

    Belarus is a destination that rewards those seeking an original travel experience, with welcoming people, pristine nature, and traditional villages, all spiced up with interesting glimpses into a Soviet past that appears to live on in the country's isolated present.

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    English Pronounciation

    This humid, damp city has precipitation on most days of the year, with wet summers and snowy winters. The climate in Minsk is, however, moderate with an average January temperature of 21°F (-6°C) and an average July temperature of 64°F (18°C).

    Winters (December to February) are mild, with snow likely, while summers (June to August) are warm and usually damp; two thirds of the annual precipitation falls during the summer months. May to September is the warmest time of year, while fog is common during the autumn and spring.

    Belarus has a temperate continental climate, with cold, snowy winters and warm, pleasant summers. Humidity and precipitation is generally high all year round. Expect rain in summer or snow in winter. In the north of the country, winters are more extreme with the temperature often plummeting well below zero.

    The warm summer months between May and September are considered the best time to visit Belarus, and Minsk especially. Summer temperatures stay pleasant, seldom rising above 77°F (25°C). Travellers should be sure to pack a jacket or umbrella, however, as summers in Belarus are rainy, especially in June and August. Winter temperatures in Belarus often drop below zero, and there is typically snow from December to April.

    Minsk National Airport
    Location: The airport is situated about 25 miles (40km) east of the Belarussian capital city of Minsk.
    Time: Local time is GMT +3.
    Getting to the city: Buses and taxis are available for the hour-long journey to the city. The airport bus, which connects to the central train station on a hourly basis, is a far cheaper option.
    Fascilities: Airport facilities include a restaurant, shops, baggage wrapping services, an information desk, ATMs, currency exchange services, and a VIP lounge.
    Parking Guarded parking at the airport is available in two parking lots, for a fee.
    Website: www.airport.by
    Money:

    The currency is the Belarussian ruble (BYR), which is equal to 100 kapeks. As of 2016, coins have been introduced due to redonomination, the first in the country's history. Currency can be exchanged at banks and official bureaux de change in Minsk and the larger towns. US Dollars and Euros are preferred and some currencies may not be accepted.

    Mastercard and Visa are accepted at the larger hotels and tourist restaurants, but other cards, like American Express and Discovery, may not be accepted at all. ATMs are widely accessible in major towns and banking hours are weekdays from 9am to 5pm.

    Language:

    Russian and Belarusian are both official languages, with the majority speaking Russian.

    Electricity:

    Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. European two-prong plugs with circular pins are in use. Schuko plugs are also in use.

    Entry Requirements:

    United States citizens need a passport and a visa to enter Belarus, although US nationals are visa exempt for a maximum of 30 days.

    British citizens need a passport and a visa to enter Belarus. However, British citizens are exempt from obtaining a visa for a maximum of 30 days.

    Canadian citizens need a passport and a visa to enter Belarus. However, Canadian citizens are exempt from obtaining a visa for a maximum of 30 days.

    Australian citizens need a passport and a visa to enter Belarus. However, Australian citizens are exempt from obtaining a visa for a maximum of 30 days.

    South African citizens need a passport and a visa to enter Belarus.

    Irish citizens need a passport and a visa to enter Belarus. However, Irish citizens are exempt from obtaining a visa for a maximum of 30 days.

    United States citizens need a passport and a visa to enter Belarus, although US nationals are visa exempt for a maximum of 30 days.

    New Zealand citizens need a passport and a visa to enter Belarus. However, New Zealand citizens are exempt from obtaining a visa for a maximum of 30 days.

    Passport/Visa Note:Visa:

    Valid passports and visas are required to visit Belarus. We recommend that passports are valid for six months after departure from destination. Visitors from countries where there is no Belarussian consulate or embassy may obtain a tourist visa on arrival at Minsk Airport, but it is strongly recommended that an effort is made to obtain a visa prior to arrival. Visas are only issued on the basis of invitation from hotels, tour companies or Belarussian citizens. All visitors have to buy health insurance on arrival. Foreigners not staying at a hotel must register with the authorities on arrival and such registration must be entered on their visa. Hotels automatically register their guests.

    Travel Health:

    No vaccinations are required for entry to Belarus. Visitors should not drink unpurified tap water. Medical care is limited and essential medications are not frequently available, while facilities lack modern equipment. The best equipped are private clinics, which are available in Minsk. Doctors and hospitals expect payment in cash. Travel insurance with air evacuation cover is highly recommended.

    Tipping:

    Tipping in Belarus is not as common as in many other countries, but it is adequate to round up the bill or taxi fare, and a 10 percent tip for excellent service will not go amiss.

    Safety Information:

    Most visits to Belarus are trouble free. The crime rate is very low. However, precautions should be taken against mugging, pick-pocketing, and theft from vehicles or hotel rooms. There have been instances of theft from travellers on sleeper trains between Warsaw and Moscow.

    Local Customs:

    While visiting Belarus, do not take photographs of government buildings, military installations, or uniformed officials. Be aware that jaywalkers are heavily fined. Whistling inside a building is considered bad luck.

    Business:

    Business appointments in Belarus should be made well in advance through a local third party with a good reputation and connections. When meeting, address people with their surnames and a brief handshake. Meetings are usually formal, and negotiations can be protracted.

    A great deal of concessionary bargaining is expected. Bureaucracy and legal matters in Belarus are complicated so it is best to hire local professionals to assist. Dates in Belarus are written with the day first, then the month, and then the year.

    Communications:

    The international dialling code for Belarus is +375. There are several mobile network operators in Belarus, at least two of which operate GSM networks. Coverage is good in the major towns and along the highways, but generally not available in rural areas. Mobile phones may be rented from local service providers.

    Duty Free:

    The duty free allowance for visitors entering Belarus is 3 litres of alcoholic beverages, 200 cigarettes or 250g of tobacco products, a reasonable quantity of perfume for personal use, and goods up to the value of US$1,500.

    Useful Contacts:

    Tourist Information: www.belarustourism.by

    Belarus Embassies:

    Embassy of Belarus, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 986 1606.

    Embassy of Belarus, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Ireland): +44 (0)20 7937 3288.

    Embassy of Belarus, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 233 9994.

    Embassy of Belarus, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 430 7709.

    Embassy of Belarus, Yarralumla, Australia: +61 2 6156 5471

    Foreign Embassies in Belarus :

    United States Embassy, Minsk: +375 17 210 1283.

    British Embassy, Minsk: +375 17 229 8200.

    Canadian Embassy, Moscow, Russia (also responsible for Belarus): + 7 (495) 925 6000.

    South African Embassy, Moscow, Russia (also responsible for Belarus): +7 495 926 1177.

    Australian Embassy, Moscow, Russia (also responsible for Belarus): +7 495 956 6070.

    Irish Embassy, Vilnius, Lithuania (also responsible for Belarus): +370 5 262 9460.

    New Zealand Embassy, Moscow, Russia (also responsible for Belarus): +7 495 956 3579.

    Belarus Emergency Numbers : Emergencies: 103 (medical), 102 (police). Note that operators may not speak English.
    Belarus

    The best way to get around Minsk is on the fast and efficient Metro system. However, it does tend to be very crowded. To access places not served by the Metro there is a good system of trams, buses, and trolley buses, which run from about 5.30am to after midnight every day. It is wise to avoid peak hours.

    Taxis tend to be expensive, and should be booked by telephone from reliable, official operators. Taxis flagged in the street tend to be private and may rip off unsuspecting visitors. State taxis are yellow and metered. Ensure meters are turned on when departing. Drivers prefer to negotiate fares before you board.

    Minsk is not exactly a sightseeing city, but it makes up in interest for what it lacks in traditional tourist attractions. A Stalinist city, Minsk has a unique atmosphere which is appealing to those seeking a novel destination.

    Worthwhile tourist attractions in Minsk include the imposing Cathedral of the Holy Ghost, dating back to 1642, one of only a handful of historic buildings surviving in the city; the Chelyuskinites Park, a very old-fashioned amusement park providing some outdoor fun and a pretty botanical garden; the Museum of the Great Patriotic War, which showcases the horrors of World War II, including a model recreation of a Nazi concentration camp; the National Museum of Culture and History, which chronicles the long and turbulent history of Belarus; the National Opera and Ballet Theatre of Belarus, a striking white landmark; and Victory Square, which includes a moving war memorial.

    Minsk is a comparatively safe city and getting around is easy while sightseeing: many of the main attractions can be visited on foot, and reasonably priced public transport fills in the gaps for travellers.