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  • Overview

    Despite being landlocked, Belarus is a country set apart from its continental neighbours. The country's Soviet-era atmosphere and relative isolation are its primary attractions. Not many visitors include Belarus in their summer vacation plans, but those that do get to experience a portion of Europe fairly free from commercialised trappings.

    Beyond the geometric designs of its capital Minsk, the tiny towns and villages of Belarus have charming medieval atmospheres. Its national parks contain mysterious forests, murky bogs and swamps, with thousands of smooth lakes and a fascinating array of unspoilt ecosystems, 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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    This humid, damp city has precipitation on most days of the year, with wet summers and snowy winters. The climate in Minsk is 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, 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.
    Facilities: 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 Belarusian ruble (BYR), which is equal to 100 kapeks. 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:

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

    UK nationals: 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.

    CA nationals: 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.

    AU nationals: 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.

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

    IR nationals: 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.

    NZ nationals: 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's 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 as the crime rate is very low. But precautions should be taken against mugging, pick-pocketing and theft from vehicles or hotel rooms. There have also been instances of theft from travellers on sleeper trains.

    Local Customs:

    While visiting Belarus, do not take photographs of government buildings, military installations or uniformed officials. Be aware that jaywalkers are heavily fined, and that 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's 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. Coverage is good in the major towns and along the highways, but generally not readily available in rural areas.

    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 EUR 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, Yarralumla, Australia: +61 2 6156 5471

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

    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.

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

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

    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

    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.

    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 Chelyuskinetes Park, an old-fashioned amusement park providing outdoor fun and a pretty botanical garden; the Museum of the Great Patriotic War, showcasing the horrors of World War II; the National Museum of Culture and History, which chronicles the long and turbulent history of Belarus; the National Opera and Ballet Theatre of Belarus; 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 who don't want to walk too much.