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Travel & living abroad

Europe

Belarus

Flag of Belarus
Still current at: 07 January 2011
Updated: 20 December 2010

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with an amendment to the Travel Summary (demonstrations). The overall level of the advice has not changed; there are no travel restrictions in place in Belarus.  



(see travel advice legal disclaimer)

Travel advice for this country

Travel Summary

  • On Sunday 19 December there was a demonstration in central Minsk attended by 20,000 - 30, 000 people in protest at alleged vote rigging in the Presidential Election.  Another demonstration is planned for 20 December and more may take place.  There has been a high level of force used by the authorities against the demonstrators. You should therefore be alert and avoid any demonstrations or rallies in Belarus.  

  • 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.  

  • There are strong penalties for possession or use of drugs and you should avoid taking photographs of military or government installations. See Local Laws and Customs.

  • Around 4,000 British nationals (Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Belarus) visit Belarus every year.  Most visits are trouble-free. Five British nationals required consular assistance in Belarus in the period 01 April 2009 – 31 March 2010 for the following types of incident; deaths (1case); hospitalisations (1 case); and arrests, for a variety of offences (1 case). 

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

  • We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  See the General - Insurance .

Safety and security

Safety and Security - Terrorism
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. See our terrorism abroad page.

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.

See our victims of crime abroad page.


Safety and Security - Local travel

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Road travel
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. Drivers of foreign vehicles must pay a fee 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.  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.  

See our driving abroad page.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Air travel

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.

For more general information see airline security.

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 sometimes heavy-handed use of the security forces to disperse or intimidate opposition events. You should therefore avoid any demonstrations or rallies.

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 seven 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.

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, confirming this.

See our your trip page.

Entry requirements

Entry Requirements - Visas
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. 

Entry Requirements - Passport validity

Before setting off, you should ensure that your passport has at least six months' validity and two unused pages. 

Entry Requirements - Registration
Anyone staying more than five working 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. 

Entry Requirements - Declaration of currency and goods
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. 

Entry Requirements - Travelling with children
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. Children of Belarusian parentage, regardless of where they were born or any other nationality they may have, are required to have a Belarusian travel document to travel to Belarus. 

Health

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.

In the 2008 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that around 13,000 adults aged 15 or over in Belarus were living with HIV; the prevalence rate was estimated at around 0.2% of the adult population. This compares to the prevalence rate in adults in the UK of around 0.2%. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS. For more general information on how to do this see HIV and AIDS.

You should seek medical advice before travelling to Belarus and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up to date. For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should visit the websites of NaTHNaC and NHS Scotland's Fit For Travel or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.

See our travel health page.  

General

General - Insurance
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.  See our travel insurance page.

If things do go wrong when you are overseas then see our When Things Go Wrong page.

Under a bilateral agreement which came into effect on 1 March 2006 British citizens are not required to purchase on arrival in Belarus obligatory medical insurance.

General - Registration
Register with our LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling abroad or where you live abroad so our consular and crisis staff can provide better assistance to you in an emergency. 

General - 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.

General - 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 takes at least four weeks.  If you use a courier you will have to pay the cost.

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Contacts

Belarus, Minsk, British Embassy

Address:

37 Karl Marx Street
220030 Minsk
Belarus

Telephone:

(375) (17) 2105920/1

Fax:

(375) (17) 2202306 General
(375) (17) 2202311 Visa Section

Email: mailto:britinfo@nsys.by

Office hours:

GMT:
Mon-Thurs: 0700-1100/1200-1530
Fri: 0700-1300

Local Time:
Mon-Thurs: 0900-1300/1400-1730
Fri: 0900-1500

Website: http://ukinbelarus.fco.gov.uk/en/

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