Here we have listed some practical questions and answers for you, which can be helpful as information for the preparation of your next trip to Belarus. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us personally.
The entry takes place in most cases absolutely problem-free, here the things you should consider:
To get through passport control at Minsk Airport (MSQ), you need a valid visa and an insurance certificate (in paper form), which must cover Belarus. Further information can be found here. In addition, an immigration card must be presented at passport control. Immigration cards are already distributed in the aircraft. If you have not received an immigration card, you can also fill it in directly at the airport. As a rule, you will have to wait until all passengers have passed through passport control. Then contact a border official from whom you will receive a new immigration card. Your passport, the completed immigration card and the insurance certificate will then be checked at passport control. The documents should not contain any banknotes or coins (this could be considered a bribe), the passport must be handed over without envelope. It is forbidden to use mobile phones at the passport control. Keep your immigration card until the end of your stay in Belarus. It must be returned to the border control when you leave the country. If you have lost your immigration card, your departure may be delayed.
-Loss or delay of luggage:
In this case, three identical forms must be completed with your passport details, baggage identification number and address in Belarus. Sometimes the airport staff only speak rudimentary English, but this is a standard process. Your luggage will be delivered to the place you stay in Belarus. -Money exchange If you already need Belarusian roubles at the airport, you can exchange cash on the ground floor (sector 5-6) or on the 2nd floor (sector 3-4), or withdraw local money with your credit card at numerous ATMs.
We are waiting for you in the arrival hall on the ground floor (sector 3-4). Sometimes there are a lot of people, just look for your name on our sign "g4 tours". Together we will then drive to your hotel. In our information package, which you will receive before the trip, you will also find our mobile numbers, in case of any problems you can reach us at any time.
A transit visa allows you to stay 48 hours on the territory of the Republic of Belarus. It is important to note the following rule: With a transit visa you can visit Belarus if your destination is a third country. This means that if you are coming from Lithuania, for example, you will end up having to travel to either Russia or Ukraine, but not to the EU countries Poland or Lithuania. To get this visa, you must present tickets and a visa for the next country to travel to.
You will need a valid passport. This passport should be valid for at least three months after the expiration of the Belarusian visa. In addition, the passport must contain at least two blank pages for the visa. The passport should be undamaged. All further information on obtaining your Belarus visa can be found here.
You are the holder of two passports, e.g. one Belarusian and one German. To enter Belarus, you may use the Belarusian passport without paying a visa fee (for stays longer than 30 days). You should also leave the country with the same passport. If you have a passport from one of the CIS countries (e.g. Georgia or Kazakhstan) and a German passport, you may also enter Belarus without a visa.
The quickest way to get to the main station is by metro. The metro station is called Ploschtscha Lenina (Lenin Square). Follow the signs to the station (russian "Вокзал"). This is how you reach the basement of the station. The ticket offices are on the ground floor (left and right of the main entrance). The ticket vendors only speak Russian. Another option is the bus. The bus line 100 runs like the subway to Leninplatz. From the central leaflet Pobeditelej (Victory leaflet) you can get to the main station by bus 1 or 69.
The best way is to buy train tickets in advance on the official website of the Belarusian railway. If you need help booking train tickets we will be happy to help you. The ticket offices of the main railway station (in Russian "Кассы") are located on the ground floor of the station - to the left and right of the main entrance. The ticket vendors might not speak English. There are ticket offices for regional trains (Russian "Пригородный") and for intercity trains (Russian "междугородный"). International tickets can be purchased at the ticket offices to the left of the main entrance. Opposite the station (address: Kirowa Str., 2) there are also international ticket offices. You will always need your passport to purchase tickets. Belarusian trains have the following price classes: Compartments for 2 persons (Russian СВ), first class cars with compartments for 4 persons (Russian купе), second class cars with compartments for 4 persons (Russian плацкарт), seated or large-capacity cars (Russian общий).
The road traffic regulations and traffic signs in Belarus are essentially the same as in Western Europe. Belarusian roads are much better than in Russia or Ukraine and have a much lower traffic density. Your EU/US/Israeli driving licence is valid for three months after entering Belarus, which is sufficient for most trips. Of course, the language is the biggest difficulty with traffic signs, because most of them are in Belarusian or Russian and only a few in English. However, the navigation devices can be set to English or German, which makes your journey through Belarus easier.
Belarus is about five times larger than Switzerland and one and a half times smaller than Germany. The country stretches over 560 km from south to north and 650 km from east to west. The capital Minsk lies approximately in the centre of the country. The distances from Minsk to the regional capitals are as follows: Minsk - Vitebsk 294 km, Minsk - Grodno 280 km, Minsk - Brest 348 km, Minsk - Mogilev 199 km, Minsk - Gomel 309 km.
Public transport in Minsk is very well developed. There is an extensive network of buses, trolleybuses, trams and a subway. In addition there are fast minibuses (so-called Marschrutka). The Minsk subway is relatively modern. It is not as deeply built as for example in Moscow or St. Petersburg. It is relatively clear and consists of two lines - Moskovskaya and Avtosavodskaya. The blue line (Moskovskaya) runs along the Independence Avenue and connects two large districts, Uruchye and Malinovka. The red line takes you to the Old Town (subway station Nemiga) or to one of the working-class districts (e.g. subway station Traktarny Savod). The subway is the fastest, cheapest and most comfortable way to discover Minsk on your own. But be aware: it is generally forbidden to take pictures in the subway. Buses and trolleybuses connect the city centre with all suburbs. The oldest means of transport of the city, the tram, crosses Minsk in different directions. Of course, taxis are also available. Licensed taxis have yellow number plates. Always pay in Belarusian roubles and insist that the taxi driver turns on the meter at the start of the journey.
The most common foreign currencies in Belarus are the euro and the US dollar. It doesn't really matter where you change money - in the airport (MSQ), in the exchange office of your hotel or in a bank - the exchange rates hardly differ: on average by 0.01 - 0.05 rubles. Do not exchange money with private persons! It is recommended to use exchange offices in hotels. They are usually open around the clock and accept many different currencies such as the Swiss franc or the British pound. Exchange remaining Belarusian roubles for euros or US dollars before your departure (especially larger sums), because it is hardly possible to exchange Belarusian roubles abroad.
The official currency for all payments is the Belarusian rouble (BYN), but you can pay for apartments or some tourist services in foreign currency, especially the US dollar is a popular currency for larger sums.
It is common in Belarus (also in the regions) to pay by credit card. Card payments in small shops, restaurants, bakeries etc. are much more common in Eastern Europe than in Western Europe. Nevertheless, it makes sense to always have Belarusian roubles with you in case a card payment is not possible. It would also be a good idea to find out what your bank charges for cash withdrawals abroad before you travel.
The Belarusian rouble (BYN) is nominated in 5-, 10-, 20-, 50-, 100-, 200- and 500-bills as well as the coins 1 and 2 roubles, 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 kopecks. One ruble is about 40 euro cents or 50 dollar cents. Probably the cheapest thing to buy is a public transport ticket. This costs 60 kopecks. A 0.5l bottle of water is available from 60 kopecks to 1.5 rubles, a cup of coffee - from 1.5 to 4 BYN. For 1.5 rubles you can buy an ice cream, for 3-4 rubles - a beer. Belarusian roubles can be exchanged in exchange offices of Belarusian banks, which are usually located in hotels, supermarkets and shopping centers. Please do not liaise with any strangers who offer to convert your currency into rubles.
The temperate continental climate, which develops under the influence of Atlantic air masses, is characterized by warm and humid summers, mild winters with frequent thawing, and unstable weather in autumn and spring. Due to climate change there are more and more seasonal shifts. The average annual temperature for Minsk is 5.8 °C (in comparison: Munich 8.4 °C). The warmest month is July with an average temperature of 17.3 °C, the coldest month is January with -6.9 °C. The average annual precipitation is 660mm on 120 precipitation days (in comparison: Munich 957mm). June is the sunniest month with an average of 8.9 hours of sunshine per day. On average, the sun shines 4.8 hours a day, about as much as in Zurich or Berlin.
There are numerous state and religious holidays in Belarus. The most important national holidays include Constitution Day (15 March), Unification Day of Belarus and Russia (2 April), Victory Day (9 May, Russian: Den Pobedi), Independence Day (3 July) and National Coat of Arms and Flag Day (on the second Sunday in May). May 9 is one of the most important national holidays and is celebrated throughout Belarus. The day marks the victory of the Soviet army over Nazi Germany in the Great Patriotic War, as the Second World War is called in the former Soviet Union. On this occasion, a large military parade is held in Minsk every year, which is personally attended by the president. This holiday still has great significance in the consciousness of the nation, since every third inhabitant lost his life during the Second World War. Another big parade will take place on 3 July. On this day in 1944, the Belarusian capital was liberated by German occupying troops: this day is now considered the country's Independence Day. The Soviet past also echoes on 1 May (Labour Day) and 7 November (Day of the October Revolution) until today.
Belarusian cuisine originated in pagan times, it has a rich history and goes back to centuries of tradition. Belarusians have always had a relatively limited choice of local food due to their geographical location and weather, but thanks to their imagination and curiosity they have been able to create an interesting cuisine. Thus, new dishes were created from at first sight incompatible foods. Quite often a recipe from a foreign folk kitchen served as a basis. Over time, recipes changed under the influence of local traditional methods of preparation. Various folk cuisines (especially Russian, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Polish and Jewish) have had a significant influence on Belarusian cuisine. However, you can also find many dishes in the national cuisine that are typical only for Belarus. Belarusians have always produced a lot of cereals, potatoes, meat, milk and vegetables. Since there are many rivers and lakes in Belarus, fish is an important part of many dishes. Forests cover about 40% of Belarusian territory, so berries, mushrooms and game are often on the table. In the 18th century, the advent of the potato triggered a culinary revolution in Belarus. Since then, the potato has been at least equal to bread for Belarusians. So many dishes from this root crop can hardly be found in any other kitchen. The Belarusians are often called "Bulbaschi" by their neighbours (Belarusian for 'бульба' [bulba] - potato).
Belarus is a very safe destination. Large cities such as Minsk, Brest or Grodno are largely safer than most major European cities. This, among others, is connected with Belarusian tolerance towards different nations and denominations. For centuries Orthodox, Catholics, Muslims and Jews have lived here peacefully side by side. What also ensures a high level of security is the ubiquitous police presence in the country. In connection with this, however, it is important not to present oneself too freely as a tourist in the public space, to cuddle in public and in the subway, and also to avoid things like crossing red traffic lights.
Belarus is a multi-ethnic state. More than 100 ethnic groups are represented in the country, the largest group being the Eastern Slavic Belarusians with about 82 percent of the total population, followed by Russians (8.3 percent), Poles (3.1 percent) and Ukrainians (2.4 percent). 60% of Belarusians state that Belarusian is their mother tongue, although only a third of them speak Belarusian in the family, all others speak Russian. Russian and Belarusian are considered official languages. In rural areas also prevails a mixed language, the so-called Trassjanka. English, German, less often French and Spanish are taught as foreign languages in Belarusian schools. Students usually continue their studies in foreign languages at university. As a result, the number of people who can speak one or two foreign languages at least at basic level is gradually increasing. According to 1999 statistics, only 3.3% of young Belarusians were fluent in English and only 0.8% in German. The situation looked better in 2009: 12% spoke English and 2.3% German. 64% of all English speakers are young people. Apart from that, there are many who have basic knowledge and can help you in everyday situations in Belarus (at the train station, in a shop or a museum). You will be surprised how open and helpful people in Belarus are.
The biggest problem of Belarusian emergency services and hotlines is the lack of staff who speak English. In order to contact such a person, you need at least a basic knowledge of Russian to describe the problem. If not, you should find someone who can speak Russian. Otherwise, your attempt to communicate will fail. The main emergency numbers are: 101 - fire brigade, 102 - militia (police), 103 - rescue service. Under the toll number 105 you can get information about the nationwide train traffic. We will provide you our mobile number where you can reach us 24/7 for assistance.
As a rule, drinking water in Belarus contains small amounts of chlorine and iodine and larger amounts of iron. In the east of the country the water is worse than in Minsk, for example. Local quality standards are stricter than WHO standards. According to the Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the quality of tap water is generally high. To reduce the iron content, appropriate installations have now been installed. Minsk has the best tap water in Belarus and among all other capitals of the former Soviet states. According to the state authorities, tap water can be drunk without hesitation in the entire urban area of Minsk. The groundwater resources provide up to 70% of the capital's water supply. The rest comes from surface water resources and is chemically and biologically purified. It is planned to completely supply Minsk with groundwater by 2020. The situation is somewhat different in the provincial towns, where the quality of drinking water is generally lower. In order to purify the water, Belarusians still use such old-fashioned methods as settling, boiling and freezing. However, water filters are becoming increasingly popular. In any case, tap water in Belarus is good enough to shower and wash food. We recommend bottled water for drinking.
There are three mobile operators in Belarus: MTS, Velcom and Life:) All have tariff plans without subscription fees that are suitable for foreign tourists. Important: To buy a SIM card, you need your passport. The easiest way to buy a SIM card is in the shopping centre "Stoliza" under Independence Square. The shopping centre is open every day until 22 hrs. The mobile coverage is very good nationwide, mostly with faster transfer rates than in Western Europe. This is partly due to the commitment of the Chinese under the leadership of the Hauwei company, which is developing the mobile network together with local providers.
It is pleasant at times, that uniform Western capitalism with its identical brand world has passed Belarus so far. Most international brands such as H&M or IKEA are not found here. But you will find many locally produced goods that are perfect as original souvenirs for family and friends at home. Here are a few examples: Matryoshka: egg-shaped, colourfully painted wooden doll that can be nested inside each other, sometimes also called "Babushka". In Russian "Babuschka" simply means grandma. By the way, the matryoshka is considered a typical souvenir from Russia, although you can also buy it in Belarus. Food: You will be surprised that red caviar is often bought as a souvenir, although Belarus is not a coastal state. In Belarus, however, many sea fruits from Russia are processed, the state-owned company "Santa Bremor" is an important economic factor in the country. Belarus is also known for its "Kommunarka" and "Spartak" sweets. Some swear by the taste of Kommunarka chocolate, others rather not. Therefore, you are welcome to taste it beforehand. The classic souvenir is of course vodka. Vodka in Belarus is usually of high quality, as the state as a monopoly company always controls its purity. Household articles: Flax clothes, towels, bags etc. are of good quality and reasonably priced, which makes them preferred souvenirs. Various handmade goods such as wooden spoons, wooden or straw dolls, hand-carved caskets are also widespread and popular. Traditional souvenirs like magnets, plates or postcards are also available everywhere, especially in the big state shops like GUM or ZUM.