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Short practical info for tourists planning to visit Belarus

Basically Belarus is a safe place for travelers, provided that they behave reasonably. Locals are usually friendly and helpful. However, beware of the guys in sports suits and with short haircuts. They are potential hunters for simple-minded foreigners.
Here is a link to the US State Department Travel Information on Belarus

Language problems will arise even though most of people study English at school.
It is recommended that you fax your letters nevertheless since it would give time to translate them. If you'll just call somewhere it is most likely that the person on the other side would have little knowledge of foreign languages. 

It would be great if you could manage to find a friend in Belarus to get advice on place. If you are student or professor you may just get help in local University or Institute. If in other field - try to reach your colleagues. Any connection maximizes your safety.

There are many ATM machines in all major cities. However, having some money in cash is necessary, because credit cards are not widely accepted. Money is Belarusian ruble. Its current rate is here. You may get Belarusian money from currency exchanges, which could be found in abundance in all Belarusian towns. Euros and dollars are okay in many places.

If you plan to stay for a week or longer it is much cheaper to rent an apartment than to move in a hotel. A month's rent could be equal to about two days of stay in a hotel.

Prices in good restaurants in Minsk are cheaper than in US or Western Europe. It is possible to find subsidized canteens and subsidized cafes, where the prices will be really cheap and the food will be decent. If you buy food yourself it will be cheap indeed, especially alcohol beverages. Here is a page on Belarusian cuisine, but you can generally expect cheese, fish, all sorts of meat (lots of smoked stuff), mushrooms, potato, cabbage as the major components. If you know German, Polish or Russian cuisine that should give you a hint. You may find prices for primary food here. Gas is about same price as in USA.

Tap drinking water is typically safe - you don't have to boil it or anything. Epidemiological situation is reasonable - close as in US or Western Europe. AIDS is on the rise, but still much less then in the West. Normally you don't have to do any exotic vaccination. No malaria here :)

The system of public transportation in Minsk is cheap and efficient. Tickets should always be bought in advance, unless you travel by taxi or mini-bus  - "marshrutka". Public busses, trams or trolleybuses are cheap, but may overcrowded in the mornings and in the evenings. There is efficient, clean and cheap metro system in Minsk. Taxi is great - you can go almost anywhere in Minsk for less than $5.00, even less in smaller towns. As usual it is good practice to call taxi by phone to hotel rather than in the street. You don't want to ride of into Belarusian woods with a total stranger. Suburban trains ("elektrychka") depart from main railway stations to the nearest towns. Long distance busses are the best choice for traveling within Belarus. They are cheap, relatively quick and very safe. Train is the main means of transportation for long distances. All trains have sleeping cars, you may take overnight train from Minsk to St Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev or Warsaw. Flying is more expensive and the network of airports fell apart since USSR breakdown.

There are Internet cafes in Minsk and other cities, which provide cheap, but usually slow Internet access. Also many postal offices offer have Internet services. Public phones use cards only, which can be bought from news agents (Sajuzdruk kiosks). You may always go to at he Postal office (Pashtamt) in Minsk, which provides internet access 24-hours every day.

Here are some useful addresses and phones, also e-mail directory of organizations in Belarus. Also there is a great page on communication with Belarus from the CRFCVB. You can call home from Belarus using AT&T access code :
8^800-101+ (this option is available for private phones in Minsk, Brest, Grodno and Vitebsk only). Emergency calls: ambulance - 03, police (militia) - 02, fire - 01. They are free.

Some travel info about Belarus and visa arrangements info is available from Gateway Travel, also from Hostel Page

Drugs are illegal and Belarusian prisons are no picnic compared even to US. There is death sentence for highest crimes. Age of consent is 18. HIV is on a rise in big cities. Driving rules are same as in Europe and US (except you can't turn right on red). Max speed is 105 km/hr (65 mph). 

Generally climate and nature is like New England in US. Here is a current 5-day forecast of Weather in Belarus from

A "Postcards" section of "Lonely Planet" travel info site with other tourists sharing their impressions on traveling in Belarus. This page has a lot of useful information for travelers to Belarus.


For more advice go to an excellent, to the point and quite entertaining In Your Pocket guide for Belarus

This file is a part of the Virtual Guide to Belarus - a collaborative project of Belarusian scientists and professionals  abroad. VG brings you the most extensive compilation of the information about Belarus on the Web.
Please send your comments to the authors of VG to Belarus

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