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Latest travel advice for Belarus including safety and security, entry requirements, travel warnings and health

2017-03-23T14:24:34.442+00:00: Latest update: Safety and Security section (Political Situation) – Saturday 25 March is commemorated as Freedom Day in Belarus and traditionally rallies are organised by opposition groups; you should maintain a high level of security awareness, exercise caution, particularly in public places, and avoid large crowds and demonstrations

You’ll need to have valid medical insurance before travelling to Belarus. You’ll be asked to provide proof of your insurance when you apply for your visa or when you arrive at Minsk airport under the visa-free regime. Contact the Embassy of the Republic of Belarus for full details of what’s required.

There is an underlying threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

Around 4,000 British nationals visit Belarus every year. Most visits are trouble-free.

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.

Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.

Safety and security

Crime

There is little crime in Belarus but, you should be alert at all times to the possibility of mugging, pickpocketing and theft from vehicles or hotel rooms. Take extra care when travelling by train; there have been instances of theft from travellers, especially on sleeper trains to Warsaw and Moscow.

Road travel

You must have a valid International Driving Permit to drive legally in Belarus. You must be able to produce ownership documents or a letter of ‘power of attorney’ 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. You can only buy this when entering Belarus. Ask at Customs’ border offices for further information.

Buses may require permits for picking up passengers in Belarus, or for transiting. These permits are free. Find out when a permit is required and how to get one.

Don’t overstay the temporary import terms for your vehicle. 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.

There may be long queues at borders. Customs and immigration can be lengthy and bureaucratic. You should ignore any private facilitators who offer to help you pass through checkpoints and border crossings.

Drivers of foreign vehicles must pay a fee to use toll roads. There are fines for non-compliance. On 1 August 2013, an electronic toll collection system was introduced. Information about the system of toll roads can be found here, including a map of toll roads and guidance on payment.

The quality of driving in Belarus is erratic. A-class highways are in reasonable condition. The condition of B-class roads varies considerably and some are impassable for periods in winter. 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 km/h (37 mph) in built up areas; 90 km/h (55 mph) outside built up areas; and 100 km/h (62 mph) on motorways (Brest-Moscow). Visiting motorists who have held a driving licence for under 2 years must not exceed 70 km/h (43 mph).

There is a zero-tolerance policy towards drink-driving.

There are police checkpoints on routes throughout the country. You should stop when instructed and have vehicle documentation to hand.

See the AA and RAC guides on driving in Belarus.

Air travel

Some local airlines may 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.

Political situation

Belarus is governed by a strong Presidential system with security forces loyal to it. The authorities show little tolerance for their opposition counterparts. The security forces have used force to disperse or intimidate opposition events. Be vigilant and avoid any demonstrations or rallies.

Saturday 25 March is commemorated as Freedom Day in Belarus and traditionally rallies are organised by opposition groups. This year several rallies and marches are due to take place, some have been authorised by the authorities but others have not.

Large groups of people could gather in Minsk, Brest, Mogilev and Grodno and other large towns. You should maintain a high level of security awareness, exercise caution, particularly in public places, and avoid large crowds and demonstrations.

Terrorism

There is an underlying threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreigner travellers.

There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.

Local laws and customs

There are severe penalties for drug-related crime. Penalties for possession of drugs range from fines to up to 5 years in prison. Large-scale drug-related offences can result in sentences of 7 to 15 years.

Homosexual relationships are permitted under Belarusian law. However, Belarus remains a conservative society and the gay/lesbian scene is very low profile. Very few homosexuals are open about their sexuality.

Belarus does not recognise dual nationality. If you’re entering Belarus on a Belarusian passport you’ll be treated as a Belarusian citizen by local authorities and this will limit the UK government’s ability to provide consular assistance.

You should avoid taking photographs of all government buildings, military installations and uniformed officials. You could be fined for jaywalking.

If you wish to import goods or services for charitable purposes, consult the Belarus Embassy in London for advice about local procedures and tariffs. If you think your goods will be exempt from Belarusian taxation, you should get written confirmation from the Belarus Embassy in London, confirming this.

Entry requirements

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Visas

All British National passport holders can now enter Belarus for a maximum of 5 days without a visa (the day you arrive counts as day one, regardless of arrival time). Entry and exit will only be allowed at Minsk International Airport and you’ll need to show documentary evidence of medical insurance to the value of 10,000 euros and funds equivalent to 25 euros per day. This can be in the form of cash, credit card or travellers cheques in any currency.

A maximum of 90 days stay in one calendar year is permitted. If you wish to stay longer than 5 days, you’ll need a visa. If you’re travelling immediately from/to a Russian airport or entering Belarus at any other border point other than Minsk International Airport then this visa-free arrangement doesn’t apply and you’ll need a visa. You can find more information at the website of the Belarus embassy.

You don’t need a visa to transit Belarus by air, but the maximum period you can transit and remain airside is 24 hours. You must get a transit visa in all other circumstances including if you’re travelling by train on popular routes such as Warsaw-Moscow and St Petersburg-Kiev. If you attempt to transit Belarus in other circumstances without a visa, the border authorities will send you to Minsk to obtain the appropriate visa. You may also have to pay a fine of up to $300 and face deportation. There is a Belarus Embassy in London.

It’s possible to visit the areas of Avgustov Canal and Grodno and Belovezhskaya Pushcha for short periods without a visa, more information can be found at Grodno visa free. However, this must be done through a registered tour operator. The areas can’t be visited on an independent basis.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 3 months from the date of entry into Belarus.

Travelling between Russia and Belarus

The Russian government has informed the UK government that there are no legal grounds for foreigners (including British nationals) to cross the Russia-Belarus state border. If you’re planning on entering Russia by road, you’ll need to take an alternative route through a different country.

If you’re planning on travelling by rail between the two countries, you should contact your train or tour operator to seek their advice. You should also consider contacting your nearest Russian Embassy for advice on the latest situation for rail travellers.

The UK government is not aware of any difficulties for British nationals when travelling by air between the two countries. Make sure you have all the necessary visas for the duration of your travel.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are not valid for entry into Belarus. However, ETDs are accepted for exit from Belarus.

You’ll also need a Belarusian exit visa which can be obtained from the local Immigration Offices (OVIR). The process may take up to 3 days.

Registration

Anyone staying for more than 5 days in Belarus must register with the local police office (OVIR) in the district in which they are staying. Registration will normally be arranged by your hotel. If you are not staying in a hotel registration must be organised by your host. There are fines for not registering in time. If you arrive at the weekend, the earliest you will be able to register is Monday (but offices are only open until 1pm).

Declaration of currency and goods

If you are carrying more than $10,000 in cash or travellers cheques you must complete a currency and goods declaration form on entering Belarus. This must be stamped 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, your journey may be delayed and you may be fined. 

Travelling with children

Children under 16, whose parent or parents hold a Belarusian passport and who aren’t themselves Belarusian passport holders, must have a Belarusian Embassy or Consulate issued travel certificate to travel to Belarus. This is regardless of where they were born or any other nationality they may have. Parents of children entering on this document should liaise with the Belarusian authorities to ensure their children also have the relevant documentation to exit Belarus.

Health

Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.

The reciprocal healthcare agreement between the UK and Belarus terminated on 26 December 2015.

The standard of health care is below that of the UK. You should bring essential personal medications, as the availability of local supplies can’t be guaranteed. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

Avoid certain foodstuffs including local dairy produce, forest mushrooms and fruits of the forest, which can carry high levels of radiation as a result of contamination from the 1986 accident at Chernobyl in Ukraine.

Otherwise the risk of radioactive contamination from the Chernobyl site is insignificant. There is an exclusion zone immediately around the Chernobyl site, which includes the area close to the border with Ukraine in the south east of Belarus. You may find access to this part of the country is limited.

Don’t drink village well water as it is usually heavily contaminated with impurities. In cities, you should first boil, then filter tap water before drinking. Bottled water is widely available in shops.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 103 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment. Most people in Belarus only speak the Russian or Belarusian languages. You may need to find someone who speaks English to interpret for you.  

Money

Sterling isn’t widely accepted for exchange into BYR. You should carry US dollars. Euros are also widely accepted.

It’s only possible to exchange BYR back into other foreign currency (most commonly US dollars) in Belarus, and only certain exchange outlets provide this service. You’ll need to present a valid passport. It’s not possible to exchange BYR into other currencies outside Belarus.

From 1 July 2016 Belarus will be undergo a revaluation of its currency. Banks will be closed to the public between 30 June and 1 July, and there might be problems with payments by credit or debit card during that period. You should ensure you have sufficient cash available for those days. Both pre-and post-revaluation currencies will be accepted until 31 December 2016.

There are plenty of ATMs in major cities. Credit cards aren’t widely used but some large stores and restaurants will accept them. Credit cards can be used to withdraw cash at major hotels and banks. Usually only BYR can be withdrawn from ATMs. A small number of ATMs issue US dollars but the supply is unreliable. Inform your UK bank of your intended travel to Belarus before you depart to ensure they don’t block your card because of suspicion of fraudulent use in a foreign country.

You should only exchange foreign currency at government licensed booths. These can be found in or near major stores, hotels, banks and shopping centres. Exchanging money elsewhere can result in fines and/or arrest and the currency involved in the deal will be confiscated. There are proposals by the Belarusian Ministry of Interior to further toughen penalties for illegal foreign currency transactions.

Travel advice help and support

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send us a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.

See also

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  • British Embassy Minsk

    Title:British Embassy Minsk
    Email:
    Address:

    37, Karl Marx Street
    Minsk
    220030
    Belarus

    Contact: Visa Application Centre contact:: https://uk.tlscontact.com/by/msq/inquiry.php
    Consular enquiries email: : consular.enquiriesminsk@fco.gov.uk
    General enquiries email:: ukin.belarus@fconet.fco.gov.uk
    Telephone : +375 17 229 8200
    Fax : +375 17 229 8206
    Visiting:
    Services:Emergency Travel Documents service (Assistance Services)
    Transferring funds for prisoners / for financial assistance service (Assistance Services)
    Births and Deaths registration service (Documentary Services)
    Notarial services (Documentary Services)
    Citizenship Ceremony service (Documentary Services)
    Legalisation Service (Other Services)
    Lost or Stolen Passports (Assistance Services)

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