Belarus travel guide
A country whose landscape is still engulfed by the memories of its Soviet past, Belarus is emerging as a trendy Eastern European hotspot - with the country slowly shedding its Communist reputation to become a budding and modern tourist destination.
Unlike many of its neighbours who chose to become part of the European Union after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, consumerism is notably absent in Belarus – and those who visit are treated to a multifaceted destination rich in history, brimming with culture and populated by warm and generous inhabitants.
And though its popularity is growing, Belarus' appeal might well be in its isolation. Indeed this is one of the few remaining places where you can still see what life was like during the days of communism. Largely untouched, Belarus offers an abundance of Soviet iconography, particularly in the big cities, allowing anyone with an imagination to visualise how things once were.
The main destination is the capital, Minsk, defined by clean streets and neoclassical Stalinist architecture and where a cosmopolitan vibe sits alongside intense national pride. A veritable survivor, Minsk is a city whose character is almost tangible - having time and time again throughout its tumultuous history, refused to say 'die'.
Brest is another city of interest. Nestled on the Polish border, Brest is possessed of charm and an abundance of history, also possibly the most Western of all the Belarusian cities.
Outside of the cities, travellers will discover wide plains, picturesque villages, ancient castles, monasteries and dense forests, not to mention thousands of lakes. National parks protect some of the continent's largest marshlands, as well as some of Europe's oldest untouched woodlands, including Bialowieza Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The countryside also offers the chance to see some of the last remaining collective farms in action.
While Belarus may still represent a corner of Eastern Europe that's still developing in the wake of some difficult times, travellers who give this destination the time it deserves will reap the rewards and are sure to enjoy a colourful, compelling country.
207,595 sq km (80,153 sq miles).
45.8 per sq km.
President Alexander Lukashenko since 1994.
Prime Minister Roman Golovchenko since 2020.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.
FCDO advises against all travel to Belarus
Your travel insurance could be invalidated if you travel against FCDO advice. Consular support is also severely limited where FCDO advises against travel.
Russian military operations are taking place in Belarus. There is some risk that direct conflict linked to the war in Ukraine may spread to Belarus.
If conflict starts, FCDO’s ability to offer consular assistance will be severely limited. Routes out of the country are limited, particularly by air.
Find out more about safety and security in Belarus.
Belarus does not recognise dual nationality. If you have both Belarusian and British passports, the authorities will consider you Belarusian, even if you enter the country on your British passport. This limits the UK government’s ability to provide consular assistance.
Before you travel
No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide as well as support for British nationals abroad which includes:
- advice on preparing for travel abroad and reducing risks
- information for women, LGBT+ and disabled travellers
If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and potential expenses in an emergency.
This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a ‘British Citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Belarus set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how Belarus’s entry requirements apply to you, contact the Embassy of Belarus in the UK.
Travel from and to Ukraine
FCDO advises against all travel to Ukraine, including from Belarus.
British nationals cannot currently cross the Belarus-Ukraine border. If you travelled to Belarus from Ukraine and need assistance, contact the British Embassy Minsk on +375 17 229 8200 or send an enquiry using the web contact form.
Travel from and to Russia
FCDO advises against all travel to Russia, including from Belarus.
If you travelled to Belarus from Russia and need assistance, contact the British Embassy Minsk on +375 17 229 8200.
The Russian government states that there are no legal grounds for foreigners (including British nationals) to cross the Russia-Belarus state land border including by road, bus or rail. If you try to do this, you will be refused boarding or stopped at the border.
Events involving Russia are fast-moving. You are strongly advised to check FCDO’s Russia travel advice, which advises against all travel to Russia.
Air travel to Russia
FCDO is not aware of any difficulties for British nationals travelling by air between Belarus and Russia. However, make sure you get an exit stamp in your passport when you leave Belarus. If you don’t, you will not be allowed back in on your next visit.
Make sure you have the correct visas for your entire visit to Russia. You can find more information on the website of the Embassy of the Russian Federation in London.
There are no COVID-19 related travel restrictions for Belarus.
Countries may restrict travel or bring in rules at short notice. Check with your travel provider for changes.
If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.
Visit TravelHealthPro (from the UK’s National Travel Health Network and Centre) for general COVID-19 advice for travellers.
Passport validity requirements
Check with your travel provider to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
To visit Belarus, your passport must be valid for at least 3 months from the date you arrive.
Children of Belarusian passport holders
Under-16s who do not have a Belarusian passport but have a parent who does, must have a Belarusian embassy or consulate-issued travel certificate to enter Belarus. This applies wherever they were born and whatever other nationality they may have. Parents of children entering on this document should liaise with the Belarusian authorities (State Border Committee, Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Foreign Affairs) to make sure their children also have the relevant documentation to exit Belarus.
All British nationals (except those entering on a diplomatic or official passport) arriving by air can enter Belarus for up to 30 days without a visa.
The 30-day visa free rules are allowed for British nationals arriving and departing from the following international airports:
- Minsk National Airport
If you want to stay longer than 30 days you’ll need a visa.
If you are travelling from the EU to Belarus by car or bus over a land border, the visa-free arrangement does not apply and you’ll need a visa. You can find more information on the website of the Embassy of Belarus in the UK.
If you’re travelling directly from or to Russia, the visa-free arrangement does not apply and you’ll need a visa. You can find more information on the website of the Embassy of Belarus in the UK.
Visas for travelling through Belarus
You don’t need a visa to transit Belarus by air, but the maximum period you can remain airside (in the airport without going through border control) is 24 hours. You must get a transit visa in all other circumstances, including if you are travelling on any regional rail routes.
If you try to transit Belarus in other circumstances without a visa, the border authorities will send you to Minsk to get the appropriate visa. You could also be deported or fined up to 300 US dollars.
Visa-free visits to the Brest and Grodno regions
You can visit some regions of Belarus for short periods without a visa via a land border, including:
- Augustouski Canal
- Belovezhskaya Pushcha
However, you must arrange your visit and itinerary through a registered tour operator and travel through specific border checkpoints. To do this, you must check information on the Grodno Visa-Free website.
When you apply for your visa or when you arrive at the airport or travel into Belarus via a land border, you will 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. Contact the Embassy of Belarus for full details.
If you plan to work as a journalist in Belarus, you must get accreditation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus before you travel.
It is a legal requirement for accommodation providers to register any foreign guest staying for more than 10 days in Belarus. Registration will normally be arranged by your hotel. If you’re staying with someone, check that they’re doing this. You can register online (this page may not be accessible from all countries) or with the local police office (OVIR) in the district in which you’re staying. There are fines for not registering in time. Further information can be found on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
If you are carrying more than 10,000 US dollars in cash or travellers cheques, you must complete a currency and goods declaration form. You must do this both when you enter and leave Belarus. The form must be stamped by a customs officer.
You are not allowed to take more currency out of Belarus than you declared when you arrived. Keep your entry declaration forms for the duration of your visit. When you leave Belarus, you will complete a new form, but you must also show the entry form. If you do not, you could be delayed and fined.
Read this guidance alongside FCDO’s overall travel advice and warnings for Belarus.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Belarus, attacks cannot be ruled out.
There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. You should remain vigilant at all times.
UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.
Attacks could happen anywhere and could affect western interests and places visited by foreigners.
Demonstrations and protests are possible and could become confrontational, with security forces likely to use force to disperse and detain demonstrators. Belarusian authorities launched a violent crackdown against demonstrators across Belarus after the 2020 presidential elections and is currently a repressive environment. You should:
- stay vigilant
- avoid crowds
- if protests break out, leave the area immediately
There is often a heightened security forces presence on the streets of Minsk and other major cities. Security forces (some may be in plain clothes) might carry out a stop and search or ask for identification documents. Make sure you carry your passport or a photocopy of the photo page of your passport, and visa if you have one.
Russian military operations
The Belarusian authorities are facilitating Russia’s war against Ukraine. Russian military operations are taking place inside Belarus. The situation is unpredictable and could escalate without warning. This has increased the risk of conflict within Belarusian borders. If conflict takes place, FCDO’s ability to offer consular assistance may be limited. Events in Ukraine are fast-moving.
There is high risk of military activity in places where there are Russian and Belarusian military personnel and equipment, including:
Avoid restricted areas reserved for military exercises or operations. Do not take photographs of security forces’ activity (including police and military), and establishments or sites of strategic importance, including government buildings and critical infrastructure. This is illegal. There may not be warning signs in locations where prohibitions are in place. If in doubt, leave potentially restricted areas immediately.
There is little crime in Belarus, but be alert to the possibility of street crime and theft from vehicles or hotel rooms.
There may be long queues at borders. Customs and immigration can be lengthy and bureaucratic. Ignore any private facilitators who offer to help you pass through checkpoints.
You must be able to produce original vehicle ownership documents at border crossings. If you’re not the owner, you will need a letter of ‘power of attorney’. You must have car insurance. There is more information about insurance requirements on the State Border Committee website.
Do not overstay or break the temporary import terms and conditions for your vehicle. If you do, your vehicle could be confiscated at the border or at an in-country police checkpoint.
The situation close to the Polish border is unpredictable. Border crossings may close or implement restrictions at short notice. You should check this before any travel across the border.
In August 2023, Lithuanian authorities closed two border crossing points with Belarus. Several others remain open. Further border crossings may close or implement restrictions at short notice. Check before you travel across the border, the latest information on the Belarus-Lithuania border can be found on Lithuanian Ministry of the Interior website.
Transport risks in Belarus
You need car insurance to drive in Belarus. There is more information about insurance requirements on the State Border Committee website.
Drivers with foreign licence plates must pay a fee to use toll rods or face a fine. For more information, see the BelToll website.
For information on speed limits, including rules for visiting motorists, see the RAC guidance on driving in Belarus.
There is a zero-tolerance policy towards drink driving. Depending on the situation, penalties can include fines or imprisonment.
There are police checkpoints on routes throughout the country. Stop when instructed and have vehicle documentation available.
The quality of driving in Belarus is unpredictable. A-class highways are in good condition. The condition of B-class roads varies. Some are impassable for periods in winter. Road works and potholes are usually poorly marked.
See the RAC guide on driving in Belarus.
There are no direct flights between Belarus and the UK.
Since mid-2021 all Belarusian airlines have been banned from flying into the UK. The EU has closed its airspace to Belarusian registered aircraft and has sanctioned Belavia the Belarusian state owned carrier.
The UK has sanctioned the Belarusian air traffic control operator. Due to international restrictions on Belavia, they may not have access to components which are needed for the safe maintenance of their aircraft.
HMG staff do not use Belavia.
The UK has placed sanctions on some Russian airlines, including Aeroflot, Rossiya Airlines and Ural. It is illegal for any British national or company in the UK to do business with these airlines, including buying airline tickets.
There are frequent standard security checks at some stations on the Minsk Metro. Transport police may ask to scan your bags. You must comply with this. You could be arrested if you refuse.
You could be fined for jaywalking.
There’s an exclusion zone immediately around the Chernobyl site. This includes the area close to the border with Ukraine in the south east of Belarus. Access to this part of the country is limited. The risk of radioactive contamination from the Chernobyl site is insignificant elsewhere.
Laws and cultural differences
There are severe penalties for drug-related crime. These include prison sentences of up to 5 years for drug possession and up to 25 years for more serious drug-related offences.
Homosexual relationships are legal in Belarus. However, Belarus is still a conservative society and the LGBT+ scene is very low profile. Very few LGBT+ people are open about their sexuality. Read more advice for LGBT travellers.
Avoid taking photographs of all government buildings, military installations and uniformed officials. You will be asked to delete photos and there may be other penalties.
Importing goods for charitable purposes
If you want to import goods or services for charitable purposes, consult the Embassy of Belarus in the UK for advice about local procedures and tariffs. If you think your goods will be exempt from Belarusian taxation, get written confirmation from the Embassy of Belarus in the UK.
FCDO advises against all travel to Belarus. Because of potential security challenges linked to Russia’s war with Ukraine, we advise against commissioning new surrogacy arrangements in Belarus.
If you are a British national with current surrogacy arrangements in Belarus, contact FCDO on 01908 516 666 if you have not already done so.
If you already have surrogacy arrangements in place:
- You may wish to ask your surrogacy agency about the safest location where all parties to the surrogacy arrangement can stay. The FCDO cannot facilitate evacuation.
- In many cases, Belarusian law requires that the surrogate is married. This could affect British nationality for a child born under such a surrogacy arrangement. You should seek specialist UK legal advice about nationality determinations, Parental Orders and what you need for travel documents.
- Seek in-country legal advice. This is important for issues like legalising UK documents, notarising Belarusian documents, document processing and the maximum period of stay the authorities will allow. Due to the security challenges, FCDO cannot confirm which lawyers are currently offering services. The surrogacy process in Belarus can be lengthy and complicated.
If you are considering changing your surrogacy arrangements, or making a new arrangement in another country, read the guidance for intended parents planning for international surrogacy.
Using foreign credit and debit cards
There are plenty of ATMs in major cities. However, there are currently problems withdrawing cash using foreign credit and debit cards. Almost all major banks in Belarus do not accept foreign-issued cards. Those banks that do may charge a higher commission.
There is also limited cash available. Many ATMs have limits on the amount of cash you can withdraw, particularly for foreign cards. Not all cards will be accepted in Belarus. Many reputable international money transfer providers have suspended operations in Belarus. Consider having cash in US dollars or euros if you decide to visit Belarus.
The UK government has imposed sanctions against a range of Belarusian companies and individuals. These may impact on financial transactions.
It can be difficult to exchange British pounds for Belarusian roubles. US dollars and Euros are more widely accepted. You may be asked to present your passport at a foreign currency exchange. Use government-licensed booths to exchange currency. You can find these in or near major stores, hotels and banks. If you exchange money elsewhere, you could be fined or arrested and the currency will be confiscated. You cannot exchange Belarusian roubles into other currencies outside Belarus.
If you’re travelling to Belarus, speak to your UK bank before you go. Because of sanctions against Belarus, your bank may block your card if you use it in Belarus. Many banks have suspended their services in Belarus, so please check with your provider.
Before you travel check that:
- your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
- you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation
This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.
The standard of healthcare is below that of the UK.
See FCDO’s list of English-speaking healthcare providers in Belarus.
Emergency medical number
Dial 103 and ask for an ambulance.
Contact your insurance or medical assistance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Most people in Belarus only speak Russian or Belarusian, so emergency services staff may not speak English. You may need to find someone who speaks English to interpret for you.
Vaccinations and health risks
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check:
- the latest information on vaccinations and health risks on TravelHealthPro
- where to get vaccines and whether you have to pay on the NHS travel vaccinations page
If you might have COVID-19
If you develop COVID-19 symptoms in Belarus, call the emergency services on 103. You will be directed to your nearest Regional Public Health Care Centre. Have your medical insurance details available.
You should bring essential personal medication because the availability of local supplies cannot be guaranteed.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.
TravelHealthPro explains best practice when travelling with medicines.
The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.
For more information on the legal status of a specific medicine, contact the Embassy of Belarus in the UK.
Travel and mental health
Drinking water quality
Do not drink village well water. It is usually heavily contaminated with impurities. In cities, boil then filter tap water before drinking. Bottled water is widely available.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.
Emergency services in Belarus
Contact your travel provider and insurer
Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.
Refunds and changes to travel
For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.
Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:
- where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
- how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim
Support from FCDO
FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:
- finding English-speaking lawyers, funeral directors and translators and interpreters in Belarus
- dealing with a death in Belarus
- being arrested in Belarus
- getting help if you’re a victim of crime
- what to do if you’re in hospital
- if you are affected by a crisis, such as a terrorist attack.
Help abroad in an emergency
If you are abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British Embassy Minsk.
You can also contact FCDO online.
FCDO in London
You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.
Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)
Risk information for British companies
The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks