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Belarus travel guide

About Belarus

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.

Key facts

Area:

207,595 sq km (80,153 sq miles).

Population:

9,508,000 (2017).

Population density:

45.8 per sq km.

Capital:

Minsk.

Government:

Republic.

Head of state:

President Alexander Lukashenko since 1994.

Head of government:

Prime Minister Roman Golovchenko since 2020.

Travel Advice

Coronavirus travel health

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Belarus on the TravelHealthPro website

See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

International travel

Commercial flights are operating to and from Belarus. Check with your travel company for the latest information.

Entry and borders

See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Belarus.

Returning to the UK

When you return, you must follow the rules for entering the UK.

You are responsible for organising your own COVID-19 test, in line with UK government testing requirements. You should contact local authorities for information on testing facilities.

Be prepared for your plans to change

No travel is risk-free during COVID. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.

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.

Plan ahead and make sure you:

  • can access money
  • understand what your insurance will cover
  • can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned

Travel in Belarus

There are no local travel restrictions in place in Belarus.

Accommodation

Hotels remain open and there are no restrictions in place.

Public places and services

Shops, restaurants/cafes and manufacturing industries remain open.

Healthcare in Belarus

If you develop COVID-19 symptoms in Belarus then you should contact the Emergency Services using telephone number 103. You will be directed to your nearest Regional Public Health Care Centre. You should have your medical insurance details available.

For contact details for English speaking doctors visit our list of healthcare providers.

Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health.

View Health for further details on healthcare in Belarus.

COVID-19 vaccines if you live in Belarus

We will update this page when the Government of Belarus announces new information on the national vaccination programme You can sign up to get email notifications when this page is updated.

The Belarus national vaccination programme started in April 2021 and is using the Sputnik V, Sputnik Light and Sinopharm vaccines. British nationals who are permanent residents in Belarus are eligible for vaccination if they choose to join the programme. You should contact your local polyclinic for further information. British nationals who are temporary residents in Belarus can also be vaccinated for a small fee. There are walk-in vaccination clinics in 11 government healthcare facilities and 28 pop-up vaccination centres have been set up in shopping malls and other places of entertainment including TSUM, GUM, the Komarovsky market, Titan, Galleria Minsk, MOMO, Globo, OutLeto, Zhdanovichi, and Stolitsa.

Find out more, including about vaccines that are authorised in the UK or approved by the World Health Organisation, on the COVID-19 vaccines if you live abroad.

If you’re a British national living in Belarus, you should seek medical advice from your local healthcare provider. Information about COVID-19 vaccines used in the national programme where you live, including regulatory status, should be available from local authorities.

Finance

For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.

Further information

If you need urgent consular assistance, you should contact your local British embassy, high commission or consulate. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.

Political situation

Belarus is governed by a strong Presidential system with the police and security services loyal to it. The authorities show little tolerance for their opposition counterparts. You should maintain a high level of security awareness, particularly in public places and avoid demonstrations.

Belarusian authorities have launched a violent crackdown against demonstrators across Belarus following Presidential elections on 9 August 2020. Further demonstrations are planned with an increased risk of clashes with security forces. Potential flashpoints may be subject to security lockdowns with very little notice. You are advised to remain vigilant, avoid crowds, and if protests do break out, you should leave the area immediately. British media representatives should make sure they are clearly identifiable

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

Licences and documents

You need to have a 1968 International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in Belarus. 1949 IDPs previously issued by the UK may no longer be accepted for use in Belarus after this date. You can get IPD’s over the counter from 2,500 UK Post Offices. You will not be able to buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel.

At the border

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.

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.

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.

Driving regulations

Drivers with foreign licence plates must pay a fee to use toll roads, via an electronic toll collection system. Information can be found on the BelToll website. The website includes toll road maps and guidance on registration, purchase of the required on-board unit, and payment. There are fines for non-compliance, so follow the installation instructions carefully to make sure your vehicle is successfully identified at checkpoints.

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.

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 up to 120 km/h (74 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. You should only make official payments.

Driving standards

The quality of driving in Belarus is unpredictable. 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. Horse and carriage combinations are a specific hazard for drivers in rural unlit areas.

See the AA and RAC guides on driving in Belarus.

Air travel

On 23 May 2021 a Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius was diverted while in Belarusian airspace following a reported security alert on board. The aircraft was escorted into Minsk International Airport by the Belarusian Air Force. After a number of hours on the ground in Minsk, the aircraft was allowed to leave and continue to Vilnius.

On 24 May 2021 the UK government issued an advisory notice to strongly advise all UK airlines to cease overflights of Belarusian airspace. The operating permit of the Belarusian airline Belavia to fly between the UK and Belarus has been suspended. This means there will no longer be any direct flights from Belarus to the UK. All Belarusian airlines have been banned from entering UK airspace without prior authorisation. On 25 May the European Union agreed to ban the overflight of EU airspace by Belarusian airlines. The Ukrainian Government has also banned overflight of its airspace by Belarusian airlines. We understand many flights departing Belarus have recently been cancelled and a number of international carriers have cancelled their Minsk bound flights. You are advised to check with your carrier on the status of any flights you have booked.

People wishing to travel from Belarus to the UK will now have to exit Belarus by the land border and fly via neighbouring countries, or take an indirect air route via a country that has not imposed a ban. If you have tickets booked with Belavia you should contact the airline directly to arrange a refund. British nationals who entered Belarus by air under 30-day visa free provisions and who wish to leave Belarus across a land border will need to apply for an exit visa. Applications should be made to the local citizenship and migration office.

If you plan to depart Belarus by air using one of the routes still operating you should check FCDO Travel Advice for the country you are travelling to or transiting through. You are also advised to check the requirements for entering the UK.

There are no internal flights currently available in Belarus.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation has carried out an audit of the implementation level of critical elements of safety oversight in Belarus.

Although there is no recent history of terrorism in Belarus, attacks cannot be ruled out.

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 more about the global threat from terrorism.

Attacks could happen anywhere and could affect western interests and places visited by foreigners.

There’s 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.

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 serious drug-related offences.

Homosexual relationships are permitted under Belarusian law. However, Belarus remains a conservative society and the LGBT scene is very low profile. Very few LGBT people are open about their sexuality. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

Belarus does not recognise dual nationality. If you have both Belarusian and British passports, the authorities will consider you as Belarusian, even if you enter the country on your British passport. This limits 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.

This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Belarus set and enforce entry rules. For further information 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.

Entry rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)

Entry to Belarus

Entry into the Republic of Belarus through a land border for foreign citizens has been temporarily suspended. There is a narrow list of concessions, including for those who have a permanent/temporary residence permit - you should check the State Border Committee website for more information. If you fall into one of the concessional categories, you should be aware that checks at the border might take longer than usual. If you plan to enter or exit Belarus by land, we also advise you to check the travel advice of the relevant neighbouring country, as coronavirus-related border restrictions may be put in place at short notice.

No one can currently leave Belarus by a land border unless they have a valid exemption as set out by the Council of Ministers. Flights continue to operate in and out of Minsk National Airport as normal.

All foreign arrivals, above the age of six, must have a medical certificate (PCR) showing a negative coronavirus test result, issued no later than 72 hours before entry. This requirement does not apply to holders of permanent or temporary residency in Belarus.

There are different requirements in place for arrivals from other countries. You should check the specific COVID-19 test requirements set by the Belarusian authorities and your airline in advance of your flight. Different airlines have different requirements and may refuse boarding if they are not met.

You must wear a protective face mask in all indoor public spaces, on all Belavia flights and at Minsk National Airport.

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.

Transiting

There are no separate rules for transiting Belarus, other than the requirements set out below.

Quarantine requirements

There is no need to self-isolate or provide a negative coronavirus test certificate for BNs who plan to transit Belarus within 24 hours and provide evidence they will exit within this time-frame.

Regular entry requirements

Visas

All British national passport holders (except those entering on a diplomatic or official passport) can now enter Belarus for a maximum of 30 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.

You should be aware that if you are travelling immediately from or to Russia 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.

If you wish to stay longer than 30 days, or plan to enter on a diplomatic or official passport, you’ll need a visa.

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-Kyiv.

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.

Since 1 January 2018, it’s possible to visit the areas of Avgustov Canal, Belovezhskaya Pushcha, Brest or Grodno for short periods without a visa. More information can be found at Grodno visa free and regulations for foreign citizens visiting the national park. This must be done through a registered tour operator and through assigned border checkpoints. The areas can’t be visited on an independent basis and you aren’t permitted to leave these zones and travel to other cities or regions. Failure to follow these rules could result in a fine and you could face deportation.

The rules connected to the 30 day visa free regime via Minsk International Airport and the 10 Day visa free regime in Grodno and Brest are separate, with different requirements. Make sure you check with the nearest Embassy of Belarus before you travel.

If you intend to work as a journalist in Belarus, make sure you receive accreditation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus before you travel and that you’re clearly identifiable at all times.

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 isn’t aware of any difficulties for British nationals when travelling by air between the 2 countries, however, you should ensure that you receive an exit stamp in your passport when you leave the Republic of Belarus. If you don’t you will be denied entry on your next visit. Make sure you have all the necessary visas for the duration of your travel to Russia. You can find more information on the Russian Embassy website.

Travelling between Ukraine and Belarus

On 2 July, the Belarusian authorities announced the imminent closure of the land border between Belarus and Ukraine. BNs should check with the Belarusian State Border Committee or call their 24- hour hotline (+375 17 365 26 12) for the latest information on the situation at the land crossings before planning any overland travel. Air travel is currently also not permitted. If you have any existing train, flight or tour tickets, you should contact the travel operator to seek advice.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are valid for exiting, entering and transiting through Belarus.

If you travelled into Belarus with a valid Belarusian visa and are leaving on an ETD, you will require an Exit Visa – this can be obtained from the local Immigration Offices (OVIR). The process may take up to three working days. However, this is not applicable for visitors travelling on the visa free regime.

Registration

Anyone staying for more than 10 days in Belarus must register. You can register online or with the local police office (OVIR) in the district in which you’re staying. Registration will normally be arranged by your hotel. If you’re 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 and exiting Belarus. This must be stamped by a Customs Officer. Upon exit from Belarus you will not be allowed to take out more currency than you originally declared on the currency declaration form upon entry. 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.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Belarus on the TravelHealthPro website

See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in Belarus.

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.

General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist are available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

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.

Health risks

There’s an exclusion zone immediately around the Chernobyl site, which 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.

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.  

Sterling isn’t widely accepted for exchange into Belarusian Roubles (BYN). You should carry US dollars. Euros are also accepted.

You may be asked to present your passport for foreign currency exchange. 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 will be confiscated. It’s not possible to exchange BYN into other currencies outside Belarus, but you can do this before leaving Belarus.

There are plenty of ATMs in major cities. Credit cards are widely used and can also be used to withdraw cash.

Usually only BYN 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.

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, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (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 FCDO 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 FCDO 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 FCDO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team 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.

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