Belarus Shopping and nightlife
Shopping in Belarus
Although shopping centres in Belarus may not be as diverse as its neighbouring countries, partly due to its Soviet Communist history, you can find a fascinating range of local products that make great souvenirs. Moreover, visitors from outside the Eurasian Customs Union (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia) can claim VAT refund, which is currently at 12.5%. Please see the Belarus VAT section below for more information.
The capital Minsk has the best shops. Stolitsa (Prospekt Nezavisimosti 3-2), a multi-storey underground mall, sells an assortment of high-end products and is also home to a few international brands. Soviet-style GUM department store (Nezavisimosti 21) is another popular choice. As for markets, Komarovsky Market (Khoruzhey 6) is great for local produce.
Possible souvenirs include:
• Linen items from blankets to tablecloths.
• Matryoshka dolls (Belarus nesting dolls).
• Hand-painted wooden products from jewellery boxes to spoons.
• Quality lingerie – the brand Milavitsa is one of the best known producers, and has been operating since Soviet times.
• Chocolate – Kommunarka and Spartak are two popular brands.
• Belarusian vodka.
• Belarusian krambambulia – an alcoholic mix drink.
Belarusian rubles are still the preferred form of payment, but credit cards are also widely accepted. Otherwise, nearly every shop has a currency exchange counter, and ATMs are widespread.
VAT in Belarus
There are over 400 shops offering Tax Free shopping in Belarus. To get a VAT refund, you must:
• Buy goods worth at least BR80 in a shop that offers Tax Free shopping within one day.
• Show your passport and get three copies of the Tax Free receipts from the shop. See the customer service and ask for a special prepaid envelope.
• Produce the receipts and your goods (which must still be in their original packaging) at the border checkpoint to get a customs seal.
• Fill up a form. Then put the form and your receipts into the special envelope, drop it into a mailbox at the border checkpoint. You will then receive your VAT refund within 30 days.
Antiquities, valuables, works of art and manuscripts other than those offered for sale in souvenir shops require an export licence.
Mon-Sat 0900-2000 although large malls open till 2200. Some shops are closed on Sunday but tourist shops are usually open every day.
Nightlife in Belarus
With a good selection of bars and music venues in larger cities, nightlife in Belarus is vibrant and popular with all ages.
In Minsk, there is a growing nightclub scene and many clubs play Russian and Belarusian pop music. Here are a few popular choices that shine brighter than the rest:
• TNT Rock Club (http://tntrock.by) combines up and coming live bands with food, bar and a rock memorabilia museum.
• Pub-club Graffiti (https://www.facebook.com/pg/graffiti.by) has live music every evening including theme nights: jazz on Wednesday, funk on Friday and blues or rock on Saturday.
• Rakovsky Brovar (http://www.brovar.by) is a microbrewery popular with locals and tourist alike. It also serves food that is very much an acquired taste, like ox brains.
If you prefer something a little more sedate, there is a thriving cultural scene with opera, ballet, theatre, circus and puppet theatre to be found in Minsk. Brest also has a renowned puppet theatre. Tickets can be bought in advance at the Central Theatre Ticket Office. Same-day tickets are only available at the venue in question.