BelarusOfficial Name: Republic of Belarus
Must be valid for at least 3 months beyond scheduled departure date
BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:
Two pages are required for visa issuance
TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:
Cash equivalent of $10,000 or more must be declared at customs on entry.
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:
Cash equivalent of $10,000 or more must be declared at customs upon exit..
Embassies and Consulates
46 Starovilenskaya St.
Minsk 220002, Belarus
Telephone: +(375) (17) 210-1283
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(375) (29) 676-0134
Fax: +(375) (17) 334-7853 or +(375) (17) 217-7160 (consular section)
Belarus has been led by Alexander Lukashenka since 1994. Under Lukashenka’s rule, economic and political reform has stalled and the government’s human rights record has steadily deteriorated. Both Belarusian and Russian are official languages, and Russian is widely spoken throughout the country, particularly in the cities. Tourist facilities are not highly developed, but food and lodging in the capital and some regional centers are adequate. Read the Department of State Fact Sheet on Belarus for additional information on U.S.-Belarussian relations.
Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements
You need a passport and a visa to enter Belarus. You may obtain a visa in advance to visit or transit through Belarus. Information about visas can be found on the Belarusian Embassy web site. In some cases, visas may be issued at the airport. Check the Embassy of Belarus webpage for additional visa information. . All U.S. citizens visiting or residing in Belarus are required to register with the local office of the Citizenship and Migration Department of the Ministry of Interior (formerly OVIR) within 5 business days of arrival; travelers are not required to register if they plan to spend no more than 7 calendar days (5 working days and a weekend) in Belarus. The registration fee for a temporary stay (up to 90 days) is approximately USD$7 (the exact amount can be calculated by taking half of one National Minimum Tariff Unit. (The dollar amount is calculated here against the current exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble. This may change and travelers should check the Belarusian Embassy website for the most up to date information.). Registration fees for temporary residence (over 90 days within a year) and permanent residence (residence permit for up to 3 years) are currently about $40 each (three National Minimum Tariff Units. Again, the dollar amount is calculated here against the current exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble. This may change and travelers should again check the Belarusian Embassy website for the most up to date information.). Failure to register can result in fines and difficulties when departing. If you plan to stay at a hotel, you will be automatically registered at check-in. Registration performed by a hotel is free of charge.
Visas: Visa validity dates are strictly enforced; travelers should request a visa of sufficient length to allow for changes in arrival and departure plans, and should carefully review the beginning and ending dates of their visa before traveling. Beginning in June 2014, Belarus made health insurance policy a condition on which a Belarusian entry visa can be issued. Visa requests will not be considered without a valid health insurance. Belarus accepts health insurance policies issued by foreign insurance companies, provided Belarus is covered by those policies. The minimum coverage amount is €10,000. An original or a copy of the policy (either one) must be submitted to the consular officer at the time of visa application as proof of purchase. The policy should cover the duration of the applicant’s stay in country. Authorities at the port of entry will not require the insurance policy to be presented at time of entry into the country. However, the U.S. Embassy in Minsk recommends travelers carry a copy of the policy with them at that time. Travelers or their sponsors in Belarus may purchase health insurance from a Belarusian provider.
Airport visas: In some cases travelers may obtain Belarusian visas upon arrival at the Minsk International Airport. An inviting person must submit all required visa support paperwork to the Minsk International Airport Consular office no later than two workdays prior to the visitor’s arrival. Upon arrival, the traveler will be required to complete the visa application form (which can be completed and printed out in advance) and attach one photo of 35X45 mm size. Airport visas are issued prior to immigration control checkpoint at the airport. Please be aware that a consular officer at the airport has the authority to refuse the visa application without explanation. In this case, the traveler will be deported from Belarus and the visa fee will not be refunded.
Airport visa fees schedule for U.S. citizens (temporary stay only) Please note that this prices are subject to change and travelers should check the Embassy of Belarus web page before departure:
- Transit visa - $300
- Single, double, multiple-entry short term (up to 90 days) visa (individual or group per person) - $420
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to Belarus on a 30-day visit. Long-term residents (more than 90 days a year) or students must obtain an HIV/AIDS test in Belarus and submit the results to the Department of Citizenship and Migration when applying for an extension of stay or residency in Belarus.
Exit Visa: A valid exit visa is necessary to depart Belarus. Generally, the visa issued by a Belarusian embassy or consulate is valid for both entry and exit. Photocopies of visas may be helpful in the event of loss, but note that a copy of a visa will not be sufficient for entry or departure, as Belarusian border officials always require original travel documents. If a traveler overstays their visa’s validity -- even by one day -- they will be prevented from leaving until they have been granted an extension by the Department of Citizenship and Migration. If the traveler is not in a possession of a valid visa, they will face delays in leaving Belarus and may have trouble finding adequate accommodation. By Belarusian law, foreign travelers with an expired visa may not check in at any hotel or other lodging establishment. If a traveler enters Belarus on a short term visa (up to 90 days) which has since expired and the traveler obtains a temporary residency permit to extend the stay (this is typical in cases of work and student visas), the traveler must also obtain an exit-entry visa from the Immigration Office of the Ministry of Interior at the place they registered in Belarus in order to enable the traveler to leave and re-enter the country during his/her stay on a temporary residency permit. The immigration office that issues a temporary residency permit is normally the one that would issue an entry-exit visa.
The Embassy advises that a transit visa is required for those who plan to travel through Belarus to other countries. Travelers are advised that there is a transit-visa requirement for entering and leaving Belarus. Transit visas are required even for those transiting on a direct overnight train with no stops or transfers on Belarusian territory. Transit visas should be obtained prior to any journey that requires travel through Belarus. Transit visas are good only for transiting from Belarus to another country. Depending on travel plans, the traveler should make sure they request an appropriate number of entries for a transit visa. Transit visas can be single-, double-, or multi-entry, but with no more than 48 hours of stay permitted in country per entry. If a traveler attempts to reenter the country from which they originally entered, using an invalid or expired transit visa, they will not be allowed to exit Belarus without paying a fine and obtaining an exit visa. Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Russian visas are not a substitute for the transit visa. Many travel agencies, including those in Russia and CIS countries, as well as train ticket sales personnel, are often not aware of this visa requirement and may not seek a transit visa for a traveler unless instructed by the traveler to do so.
U.S. citizens attempting to transit Belarus without a valid Belarusian transit visa have been denied entry into the country and forcibly removed from trains. In some instances, local border and railway authorities have threatened passengers who did not possess a valid transit visa with jail or extorted “fines.” It is the Embassy’s recommendation that a traveler not pay any border or railway officials for transit visas or “transit-visa fines,” as these officials are not authorized to issue such visas. If a traveler is in Belarus without a transit visas, and is confronted by border or train personnel, they should request to be put in contact with consular officials at the U.S. Embassy in Minsk.
If a travel route to Belarus goes through Russia, then the traveler must possess a Russian transit visa in addition to a Belarusian visa. Russian embassies outside of the United States, including the Russian Embassy in Belarus, generally do not issue transit or tourist visas to U.S. citizens. Russian transit visas are not normally obtainable at Russian airports. For more information, please check the Consular Information Sheet on Russia.
Limitations on Length of Stay: The Law on the Legal Status of Foreign Citizens and Stateless Persons in the Republic of Belarus states that all foreign citizens may be granted permission for a temporary stay (up to 90 days in a calendar year counted from first entry), temporary residence (over 90 days up to one year), or permanent residence (up to three years). Belarusian embassies and consulates will issue visas for temporary stays only. A temporary stay visa will allow a traveler to be present physically in Belarus for a maximum of 90 days in a calendar year in which the visa is issued. Once they have spent 90 days in Belarus, at one time or through a combination of visits, they will not be eligible to receive another visa through the end of that calendar year.
If a traveler receives a visa for a temporary stay, but wishes to remain in Belarus for longer than 90 days, they must apply for temporary or permanent residence with the Ministry of Interior. The application must be made in Belarus within the 90 days allotted for a temporary stay. Permission for temporary residence can be granted to students, spouses, or close relatives of Belarusian citizens, or for “work, business, or other activities.” Travelers may contact the Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy in Minsk for more information about application procedures for temporary or permanent residence. Please note that the Embassy cannot make these arrangements for travelers. Every non-Belarusian entering Belarus is required to fill out a migration card. Travelers should retain this card for the period of stay and present it to the border authorities when exiting Belarus.
As a foreign citizen without a valid Belarusian visa, migration card, or proper registration with the Department of Citizenship and Migration as a temporary visitor or resident, travelers can be subject to sanctions up to and including administrative arrest and subsequent deportation under the provisions of the Code of Administrative Offenses. Depending on the circumstances, as a deportee, a traveler may also be banned from returning to Belarus for a period from one to ten years.
Visiting and transiting Belarus, a traveler should also be prepared to demonstrate sufficient financial means to support their stay. For individuals staying in Belarus less than one month, this amount is equal to two National Minimum Tariffs (approximately $25/day/person). For those staying for longer than one month, the requirements call for an amount equal to 50 National Minimum Tariffs (about $580/month/person). Belarusian officials may request this proof of funds at the time of visa application, at the border, or during registration. According to the Ministry of Interior, cash, credit cards, paid hotel reservations, or a letter from an inviting party pledging full financial support are sufficient means to demonstrate financial wherewithal.
When entering Belarus, a traveler may be charged 4 Euros per kilogram of luggage in excess of 50 Kg (121 lbs). That fee must be paid in dollars or Euros. Additionally, the aggregate value of goods transferred (exclusive personal effects) may not exceed the equivalent of €1,500 for ground borders and €10,000 for air borders. In accordance with current customs regulations, a traveler may enter Belarus and exit the country with up to $10,000 in cash without submitting a written declaration. For additional information on customs rules for Belarus, please see the Belarusian State Customs Committee official website.
Belarus enforces a requirement for special permits to travel in “limited entry border zones.” The Government of Belarus has not provided information defining the parameters of those zones. Generally, such zones are drawn in close proximity to the country borders and require special permissions for entry. Permission is issued in advance by the State Border Guards Committee. Travelers should be alert for warning signs, road barriers, and/or border guard posts, and are advised not to cross into such areas without permission.
Religious Group Travel: Foreign missionaries may not engage in religious activities outside the institutions that invited them unless they have a religious worker visa. One-year validity, multiple-entry, "spiritual-activities" visas, which are required of foreign missionaries, can be difficult to get, even for faiths that are registered with the government and have a long history in the country. Approval often involves a difficult bureaucratic process.
Belarusian law requires all religious groups and organizations to register with the government; most organizations have done so. Unregistered religious groups may not legally gather for religious purposes. Many unregistered groups continue to meet, however, leaving themselves vulnerable to selective implementation of the law by authorities. The law also stipulates that only Belarusian citizens can head religious organizations in Belarus. In recent years, authorities have harassed, warned, fined, and briefly detained members of some unregistered and so-called "non-traditional" faiths for engaging in unsanctioned worship or proselytism. U.S. Embassy Minsk strongly recommends that should the traveler choose to attend a religious service of an unregistered religious group, they do so only after consulting with members of the group about the risk of harassment or possible arrest by local law enforcement authorities. Travelers are also urged to contact U.S. Embassy Minsk in the event they encounter any problems with authorities due to your participation in such services or events.
Departure Restrictions: A list of foreigners whose travel OUT OF Belarus is restricted was introduced in 2012. A non-Belarusian may be added to this list if they have unresolved tax issues in Belarus, have debts to the government or are a defendant in a criminal or economic crime case.
Driving a car to/through Belarus: Under the current customs regulations, it is illegal to transfer a car registered in the name of a non-resident to a resident of Belarus without paying import tax on it. For example, if a resident of Belarus is pulled over by the local police while driving a car belonging to a foreigner, it is considered that a transfer of the car took place, which can lead to fines, car confiscation, or import tax payment. The foreigner is added to the list of foreigners whose departure from Belarus is restricted until he/she has paid all taxes and duties. (The Embassy is aware of several such cases involving Polish, Moldovan and German nationals who could not leave Belarus, as their cars had been driven by locals and they were not in the car at the time the road police pulled it over.
Dual Nationality: A Belarusian citizen who obtains U.S. citizenship through naturalization may not have automatically lost Belarusian citizenship. In the majority of cases, naturalized U.S. citizens retain their Belarusian citizenship unless they take specific steps to renounce it. The Belarusian authorities will allow naturalized U.S. citizens from Belarus to enter the country without a valid Belarusian passport on a “certificate of return” issued by Belarusian embassies and consulates. Please note that a valid Belarusian passport will be required to leave the country. It can take two to four weeks to receive a new Belarusian passport. For additional information, please consult with the Embassy of Belarus in Washington, D.C.
Belarusian citizens, including those who also hold passports from other countries, are subject to Belarusian laws requiring service in Belarus’s armed forces, as well as other laws pertaining to passports and nationality. An individual who holds both U.S. and Belarusian passports and is of military age and does not wish to serve in the Belarusian armed forces should contact the Embassy of Belarus in Washington, D.C. It is important that they learn more about an exemption or deferment from Belarusian military service before going to Belarus. Without this exemption or deferment document, they may not be able to leave Belarus without completing military service, or may be subject to criminal penalties for failure to serve.
Children born to Belarusian parents or to one Belarusian parent and one non-Belarusian parent, even if born in the United States and in possession of a U.S. passport, may not be issued a Belarusian visa for travel to Belarus. The Belarusian Government considers these children to be Belarusian citizens until age 18, when they may choose to reject that claim to citizenship. Instead of a visa, a "certificate of return" is issued that will allow the child to enter Belarus. It is imperative that parents of such children understand that, in order to leave the country, the child will be required to have a Belarusian passport if he/she does not already have one. It can take anywhere from two to four weeks to complete the application procedures and receive a new Belarusian passport.
Visit the Embassy of Belarus website for the most current visa information, or contact the Embassy of Belarus at 1619 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20009, tel: 202-986-1604, fax: 202-986-1805.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet
Safety and Security
Both organized and spontaneous demonstrations are infrequent in Belarus, though they can occur authorities rarely allow groups to hold legal demonstrations, despite their applying for permits to assemble. Localized street disturbances relating to political events are much more likely in Minsk or larger cities, than smaller towns and villages. In some instances, authorities may use force to disperse demonstrators, including peaceful ones. Bystanders, including foreign nationals, may face the possibility of arrest, beating, or detention. Demonstrations intended to be peaceful can sometimes become confrontational. For this reason, it is recommended that U.S. citizens avoid all demonstrations and protest gatherings. Security personnel may at times place foreigners under surveillance; hotel rooms, telephones, and fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched. Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with authorities; these sites are not always clearly marked and application of these restrictions is subject to interpretation.
To stay connected:
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program so we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements.
- Follow the Bureau of Consular Affairs on Twitter and Facebook.
- Bookmark the Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution.
- Follow the U.S. Embassy in Minsk on Twitter and visiting the Embassy’s website.
- In the event of an emergency, contact us at 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the United States and Canada, or via a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries.
- Take some time before traveling to consider your personal security and checking for useful tips for traveling safely abroad.
CRIME: Belarus has a moderate rate of street crime. Criminal activity in Minsk is comparable to the level found in other large cities, while in the rural areas it is very limited. Though violent crime against foreigners is rare, criminals have been known to use force if met with resistance from victims. Common street crime, such as mugging and pocket picking, occurs most frequently near public transportation venues, near hotels frequented by foreigners, and/or at night in poorly-lighted areas. In Minsk, you should be especially alert in metro and bus stations.
Visiting night clubs, you should pay particular attention to your surroundings and drinks; the drugging of drinks is not uncommon. Prostitutes at hotels may attempt to open hotel room doors in search of customers. Local and transnational organized criminal activity exists in Belarus. Most casinos and adult clubs are operated by criminal elements, but street-level organized criminal violence is rare and does not generally affect foreigners. Carjacking is also rare, but theft of vehicle parts and car vandalism is not. Sport-utility and luxury vehicles tend to be the most sought-after. Parking in a secure area overnight is highly recommended.
Sexual assaults on women are as commonplace in Minsk as they are in most large urban areas in the United States. Women are advised to exercise the same caution as they would in any large city in the United States.
Travelers should keep a copy of their U.S. passport in a location separate from the actual passport.
Internet-Dating Schemes and Cyber-Crime: "Internet brides" are advertised on several websites and are not always legitimate. Often, potential suitors in the United States lose thousands of dollars when they send money to people they have never met and never hear from again. A growing variant on this theme is the suitor invited to Belarus to visit a “friend,” who arranges lodging and transportation for him (at hugely inflated prices) and disappears when the money has changed hands.
Cyber-crime of all kinds is well developed in Belarus. Merchandise orders with fraudulent credit cards, ID theft, hacking/blackmail schemes, and advance fee fraud are gaining in popularity. When doing business with persons or firms in Belarus electronically, one should proceed with extreme caution. One should avoid using credit and debit cards, except at ATMs located inside major banks. Electronic fraud common at ATMs and grocery stores. Please note that transferring funds from abroad, replacing stolen traveler's checks or airline tickets, or canceling credit cards can be difficult and time consuming, especially due to the lack of English-speaking tourist agencies and an undeveloped tourism industry in Belarus.
In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law. In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.
Belarus police organizations are well trained and professional, but severely restricted by an un-reformed Soviet-era legal system, corruption, and politicization of the police force and other government authorities. Due to low salaries, it is not uncommon for officers to collect bribes during traffic stops. Sophisticated criminal investigations are often inconclusive because of a lack of resources and/or political will.
Some U.S. citizens have reported harassment at border crossings, we recommends that you report any crimes immediately to the local police and the U.S. Embassy in Minsk.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We can:
- Replace a stolen passport.
- Help you find appropriate medical care if you are the victim of violent crimes such as assault or rape.
- Put you in contact with the appropriate police authorities, and if you want us to, contact family members or friends.
- Help you understand the local criminal justice process and direct you to local attorneys, although it is important to remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.
The local equivalents to the “911” emergency lines in Belarus are: 101 for Fire and Rescue Squad; 102 for Police; and 103 for Ambulance (Medical Emergency).
Please see our information for victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
Local Laws & Special Circumstances
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While traveling in Belarus, you are subject to its laws. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than those in the United States. There are also some things that may be legal in Belarus, but still illegal in the United States. A person can be prosecuted in the United States for engaging in sexual conduct with children or for using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country regardless of the legality of these activities under that country’s laws. Counterfeit and pirated goods are illegal in the United States and if you purchase them in a foreign country, you may be breaking local law as well.
While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, travelers should immediately request that police and prison officials notify the embassy in the event you are arrested or detained.
Under local law, the agency that detained a foreigner, should inform the local Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) within 24 hour from the time of detention. The MFA, in its turn, has to notify the respective embassy as soon as possible. The time of such notifications has varied from several hours to a couple of weeks. Therefore, we recommends that if travelers have a chance to inform friends or relatives about their arrest, they should advise them to notify the Embassy as soon as possible.
Currency: Traveler's checks are normally not accepted in Belarus as a means of payment, but can be exchanged for cash at any bank. Most hotels, restaurants, and stores accept major credit cards. All Belarusian banks provide cash from major credit cards. However, there are daily limitations on foreign bank cards in terms of cash amounts in U.S. dollars and Euros that can be withdrawn. All cash payments in Belarus are made in Belarusian rubles. Authorized currency exchange centers are widely available throughout major cities. Black-market currency exchange or payment in U.S. dollars to firms or individuals without a special license is a criminal offense in Belarus. Only a few large firms (such as gas stations and large travel agencies) are licensed to accept U.S. dollars. Travelers may be offered "an unofficial" exchange rate at what seems a good rate, but the U.S. Embassy in Minsk advises to use widely available licensed exchange locations.
Credit Card and ATM Card Use: ATMs are available for use, and it has become easier to use credit cards and debit cards in Belarus, especially in Minsk; however, this does not mean that it is safer to do so. There have been instances in which U.S. citizens have had their card numbers “skimmed” and the money in their accounts stolen, or their credit cards fraudulently charged. (“Skimming” is the theft of credit card information by an employee of a legitimate merchant or bank, manually copying down numbers or using a magnetic stripe reader.) In addition to skimming, the risk of physical theft of credit or debit cards also exists. To prevent such theft, the U.S. Embassy Minsk recommends that travelers keep close track of personal belongings and only carry what is needed when out. Travelers who use credit cards should regularly check their account status to ensure its integrity. Avoid using credit and debit cards, except at ATMs located inside major banks.
Identification: Non-Belarusian visitors are expected to carry their passports at all times. If stopped by the police for a registration (visa) spot check, failure to prove one’s identity with an internationally recognizable ID, may result in detention by the police until identity is established.
Radiation: The 1986 release of nuclear material from the Chernobyl nuclear station in Ukraine affected Belarus. The city of Minsk was mostly spared, but other areas of Belarus were badly contaminated. Several years of monitoring have shown that radiation levels in Minsk have not exceeded internationally acceptable standards, and periodic testing of foodstuffs from various locations in Belarus has not revealed a level of radiation that would be considered harmful.
Marriage: If a traveler plans to marry in Belarus, they should consult the information located on the U.S. Embassy Minsk website. Please note that only marriages performed at a registrar's office (ZAGS – Office for Matrimonial Acts Registration) are legally valid in Belarus.
WOMEN TRAVELER’S INFORMATION: If you are a woman traveling abroad, please review our tips for Women Travelers.
LBGT RIGHTS: Same-sex relations are not illegal in Belarus, but discrimination against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community is widespread, and harassment against LGBT individuals has occurred in the past. For more detailed information about LGBT rights in Belarus, you may review the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013. For further information on LGBT travel, please read our Information for LGBT Travelers page.
ACCESSIBILITY: While in Belarus, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what is found in the United States. Many existing buildings as well as public transportation systems are less adapted to individuals with disabilities. Check ahead with your hotel/destination to learn more about options to accommodate disabled traveler needs before visiting Belarus.
Medical care in Belarus is neither modern nor easily accessible, especially for those who do not speak Russian. There are no hospitals in Belarus that provide a level of medical care equal to that of Western hospitals, and none accept U.S. health insurance plans for payment. Despite the recent emergence of facilities which offer private "advanced" medical services, modern diagnostic equipment and even basic supplies are still lacking. Traumatic injuries are especially serious as the level of care and competence to deal with them are well below U.S. standards.
Ambulances are poorly equipped and unreliable; a wait time of 30 minutes or more is not unusual. The fastest way to secure Western-level care is medical evacuation to Western Europe. You should consider purchasing medical evacuation insurance prior to travel, or have access to substantial credit to cover evacuation costs. There are no air ambulance services in Belarus. Local health insurance for non-residents is required for all visitors by the government and may be purchased at points of entry.
The medical emergency number for Belarus is 103 from any telephone.
Tuberculosis (TB) is an increasingly serious health concern in Belarus. For further information, please consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) information on TB.
Travelers can find good information on vaccinations and other health precautions, on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website, which also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information
Travel & Transportation
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: U.S. citizens on short-term visits to Belarus (up to 90 days) are permitted to drive with a valid U.S. state and international driver’s license. Therefore, you should always carry your passport with you to prove date of entry into the country in the event that police stop you. If residing in Belarus for more than 90 days, you should apply for a Belarusian driver’s license, in which case you will be required to pass a two-part test in Russian. The first part of this test is a computer-based multiple-choice test on local driving rules, and the second part is a driving test. To receive a local driver’s license, you will also need to complete a medical exam at a special medical clinic, which will include a general physical, approval form from a neuro-pathologist, a surgeon, and an EENT specialist, as well as an EKG, a chest x-ray, and an eye exam.
Roads in Belarus are in generally good condition, but modern cars share the highways with tractors, horse-drawn carts, and pedestrians. Drunk driving is also common, even with a zero-tolerance law. Ice and snow in the winter months pose an added hazard. Should you get involved in an automobile accident, report it immediately to the road police, and remain at the scene until after the police arrive and complete the investigation. You may leave the scene of an accident only if you believe your personal safety is in danger.
Except for segments of four nationally significant highways where the speed limit is 120 km/h (75 mph), the maximum speed limit on divided highways or main roads outside village, town, or city limits is 90 km/h (55 mph). Speed limits in cities are 60 km/h unless marked and will usually range between 40 km/h and 80 km/h, with frequent radar traps. Fines for speeding depend on the speed over the speed limit, and can vary from 2 to 10 minimum tariff units (from $26 to $130).
Visible and hidden dangers exist, including potholes, unlighted or poorly lighted streets, inattentive and dark-clothed pedestrians walking on unlighted roads, drivers and pedestrians under the influence of alcohol, and disregard for traffic rules. Driving in winter is especially dangerous because of ice and snow. Driving with caution is urged at all times.
DUI fines vary from 15 to 35 minimum tariff units (from $200 to $500) for the first detected offense. Repeated offenders within 365 days may be subject to criminal prosecution (up to 6 months in prison or up to two years of corrective labor).
Drivers are expected to yield for pedestrians crossing at pedestrian crossings marked by respective road signs or road markings, and intersections not controlled by a traffic signal or a road policeman.
Use of hand-held mobile phones while driving is prohibited. Radio-dispatched taxi services are generally reliable, arrive promptly once called, and usually offer the lowest fare. Most radio-dispatched taxis are metered. Current fare is approximately USD? $1 per mile. However, the minimum charge is about USD? $4 which includes the first 3-4 miles of travel. With the majority of taxi services, the rates are the same during the day and in the overnight hours. The use of informal, unregistered taxis is not recommended.
Belarus has a toll road system which requires payment for using toll roads in Belarus. Passenger motor vehicles registered outside the Customs Union countries (Belarus, Russia, and Kazakhstan) or any motor vehicles of Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) exceeding 3,500 kg must pay toll for using a number of major roads in Belarus. Alternative free roads are either not available, or of substandard quality. The total length of toll roads as of January 2014 is 933 km.
Toll rate for vehicles with GVWR not exceeding 3,500 kg is €0.04 (approximately $0.05) per 1 km.
Toll rate for 2-axle vehicles with GVWR over 3,500 kg is €0.08 (approximately $0.11) per 1 km.
The system is automated and does not presuppose human involvement in the collection process, as paying to an attendant at a toll plaza, for instance. On-Board Units (transponders) must be rented at the distribution points or gas stations located near the toll roads exits. As of January 2014, this is the only way to pay for using toll roads in Belarus.
Detailed information on toll roads, distribution points, penalties for toll payment failure can be found at Bell Toll website.
Minsk has a clean, safe, and efficient subway system that easily reaches most of the city center. When travelling on public transportation of any kind, be wary of pickpocketing and other petty crime. There are several western rental agencies currently operating in Minsk. In general, rental-car networks in Belarus are not well developed.
Drivers may experience significant delays (1-12 hours) in crossing the border by road into neighboring countries, especially Poland and Lithuania.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Belarus, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the Government of Belarus’ Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page