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Belarus

If you’re travelling to Belarus, our travel advice and updates give you practical tips and useful information.

Get travel and medical insurance

Always get comprehensive travel insurance that will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you travel. We can’t pay for any emergency expenses you may incur on your trip so travel insurance may save you a lot of money if things go wrong. Remember to read the small print in your policy and make sure it covers everything you’re planning to do, including adventure sports such as white water rafting, kayaking, bungee jumping.

Insurance documents

Under Belarusian law, you must have medical insurance that covers the period of your stay. If you buy this outside Belarus, you must be able to show the Belarusian authorities that your policy is valid in Belarus for the duration of your visit and that it provides emergency treatment cover of at least US$5,000. Even with this, it can still be difficult to persuade local officials that a policy obtained abroad meets these criteria.

Foreign visitors must also pay a mandatory state insurance of 0.50 US Dollars per day, at the port of entry.

If you arrive at a port of entry without insurance documentation, you’ll have to buy medical insurance from a State vendor at a cost of approximately 1 USD per day of your stay. This insurance is designed only to compensate local medical institutions for the costs of treating visitors. It doesn’t provide protection for you and shouldn’t be considered as an alternative to comprehensive travel insurance. Some Belarusian hotels will not let you stay if you do not have State medical insurance.

Overview

Security status

We advise you to exercise normal precautions.

Political demonstrations and rallies in Belarus have been taking place since early March. Political demonstrations in Belarus have the potential to turn unpredictable and volatile. Being close to demonstrations and rallies could be interpreted by Belarusian security forces as active participation and could result in detention. We advise you to avoid all such demonstrations and rallies.

Emergency Assistance

Because there is no Irish Embassy or Consulate in Belarus, we’re limited in the help we can offer you in an emergency. However, if you need assistance, you can contact the Irish Embassy in Vilnius, Lithuania.

We suggest you learn as much as you can about Belarus before your trip from travel agents, tour operators and guide books. The best help is often close at hand so if you have problems when you’re in Belarus, try talking to your local contacts, tour operator representative or hotel management.

You can contact the emergency services in Belarus by dialling 112 or 101.

Other EU embassies

You can also contact the Embassies or Consulates of other EU countries in Belarus for emergency consular assistance, advice and support.

Our tips for Safe Travels:

  • Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which covers all your intended activities.
  • Add an alert for your destination within the Travelwise App.
  • Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly if there’s an unforeseen crisis like a natural disaster or a family emergency.
  • Follow us on twitter @dfatravelwise for the latest travel updates.
  • Read our ‘Know Before You Go’ guide.

 

Safety and security

Social unrest

We strongly advise you to avoid political demonstrations, rallies, marches or public gatherings, which increasingly have the potential to turn unpredictable and volatile. Being around such demonstrations or rallies could be interpreted as actively participating in the event, and could result in detention by the authorities.

Always keep yourself informed of what’s going on around you by monitoring local media and staying in contact with your hotel or tour organiser.

Terrorism

Although the threat from terrorism in Belarus is low, there is still a global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by tourists and expatriates. Be vigilant and follow the instructions and advice of local police at all times.

A bomb exploded at Oktyabryskaya metro station in central Minsk during the evening rush hour in 2011, killing 15 people and injuring over 200.

Crime

You should be alert at all times to the possibility of tourist crime, particularly muggings, pickpockets and theft from vehicles or hotel rooms. Always take sensible precautions:

  • Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place.
  • Don’t carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home.
  • Take extra care when travelling by train as theft can occur, especially on overnight sleeper trains to Warsaw and Moscow.
  • When visiting night clubs, pay particular attention to your surroundings and drinks, as the drugging of drinks is not uncommon.

Reporting crime

If you’re a victim of a crime while in Belarus, report it to the local police immediately. And you can contact us at the Irish Embassy in Vilnius if you need help.

Driving

If you’re planning to drive in Belarus, be extremely careful as driving standards are erratic and driving is on the right-hand side. Belarusian ‘A-class’ highways are in average to good condition, but the condition of ‘B-class’ roads varies considerably and some are impassable for periods in winter.

If you want to drive:

  • Bring your full Irish driver’s licence and your international driving permit and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance.
  • Note that road works and potholes are usually poorly marked.
  • Pony and trap combinations are a specific hazard for drivers in rural and unlit areas.
  • Be aware that you could be fined for jaywalking.
  • Vehicles should have lights on at all times from 1 November to 31 March inclusive
  • Most traffic signs are in Cyrillic script only (not Latin).

Speed limits

Be aware of Belarus’s traffic laws, such as speed limits. The speed limit in built-up areas is 60km/h, unless specified otherwise. Outside built-up areas, the limit is 90km/h, and on motorways the speed limit is 100km/h. If you’ve held a driver’s licence for less than two years, you must not exceed 70km/h.

Car documentation

When travelling by private vehicle, you must be able to produce ownership documents at customs offices at border crossings. If you’re not the owner of the car, you must produce a letter of ‘power of attorney’. Only originals of these documents are accepted.

If you’re driving into Belarus make sure that you don’t overstay the temporary import terms for your vehicles. If you violate the exit deadline, your vehicle could be confiscated at the Belarusian border or at an in-country police checkpoint.

Driving on the motorway

There’s a fee system in operation on Belarus' highways for drivers of foreign vehicles. Payments are collected at border checkpoints and will vary according to the length of your stay.

Insurance

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 Belarusian Customs border offices for information.

Police checkpoints

There are police checkpoints on routes throughout the country. Always stop at these when instructed, and have your vehicle documentation to hand, otherwise you risk a fine and delay.

Borders

There may be long queues at the border and customs and immigration can be lengthy and bureaucratic. Ignore ‘private facilitators’ who offer to help travellers pass through checkpoints and border crossings.

Hiring a vehicle

If you’re hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.

Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).

Adventure sports

Many adventure sports operators are unregulated, and so take care when you’re choosing and always go with reputable tour operators.

Local laws and customs

Local laws and customs

Remember, the local laws apply to you as a visitor and it is your responsibility to follow them. Be sensitive to local customs, traditions and practices as your behaviour may be seen as improper, hostile or even illegal.

Personal identification

You must carry your passport with you at all times. If you’re stopped by the police for a registration (visa) spot check, and can’t prove your identity with an internationally-recognisable ID, you may be detained by the police until your identity is established.

Dual citizenship

Dual citizens (Irish citizens who also hold Belarusian citizenship) can only enter and leave Belarus on a valid Belarusian passport. You can’t use your Irish passport, even if you have an appropriate visa.

Dual Irish-Belarusian citizens should be aware that the Irish Embassy can only provide them with consular assistance in Belarus at the discretion of the Belarusian authorities.

Illegal drugs

Belarus has severe penalties for drugs-related crimes. The penalties for drug possession range from fines to up to five years’ imprisonment. Large-scale drug-related offences can result in imprisonment for between 7 - 15 years.

Photography

You should avoid taking photographs of any government building, military installations, state institutions and uniformed officials.

Homosexuality

Homosexuality is legal under Belarusian law. However, Belarus is a conservative society and the gay/lesbian scene is very low profile and few homosexuals openly declare themselves. Caution and discretion are advised at all times.

Entry requirements

Visa/Passport

If you’re unsure of the entry requirements for Belarus, including visa and other immigration information, ask your travel agent or contact the Embassy of Belarus in London. You can also check with them for how long your passport must be valid.

Irish citizens travelling to Belarus require a visa.  For details of how to obtain a visa, please contact the Embassy of Belarus in London.  If you plan to enter and leave Belarus through Minsk airport and will be staying in Belarus for no more than five days, a visa is not required. However, if you will be traveling to Belarus from the Russian Federation or traveling on to the Russian Federation directly from Belarus, you must obtain a visa.

If only one parent/guardian is travelling with a child to, or from, Belarus, a translated (if not originally written in Belarusian or Russian) and notarised signed letter from the other parent/guardian, giving permission for the child to travel, will be required by the Belarusian authorities. If this letter is notarised in Ireland, an Apostille will be required from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Dublin. Please see the section “Authentication of Documents” for more information about Apostilles.

Passports

It’s advisable to take a number of photocopies of your passport with you.

Registration

If you’re staying more than three days in Belarus, you must register with the local police office (OVIR) in the district where you’re staying.  If you’re staying in a hotel, this will be done on your behalf. If you’re not staying in a hotel, this must be organised by your host. There are fines for not registering in time.

Health

Medical insurance

Under Belarusian law, you must have medical insurance that covers the period of your stay. If you buy this outside Belarus, you must be able to show the Belarusian authorities that your policy is valid in Belarus for the duration of your visit and that it provides emergency treatment cover of at least US$5,000. Even with this, it can still be difficult to persuade local officials that a policy obtained abroad meets these criteria.

Foreign visitors must also pay a mandatory state insurance of 0.50 US Dollars per day, at the port of entry.

If you arrive at a port of entry without insurance documentation, you’ll have to buy medical insurance from a State vendor at a cost of approximately 1 USD per day of your stay. This insurance is designed only to compensate local medical institutions for the costs of treating visitors. It doesn’t provide protection for you and shouldn’t be considered as an alternative to comprehensive travel insurance. Some Belarusian hotels will not let you stay if you do not have State medical insurance.

Travel Insurance

We can’t pay for emergency medical repatriation, repatriation of remains, or for expenses as a result of a personal emergency while you are abroad. If you buy an appropriate travel insurance policy, these costs will be covered, provided you haven’t broken the terms and conditions.

Buying comprehensive travel insurance can save you and your family a lot of money if something goes wrong. It will also ensure that you get the medical attention you need, when you need it. Hospital bills can quickly run into thousands of euro, and a medical evacuation back to Ireland can cost thousands more.

Not all policies are the same, and the cheapest one might be cheap for a reason. Make sure your policy covers all the activities you plan to do on your trip. Insurance Ireland recommend that you purchase a policy that provides a minimum medical cover of €1 million.

Emergency expenses

Your policy should cover:

  • All medical care abroad, including evacuation by air ambulance, or other emergency procedures, and any other costs associated with an unexpected longer stay.
  • Your entire trip, from departure to return. Consider an annual multi-trip policy if you’re making more than one trip in the year.   
  • 24-hour emergency service and assistance.
  • Personal liability cover (in case you’re sued for causing injury or damaging property).
  • Lost and stolen possessions.
  • Cancellation and curtailment.
  • Any extra activities you intend to do that are excluded from standard policies (e.g. water sport activities such as jet skiing or other extreme sports).

Exclusions: You should know most insurance policies will not cover drink or drug-related incidents.

Vaccinations

Check with your doctor a minimum f eight weeks in advance of travelling to see if you need any vaccinations for Belarus.

Medical facilities

Standards of healthcare are well below that of Ireland and you should bring enough essential personal medications to last for your stay, as you may not be able to get supplies in Belarus.

Radiation

Avoid certain foodstuffs (primarily local dairy produce, forest mushrooms and fruits of the forest), which can carry high levels of radiation as a result of contamination from the Chernobyl disaster.

Water

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

Additional information

Money

We advise you to carry a mix of US Dollars and Euros when you’re travelling to Belarus and make sure you have enough money for the duration of your stay. The number of ATMs is steadily increasing in major cities. Credit cards are not widely used but some large stores and restaurants will take them and you can use them to withdraw cash at major hotels and banks.

Currency

Only exchange foreign currency at Government-licensed booths, found in or near major stores, hotels, banks and all shopping centres. Non-compliance can result in fines and/or arrest.