Belarus


Overview

Key information on Belarus including essential Belarus facts, languages, timezone, culture, transport and weather in Belarus

Located in the heart of Europe, Belarus is a living museum to Soviet Communism. Deeply embedded in the past, Belarus offers a rare insight into a bygone world.

With much of Belarus' architectural history flattened by the Nazis during WWII, the country's cities, including its capital Minsk, are testament to post-war Soviet urban planning. However relics of its ancient past remain. Onion-domed churches are scattered across the landscape, the most of impressive of which can be found in Grodno. The medieval castle at Mir and the 17th-century fortress at Brest are also not to be missed.

 

Outside the cities, the natural beauty of Belarus is truly impressive. Belavezhskaya Pushcha National Park's primeval forest is home to wild boar, bison and red deer, while at the vast Braslau Lakes there are over 189 species of birds.

Wanderlust recommends

  1. Marvel at the grandeur of Minsk - Its impressive boulevards and expansive green areas a result of post-war Soviet planning.
  2. Step back in time - In the museum towns of Mir and Nesvizh, both UNESCO World Heritage sites.
  3. Take your paints and pencils to Vitebsk - The birthplace of Marc Chagall and home to numerous summer arts festivals.
  4. Trek through - The ancient forests of Belavezhskaya Puscha National Park, home to 212 species of birds.
  5. Venture to the frontier town of Brest - Sitting on the border between Poland and the Ukraine, the symbolic gateway to the old Soviet Union.
  6. Delve into folk history - In the small village of Dudutki and shop for traditional wares.

Wanderlust tips for travel in Belarus

 

If you have room, pack a few rolls of toilet paper. Apart from hotel rooms, you will be lucky to find any, including in restaurants and bars. Also, try to learn a few Russian words, which will endear you to the locals.

Further Reading

Travel in Belarus: vital stats

  • Capital of Belarus: Minsk
  • Population of Belarus: 9.7 million
  • Languages in Belarus: Belarusian, Russian
  • Time in Belarus: GMT+2 (GMT+3 from late March - late October)
  • International dialling code for Belarus: +375
  • Voltage in Belarus: 200 AC 50 Hz
  • Visas for Belarus: Visas for Belarus
  • Money in Belarus: Belarusian rouble (BYR).ATMS are easily accessible in Minsk and most major towns and cities. Most will dispense US dollars as well as roubles. Tipping is optional; consider leaving 10-15% for good service. Always tip in roubles as leaving US dollars is considered rude.
  • Belarus travel advice: Foreign & Commonwealth Office
  • Belarus tourist board: Belarus Tourism

When to go to Belarus

The spring and summer months (March - September) are the best times to visit Belarus. Spring is warm with an abundance of new vegetation and flora while summer is surprisingly hot, with long days and balmy nights.

The harvest period around October sees mild weather but the winter months (mid November - February) are bitingly cold, with temperatures averaging -7ºC and consistent snowfall.

International airports

Minsk International Airport (MSQ), 40km from Minsk.

Getting around in Belarus

Domestic flights are infrequent and not useful for travellers.

Trains between major cities are frequent and cheap, but also slow. Buses are usually quicker and cheaper, but also less comfortable. In rural areas buses (or minibuses) may be the only option.

You can hire a car at Minsk International airport. Roads can be bad and there is also some reckless driving, so keep your wits about you. Military checkpoints are also commonplace, so have your papers to hand.

Belarus accommodation

Hotel accommodation in Belarus in not cheap and prices are sometimes inflated for tourists. It is easy to find top end hotels, with prices to match. Cheaper hotel are usually located at the city outskirts.

 

 

Private apartments are also available to rent in the bigger cities and towns. They are often more competitive and also have the option to self cater. Accommodation in lodges and tents is available in Belarus National Parks.

Belarus food & drink

Belarus in not famous for its cuisine, which is often considered to be dull and bland. Because of its Soviet history, you are more likely to be served Russian dishes rather than traditional Belarusian fare.

The staple diet is based on potatoes: a favourite dish being draniki. Thick potato pancakes fried with mushrooms and served with sour cream. Another popular dish is borsch beetroot soup with meat, vegetables, potatoes and mushrooms.

 

Vodka is the drink of choice for most occasions and Baltika is the most common beer brand. Do not drink the tap water.

Health & safety in Belarus

No specific vaccinations are required for Belarus. Radiation is still present following the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, but related health problems are very small. To be safe, do not drink local water, dairy products, mushrooms or fruits in and around the clearly marked exclusion areas.

There is very little crime due to the strong police presence; however, it is best to avoid walking alone at night. If driving, park your car in a well-lit public area.

Prostitutes operate in a number of hotel lobbies. Women travelling alone should exercise caution and have their hotel key and keep proof of identity with them.