Europe’s Last DictatorshipWe have many former communist countries on our map. But for us and anyone who has already visited those countries, Belarus still provides a unique opportunity. Rather than being a “time warp” like Transnistria in Moldova, Belarus represents an alternate reality. It's a “what if” for all those countries around it that fought either physically or politically for freedom and democracy. Belarus had a window of opportunity after declaring independence from the USSR in 1990. In the 1994 elections, a large majority voted for Lukashenko. From then on he cemented his position, seizing parliamentary power and replacing representatives with his own allies.
It’s Very Clean...Visiting Belarus nowadays, you'll notice a few things. Firstly it's very clean. It seems that litter is either not tolerated, or is tidied up very quickly. Secondly, you'll notice that everyone in Belarus seems to have a good word to say about the President and the government. In public at least. This deference and the presence of large-brimmed military hats can give the impression that stepping out of line is frowned upon. Personal safety in Belarus is definitely not a concern. The locals range from being a little cold to being friendly and curious as to why you're visiting.
Belarus Beyond MinskBeyond the sizable capital of Minsk, you'll find flat, green countryside and a number of castles that make for great day trips. For a long time Belarus was a part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Around 1800 it became part of the Russian Empire.
Suggested CombinationsMany expect the Belarusian government to soon expand the visa waiver program to cover other border crossings. Until then, it is still easier to arrive in Belarus by air. There are direct trains from Vilnius to Minsk if you don't mind the administrative hassle and cost of applying for a visa. Though inexpensive regular direct flights negate the advantage of travel by train. Belarus makes for an interesting combination with its neighbors: Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine. Many other countries in the region have direct flight links to Minsk too.
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All our itineraries including Belarus are based just in Minsk. This is a result of the capital's central location, a good highway network and the complications of having to fly in and out of Minsk International Airport to take advantage of the visa waiver program. You can reach most places of interest within a couple of hours drive of the capital, making day trips a more convenient option than multiple overnight stays. All our Belarus vacation ideas are combined with one or more of the neighboring countries.
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Frequently Asked Questions about travel to Belarus
Do I need a visa to visit Belarus?
Normally a visa is required for Americans, Canadians, EU citizens, and most other Westerners. In a bid to increase tourism, visitors can now visit Belarus visa-free for up to 30 days if they fly in and out of Minsk. Minsk's airport has few connections, and almost all of its flights are provided by national carrier Belavia, which is partners with KLM, Finnair, Air France, Etihad, and several other major airlines. You also need proof of at least €10,000 worth of medical insurance valid in Belarus, but this can be purchased for €1 per day at a desk before passport control, with dollars or euros).
When is the best time to visit Belarus?
Is Belarus safe?
What is Belarusian cuisine like?
Belarus’ food is focused on pork, vegetables, and bread, and combines influences from all of its neighbors. Belarusians take their time preparing food, often making stews or slowly cooking ingredients. Draniki, potato pancakes very similar to latkes but occasionally stuffed, are a national dish, and hearty soups are very common.
Belarusian drinks tend to be strong, with vodka popular, and often flavored with birch sap or forest herbs. Mead, sometimes made with vodka, is experiencing a revival. The most popular non-alcoholic drink is Kvass, which is made from fermented rye bread and sometimes compared to root beer. A popular summertime refreshment, people can be seen selling Kvass from trailers in parks. Minsk has high-quality tap water, but elsewhere in the country, you’re better off sticking to bottled water.