Useful tips for traveling to Belarus in 2023

By Joan Torres 10 Comments Last updated on April 24, 2023

tourism in Belarus

Despite the war in Ukraine, Belarus is still open to international travelers.

As you may know, tourism in Belarus is kind of in an embryonic stage.

For some reason we don’t know – but probably related to Belarus being a dictatorial regime – Belarussian authorities have never shown any interest in promoting their country as a tourist destination, and proof of that is that getting a visa has always been a tedious, complicated process.

Things, however, are changing and, since they started to liberalize their visa regime at the beginning of 2019, more travelers are deciding who each and every day decide to discover the wonders of White Russia each and every day.

With more than 11,000 lakes and 40% of its territory composed of misty forest, Belarus is a beautiful country to travel to, home to dreamy castles – some of them part of UNESCO – and a majestic capital named Minsk, besides all its WWII-related history.

Moreover, if you are interested in the history of the Soviet Union, you will have a lot to do in Belarus, because nowhere else is as Soviet, not even Transnistria, as the country is filled with endless memorials and symbols that pay tribute to the former Communist regime.

Having said that, this Belarus travel guide contains tips and everything you need to know to travel to Belarus, from visas to top experiences and much, much more!

I also recommend you read: 7 very weird things to do in Belarus

travel to belarus

COVID-19 Travel restrictions for Belarus

There are no COVID restrictions for traveling to Belarus.

Travel Insurance for Belarus with COVID-19 coverage

IATI Insurance is one of the few providers that offers full Coronavirus coverage, not only when it comes to treatment, but also cancellations costs in case you tested positive before departure. 

Moreover, remember that being in possession of travel with insurance is a must for getting visa on arrival.

Readers of Against the Compass can get an exclusive 5% discount.

Visa for traveling to Belarus

Note that despite the Ukraine war, you can still get a visa for Belarus as usual.

Belarus is the only European country that presents certain difficulties when it comes to getting a visa.

There are 3 types of tourist visas:

1 – Belarus Visa on arrival (VOA)

Up to 80 nationalities can get a VOA valid for 30 days.

Here you can see the updated list of countries.

However, keep in mind:

The VOA is only available for those who enter and exit through Minsk International Airport

This means that if you wish to travel to Belarus overland, the VOA won’t be available, so you will have to get it the old-fashioned way, at the embassy which, apparently, is a pain in the ass.

Belarus visa requirements (for VOA)

  • Proof of funds and, typically, they require what they call 2 base amounts per day, which is 51BYR (around $20).
  • Travel Insurance with a minimum medical coverage of 10,000€. Being in possession of travel with insurance is a must for getting visa on arrival. I strongly recommend IATI Insurance. Readers of this blog can get 5% exclusive discount that you can get through this link.

Sometimes they ask for these things, sometimes they don’t.

They did ask for my travel insurance but didn’t ask for proof of funds.

2 – How to get a tourist visa for Belarus at the embassy

Remember that you should only use this option if:

To give you some idea, what the embassy usually asks for is:

Requirements may vary slightly from embassy to embassy, so I recommend you contact your nearest one for more details. On average, the visa costs 60€ and takes 5 working days.

3 – VOA in Brest and Grodno

Brest and Grodno are two border cities with Poland and they have the peculiarity that they can be visited without a visa as long as:

To get your visa, you will have to fill a form and you can find more details here

Registering in Belarus

Something that sucks about traveling to Belarus is that you need to register at the police every 5 days. This means that, if you plan to spend 30 days in the country, you will have to register 6 times.

It is an old, nonsense, Soviet rule.

The first time you can easily do it through this link, for free, but then you will have to go to the Department of Citizenship and Migration in Minsk – if you are not in Minsk, ask your hotel – and pay the equivalent of 15€.

It’s a tedious, unnecessary process.

Some hotels – just the good ones – can do it for you.

What happens if you don’t register or miss the deadline?

Welcome to my world.

We missed the second registration deadline, after 10 days, so when we came back to Minsk, we went to the immigration office and the only thing that happened was that we had to pay a fine of just 1 base amount (the Soviet concept) for each day we missed the deadline, so 51 rubles (25.5 + 25.5).

But, what happens if you leave the country without registering?

I don’t really know but at customs, they do ask for it, so you could miss your flight. My advice is that you should register.

visa for Belarus
My entry stamps (pink ones) along with my Ukrainian & Moldovan stamps

Travel Insurance for Belarus

Proper travel insurance is a must-requirement for getting your visa on arrival in Belarus.

I recommend IATI Insurance:

  • All types of plans: from families to backpackers, covers senior citizens too
  • Good for up to 1-year trips.
  • Readers of this blog can get a 5% exclusive discount

How to travel to Belarus

Traveling to Belarus by land

As long as you have a valid visa, you can enter Belarus from the following countries, both by train and bus, but the train will always be more epic.

You can’t travel from Russia to Belarus – It’s a bit weird but apparently, between Russia and Belarus there is a treatment similar to the EU, so there are no borders. Russians and Belarussians can cross it freely but, since there is no passport control, foreigners are not allowed to use it.

Traveling to Belarus by plane


Because of the Russian-Ukraine war, European Airlines are not flying to Minsk anymore, but you can still fly from Istanbul (Turkish Airlines) and Dubai (Emirates).

In Belarus they have an obsession with tanks and even this tray from Belavia was featuring something about tanks

Tourism in Belarus: Top 5 experiences

1 – Visiting Soviet Minsk

The most Soviet city in the world is filled with Stalinist buildings and loads of Communist-related stuff. Read my Minsk guide.

2 – Checking out the Stalin Line

What used to be the border between USSR and Europe is today an epic open-air museum where you can see all types of weapons, tanks, and many other surprises.

3 – Wandering around dreamy Belarussian castles

Belarus is also home to dreamy castles, today UNESCO World Heritage sites.

I recommend you visit Mir and Nesvizh castles.

Nesvizh castle and beautiful autumn colors

4 – Learning from all the World War II Heritage

From a village burnt by the Nazis to the defensive line of Brest, Belarus suffered greatly in the German invasion and today, the country is filled with many interesting memorials and museums.

5 – Exploring the endless forest and lakes

40% of Belarus is covered by forest and it is home to more than 11,000 lakes, most of them being concentrated in Braslav.

And don’t forget to read the most bizarre attractions to see in Belarus

Tourism in Belarus

Belarus, the last European dictatorship

Belarus is today living the most intense protests in the country’s history. Massive demonstrations against dictator Alexander Lukashenko, who is answering a peaceful movement with repression and more repression.

Probably, a travel blog isn’t the right place to talk about politics, but I also believe that having a little knowledge about the political situation in a certain country will help you understand what’s going on when you travel there.


Not sure if you know that Belarus is considered an authoritarian regime, the last dictatorship in Europe and the country with the most long-lasting President.

No press freedom, fraudulent elections, no real separation of powers and the only European country that keeps the death penalty.

visit Belarus
Minsk city center features a big Lenin statue

Obviously, Belarus isn’t as repressive as China, Turkmenistan or Eritrea, not even close, but in comparison with Europe, it is, and, because of that, it has been always heavily criticized by the West, especially because Belarus prefers Russia as a partner, and depends on Russia for 20% of its exports, , plus all its natural resources.

A very Soviet former Soviet country

Another fact and, in fact, something that makes visiting Belarus particularly appealing, is that it still is a very Soviet country, more than any other former republic.

Actually, the President grew up in a very rural area of Belarus named Mogilev, so he had a strong Soviet education, the reason why, even now, he is very nostalgic and decorates the country with images of Lenin and hammer & sickle logos.

Besides, the state controls 80% of the country’s production, so you can still find collective farms and there is a strong protectionism that bans the entrance of many foreign companies.

They never really abandoned Communism but, you know what?

I won’t be the person who defends Mr. Lukashenko because he is a dictator, yes, but we also have to accept that he has done great things for the country’s economy: the unemployment rate is very low and the country seems very developed, more than any other Soviet country, including Ukraine, where, despite it being a great country to travel, you see a lot of misery.

Read my Moldova travel guide

how to visit Belarus
Belarus travel blog: Most hipster Lenin ever

Culture, language, and religion

Sometimes, it can prove difficult to find a specific characteristic of Belarussian culture, as today, Belarus is a strange mix of all its respective neighbors, but mainly because Belarusian culture has been oppressed for centuries, from when they were part of Lithuania to the Soviet Union, especially during Stalin’s rule.

Because of this, I heard that many Belarussians don’t have a very strong national identity and proof of that is that a significant number would support a potential annexation with Mother Russia.

Belarus travel blog
A church in Minsk old town

The Government doesn’t help much either. The President is the most pro-Russian dude ever and I read that, except for a few specific occasions, he never speaks in Belarussian publicly.

However, today, the Belarussian national identity is quickly growing stronger and stronger every day, especially among young Belarussian students, who fight for greater recognition of their culture.

Belarussians are super nice 🙂

By the way, we can’t deny the fact that, in many Eastern European countries, especially Ukraine and Moldova, people look kind of serious at the beginning, sometimes even angry, but it is just the way they are and, when you get to know them, they are very nice.

In Belarus, I was expecting sort of the same thing but everybody I met was very happy and smiley. I was very surprised.


The official language in Belarus is Belarussian, along with Russian.

They are close but different, and I believe they have the same relationship as Spanish with Catalan and Portuguese.

As in their culture, the Belarussian language has also suffered from repression to the extent that Stalin promoted a reform that consisted of removing all those grammatical elements that came from Polish or Lithuanian languages. I don’t know if current Belarussian is still a consequence of that reform.


Most Belarussians belong to the Belarussian Orthodox Church, a union of the Russian Orthodox Church with Belarussian territories.

traveling in Belarus
A random church I visited in Belarus

Food in Belarus

Belarus is a Slavic country and a former USSR republic and as such, their food is quite similar to their neighbors’.

In fact, in my humblest opinion, their typical dishes are not very different from Ukraine’s, as borsch, dranikis, salo and the local version of varenyky will always be on all menus.

In any case, Belarussian cuisine is heavy, good for winter, and potato seems to be the basis of pretty much any meal.

Actually, I read somewhere that Belarus has the highest consumption of potato per capita in the world.

On this page, you can see a more detailed description of food in Belarus.

These are the star dishes but they also have other food which has a stronger Polish or Lithuanian influence, like Zhurek, a black bread soup with animal fat and vegetables.

Belarus travel tip: In cities, something you need to know is that for lunch, most restaurants will offer a business lunch deal for 4-6 rubles, but quantities tend to be small.

food Belarus
Dumplings with sour cream, a bomb

Internet and connectivity in Belarus

Did you know that Belarus is an important IT hub in the region?

They actually have what is known as High-Tech-Park, a version of Silicon Valley.

Anyways, this might be the reason why the internet in Minsk is so fast, one of the fastest connections in the continent, and in the rest of the country, it is pretty good.

Almost all cafés have good Wi-Fi and, as for mobile internet, I bought a SIM card at MTS, the mobile company that has an egg as a logo. I think I paid around $10 for a SIM card filled with enough data for 2 weeks.

Get a VPN for traveling in Belarus

You should always use a VPN when you travel, especially when you connect to public Wi-Fi networks.

Your connection will be much safer. 

Moreover, you will be able to access content which is typically censored in Belarus. 

I recommend ExpressVPN – Extremely easy to use, fast and cheap. 

If you want to learn more about VPN, check: Why you need a VPN for traveling.

Belarus travel guide: about money $

In Belarus, they use the Belarussian ruble (BYR) and approximately:

1 USD = 2.52 BYR

If you look on the internet, you will see that the exchange rate they give for 1USD is 25,000BYR, and well, I guess this is the actual exchange rate but recently, the government switched all coins and notes to brand-new ones whose value was divided by 10,000, so all new notes and coins are worth 1, 2, 5, 20, etc.

Credit cards

Belarus is a modern country, so you find ATMs everywhere and credit cards can be used in many places.

Exchanging money is easy as well, you can do it in any bank, but I don’t recall seeing exchange offices as such.

How much does it cost to travel to Belarus?

Visiting Belarus is cheap as per Western Europe standards, but it is more expensive than its cousins Ukraine and Moldova. Some bars and restaurants in Minsk are as expensive as Spain or Italy. 

Here the most typical costs:

Average daily budget for traveling to Belarus

Bear in mind that this is an average/approximation.

reasons to visit Belarus
Hotel Belarus in Minsk, one of the most popular Soviet buildings

Is it safe to travel in Belarus?

Visiting Belarus is as safe as in any other European country, perhaps even safer.

In Minsk at least, everything is so clean and civilized and I don’t recall seeing any antisocial behavior, something very common in any European capital.

What you do need to keep in mind is that Belarus is heavily militarized and you see soldiers everywhere, so be careful when taking pictures.

On the other hand, remember that KGB is still a thing in Belarusin Minsk you can see the building from outside – and its core function hasn’t changed much since the fall of the USSR, meaning that they are almost as repressive as they used to be, with the tiny difference that today they control the internet as well, so I recommend you always connect with a VPN when you visit Belarus.

Here you can read how to find the best VPN for travel.

dangers of traveling to Belarus
Every city in Belarus has its own tank monument

Accommodation in Belarus

Finding accommodation in Belarus isn’t a problem.

For backpackers, you can find several hostel options in Minsk, Grodno, and Brest.

In the rest of the cities, there are no hostels but guesthouses and economical hostels cost around $20-$25 for a double room and tend to be pretty good.

We always tried to rent full apartments.

You can find all options on

How to move around Belarus: transportation

Traveling by public transportation in Belarus is great.

How to travel around Belarus on a Soviet train

From Uzbekistan to Belarus, the Soviet train experience is the same, same train, same system. From Minsk’s station, you can take a train to practically any city, but if your final destination is a village, you may have to take a bus after.

Furthermore, it is very cheap. One train ticket (economical class) from Minsk to Brest costs 13BYR, around $5, for more than 300km.

Belarus travel tip: You can check timings and book your tickets on this page.

How to travel around Belarus by marshrutka

Marshrutka means mini-bus in Russian, something like that, and it is the common way to move around in all Soviet republics. Usually, they tend to be old and pretty packed but in Belarus, they are brand-new and some of them even have Wi-Fi.

It is slightly more expensive than the train but still cheap. We paid 15 rubles (around $7) for the journey between Brest and Grodno, around 250km.

travel to Belarus visa
the train station in Brest

Best books for backpacking in Belarus

Belarus travel guide by Bradt

A super guide, the one I personally bought. Bradt has the most insightful guides and they always focus on off the beaten track countries.

Eastern Europe travel guide by Lonely Planet (2019)

Otherwise, if you are traveling all around the region, you could also get the generic Eastern Europe guide, which includes one chapter about tourism in Belarus.

I also recommend Svetlana Alexiévich

Belarussian writer and Nobel Prize winner. Her books talk about the Soviet Union, but they always have a special focus on Belarussian people. These are the ones I read:

Voices of Chernobyl – Human stories that explain the consequences of Chernobyl.

Boys in Zinc – A book that compiles testimonies from people who were somehow related to the Afghan-Soviet war, from soldiers to prostitutes and mothers of deceased soldiers.

Get a KINDLE! – Buying a Kindle has been one of my best recent acquisitions.

Best time to visit Belarus

Visiting Belarus in winter

As you may imagine, the whole country is frozen but, if you don’t mind traveling with snow and your only objective is visiting Minsk and any other cities, it should be all right.

Visiting Belarus in summer

It can get hot but nothing extreme. Best time to explore its nature, especially Braslav Lakes.

Visiting Belarus in spring and autumn

For me, autumn is the best season, especially because of the autumn colors, but spring should be good as well.

I traveled to Belarus during the first 2 weeks of November. We had some gray days, but most days were sunny and the forest was at its best.

More helpful information to visit Belarus

All guides and articles for traveling in Belarus destination

Travel guides to former Soviet countries

If you found this Belarus travel guide useful and have any comment/suggestion, kindly leave a comment, thanks!

visit Belarus


Great review! There is something I do not agree with you. Is Europe a democracy? Not anymore I do not think so! To the point that governments feel the right to decide what we should take in our bodies!
At least the Belarus government has clear the game on the jab!
And are not forcing their citizens to be injected as the European countries and the western world are doing!
Europe, US, Australia, New Zealand, India, China, South America governments have blood of innocent people in their hands, corruption is rampant and censorship in scientific research and information from credible sources is far from little!

Thank you for replying, as you say yourself in your text, is important to understand what is the reality of the country we are visiting, their good and bad.
This is a copy and paste from your text:
Not sure if you know that Belarus is considered an authoritarian regime, the last dictatorship in Europe and the country with the most long-lasting President.

No press freedom, fraudulent elections, no real separation of powers and the only European country that keeps the death penalty. “..

Do you think there is now a freedom of press in the western world?
Are you aware of what governments and press information are covering up and upholding from us in matters that are threatening our own lives and existence?

Do you know how many thousands if not millions have died unnecessary in our countries in the last 2 years and our still dying?
If you do not know this information send me an email I will send you where to find it.
Maybe you can help to safe one life!
Nothing against you! Angry about what is still happening and so much ignorance going on.
Take care Still I a nice review! 😉

Hi, very informative, as all your posts! Would be great to get some updated info though. Since it has become really difficult to reach Minsk via plane, do you know how the current situation at the borders is like? can you still travel to Belarus from Poland or Lithuania or are the borders closed?

I am from Poland and I am reading about the situation. I am not an expert, but I try to write as much as I know:
The land borders are open. Polish and Lithuanian citizens coming from their countries can enter on a visa-free regime (and see every place in the country). How about the other nationalities – I don’t know, but I guess they probably can enter only the visa-free areas as it was before.
Getting by air is almost impossible due to sanctions, but if you fly from the country that didn’t impose them, then I believe the visa-free regime is still in force.

I agree with Ben — very informative, as are all your posts. I travel as a tourist, not an investigative journalist. Hope to get to Belarus soon, as a tourist. Thanks for all your good work. Rosemary, 16 April 2023.

Hi, Joan, two more things:
1) You say, “If you want to visit the countryside or the northern forests and lakes, it is better to come outside of the winter months.” But if you’re planning to camp, AVOID JUL AND AUG, because the mosquitoes are fierce and will eat you alive. May, Jun or Sep are the best months for camping. Christa and Wolfgang (Austrians) told me this, and it was their first-hand experience. They barely survived the mossies.
2) You can’t book a hotel in Minsk via right now (16 Apr 2023), but it seems you can book directly with the hotels themselves, at least with Hotel Belarus. I tried it this morning as an experiment, and it seemed to work okay.
Joan, you’re a man, right? I ask because Joan is a girl’s name in English.
Over and out, Rosemary.

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