Belarus Country Report
Several issues could potentially present inconveniences for travelers visiting Belarus (population 9.6 million), a landlocked Eastern European country surrounded by Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, and Ukraine.
Belarus has not been a target of high-profile terrorist attacks or activity since 2011. On April 11, 2011, a bombing took place during rush hour in the Minsk metro, killing 12 passengers and injuring 100 others. The attack occurred in the Kastryčnickaja station, situated roughly 100 m (325 ft) from the presidential palace (Palace of the Republic). The attack was allegedly carried out by two Belorussian nationals, whose motivations remain unclear.
Belarus is often called "the last dictatorship in Europe." Its president, Aleksandr Lukashenko, has been in office since 1994. The last presidential election took place in October 2015, with Lukashenko garnering 85 percent of the vote. The next presidential election will take place in 2020.
Opposition protests and other large street demonstrations are uncommon in Belarus due to strict surveillance by security forces and the requirement that all protests be approved by the government.
Anti-government protests are, however, held annually in Minsk on March 25 in observance of Freedom Day; in 2017, at least 700 people were arrested. Additional protests broke out nationwide in February and March 2017 in response to the government's plan to implement a tax on unemployed citizens.
There is a moderate risk of street crime in the country. Generally speaking, travelers should be vigilant at night in the cities of Minsk, Grodno, Brest, Gomel, Mogilev, and Vitebsk. However, violent crime against foreigners is uncommon.
Cybercrime is also an issue in the country; travelers should exercise caution when conducting business electronically.
Belorussian citizens and foreign visitors alike are often monitored (e.g. in hotel rooms and via telephones, fax machines, and emails), directly or indirectly, by Belorussian authorities. Photographing military installations, government buildings, and monuments increases this risk.
Medical facilities often lack qualified personnel and modern equipment; shortages of medications at pharmacies should be anticipated. Medical treatment standards available at healthcare facilities are generally lesser in Belarus than those in EU countries. A comprehensive health insurance plan providing coverage abroad (including repatriation if necessary) should be acquired prior to leaving for the country.
The consumption of unpurified tap water is not recommended; drink only bottled water.
The southeastern regions of Belarus remain contaminated by radioactive fallout over 30 years after the Chernobyl disaster (nuclear power plant accident in Ukraine in April 1986). Travelers are advised to avoid the area and to refrain from eating foodstuffs originating from the southeast (particularly milk, eggs, and mushrooms).
Beginning in 2017, Belarus has undertaken efforts to expand visa-free entry for visitors from several countries. As of 2018, visitors from 80 countries can visit Belarus for up to five days. However, visitors must enter the country through Minsk National Airport (MSQ), and are limited to travel in the Grodno (Hrodna) and Brest regions. Individuals planning to travel to Belarus are advised to contact their nearest Belorussian consulate for details.
In general, hotel infrastructure remains underdeveloped throughout the country.
Belarus has a continental climate with long harsh winters; snow is present until March-April. Spring begins in the month of May. Summers are mild and rainy (thunderstorms) but sunny days are also common. Autumn comes to the country in mid-September and brings a significant decrease in temperatures.
Useful NumbersCountry Code: +375 Local police in Minsk: 102
Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz
Belarus: Opposition protest planned in Minsk on Oct. 21
TIMEFRAME: from 10/18/2017, 12:00 AM until 10/21/2017, 11:59 PM (Europe/Minsk).
Belarus: Russia, Belarus plan joint drills amid tensions in Eastern Europe
TIMEFRAME: from 8/22/2017, 12:00 AM until 9/20/2017, 11:59 PM (Europe/Minsk).