Belarus the Latest Country to Relax Visa Requirements — But There are Catches…

W hen I found out that there was currently no ferry service to Saint Petersburg from Helsinki — albeit temporarily — this comment pertaining to the relaxing of visa requirements in Belarus was left by MFK, who is a reader of The Gate.

Here is part of that comment:

“Another alternative would be to fly into Minsk from one of those cities. I just read on Lonely Planet that they have relaxed their visa requirements for US, EU and some other citizens who fly into the capital and stay for five days or less (or perhaps it is fewer than five days?). Either way, if you’re in the area, it’s now easier than ever to check off another “off-the-beaten-track” country. Safe travels.”

After reading that comment by MFK, Ric Garrido of Loyalty Traveler was kind enough to provide this link to the news which corroborated with the information provided by MFK.

Belarus the Latest Country to Relax Visa Requirements — But There are Catches…

If you had been hoping to visit Belarus — whose capital city is Minsk — and you are a citizen of one of 80 countries of which visa requirements have been relaxed, you are in luck…

…but there are a few “catches” about which you should know upon establishment of visa-free entry and exit of foreign nationals, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus:

  • The relaxed visa requirements become effective as of Sunday, February 12, 2017 and not before then
  • You can enter Belarus for up to a maximum of five days
  • You must enter and exit from the Republic of Belarus only through the border checkpoint controlled by the state at Minsk National Airport — meaning that you can only arrive via airplane at that airport
  • The visa-free entry does not apply to foreigners paying official visits to Belarus
  • Arrival and departure is not permitted for flights to and from the Russian Federation
  • You must have the following documents with you when entering Belarus:
    1. A valid passport or similar official document for traveling abroad;
    2. Financial means: at least 25 Euro — or equal amount in dollars or Belarusian rubles — for each day of stay; and
    3. Medical insurance with coverage for at least 10,000 Euros which is valid within the territory of Belarus

Options?

As I am considering the suggestion offered by MFK, I had thought about arriving by train from Vilnius in Lithuania — there is daily service at least three times per day — but then, that would not meet the requirements for visa-free entry into Belarus. The train ride would have been as few as two hours and 30 minutes and cost as low as 29.52 Belarusian rubles; or approximately $14.84 via Belarusian Railway.

Instead, I am forced to consider paying $47.10 one way as a passenger aboard an airplane operated by Belavia — approximately three times the price — and if I read the information correctly, I must also leave Belarus via airplane through the border checkpoint controlled by the state at Minsk National Airport.

By the way, I checked: Belavia has no airline partners in its Belavia Leader frequent flier loyalty program — of which I do not intend to sign up as a member — and other options are more expensive and require a stop. The next least expensive option is a flight operated by Ukraine International Airlines, which costs $71.60 and requires a stop in Kiev.

Summary

I have long asserted that if a country wants to increase tourism, it needs to relax its reciprocity fees or visa requirements — and Belarus is doing just that in what seems to be an effort to increase tourism. Chile did it — as well as Argentina as two examples. Let visitors and tourists spend that money on local businesses within the country instead — the government will still collect taxes through the businesses.

According to this article from the National Statistics Committee of the Republic of Belarus, “The number of organised visits was 137.4 thousand in 2014, which is 0.5% more than in 2013.” Neighboring countries supposedly handle up to approximately twenty times the number of visitors.

I am considering a stay of at least one night in Minsk — especially if the Saint Petersburg ferry situation from Helsinki shows no sign of being definitively resolved — before heading on to Warsaw…

…and if I do, I will report back with articles containing photographs and possibly video.

If you have visited Minsk or Belarus, suggestions and recommendations by you are always welcome — but in the meantime, this is one of the Internet web sites which I will be researching

Winter in Minsk: Upper Town and Svisloch River embankment. Source: Official Internet web site of the Republic of Belarus.

8 thoughts on “Belarus the Latest Country to Relax Visa Requirements — But There are Catches…”

  1. Tyler says:

    Excited to hear how it goes… I’ve been checking out a trip there. What is your plan for #3 on the requirements?

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Do you mean the health insurance, Tyler?

      I purchased insurance for the safari I took in Kenya back in 2015; so I might investigate that option…

      …but if that is not possible, there is always this:

      “If foreign citizens have no insurance policy (certificate of insurance) satisfying existing requirements, they can purchase one at the State border checkpoint of the Republic of Belarus «Minsk National Airport».”

  2. AlohaDaveKennedy says:

    Cool – this country has been on my to do list for a few years.

  3. Artem K says:

    From my understanding, none 3rd party insurance policies satisfy Belarus officials, so all foreigners are forced to buy insurance on arrival. Since I hold Belarus passport it does not apply to me, but I never understood the thinking behind this. People were paying quite a bit for visa and then were forced to pay more at the border. Good news is that the fee is only about 2 Euro, but still…

    Hilton recently increased it’s presence in Minsk with very good looking Double Tree and a Hampton Inn available for as little as 5,000 pts.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      You read my mind about the Hilton hotel properties, Artem K, as I had been looking at them. I have been eyeing a rate of $68.00 at the Hampton by Hilton Minsk City Centre — and that includes tax.

      Thank you for the information about the fee of two Euro or so for the fee for insurance. I am not sure I could do better than that — even if there was third party insurance which would be good in Belarus — and it is not worth my time to research something that could potentially save me a Euro…

      …but I agree with you: why bother with the fee? Just include it in the cost of the visa…

      1. Artem K says:

        The only issue with Hampton – there is a new subway line construction site almost next to the hotel and on the way to the railway station that is the closest subway station to the hotel. DT’s location is much better for a tourist, but you definitely can’t beat 5,000 or $68 price of Hampton.

        One more thing I need to mention, is the airport, unfortunately, almost 30 miles outside the city with very little transportation. Good thing is, Uber is cheap – under $15 to/from the airport, but cars are a bit scarce around the airport (I arrived midday from VIE). Going back around 4am was no problem as there always available cars in the city.

        Anyway, I am glad Belarus made a step in the right direction and, hopefully, they will extend visa-free entry to other, more convenient checkpoints.

  4. Irina K says:

    Hello Brian.
    I came across an article which could be of interest to you.

    http://m.belarusdigest.com/story/visa-free-travel-and-registration-belarus-not-so-simple-28619

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