I Tested the New Relaxed Visa Requirements of Belarus. Here is What Happened…

I f 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, as visa requirements were relaxed effective as of Sunday, February 12, 2017

…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:

  • 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

I Tested the New Relaxed Visa Requirements of Belarus. Here is What Happened…

I booked a flight from Vilnius to Minsk via Belavia; and I booked a flight from Minsk to Warsaw on LOT Polish Airways. The total cost of the airplane tickets was approximately $120.00 — significantly more expensive than if I traveled by train or bus into and out of Minsk; but I am only eligible for the relaxed visa restrictions if I use the airport.

Aboard the airplane during the flight of 35 minutes, I filled out the immigration paper twice once it was handed to me by a member of the flight crew: one half was for arrival; while the other half was for departure.

After leaving the airplane operated by Belavia — I intend to post a trip report on that experience — I strolled across the tarmac and into the terminal building…

…but I was stopped by a member of the Belarusian military when I photographed the entrance to the terminal. “No photo”, he said.

I complied — but why would a photograph of a terminal building not be permitted?

Anyway, I eyed the open mandatory insurance counter on the left — the one on the right was closed — and waited for three people ahead of me to purchase their insurance before purchasing my own.

“How long will you be here?” the woman behind the counter asked me.

“I am leaving tomorrow,” I replied.

“Two euro or two dollar”, she said. There is a chart on the counter which lists how much the mandatory insurance cost based on how many days one is staying in Belarus.

I slipped her a two euro coin and she gave me my insurance rather quickly. That was easy and inexpensive.

I then proceeded to passport control. I might have waited five minutes at the most for the person in front of me to be processed until it was my turn.

“Hello,” we said to each other. The person behind the counter was friendly and dressed in full uniform. She asked about my reason for being in Belarus as well as a few other questions — such as whether or not this was my first time in Belarus; and how much money I was carrying with me.

The exchange may have taken all of five minutes — the most time consuming part was that she kept looking at me and at my passport for some reason — but she then welcomed me to Belarus; stamped my passport; and I proceeded forward through a translucent glass door.

On my way out, I was pulled aside for some extra screening. Confused as to why I was chosen, I complied. All they did was run my belongings through a scanner. One minute later, I was on my way again.

That was it.

Summary

I initially wondered if there would be any problems; but the process was quite easy, painless and pleasant.

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.

Had the visa requirements to Belarus not been relaxed; I most likely would not have visited the country.

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 intend to post more insights and experiences pertaining to my visit to Minsk in future articles.

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

8 thoughts on “I Tested the New Relaxed Visa Requirements of Belarus. Here is What Happened…”

  1. Greg says:

    I look forward to reading about your insights and experiences while visiting Minsk, Belarus, the capital of a country that is rich in history yet not well explored by visitors from countries which primarily speak the English language. Did you travel to Minsk, Belarus alone, with a traveling companion ,or as part of a group traveling together for some or all of the brief stay?

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I traveled to Minsk alone, Greg. I explored the city alone. I ate alone…

      …and at first, I was not sure I would enjoy my stay — but I did very much.

      At least one article which I plan to write touches exactly upon your point: the rich history of Minsk; but not well explored by visitors from other countries where English is the primary language — which is one of the reasons for the relaxing of the visa restriction. I know no Russian or Belarusian and not many people in Minsk understand English — but that did not stop me from enjoying my stay in Minsk.

      Details — and plenty of photographs — are to come…

      1. Greg says:

        I look forward to the details of your journey to Minsk as a solo traveler. It is a place perhaps reminiscent of other parts of Eastern Europe in the late 1990s and early 2000s, which were very hospitable and rewarding to adventurous early travelers from English speaking nations.

  2. ALVIN says:

    Wow, and you didn’t complain about being pulled aside for extra screening? Why not?

  3. Steve says:

    That might be the lowest financial means test I’ve ever seen!

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Not necessarily, Steve.

      If you are arriving at Minsk from neighboring countries such as Lithuania and Poland, then yes, traveling by airline solely to take advantage of the relaxed visa restrictions makes little sense. Taking the train or bus and paying the $160.00 visa fee is still a better option.

      The reason why I did it was simply to try it out and report on it, as it applies even for passengers who arrive from other destinations which are farther away — especially for those who have no choice but to fly into Minsk.

  4. Svetlana says:

    You can’t take pictures of the airport building from the landing area in London as well. I was stopped at London City airport, while taking a picture of the building walking after landing. Its a normal universal security measure. You can take as many pictures of the airport as you want when you are outside of the landing/take off area.

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