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Belarus

Belarus
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Belarus or officially the Republic of Belarus is a country in the Eastern Europe. It borders Ukraine, Russia, Latvia, Poland and Lithuania. Minsk is the capital of Belarus.

Due to a temperate continental climate, winters here are soft and summer is not extremely hot. The average temperature in January varies from +4 °C  to -8°C and in July the average temperature is +17 – +22 °C. The rainy season usually starts in autumn and in winter.

In Belarus, there are two official languages: Belarusian and Russian. Around 80% of the population are Orthodox Christians, the rest consider themselves the Uniates and Protestants.

Holidays in Belarus will appeal to the tourists who prefer active holidays. There is everything for hiking, cycling and water activities. Although in Belarus there are not high peaks, there are good ski resorts.    The most popular resorts are Silichy, Alpine snow, Logoysk and Yakutia snow.

Unique nature and clean air make Belarus a very attractive place for the recreational tourism. The majority of wellness resorts are located in Zhdanovichy. 

One of the most popular sports activity in the country is cycling. The best cycling routes go through Minsk, Grodno and Mogilev. You will have an unforgettable cycling trip in the national parks of Belarus such as  the Belarus part of the Bialowieza Forest, the area of Pripyat lake and Braslav lake.

On the border between Minsk and Vitebsk regions, there is the Narochansky National Park where you can go fishing and hunting. 

Water sports are gaining more and more popularity. In Brest, there is an Olympic Reserve sports complex for training future Olympic sportsmen. Rafting in Belarus is very popular among the tourists. 

Get in

Russia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Poland and Latvia share a common border with Belarus, so the tourists only need to choose the most suitable way to reach Belarus. They can do it by train, by plane, by bus or by car. 

By Plane

The national Belarusian airline Belavia offers everyday flights to Moscow. It has flights between Kiev and Minsk two times a day. There are also flights to Riga for times a week. Belavia offers flights to Georgia several times a week. Russian airlines such as Aeroflot and Rossiya also fly to Belarus. The country has travel links to EU countries, Transcaucasus and the Middle East.

By Train

You can get to Belarus by train. There is a railway service between Minsk and many Russian cities. Around 15 trains run everyday between Moscow and Belarus. International trains run between Belarus and neighboring Ukraine.

By Bus

The tourists can reach Belarus from border towns by international buses.

By Car

Belarus has ground crossings with all the neighboring countries. 

Visa

The Russians and the citizens of other CIS countries do not need a visa to come to Belarus. Non-residents will have to fill in a migration card when crossing the border.

The tourists from EU countries have to apply for a visa to travel to Belarus.

Upon entrance in Belarus, foreign tourists need to have a health insurance with the sum insured of up to 5.000 Euros. Usually, the document is checked at the passport control at the airport and you will not be given a passport mark confirming your entry to Belarus without the insurance. If the tourists do not have an insurance policy, they can obtain it from local insurance companies in the passport checking area. 

All foreign citizens who travel to Belarus must register with the local police station within 5 days since the day they came to Belarus. 

Customs

The tourists traveling to Belarus should observe the rules of exporting and importing the currency. You can import and export Belarusian rubles (BYR) in an amount up to 5.900 US dollars  without declaring. You can import foreign currency without declaring if the sum is not more than 3.000 US dollars and any sum over 3.000 US dollars is subject to declaration.    

Tourists can bring a restricted amount of cigarettes and alcohol. Tourists can bring jewelry (5 items), fur and leather (3 items), watches (1 item), car tires (4 items for each traveler) without the imposition of the Customs tax.

Combat ammunition, weapon, drugs and poisons can be brought only if you have authorization given by the Belarus Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Precious metals, precious and semi-precious stones can be exported only with a special permission. 

Cuisine

Belarus received a joking name Potato Country because potato is a staple food here. The locals know thousands of ways to cook potato: they boil, bake, roast and stew it. Meat and grains are also popular in Belarus. Some of the recipes have been borrowed from the neighbors Russia and Ukraine. Belarusian dishes are very substantial and the people almost do not use any spices. Instead of different sauces, they serve sour cream.    

The first thing you should try in Belarus is jacket potatoes with salt and butter. This very simple dish is called Saloniki. It is usually served with stewed meat and vegetables. Grated potato is used for preparing Draniki or potato pancakes. Often, meat or mushrooms are also added to potato.  

We are sure you will like Belarusian dumplings Kolduny with minced meat. In Belarusia, take advantage of trying potato pie Babka with onion and pork rinds.

The most popular vegetables in Belarus are turnip, carrot, cabbage, and legumes (pea and beans). These are the main ingredients for salads and fillings. Belarusian women use herbs for their dishes such as sorrel and orach.

The most favorite meat in Belarus us pork. Beef and game are not served often even in restaurants. Do not miss a chance to try Cepeliny; this is kind of big dumplings with minced meat. The Belarusians love lard, homemade black pudding and salceson. In Belarus, they cook the dish Machanka from the remnants of meat and lard: organ meat is chopped and fried with onions, sour cream and flour, pork rinds, mushrooms or vegetables.

There are cold and hot soups in Belarusian cuisine as well as soups made with kvas. The most famous Belarusian cold soups are Zhur, Morkva and cold beetroot soup. 

In Belarusian villages, the tourists can try homemade pickles, cottage cheese and sour cream. The Belarusians make a very delicious goat milk cheese. 

Women in Belarus can cook very delicious pies with different fillings and stuffings. A traditional dessert is kisel and the most popular non-alcoholic drink is mors (fruit drink prepared from berries). 

Money

The Belarusian ruble (BYR) is the official currency in the country, though Russian ruble, US dollars and Euros are also accepted.

You can exchange the currency at banks or in official exchange offices. A special document is filled in when you exchange foreign currency and you should keep the document during your stay in Belarus.

International payment cards are accepted in many hotels and supermarkets in large cities. In small towns and villages, they accept only cash.

Since 2013, in Belarus the tax-free system is available. Tourists can receive the tax refund if the purchase the goods for the total sum of 800 Belarusian rubles. Tourists can submit VAT return in the offices of Belarusbank which are located on the border or the money can be transferred to the credit card. In real life, the tax-free system is not working here and in Belarus there is no tax-free operator. 

Details of interest

Sightseeing in Belarus

The tourists will be amazed by the beauty of the country.  Bialowieza Forest which is praised in a famous song, is one of the UNESCO sites. This park is located in the Brest region not far from Kamenec.

We also recommend visiting the village Mir in the Grodno region which is famous for its Mir Castle Complex. This is an architectural monument under UNESCO protection. In the Grodno and Brest regions, there is one more site included in the World Heritage List and this is the Struve Geodetic Arc. This is chain of survey triangulations for making first accurate measurements of a meridian.

Staying in Belarus, you should visit the Nesvizh castle in the Minsk region not far from the city of Nesvizh. This is the Architectural, Residential and Cultural Complex of the Radziwill Family at Nesvizh under UNESCO protection. 

Those who are interested in the World War II, should visit a notorious city of Brest. The Brest Fortress today is the War Museum which exhibits the chronicles of the wars in the region since the 13th century. The Brest Museum of History and Archaeology is also devoted to the history of Belarus.

Belarusian Souvenirs

Do not forget to buy traditional Belarusian souvenirs to remember your trip to this country. The tourists usually but national Slutsk belts, linen things and valenki with traditional ornaments and also wooden and straw crafts. Women like glassworks produced by the Belarusian factory Neman. Men can buy leather wallets or a belt by the brand Makey.

In the mall Moscow-Vienna in Minsk, the tourists can buy clothes for men and women, accessories and souvenirs. In the mall Titan, you can go shopping and entertain yourself. There are restaurants, a game zone, cinema, bowling and billiard. You can also go shopping in the malls Manezh, Stolitsa, Modny Mall and Alexandrov Passage. If you happen to be in Brest, visit Gallery Grand and when in Gomel, visit a mall Labyrinth.