Although Belarus has recently opened its borders by introducing 5-day visa-free entry, it will take travelers some time to learn the country. With so many travel guides and tips that start to appear, it’s not surprising that one might forget about the rules a tourist must mind in order not to get in trouble with the police or locals.
Some of the things that are forbidden in Belarus will or may seem strange to a European or American. So we have come up with a list of seven not-to-do things that will help you avoid unpleasant moments while in Belarus.
1. Getting drunk in public
It’s not a problem to buy spirits in Belarus – some time ago the government made an attempt to ban alcohol sales at night, but refused the idea eventually.
It will be a problem, however, if you drink alcohol in public places such as streets, stadiums, squares, parks, public transport etc.
For breaking the rule, you can be fined for up to eight base amounts*, or 184 Br (~$97/€92) as of March 2017. If you break the rule twice, the fine will rise up by half or an administrative arrest may be applied.
2. Do not swear in public
Using foul language in public places in Belarus is regarded as disorderly conduct. Swearing in public might lead to a fine of two to 30 base amounts*, or 690 Br (~$365/€345) as of March 2017, or an administrative arrest.
3. Flash mobs only if allowed
Do you want to organize a flash mob, a march or a parade? Hold on, you can’t do it without prior permission from the authorities in Belarus!
The same rule applies to participation in any unauthorised public events. For example, be ready for a fine or an arrest if you decide to join a column of people with a white-red-white flag on 25 March that do not have an official permission to march.
4. No Amsterdam in Minsk
Drugs, even soft ones, and prostitution are outlawed in Belarus. Do not risk bringing substances in!
5. Secret love
As much as Belarusians are tolerant to others, many local people, especially older generation, do not approve of same-sex relationships. So if you’re gay, try not to display your affections in public as people may react aggressively.
6. Take pictures, but not everywhere
There are certain buildings in Minsk and other cities that belong to the so-called ‘secure facilities’. It means that taking pictures of them is illegal.
If you want to photograph a particular building you are not sure of, it’s better to ask police officers whether you can take a couple of shots. You will hardly be fined for taking pictures, but police officers may ask you to delete the photos.
Also, you will hardly be able to make a selfie with police officers themselves.
7. No money in your passport
While crossing the border, be polite and calm. Don’t take pictures or make phone calls – border control officers don’t like it and they can reprove you.
Check your documents before handing them over to the officers. Make sure there’s no random money in your passport; otherwise, it will be considered a bribe.
We wish you a pleasant pastime and no trouble in Belarus!
* Base amount/value is a figure used in Belarus to determine the amounts of payments, fines, etc. Introduced and used in connection with high inflation of the national currency.