How the thing will work – in simple explanations.
What is needed to enter without a visa?
Foreigners will be required to obtain a permission to stay on the territory of the park Augustow Canal. Such permissions can be requested from Belarusian tour operators and travel agencies.
“In theory any travel agency working in Belarus has a right to issue such permissions in case they decide to cooperate with us on visa-free entry. So there’s no any single list of agencies and operators”, Tatiana Ledyaeva, Deputy Head of Sports and Tousirm Department Of Grodno Region Executive Committee, told BelarusFeed.
In addition to the permisison, foreigners will need to have a valid passport (or any other document for travelling abroad), plus other standard documents (insurance etc.).
How do I get a permission?
A foreigner must submit their name, date of birth, nationality (citizenship), passport data, and sex to a tour operator via e-mail or by letter.
This information will be filled in the permission, which tour operators will return to visitors after completion.
They are also responsible for presenting travelers’ data to the Belarusian border authorities before foreigners enter the country.
Does it take long?
The information about tourists should be submitted to the border authorities at least 24h before their arrival.
So those who want to visit the park visa free, should contact travel agencies at least one day ahead of the visit.
How long can I stay and do I need to present a financial guarantee?
Visa-free stay can last up to 5 days, after which foreigners must leave the territoy of Belarus. In cases of a natural disaster, accident or emergency situation, disease or health issues, and other unforeseen circumstances, the period of temporary stay can be extended, and a tourist visa will be issued to a foreigner.
The tourists must confirm that they have enough money to cover living costs and tickets.
For every day of the stay a visitor must have an equivalent of 2 basic amounts, or 42 Belarusian rubles (~$22/€20 at present).
Can I visit Grodno?
Yes, Grodno belongs to the territory of the park Augustow Canal, so foreigners can travel to the city freely.
Can I go to Minsk?
No, the capital of Belarus and other major cities are outside the visa-free zone, so a trip there would be considered a violation of visa-free entry rules.
“We’re going to lauch an information portal with the list of the places belonging to the visa-free zone. There will be road signs warning about the end of the zone. We have also developed a mobile application with GPS navigation that will help visitors to travel inside the zone without breaking the border”, Tatiana Ledyaeva explained.
According to the official, the website is being tested and will be launched next week. It will contain information in three languages.
How do I enter the visa-free zone?
Visitors to the park can enter Belarus via four border checkpoints – two with Poland and two with Lithuania. See the map below.
The decision to make entry to the Augustow Canal visa-free was signed on 23 August. It will come into force on 26 October, 2016 and will be in effect till 31 December 2017. The Augustow Canal will become a second visa-free zone in Belarus after the national park Belovezhskaya Pushcha, where foreign citizens are allowed stay up to three days.
The Augustow Canal is a 19th century cross-border canal between Podlaskie Voivodeship of north-eastern Poland and the Grodno Region of north-western Belarus.
At the time when it was built, the canal was described by experts as a technological marvel, with numerous sluices contributing to its aesthetic appeal. Starting in the late 1920s the canal became a tourist attraction, a picturesque route providing excellent sporting opportunities for canoeists, sailors and boaters.
Currently the canal offers numerous sightseeing and tourist attractions. Its unsurpassed beauty comes from the landscape with coniferous forests and lakes, especially around the Biebrza and Netta Rivers.
Still have questions regarding visa-free entry to the park? Let us know in the comments!