In Russia there’s Russian ruble, in Poland – zloty, in China – yuan, in Belarus we have Belarusian ruble. History, exchange, prices, ATMs, facts and more. Here’s all you need to know about the local currency.
The currency of Belarus is the Belarusian ruble (BYN). It is pegged to the U.S. dollar and euro at a rate of about 1 USD to 2.1 BYN and 1 EUR to 2.4 BYN (as of the date of the article’s publication – note BelarusFeed).
The exchange rates may fluctuate slightly, although Belarusians are familiar with more dramatic drops of the national currency when the state had to limit exchange operations.
Nowadays in Belarus, there are banknotes and coins. The banknotes are printed in values of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500. Coins come in denominations of 1 and 2 rubles and kopecks (other spellings copeck, kopek – note BelarusFeed) like 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50.
One ruble equals 100 kopecks.
The Belarusian ruble has lost a total of eight zeros since it replaced the Soviet ruble as the country’s official currency in 1992 (all Belarusian banknotes here).
The latest denomination took place in July 2016.
It cut off four zeroes turning 10,000 Belarusian rubles into 1 Belarusian ruble (and introduced BYN as the new currency code) and Belarusians from millionaires to people earning “500”.
New Belarusian rubles can puzzle tourists who come with euros in the pocket. The reason is simple – the new banknotes are almost similar in size, design, and even colors to the currency of the EU.
So be careful and don’t confuse the two!
Each banknote depicts a notable Belarusian landmark from a different part of the country, and each has its own meaning.
|5||Brest region||Tower of Kamyenyets|
|10||Vitebsk region||Transfiguration Church of the St. Euphrosine monastery in Polotsk|
|20||Homiel region||The Rumyantsev-Paskevich Palace|
|50||Hrodno region||Mir Castle|
|100||Minsk region||Niasvizh Castle|
|200||Mahileu region||Mahileu Regional Arts Museum|
|500||Minsk||National Library of Belarus|
Exchange and ATMs
There is no problem with money exchange in Belarus. Banks charge no commission for exchange operations, even at the airport.
The exchange rate is regulated by the National Bank of Belarus, but rates vary slightly depending on the bank. Exchange offices are almost everywhere – in shopping malls and supermarkets, at railway stations; many banks have exchange points scattered along major streets.
The most tradeable currencies in Belarus are the U.S. dollar, euro, and the Russian ruble. Banks also trade the Chinese yuan, Polish zloty, Ukrainian hrivna. The places to exchange more rare currencies, like the pound or the Swiss franc, aren’t numerous – those are mostly bought by major banks.
NB! You don’t need to show your passport/ID card while exchanging cash.
The only case when bank officers will ask you for the documents is the sum for exchange exceeding 1000 basic values (one basic value is 24,5 BYN as of the date of the article’s publication – note BelarusFeed).
If you withdraw cash from an ATM, it will charge a commission at the rate of your bank.
Cashless payments with Visa, MasterCard, Maestro are accepted almost anywhere in Belarus.
Fake or not?
The easiest way to check a Belarusian banknote is to look at the thread mark. Each banknote has a unique mark, that is the copy of the picture segment on the face of the banknote.
Among other types of checking are the following: a security thread, a special mark for the visually impaired etc.
NB! Tipping usually starts from two rubles (or 10% of the total sum).
Why do Belarusians call their money Belki?
One may often hear locals talking about belki, an affectionate name Belarusians have given to the national currency.
Belki means ‘squirrels’ in the Russian language.
The banknotes of 1992 had pictures of Belarusian animals on them (squirrel, hare, bison, bear, moose, lynx etc.). After the 1994 denomination animals were removed from the money but Belarusians continue to say they’re paying with belki (squirrels) and zaitsy (hares).
Everybody talks about the dollar
The swings of the exchange rate and devaluation of Belarusian ruble over the decades have made Belarusians concerned with the dollar.
Two biggest devaluations of the Belarusian ruble took place in 2011 – in May the value of the U.S. dollar increased by 56%, in October – by 52%. After another fluctuation in 2014, the National Bank of Belarus decided to adopt a 30% tax on currency purchase.
Read also: 5 facts about combating poverty in Belarus
All these factors have transformed the mind of locals into a calculator that perpetually convert prices from BYN to USD and backward. We convert our salaries, prices in supermarkets, rent (though it might be a good mental exercise). Should the ruble start behave abnormally, one will see Belarusians quickly forming lines near cash exchanges.
No wonder, currency rates easily become breaking news in Belarus.
Where the money is
In Minsk, there are even places connected with money.
Fans of history can visit Groshi Museum (‘groshi’ means money – note BelarusFeed). It is a new project dedicated to the history of Belarusian money and their circulation on the territory of the country.
The exhibition represents the original coins and banknotes that have been used in Belarus for the last 120 years.
Another curious place is Manetny Dvor, a cafe next to the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Economy. There is an installation with huge Belarusian coins outside the cafe, the name of which translates as ‘mint’.
Text by Veranika Papkouskaya.