Last week Belarus allowed foreigners to register online. After extending visa-free regime to 30 days, it is one of the most expected news for foreigners planning to visit the country in the near future.
Much has been done to open the country to the world and make it more convenient for the guests from abroad. Still, much remains to be done. This is just a small list of things that usually annoy tourists and can be changed to make their life in Belarus easier.
Great, mandatory registration can be done online for free but there are still non-obvious things that can leave a foreigner in trouble.
They should remember that if their stay in the country longer than five days, the registration must be done within five business days. A card, evidence of the registration, must be held until leaving the country.
Visitors who didn’t manage to complete the registration online should do it at the local migration and citizenship department in person. You will be required to fill an application form, show your passport or some other ID document, a copy of the medical insurance and the payment receipt.
As to online registration, its launch also didn’t go as smooth as it could. Some foreigners reported problems with their telephone numbers, others complained about using Cyrillic in the form and indicating patronymic.
Suggestions were made to prolong registration to 10 days, cancel the time-consuming procedure completely or register foreigners right at the airport or border checkpoints. Well, even though the procedure was simplified, still there’s a lot to work on.
Surprisingly, medical insurance can cause some unexpected inconveniences, too.
Turns out that even if you have insurance covering the whole world, it has to be translated into Russian or Belarusian by a licensed translator. There’s also a chance you can be asked to show its print copy by the border control officer.
No wonder so many tourists complain about having to purchase local medical insurance even though they already have one, where Belarus is included and not included at the same time.
Recall that currently visa-free entry is not granted to travelers flying to Belarus from Russia and vice versa. These flights are considered domestic because of the absence of border control between the countries.
The countries have been negotiating the mutual recognition of visas for several years now, but with no luck. So far, the agreement has been reached only for the travelers during the European Games in Minsk in 2019. The similar worked for both countries the 2018 World Cup.
The long-awaited recognition will make life easier for foreigners who travel to Russia through Belarus and vice versa. Once it comes into force, foreigners won’t need two visas and will be able to stay in the countries as long as the visa is valid.
At present, foreigners cannot use cars, buses and trains to travel between Belarus to Russia, even if they have a Russian visa.
The issue of the international land border checkpoint – or, rather, its absence – between Belarus and Russia appeared on the news several times lately. Both countries brought it up but neither side voiced concrete suggestions.
Besides the fact that it negatively affects both sides, results in lower transit through Belarus and makes regions on both sides less attractive for foreign tourists. What can be done? International border checkpoints could be an answer.
One of the most painful aspects of getting to Belarus is the limited choice of flying options.
True, we have the national air carrier Belavia and some other major airlines like Austrian, Turkish, Aeroflot, LOT. We even have few low-costs like Air Baltics flying to Minsk, but still no big international low-cost operators.
While Belarusian cities with Minsk at the helm usually perceived as pretty cheap, plane tickets can bite. Trying to mitigate the situation the Belarusian Airlines occasionally offer various options to help its passengers to save some bucks.
Anyway, low-cost carriers would make life easier both for foreigners and Belarusians. Recently, there was news that Wizz Air may start flights from Budapest to Minsk, as well as budget airline Ryanair reportedly planning to relocate its staff to Minsk.
Well, fingers crossed, the rumors are true.
Who could have thought that in the 21st century in the country with the reputation of Europe’s next Silicon Valley, foreigners may practice internet detox they put off for so long?
Yes, you can connect to the net at Minsk airport and even order a taxi but you have only 15 minutes at your disposal. Last year 115 free fi-fi hotspots appeared in the city. Public internet points are located in shopping centers, cafes, petrol stations and banks.
Free Wi-Fi BY requires authentication with the help of a mobile phone number. Luckily, there is an English-language menu and SIM-cards of foreign mobile providers are supported.
But wait, there’s a trick. When getting access to the network, a person agrees to give his consent to the transfer of his personal data. Also, advertising messages and SMS-dispatch is something you have to tolerate. How many would like to do that?
Minsk-Vilnius trains have wi-fi connection for passengers that works only on the territory of Belarus. While citizens wait for the internet to appear in metro and buses, probably a separate tourist network for tourists would help?
What’s going on?
Let’s admit that coverage of major events in the country relevant for travelers or permanent foreign residents in English leaves much to be desired.
We have some state websites that report official and pretty boring information about the activities of officials and organizations, some travel and near travel websites that update their info once a month and only one has an events calendar.
What is more, a foreigner has to somehow guess and google it. Sure, one will be able to google major landmarks and museums to visit but there’s still a big chance you will miss some authentic festival, once in a lifetime ball or wild must-go party.
On the other hand, what to expect from a handful of tourists oriented websites, while even the official pages responsible for providing urgent info for travelers fail.
BelarusFeed got your back and compiled a list of 10 essential websites everybody visiting Belarus should check out.