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Minsk Travel Information

The Basics

Time

Local time is GMT +2. (GMT +3 from last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October).

Electricity

Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. European two-prong plugs with circular pins are in use. Schuko plugs are also in use.

Language

Russian and Belarussian are both official languages, with the majority speaking Russian.

Travel Health

The main health risks associated with visiting Belarus are tick-borne encephalitis (for those who intend foot-slogging through the forests), measles (outbreaks occur) and diphtheria, so travellers should ensure they are vaccinated against these diseases. There have also been cases of human rabies infection in the rural areas, identified as originating with bites from foxes, raccoon, dogs and cats. Visitors should not drink unpurified tap water, unpasteurised milk or consume undercooked food. Medical care is limited and essential medications are frequently not available. Medical facilities lack modern equipment. The best equipped are private clinics, which are available in Minsk. Doctors and hospitals expect payment in cash. Travel health insurance with air evacuation cover is highly recommended.

Tipping

Tipping in Belarus is not as common as in many other countries, but it is adequate to round up the bill or taxi fare, and a 10% tip for excellent service will not go amiss.

Safety Information

Most visits to Belarus are trouble free. The crime rate is very low, however precautions should be taken against mugging, pick-pocketing and theft from vehicles or hotel rooms. There have been instances of theft from travellers on sleeper trains between Warsaw and Moscow.

Local Customs

While visiting in Belarus, do not take photographs of government buildings, military installations or uniformed officials. Be aware that jaywalkers are heavily fined. Whistling inside a building is considered bad luck.

Business

Business appointments in Belarus should be made well in advance through a local third party with a good reputation and connections. When meeting, address people with their surnames and a brief handshake. Meetings are usually formal, and negotiations can be protracted. A great deal of concessionary bargaining is expected. Bureaucracy and legal matters in Belarus are very complicated so it is best to hire local professionals to assist. Dates in Belarus are written with the day first, then the month and then the year.

Communications

The international dialling code for Belarus is +375. To dial out on an international call dial 8, wait for the tone, then dial 10 followed by the country code, area code and number you are calling (e.g. 8-10 44 for the UK). Payphones are widely available but most cannot be used to call internationally. Payphones operate only on special cards, sold at post offices and newspaper kiosks. There are four mobile network operators in Belarus, two of which operate GSM networks. Coverage is good in the major towns and along the highways, but not available in rural areas. Mobile phones may be rented from local service providers. The Internet can be accessed from a network of state run (Beltelecom) cybercafés, and some private cafes, in the major towns.

Duty Free

The duty free allowance for visitors entering Belarus is 1.5 litres of spirits, 2l of wine, 1000 cigarettes or 1000g of tobacco products, a reasonable quantity of perfume for personal use and goods up to the value of US$1,000.

Our Travel Expert

Andrei Burdenkov is a Minsk native and a certified self-employed tour guide with www.minskguide.travel.

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