Belarus

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Friday, 12 December 2014.   This advice has been reviewed and reissued with updated information under Entry and exit, and under Laws. We continue to advise Australians to exercise normal safety precautions in Belarus.

Belarus overall

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise normal security precautions in Belarus.
  • You should exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia, and monitor the media and other sources for information on local travelling conditions.
  • Large demonstrations occur periodically in Minsk and other cities in Belarus. In past demonstrations, large numbers of arrests were made and violence was reported. Demonstrations and localised street disturbances can occur with little warning. You should avoid all demonstrations, rallies and localised street disturbances, especially political ones, as they may turn violent and attract a heavy police presence.
  • There is an ongoing threat of terrorism in Europe. In the past, terrorist attacks have occurred in a number of European cities.
  • If you plan to stay for longer than five days in Belarus, you are required to register with the local office of the Citizenship and Migration department of the Ministry of Interior within five working days of arrival. Failure to meet this requirement may result in fines and difficulties when departing.
  • Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Belarus. The Australian Embassy in Russia provides consular assistance to Australians in Belarus.
  • See also our general advice for business travellers.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

Australian citizens are required to obtain visas to visit or transit through Belarus.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. For the most up to date information and visa services please contact the nearest embassy or consulate of Belarus, or visit the websites of:

Visa validity dates and other visa restrictions are strictly enforced. Australians are advised to ensure they hold the appropriate visa in relation to their visit to Belarus, especially business and work visas. It is illegal in Belarus to participate in activities which are not consistent with the visa type issued to you, and penalties may apply. Check the validity dates of your visa and associated restrictions before travelling.

For entry into, or departure from Belarus, border authorities require presentation of the original issued visa - a photocopy is not sufficient. If your Australian passport is lost or stolen, you will need to obtain an official police report, a new Australian passport from the Australian Embassy in Moscow and a new exit visa from Belorussian authorities. Australians without an original visa, or who overstay their visa’s validity will be prevented from leaving Belarus until they are granted authorisation from the Citizenship and Migration department of the Belarus Ministry of Interior.

If you attempt to transit Belarus without a visa (including travelling by train on routes such as Warsaw-Moscow and St Petersburg-Kyiv), you may be fined and/or deported to the country of embarkation.

If you are travelling to Belarus through Russia, you must obtain a Russian transit visa in addition to your visa for Belarus. For information on Russian visas, please contact the nearest embassy of Russia.

The Australian Embassy in Moscow is not able to assist with visa applications or for exit visas from Belarus.

If you plan to stay for more than five days in Belarus, you must register with the local office of the Citizenship and Migration department of the Ministry of Interior within five working days of arrival. Travellers staying in hotels are registered as part of the check-in procedure, however you should confirm this with your hotel. Failure to register in time may result in fines and difficulties when departing.

When you enter Belarus or Russia, you will be required to complete a Migration Card. A single Migration Card covers both Belarus and Russia. As the Migration Card may not be automatically distributed to incoming passengers on flights or trains, you should request a card from border control authorities. You should retain the stamped second half of this card as you will need to present it when exiting the last of the two countries visited.

Belarus requires all foreign nationals to have medical insurance upon entry. Visitors must obtain a medical insurance policy either from a Belarus insurance company or from an insurance company accredited in Belarus. For a list of insurance companies accredited in Belarus you should contact the nearest embassy or consulate of Belarus. Policies may also be purchased at a Belarus embassy when obtaining a visa.

Visitors arriving without valid insurance that is recognised in Belarus will be required to purchase a standard policy upon entry. This policy is not comprehensive medical insurance, but is only designed to compensate local medical institutions for the cost of treating visitors.

You are required to complete currency and goods declaration forms on entry into Belarus. The competed forms must be stamped by a customs officer on arrival, and need to be kept for the duration of your visit, and presented when requested on departure. Undeclared money may be confiscated on departure from Belarus, and you may be detained or fined.

Customs regulations apply to the export of antiques, icons and items of historic significance.

Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin for more information on terrorism and our General advice to Australian travellers for tips on staying safe overseas.

There is an ongoing threat of terrorism in Europe. Terrorist attacks have occurred in Belarus and in a number of European cities.

Civil unrest/political tension

Large demonstrations occur periodically in Minsk and other cities in Belarus. In past demonstrations, large numbers of arrests were made and violence was reported. Demonstrations and localised street disturbances can occur with little warning. You should avoid all demonstrations, rallies and localised street disturbances, especially political ones, as they may turn violent and attract a heavy police presence.

Belarus authorities have a low level of tolerance for domestic political opposition and their response to opposition rallies or demonstrations in the past has included physical violence, arrest and detention.

Crime

Travellers are potential targets for robbery, mugging and pick pocketing. Crime levels are higher at night and in or near bars and hotels catering for foreigners. Drink spiking, with the intention of robbing the victim while incapacitated, has been reported. Travellers should be vigilant when travelling by train as passengers have been robbed.

There have been reports of harassment, mistreatment and extortion by police or other local officials.

Money and valuables

ATM scams such as skimming, does occur in Belarus. We recommend you only use ATMs located inside or next to bank premises and keep your card in sight when making purchases.

If you are a victim of an ATM scam, you should report it to the local police. The police may not be able to get your money back, but can issue you with an official police report for insurance purposes.

For further information see the Smartraveller Scams page, or visit the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Scamwatch website.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Review the general advice to Australian travellers for further information on being safe and prepared abroad.

Local travel

You should carry your passport, originals of the registered visa (see Entry and Exit) and migration card with you. Photocopies are not acceptable.

There is a system of fees for drivers of foreign motor vehicles entering Belarus. Payment is collected at the border and varies according to the length of stay. You must have valid third party car insurance which can only be purchased when entering Belarus.

Foreign drivers must possess a valid international driver's licence. Drivers must be able to produce either an original ownership certificate for their vehicle, rental contract or power of attorney from the owner of the vehicle.

Some roads outside large cities may be impassable in winter due to ice and snow. For further advice, see our road travel page.

Limited entry border zones are enforced in a number of border areas in Belarus and require a special permit issued in advance of entry by the State Border Guards committee. Such locations are generally sign posted and restricted by road barriers and border guard posts. Travellers are advised not to enter such zones without a valid permit.

Airline safety

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Belarus.

Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in Belarus, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we cannot get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research local laws before travelling.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

You should carry your passport, originals of the registered visa and migration card with you at all times. Authorities can request to see identification at any time. Failure to produce identification can result in being detained.

Driving with a blood alcohol level greater than zero is an offence.

Penalties for drug offences are severe and may lead to lengthy prison sentences. See Drugs: Don’t carry of consume drugs overseas - Ever.

Serious crimes, such as murder, may attract the death penalty in Belarus.

It is prohibited to photograph military installations, government buildings, monuments and uniformed officials. Local authorities may apply other restrictions or fees to photography in public areas.

Restrictions apply to certain religious activities, including preaching, distributing literature and associating with unregistered religious groups. Under Belorussian law all religious groups and organisations must register with Belorussian authorities. If you are engaged in unsanctioned worship, you could be arrested, fined, and detained.

Same-sex relationships are legal in Belarus, but are not widely accepted by society. Information for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex travellers can be found on our LGBTI page.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Information for dual nationals

Belarus does not recognise dual nationality. Belorussian law requires citizens to enter Belarus with a Belorussian passport. In addition, under Belorussian law, children born to at least one Belorussian parent, whether they were born overseas or in Belarus, are considered Belorussian citizens until they turn 16 years old.

Australian citizens entering Belarus with a Belarusian passport will be treated as Belarusian citizens by local authorities. This may limit our ability to provide consular assistance to Australian/Belarusian dual nationals who are arrested or detained.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you are away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

The standard of medical facilities in Minsk is limited and is poor outside of the capital. Basic medical supplies and pharmaceuticals are in short supply. Doctors and hospitals will request either insurance details or up-front payment of a percentage of the costs before commencing treatment. In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation to a destination with appropriate facilities would be necessary. Medical evacuation costs could be considerable.

Travel in forested areas brings the risk of exposure to tick-borne encephalitis and other tick-borne diseases. Ticks are very common in country areas from spring to autumn.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, measles, diphtheria, hepatitis and rabies) are prevalent. Avoid unpasteurised dairy products and undercooked food. In rural areas, we recommend that all drinking water be boiled or that you drink bottled water.

In regions of Belarus contaminated by radiation from the Chernobyl accident, we recommend you avoid eating dairy products, wild fowl and game, and fruits and vegetables unless they are imported.

As outlined under Entry and Exit, medical insurance is compulsory for a stay in Belarus.

Where to get help

Depending on the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider in the first instance.

If the matter relates to criminal issues, contact the local police at the nearest police station. You should always obtain a police report when reporting a crime.

In an emergency, dial the following 24 hour emergency numbers:

  • 101 for Firefighting and Rescue
  • 102 for Police
  • 103 for Medical Emergencies

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and cannot do to assist Australians overseas. Australia does not have an Embassy in Belarus. You can contact the Australian Government at the Australian Embassy in Russia for consular assistance. See contact details below:

Australian Embassy, Moscow

10a/2 Podkolokolny Pereulok
Moscow, Russia
Telephone +7 (495) 956-6070
Facsimile +7 (495) 956-6170
Website www.russia.embassy.gov.au

See the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you are travelling to Belarus, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Every year during winter, a number of people are injured or killed in snow-related accidents. These include falls, traffic accidents, avalanches, snow falling from roofs and prolonged exposure to extreme cold.

Further information on natural disasters is available from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

Additional Resources

For additional general and economic information to assist travelling in this country, see the following links:



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.