In March 2017, I went to Minsk, Belarus without a visa under the new program to allow citizens of more than 80 countries to visit the country for up to five days, which launched in February 2017. Because the program is so new, I couldn’t find a first hand account of what, in practice, the requirements were to obtain compulsory travel health insurance, show financial means, and enter and exit the country.
So I’m writing this post for all those considering going to Minsk now without a visa.
Requirements for Visa-Free Travel to Belarus
According to the Belarusian Embassy in the United States’ website, the requirements for visa-free travel to Belarus are:
- a passport from one of 80 designated countries including the USA, any EU country, Brazil, and Japan
- entry and exit at Minsk Airport on flights to/from anywhere other than Russia
- a stay no longer than five days
- at least 25 euros for each day of your stay
- medical insurance for at least 10,000 euros valid in Belarus
My Experience with Those Requirements
I have an American passport, so I clearly met the passport requirement.
My passport was more thoroughly checked on entry and exit than anywhere else I’ve traveled. In both cases, the agent thoroughly inspected my face against the passport photo for a few seconds and ran a small lighted magnifying glass over the main parts of the passport including the photo and other data on the main page–presumably to see if it was a forgery.
Additionally on entry, the agent held several parts of the passport under a black light. She even left the booth with my passport for a few minutes, presumably to confer with a colleague about it.
While everyone entering the country got a thorough examination of his passport, I think I may have gotten a little extra scrutiny because, while only 15 months old, my passport’s cover is slightly fraying.
Neither agent actually asked me any questions, and eventually I received my entry and exit stamps.
Foreign Entry/Exit into Minsk not to/from Russia
You have to fly from a foreign country into Minsk and then to a foreign country from Minsk. That foreign country can’t be Russia because flights to Russia are considered domestic (and incidentally Russia is pissed about this new five day visa-free travel rule.)
Five-day visa-free travel is not allowed by flying into another Belarus airport or by crossing a land border.
I flew from Nice, France to Minsk, and then I flew from Minsk to Prague, Czechia.
I landed in Minsk at 3:20 PM on March 4 and flew out at 12:20 PM on March 8, so I was there for parts of five days.
I don’t see anywhere how “five days” is defined, so I made sure I met the most restrictive definition possible by staying for only parts of five calendar days. Unfortunately that means I got very little time on the ground, only 93 hours–less than four full days.
Before my outbound flight, I printed confirmation of my return flight to prove that I would be in Minsk less than five days if asked at check in or on arrival. No one ever asked for proof.
At Least 25 Euros for Each Day of My Stay
I happened to have about 195 euros with me, so I didn’t need to hit the ATM in France before the flight.
No one ever asked for proof of my 25 euros per day.
Medical Insurance of at least 10,000 Euros Valid in Belarus
I asked the Facebook Group “Every Passport Stamp” about this requirement before my trip, and Ian Spurlock gave the correct information:
In the arrival hall, before passport control, is a desk at Minsk Airport that sells this insurance. You can’t miss it: it says “Obligatory Medical Insurance” and several people from your flight will probably walk over to it.
The prices are listed and cheap. For five days, the cost is 6 euros, which I paid in cash.
I received a print out of the insurance. I gave that printout along with my passport at passport control. I also carried it in my passport the entire trip.
Flight attendants distributed an entry/exit card on my flight. I filled out both halves identically.
For visa number, I left it blank.
For host organization and address, I put my Airbnb host’s first name (it’s all I had) and address (although I didn’t write the actual apartment number.)
The rest of the answers (name, passport number, etc) are obvious.
I either filled those blanks in correctly, or the agent didn’t care. She filled in the visa number and said nothing to me about anything on the form.
She tore the form in half, keeping half and giving me the other half, which I kept in my passport at all times until giving it to the border agent on my exit from the country. I assume losing the exit half would be a huge hassle.
One US dollar equals 1.92 Belarusian Ruble at the time of writing.
If in your research, you see prices that are tens of thousands of rubles, that is because Belarus just redenominated its currency this year so that 10,000 old rubles (BYR) are one new ruble (BYN.) Some stores and restaurants list old and new prices for locals’ reference, but you will only ever see new bills and coins.
I got my rubles from an ATM with no fee. There are also plenty of options to change dollars or euros. You can also easily use a credit card most places.
Prices in Minsk are roughly half what I’d expect to pay in the US, considerably less for some things.
Uber is easy to use in Minsk, including to and from the airport, and is cheap. I paid 26 rubles each way to and from the airport, which is less than $14 for a 40 minute ride. The official taxis charge $30.
Within the city, most rides were $2-$3.
Drivers speak little to no English, but since you type in your destination, that doesn’t really matter.
Airbnbs are widely available in Minsk. Four nights in the dead center of town in a decent one bedroom apartment cost me $135 all in.
Make sure to read some of my best posts about Airbnb like “The One Killer Message to Get Big Discounts on Airbnb.”
Before going to Minsk without a visa:
- buy international flights into and out of Minsk four days apart (so you are on the ground parts of five days)
- get at least 125 euros cash out (though this wasn’t checked for me)
- rent an Airbnb
Once you land:
- pay 6 euros for your medical insurance
- clear passport control and hold onto the half of the entry/exit form you are given
- order an Uber