Welcome to Belarus
REPUBLIC OF BELARUS
General Information: Facts and Figures
Time: GMT + 2
Area: 207,595 sq km
Population: 9,9 mln people
Ethnic composition: Belarusians - 77,9%; Russians - 13,2%; Poles - 4,1%; Ukrainians - 2,9%; Jews - 1,1%
Borders: Russia in the North and East, the Ukrain in the South, Poland in the West, Lithuania and Latvia in the North-West.
Climate: Moderate continental and humid. Average temperature: -5ºC - 10ºC in winter, +18ºC - +25ºC in summer.
Language: The official languages of the country are Belarusian and Russian.
Belarus is a Presidential Republic since 1994. The President of the Republic of Belarus is the head of the state. The executive power is exercised by the Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister. The highest legislative body is the National Assembly that consists of two Chambers — the House of Representatives and the Council of the Republic. Judicial power is vested in law courts. The Constitutional Court supervises and controls the legality of all Acts. The Prosecutor General supervises accurate and uniform execution of laws by all state control bodies, legal and physical persons.
Nowadays, the President of the Republic of Belarus is Alexander Lukashenko and the Prime Minister is Sergey Sidorsky.
Religion: Major denominations - Orthodox and Catholic Christianity, others - Jewish, Protestant, Islamic
Electricity: 220 volts. Plugs - European 2 pin
Telephone: IDD is available at all major cities, including Minsk 172 and Brest 162. Country code: 375. When dialing from abroad the 0 of the area code should be omitted. Internet services are also available at business centers, post offices and internet cafes. Fax services are available at all hotels in Minsk.
The monetary unit in Belarus is a Belarusian rouble (BYR) issued as a banknote of the National Bank of Belarus. No coins are used. The currently used notes are of 10; 20; 50; 100; 500; 1,000; 5,000; 10,000; 20,000; 50,000 and 100,000 roubles.
The exchange rates of EUR and USD are relatively permanent, being about 1 EUR = 3,195 BYR and 1 USD = 2,149 BYR in January, 2008.
Heading to Belarus, you should better stock up on USD, EUR or RUR (Russian roubles) which can be easily exchanged for Belarusian roubles at numerous exchange offices at hotels, shops. As for other currencies, there may be some problems, since only a few banks buy them, and the exchange rate may not always please you.
Don’t change currency in the street with strangers! Changing money in the street is illegal and might cause problems with the police.
Credit Cards, Cheques
Visa, EuroCard/MasterCard, American Express, Maestro, Visa Electron, Cirrus, EC credit cards are accepted in larger hotels and in some of restaurants and shops in major Belarusian cities.
The following goods may be imported into Belarus without customs duty: 400 cigarettes or 100 cigars or 500g of tobacco products; 2 liters of alcoholic beverages; a reasonable quantity of perfume for personal use; other goods up to a total value of USD 5000. Note: On entering the country tourists have to fill out a customs declaration form, which must be retained until departure. This records articles intended for personal use, including currency and valuables. Customs inspection can be long and detailed.
- Prohibited imports: Military weapons and ammunition, narcotics, pornography.
- Prohibited exports: securities, state loan certificates, lottery tickets, works of art and antiques (unless permission has been granted by the Ministry of Culture).
Food and Drink
When in Belarus, you should not miss to taste the specialities of the area, like Belarusian borsch (beetroot soup served with sour cream), draniki potato pancakes, or machanka (pancakes served with thick gravy).
“Belovezhskaya Bitters” is a local alcoholic beverage made on the basis of 100 herbs. Please do not miss to taste the century-old beer brewed in Belarus (“Lidskoye”, “Alivariya” or from “Rakovsky Brovar” restaurant in Minsk).
A great variety of dishes with potatoes is the speciality of Belarusian national cuisine. Belarusian men prefer vodka to other strong drinks.
The best Belarusian vodka are “Kristall”, the silky “Belaya Rus”, and “Charodey” which was the only official vodka at Oscar’99 ceremony, as well as at the New Year party of prince of Monaco in 2000.
There is also a good selection of international specialities in the numerous restaurants and cafes of Minsk and other cities of Belarus.
More about national cuisine you will find in Section Belarusian Cuisine.
Your visit to Belarus will be unforgettable if you buy the souvenirs of the country — wood-carved and straw inlaid articles, straw-woven dolls and caskets, linen goods, etc. Traditional Russian souvenirs like matreshka nested dolls and original samovars are also available.
Of course, a wide range of goods such as watches, cameras, dresses, foot, wines, technichs, optical and electronic devices, furs, ceramics and glass, jewellery and toys may be bought.
- 08:00/09:00-20:00/21 00 Monday to Saturday (food shops)
- 10:00/11:00-19:00/20 00 Monday to Friday (afl others)
- 10:00/11:00-17:00/18 00 Saturday.
In the most cases business hours are:
09:00 a.m. — 06:00 p.m. Monday — Friday
09:00 a.m. — 05:00 p.m. Monday — Friday
- General shops
09:00 a.m. — 09:00 p.m. Monday — Saturday,
09:00 a.m. — 06:00 p.m. Sunday
- Food stores
09.00 a.m. — 08.00 p.m. daily
(a number of food stores in big cities are open 24 hours)
2nd Tuesday after
the Orthodox Easter
the Orthodox Easter Radunitsa (the Pray-Day for the deads of Orthodox)
Minsk city festival
October Revolution Day
Public City Transport
Metro (or Underground, or Subway) — Minsk only — admission by counter operation gates against tokens purchased at the entrance to the station (one token irrespective of the distance or changing the line). Runs from 05:30 a.m. to 01:00 p.m.
Buses, Trolleybuses, and Trams — ticket system: tickets should be purchased beforehand at the stops or from the driver. Run from 05:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Cost of one trip is about USD 0.12.
Taxi — (full capacity of taxicab is 4 pax) could be easily identified by the sign taxi on the roof top. 24 hrs a day.
Tennis, gymnastics, athletics, swimming, football and ice hockey enjoy great popularity in Belarus. Excellent cross-country skiing is available in the nature reserve near the Minsk campsite. Hiking is possible throughout Belarus. The Braslav Lake District situated in the north and northeast of the country is ideal for boating holidays. Several of the 30 lakes are connected through canals.
- A handshake is the usual greeting. Hospitality is tradition and Belarusians are welcoming and friendly.
- Company or business gifts are well received. Smoking is acceptable unless stated otherwise.
- Tipping: 10% is usual. In some hotels in Minsk and other cities a 10-15% service charge is added to the bill.
Travel - International
Air: The national airline is Belavia (B2), it offers a great number of international flights. Lufthansa, LOT Polish Airlines, and Austrian Airlines provide a regular service from Minsk to most European capitals.
- Approximate flight times: from Minsk to Frankfurt/Main or Vienna is 2 hours 25 minutes, to Moscow is 1 hour 30 minutes and to Zurich is 2 hours 50 minutes. International airport: Minsk-2 (MSQ) is located 40km from the city. Airport facilities include an exchange office, bars, car rentals, duty-free shops, restaurants and a post office.Railway service: There are several lines from Berlin via Warsaw and Brest to Minsk. Another line runs from Vienna via Bratislava, Warsaw and Brest to Minsk. Other trains accessing different destinations are available from various other Western and Eastern European cities.
Highways: Foreign tourists can choose to drive their own cars or rent one. Highway border point Poland/Belarus: Terespol-Brest. No visas are available at the border points. Belarusian medical insurance is obligatory. Gas and service stations are available on major routes (Europa highways/motorways) throughout the country, such as Brest-Minsk-Smolensk-Moscow and Brest-Minsk-Vilnius-Riga-Tallinn-St Petersburg. Distances: Minsk to Moscow; 690km (429 miles); Minsk to St Petersburg: 900km (563 miles); Minsk to Kiev: 650km (407 miles).
Travel - Within Belarus
Railway: There are 5590km (3494 miles) of track in use. Trains run regularly from Minsk to all other towns. Road: Belarus has a road network of 265,600km (166,000 miles) of which 227,000km (141,875 miles) are paved. The following documents should be carried at all times: valid passport with valid visa; International Driving License; insurance certificate.
Regulations: International traffic signs and regulations are in use.
Speed limits are 60 km per hour (37mph) in towns and cities and 90 kmph (55mph) on country lanes.
Driving under the influence of alcohol is strictly forbidden.
Documentation: International Driving License.
Urban: Public transport is cheap and efficient. The city of Minsk has an underground subway (Metro) system with two 'lines that cover central Minsk (16 stations). It is in the process of being expanded. Trains run between 06:00 and 24:00, buses, streetcars (trams) and trolleybuses run between 05:30 and 01:00. Entry to the underground Metro is by tokens, which are obtainable from the stations. There is a flat-rate fare for the metro, irrespective of the distance traveled. Tickets are required for bus, trolleybus and streetcar journeys. They can be purchased at newsstands or from the driver and are punched on board. If you need to get a TAXI you can either order it at your hotel or hail in the street. Taxis are normally yellow with checkers, and carry a maximum of 4 passengers. A green light indicates the availability of the taxi.
Angelika, tel/fax: +375 17 210 49 99; e-mail: email@example.com