Belarus - Consular Information Sheet
October 11, 2000
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Economic and political reform in
Belarus has stalled under the current government. Human rights
are regularly abused by the Belarusian authorities. Tourist facilities
are not highly developed, and many of the goods and services taken
for granted in other countries are not yet available. Localized
street disturbances relating to political events may occur without
warning, most frequently in Minsk, the capital. Bystanders, including
foreign nationals, face the possibility of arrest, beating, and
detention. Since April 1999, three prominent members of the opposition
have disappeared without a trace, and are believed to be dead.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport and
visa are required. A visa must be obtained before entering Belarus.
Travelers who do not have a visa cannot register at hotels. U.S.
citizens residing in Belarus are required to register with the
local Office of Visas and Registration (OVIR). Failure to do so
can result in fines and visits from local militia. U.S. citizens
staying in hotels are automatically registered at check-in. Visa
validity dates are strictly enforced; travelers should request
sufficient time to allow for delays in arrival and departure.
As of October 1, 2000, Belarus requires all foreign nationals
entering the country to purchase medical insurance at the port-of-entry
regardless of any other insurance one might have. Costs for this
insurance will vary according to the length of stay (Subject to
change, current information puts costs at $1.00 for a one-day
stay; $15.00 for a stay of 60 days, up to a maximum of $85.00
for a stay of a year.)
U.S. citizens traveling through Belarus to other countries are
strongly reminded that there is a transit visa requirement for
entering and leaving Belarus. Transit visas should be obtained
prior to any journey that requires travel through Belarus. Commonwealth
of Independent States (CIS) and Russian visas are no substitute
for this transit visa. U.S. citizens attempting to transit Belarus
without a valid Belarusian transit visa have been denied entry
into the country and forcibly removed from trains. Most travel
agencies, including those in Russia and CIS countries as well
as train ticket sales personnel, are often not aware of this visa
requirement and may not seek a transit visa for a traveler unless
instructed by the traveler to do so.
For more information concerning entry requirements, travelers
should contact the Belarus Embassy located at 1619 New Hampshire
Ave, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20009, tel. (202) 986-1606 or the Belarus
Consulate in New York at 708 Third Avenue, 21st floor, New York,
NY, 10017, tel. (212) 682-5392.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Security personnel may at times place
foreign visitors under surveillance. Hotel rooms, telephones and
fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel
rooms may be searched. Taking photographs of anything that could
be perceived as being of military or security interest may result
in problems with authorities. These sites are not always clearly
marked and application of these restrictions is subject to interpretation.
There have been numerous situations involving American citizens
traveling through Belarus by train in which Americans have been
required to disembark while in transit. In some instances local
border and train authorities have threatened passengers with jail
or extorted "fines" when it was learned that they did
not possess a valid transit visa. In some cases, American citizens
have been subjected to rude and threatening treatment including
body and baggage searches. American citizens are advised not to
pay any border or train officials for transit visas. These officials
are not authorized to issue such visas. Nor should Americans pay
"transit visa fines." Americans finding themselves in
Belarus without transit visas should, if confronted by border
or train personnel, demand to be put in contact with consular
officials at the American Embassy in Minsk.
CRIME INFORMATION: Belarus has a moderate rate of crime
and common street crime continues to increase, especially at night
and in or near hotels frequented by foreigners. Foreigners, and
particularly foreign cars, tend to be targets of crime. Travelers
should keep a copy of their passport in a separate location from
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported
immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or
Consulate. U.S. citizens can refer to the Department of State's
Safe Trip Abroad for ways to promote a more trouble-free
journey. Additional information on the region can be found in
the brochure Tips
for Travelers to Russia. Both publications are available
from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing
Office, Washington, D.C. 20402.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical care in Belarus is limited.
There is a severe shortage of basic medical supplies, including
anesthetics, vaccines and antibiotics. Elderly travelers and those
with existing health problems may be at risk due to inadequate
MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always
valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs
do not provide payment for medical services outside the United
States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment
for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care
overseas may face extreme difficulties. Beginning on October 1,
2000, Belarus will require all foreign nationals entering the
country to purchase medical insurance at the port-of-entry (See
Check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your
policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation,
and for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems requiring
hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States
can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Ascertain whether payment
will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you
will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance
policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for
disposition of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas
insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau
of Consular Affairs brochure Medical
Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available
via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202)
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: The Embassy recommends against
drinking the local water even in larger cities. It is recommended
visitors instead drink only bottled or filtered water. It is also
inadvisable to eat any food grown in the contaminated areas near
Chernobyl, especially mushrooms and berries. Consumption of Belarusian
milk is best avoided as well.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may
be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's
hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747);
fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC'S
Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign
country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ
significantly from those in the United States. The information
below concerning Belarus is provided for general reference only,
and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Fair
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor
U.S. citizens may drive in Belarus with their home country driver's
license for up to six months from arrival. Foreign drivers should,
therefore, always carry their passports to prove date of entry
into the country in the event they are stopped by the police.
After residing in Belarus for six months, one may apply for a
local driver's license. A medical exam at the Driver's Clinic,
which will include a chest x-ray, is the only exam required to
receive a local driver's license.
The roads in Belarus range from short stretches of highways where
cars and trucks can exceed speeds of 120 km/h (75 mph) to dirt
roads where 40 km/h (25 mph) is difficult to sustain. Visible
and hidden dangers are profuse, including large potholes, the
absence of roadsigns, and lack of service areas. Other hazards
include unlit or poorly lit streets, inattentive and dark-clothed
pedestrians walking on unlit roads, drivers under the influence
of alcohol, and a common disregard for traffic rules. Driving
in winter is especially dangerous because many roads are not properly
cleared of ice and snow. Driving with caution is urged at all
Taxi service is prompt although fares vary greatly and the automobiles
themselves are often in poor condition. Buses and trolleys are
poorly maintained, lack heating or cooling capabilities, and are
additional information about road safety, see the Department of
State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page's road safety overseas
feature at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial
air service at present, or economic authority to operate such
service, between the U.S. and Belarus, the U.S. Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) has not assessed Belarus' Civil Aviation
Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards.
For further information, travelers may contact the Department
of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit
Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. The U.S.
Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air
carriers for suitability as official providers of air services.
For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers,
travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.
CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Belarus's customs authorities may
enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into
or export from Belarus of items such as icons, art, rugs, antiquities,
etc. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Belarus in Washington
or one of Belarus's Consulates in the United States for specific
information regarding customs requirements.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S.
citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which
sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States
and may not afford the protections available to the individual
under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe
than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating
Belarus's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or
imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal
drugs in Belarus are strict and convicted offenders can expect
jail sentences and heavy fines.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Traveler's checks are not widely
accepted in Belarus. Most Intourist hotels accept either American
Express or Visa credit cards. In addition, one hotel in Minsk,
The Planeta, provides cash from Visa credit cards during business
hours. Travelers face arrest if they attempt to buy items with
currency other than Belarusian rubles.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information
on international adoption of children and international parental
child abduction please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html
or telephone (202) 736-7000.
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATION: Americans
living in or visiting Belarus are encouraged to register at the
Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Belarus and to obtain
updated information on travel and security within Belarus. The
U.S. Embassy is located in Minsk at 46 Starovilenskaya Ulitsa;
telephone (375) 172-10-12-83 or 234-77-61, fax (375) 172-76-88-62.
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated January 7,
2000, to amend the country background information and update the
section on Entry Requirements to address transit visa problems,
and to address issues relating Health, Health Insurance, and Safety