Safety and security
We strongly advise you to avoid political demonstrations, rallies, marches or public gatherings, which increasingly have the potential to turn unpredictable and volatile. Being around such demonstrations or rallies could be interpreted as actively participating in the event, and could result in detention by the authorities.
Always keep yourself informed of what’s going on around you by monitoring local media and staying in contact with your hotel or tour organiser.
Although the threat from terrorism in Belarus is low, there is still a global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by tourists and expatriates. Be vigilant and follow the instructions and advice of local police at all times.
A bomb exploded at Oktyabryskaya metro station in central Minsk during the evening rush hour in 2011, killing 15 people and injuring over 200.
You should be alert at all times to the possibility of tourist crime, particularly muggings, pickpockets and theft from vehicles or hotel rooms. Always take sensible precautions:
- Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place.
- Don’t carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home.
- Take extra care when travelling by train as theft can occur, especially on overnight sleeper trains to Warsaw and Moscow.
- When visiting night clubs, pay particular attention to your surroundings and drinks, as the drugging of drinks is not uncommon.
If you’re a victim of a crime while in Belarus, report it to the local police immediately. And you can contact us at the Irish Embassy in Vilnius if you need help.
If you’re planning to drive in Belarus, be extremely careful as driving standards are erratic and driving is on the right-hand side. Belarusian ‘A-class’ highways are in average to good condition, but the condition of ‘B-class’ roads varies considerably and some are impassable for periods in winter.
If you want to drive:
- Bring your full Irish driver’s licence and your international driving permit and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance.
- Note that road works and potholes are usually poorly marked.
- Pony and trap combinations are a specific hazard for drivers in rural and unlit areas.
- Be aware that you could be fined for jaywalking.
- Vehicles should have lights on at all times from 1 November to 31 March inclusive
- Most traffic signs are in Cyrillic script only (not Latin).
Be aware of Belarus’s traffic laws, such as speed limits. The speed limit in built-up areas is 60km/h, unless specified otherwise. Outside built-up areas, the limit is 90km/h, and on motorways the speed limit is 100km/h. If you’ve held a driver’s licence for less than two years, you must not exceed 70km/h.
When travelling by private vehicle, you must be able to produce ownership documents at customs offices at border crossings. If you’re not the owner of the car, you must produce a letter of ‘power of attorney’. Only originals of these documents are accepted.
If you’re driving into Belarus make sure that you don’t overstay the temporary import terms for your vehicles. If you violate the exit deadline, your vehicle could be confiscated at the Belarusian border or at an in-country police checkpoint.
Driving on the motorway
There’s a fee system in operation on Belarus' highways for drivers of foreign vehicles. Payments are collected at border checkpoints and will vary according to the length of your stay.
You must have third party car insurance or you may get an ‘on-the-spot’ fine. You can only buy this when entering Belarus. Ask at Belarusian Customs border offices for information.
There are police checkpoints on routes throughout the country. Always stop at these when instructed, and have your vehicle documentation to hand, otherwise you risk a fine and delay.
There may be long queues at the border and customs and immigration can be lengthy and bureaucratic. Ignore ‘private facilitators’ who offer to help travellers pass through checkpoints and border crossings.
Hiring a vehicle
If you’re hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.
Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).
Many adventure sports operators are unregulated, and so take care when you’re choosing and always go with reputable tour operators.
Wed, 18 May 2016 09:09:10 BST