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Belarus Travel Guide

Introduction to the Belarus Travel Guide

Belarus travel can be a wonderful experience. Belarus is rich in culture and history, relatively inexpensive and not yet over-run by tourists. However, because English is not common and information is not widely available, Belarus travel can be challenging for the first-time visitor. This Belarus Travel Guide goes into depth to give Belarus travelers much of the information necessary to get here and get as much from the visit as possible. The pages of this Belarus Travel Guide offer information about visas, accomodation, sightseeing and transportation for Minsk and the rest of Belarus. On the bottom of each page of the Belarus Travel Guide you will find a comment box. Your suggestions will help us to develop the Belarus travel guide to be an important source of travel information for Belarus travel.

Arriving in Belarus
Belarus travel allows you to experience a different world. Belarus still clings to the Soviet past and has a very different atmosphere compared with neighboring countries, such Lithuania. In fact, a trip to both Lithuania and Belarus, two ex-soviet states and very close neighbors, is a remarkable experience. Lithuania has rapidly become very Western-oriented while Belarus is still very much Eastern-oriented and you feel the difference instantly. (The contents of this website are copyrighted by TravelsWise.com, the Europe Travel Guide).

Clearing customs and the border to Belarus can be stressful, but foreigners usually have an advantage: Belarusian boarder guards rarely speak English. Most of the time, they look quickly at your passport and leave you in peace.

Checking into your hotel may be unpleasant. You may not feel the warm welcome you would expect at a hotel reception desk. Don’t take it as a sign that you are not welcome. Most hotels in Belarus are state owned and customer satisfaction is not the priority on their minds. However, enter a restaurant and the attitude is very different.You will be welcomed at the typical restaurant and treated with a high level of service. Why the difference? Most restaurants are privately owned and their survival depends on customer satisfaction.

Geography, Climate and Lifestyle
Belarus is a relatively flat country. The difference between its highest point and its lowest point is only 264 meters. The highest point at 346 meters above sea level is Dzyarzhinskaya hill, located in Minsk Province, named after ‘Iron Felix’ Dzerzhinsky the founder of the KGB. The lowest point in Belarus at 90 meters above sea level is Nyman River, one of the three major rivers of Belarus. (the other two are the Prypyat and the Dnepr. The Dnepr is Europe’s third longest river after the Volga and Danube). Forests cover approximately 47% of the country. This makes Belarus the 7th most forested country of Europe (behind Finland, Sweden, Slovenia, Russia, Estonia and Austria) and the 37th most forested country in the world.

Belarus weather is extreme; extremely pleasant in the summer and extremely cold in the winter. The average temperature in Minsk in January is -7 degrees Celsius; however, temperatures of -25 or -30 are not unusual. So if you go in winter be prepared! The average temperature in July is a mild +17 degrees Celsius.

To get an idea of standard of living, the United Nations Development Program creates a Human Development Index (HDI) which is composite index measuring average achievement in three basic dimensions of human development—a long and healthy life, knowledge and a decent standard of living. In 2004 the HDI of Belarus ranked number 67 out of 177 countries measured. For comparison Mexico was 53, Brazil 69, China 81, Turkey 92 and Egypt 111.

Crime
You will certainly notice that police are everywhere. In the streets, in the shops, on almost every corner there is a policeman walking around or flagging down cars and making controls. However, you will likely never be approached by a policeman. Other than pick-pocketing, we do not hear about much crime in Belarus. This is not to say it doesn’t happen, it probably does as in every large city. While we do not know the statistics, we assume that the crime rate in Minsk is probably similar to or lower than in most cities of a comparable size.