Visa Policy in Belarus: Avoiding Denial at the Border

Belarus loosened its visa policy in July 2018.  Now, most people can enter Belarus visa-free for up to 30 days.  However, this is an oversimplification of the entry requirements to Belarus, as I learned through expensive, firsthand experience.  I’ll share my mistake with you so that you can have a hassle-free entry and enjoy the many places Belarus has to offer.

Disclaimer

This post is based on my experience in July 2019, entering with a U.S. passport.  Entrance policies are subject to change at any time, so please double check current policies for your situation and country. 

Belarus visa policy according to country

Below are links to help you navigate entrance policies based on the country your passport is from. I also recommend that you take a look at the visa entrance policy according to Belarus which can be found on their website mfa.gov.by.

I’ve included links to four major English speaking countries below, as the majority of my readers are from these countries. If your country isn’t listed here, please do your research, and thank you for reading 😊

Australia: Belarus Visa Entrance Policy

Canada: Belarus Visa Entrance Policy

United Kingdom: Belarus Visa Entrance Policy

United States: Belarus Visa Entrance Policy

Lessons Learned on the Road: How not to travel to Belarus

If you find yourself ready to purchase a bus to Belarus, I’m going to stop you right there.

People with passports from nearly every country in the world cannot enter Belarus via a land border.

The only people who are able to enter Belarus by land are those with passports from countries such as Ukraine and Russia.

If you don’t fall into this category, the only way that you can both enter and exit Belarus is via the Minsk National Airport. 

That’s it. 

No exceptions.

To reiterate, you cannot enter Belarus via the Minsk National Airport and then exit by land or vice versa. Taking a flight into and out of the Minsk National Airport is your only option for getting across the Belarussian border.

If I’ve got you on the edge of your seat about my expensive mistake, here it goes. 

My expensive Belarusian visa mistake

I had purchased a bus ticket from Kyiv, Ukraine to Minsk, Belarus a couple of weeks in advance.  Just two hours before my bus was to leave Kyiv, it occurred to me that I should double-check visa policies in Belarus. 

As you now know, it would have been impossible for me to cross the Ukrainian-Belarussian border by land with a U.S. passport. I solved the bus situation by buying a flight to Minsk for that same afternoon. 

Up to this point, that was my biggest travel “oops.” 

Hang tight, because the “oops” gets bigger.

In a series of unrelated events to Belarus, but very related to my wallet, the Kyiv Airport temporarily closed due to a scratched runway.  Chaos ensued and I missed my flight to Minsk because the gate changed, which was only announced in Russian. 

In case you lost count, that makes two flights that I purchased on the same day, for the same place.

To date, the bus and gate change situation combined is my biggest travel “oops.”

But enough about me.  Let’s get back to you and the smooth entry into Belarus you’re going to have.

Visa policy in Belarus: Arriving to the Minsk National Airport is the only way to get your visa.
The Minsk National Airport, taken from my plane window.

Health Insurance Requirements in Belarus

Upon your arrival in Belarus, you’ll first come to immigration.  If you don’t already have proof of health insurance that covers travel to Belarus, get ready, because you’re going to buy it before you get in the immigration line.

There are two health insurance offices in the immigration area, both offering the same plan. 

Health insurance is a requirement for any foreigner to Belarus, regardless of the length of your stay.  However, the price is dependent on your time in the country.

Spoiler: It isn’t expensive.

Below is a photo of the price sheet that I took in July 2019:            

A price chart of the costs of the Belarus health insurance policy.

You can pay by credit card, Euro, USD, or the Belarusian Ruble.

The health insurance policy covers basic medical expenses, although if you want more complete coverage, you’re better off purchasing your own insurance in advance.

Below is a photo I took from the health insurance packet they gave me, which summarizes the policy:

Details on what the Belarus health insurance policy covers, which is part of the visa policy in Belarus.

Getting through immigration

With health insurance in hand, you’re ready to pass through immigration. 

I don’t know about you, but when I go through immigration at more “iffy” countries, suddenly my mind goes blank about where I flew in from, how long I’ll be staying, where I’ll be staying, etc.

The good news is that if you’re like that, too, you should be okay. 

I wasn’t asked a single question by my immigration officer.  However, I stood there for what felt like an eternity as she flipped through every page of my passport, put each page through a machine, and took a magnifying glass to the front pages.

As is sound advice when entering any country, you should be equipped with a proof of departure date, even though in the case of Belarus, it didn’t seem necessary.

30 Day Visa Policy for Belarus: Reading between the lines

We’ve established that you can enter Belarus for up to 30 days without applying for a visa.  However, if you’ll be spending more than five of those thirty days in the country, then you need to register with the Citizenship and Migration Department of the Ministry of the Interior.

Come again?

It seems like a rather intimidating and time-consuming requirement, but if you’ll be staying at a hotel, they’ll do it for you. 

In fact, although I stayed at an Airbnb, my host went through the process of registering me without me even needing to be present.  I’ve heard this is the case for others as well, and for good reason- both you and your host/hotel would be held liable if you stay over five days without registering.

Travel Tip: The five day count includes your arrival and departure days. If you have an early morning departure (such as 1:00am), this counts as one day.

So, what does being held liable entail?

A fine, deportation, and/or being banned from entering Belarus in the future.

Long story short, in order to register with the ministry, you’ll need to show your passport, proof of health insurance coverage, and your address.  Copies of both will do, which is how my Airbnb host registered me on her own.

The envelope you'll be given with your Belarusian health insurance.
You’ll need to show proof of health insurance to register with the Citizenship and Migration Department of the Ministry of the Interior.

Exiting Belarus: Departure Shenanigans

We’re going to fast forward through your wonderful stay in Belarus, where you got to mingle with locals, ate lots of potato pancakes, and hung out with locals on Kebab Mile. If you’re spending even a few hours in Minsk, make sure to check out my post on Belarus Uncovered: 18 Unique Things to do in Minsk and our accessible version, Wheelchair Accessible Things to do in Minsk.

Exiting Belarus was basically déjà vu of entering, minus the purchasing insurance part.  My immigration officer scrutinized my passport and asked me nothing.

It wasn’t until my plane was in the air that I felt that I felt like I had truly made it through immigration. In fact, I drafted this post while at the airport in a cursive font even illegible to me, just in case anyone was looking over my shoulder.

Two hours later, I was greeted in Istanbul with hassle-free immigration, something I hadn’t anticipated given the current U.S. – Turkey relationship. In travel, you’ve just got to expect the unexpected. 

Conclusion

I hope this post helped to give you an idea of how to prepare for your entry into beautiful Belarus.  If you have any questions that I didn’t cover here, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll do my best to help.

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