|Currency:||Belorussian Ruble (BRB)|
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Belarus is an ex-USSR country in Eastern Europe. The European route E30 passes through it entering at Brest on the border with Poland and leaving at the Russian border between Orsha and Smolensk. It is a fantastic and easy-going place for hitchhiking and the police or the political system generally will not bother you at all, so once you have your visa (if needed) you can just relax and go for it. You will enjoy!
72% of the population live in towns and cities, and virtually all the population speaks Russian as their first language. In rural areas a mix of Russian and Belarusian may be spoken, but it is not a good idea to try to speak Belarusian (in the capital of the country you will especially be frowned upon by the police, as Belarusian is the language of governmental opposition). It is therefore better to make destination signs in Russian when hitchhiking.
Also, there are two versions of the Belarusian flag – the official one is the red-green flag (also jokingly known as “dusk over a swamp”), whereas the one used by the opposition is a three-striped white-red-white flag. For your own safety, it is not advised to demonstrate the latter one in public.
Freedom of speech is very restricted in Belarus, try not to ask too many questions about mr. Lukashenko, people might get in trouble when saying something bad about their politics.
In big cities, especially Minsk, you can expect young people to speak at least a basic level of English. If you are hitch-hiking to Russia along E30/M1, expect some truck drivers to speak Polish as well as Russian.
Language barrier can cause some troubles since many drivers speak almost exclusively only Russian or Trasianke, the mishmash of Belarusian and Russian, therefore please learn some basic phrases in Russian before you go there. If you do understand some Russian but you are not familiar with Belorussian culture don't get scared or disappointed hearing many swearing words when drivers talk to you – these words aren't directed to you but are rather a simple hearty expression that is very normal for everyone there.
Hitchhiking in Belarus is very easy and rarely your waiting time will extend 15 Minutes, at least on the main road M1 from Brest via Minsk to Moscow. As this is very common in Belarus, often the driver will pick you up without being curious about you or what you are doing, sometimes no communication at all. Belarussian people can seem gloomy at first sight, but in the end they are mostly very nice and helpful and drop you on a good spot. In rare cases a small number of older drivers might ask for some money when giving you a ride – to avoid that, tell the driver about your intention to travel for free before you sit into the car ("Ja puteshestvuju avtostopom, bez deneg" ["u" is pronounced as "oo" in English] – "I travel by hitch-hiking, not paying any money"). Usually, just saying 'no money' works just fine too. It might be more difficult if you are more than 2 persons travelling together – in such case it would be smart to split up for some time.
When hitchhiking in Belarus, it is very likely you will find some other people standing next to the road, waiting for a car to pick them up. Although most people do not speak English very well, it is nice to try and make some contact. Most of them might look angry, but it's just on the outside and once you'll start talking to them they're just very friendly and warm people. Some Belarussian people will even wait for an hour with you in a snowstorm, waiting for another car to stop :)
Russian and Baltic truck drivers are reluctant to stop for hitchhikers in Belarus while Belorussian and Polish trucks are happy to have a company of some traveller(s). Hitchhiking at night is difficult but if you make yourself very visible you can get a ride even at two o'clock in the night (some cars might stop just because the driver thinks you are a police – light reflectors might give such an impression).
The average waiting time is about 20 minutes. It’s better to travel using main roads as road traffic on local roads is pretty poor. In Belarus there are no roads with limitations for hitchhikers, you can start stopping a car wherever you like, the only exception is bridges. Roadsides are usually big enough to stop even a truck. Main roads are of a very good condition while roads in rural areas might unpleasantly surprise you.
Note: In Belarus you must obligatory wear a flicker (light-returning element) when you are on the road after sunset. The police have a plan to get some amount of violators each month, so the possibility of penalty (about EUR 10) is quite high. It's better to buy a flicker (it costs from EUR 1), and it's not a problem – now they are sold in any shop in Belarus. And it's a good idea to use them anyway when hitchhiking at night.
There are only about fifteen main roads in Belarus, so if you are not staying in Belarus for long you can hitch through having just a print from any Internet source (for example, this ). More detailed maps can be bought in any kiosk of "Belsouzdruk", where newspapers are sold.
In Belarus the road service is very poor, and restaurants in normal amount (for every 30-40 km) exists only on main roads, like E30/M1. But on the way there are usually a lot of small towns and villages, where in the shops you can find anything what you need (and 2-3 times cheaper than in a cafe). And of course, if you want to find some ready dishes, you can go to a students canteen or something like that.
Belarusian number plates end with a number of the department the car is registered in. For example, cars from Minsk end with number 7. See Wikipedia articles on Belarussian vehicle registration plates.
When travelling on a 'private' visa to Belarus, you have to register in a 'милиция' (militia) - office in Minsk when staying longer than 5 working days (weekends not included) in the country. You get a private visa when someone invites you to stay with them in Belarus, e.g. friends, couchsurfers or other acquantainces. When entering Belarus, you will get a so-called 'Migration-card'. It is a little piece of paper which is very important if you want to stay out of trouble. Visit a militia-office in the first 5 days of your stay in Belarus with this card, and be sure to take your and your host's passport with you (your host does not have to be there in person but it could be a lot easier as the people in the office speak hardly any english). They will require you to fill out a form and to make a payment twice(!), but it is not much. The total amount you'll have to pay will (most probably) be less than 5 Euro. After you've done all this, someone working in the office will stamp your migration card. You need a migration card that is stamped and show it to the border police to be able to leave the country so be sure to have this card and have it stamped, too. If you did not do it, you and your host can get in serious trouble.
Customs and Borders
Belarus is neither in the European Union nor in the Schengen Common Travel Area, and most non-CIS nationals would require a visa to enter the country. Please note that while there is no border control between Belarus and Russia Belarusian transit visa is still required for foreigners when transiting through the country from Russia to Poland, or vice versa. You can't get a visa at the border. If you go from Belarus to Russia make sure that you always keep your Belarussian migration card. The border is open, there is most likely no control and this means, that you will recieve no Immigration card or a Entry stamp from Russia. As there is this custom union between the countries, your card from Belarus also counts in Russia and in case you lose it you will find yourself in unfriendly situation.
Customs Locations (Entry Points)
- "Warsaw Bridge" (Варшавский мост) – the biggest crossing point located on E30 near Brest. Crossing is possible only in a vehicle. Opposite to what you could guess, the crossing is hassle free and the police not more unfriendly than elsewhere. Prepare yourself for long waiting time, if there is a lot of traffic, even very long waiting time. Even when there are just two or three cars in front of you, you can find yourself waiting for several hours.
- "Kozlovichi" (Козловичи) – for trucks only. Located at the north-western edge of Brest.
- "Domachevo" (Домачево) – vehicular crossing located some 40 kilometres south of Brest.
With Lithuania: You can walk across this border and it's probably best to do so as the lines of trucks and cars are really long. The border police is actually pretty nice! After you crossed the border to Lithuania it's only 33 kms to the capital Vilnius. After the border crossing the main road goes straight to Vilnius but, as the border takes some time for cars, and even more for trucks, you'll probably won't see that much moving traffic while hitchhiking. Your bag might be searched at this bordercrossing.
With Russia: There are no official bordercrossings between Belarus and Russia. It is not a good idea though to cross the border without the right visa!
With Ukraine: When coming from Kiev you'll probably cross the border Skytok-Novaya Guta border crossing. It is possible to walk across this border but it will take a while as they search all your stuff on the Ukrainian side. After the Ukrainian border police there is approx. 1 km of No Man's land after which you'll reach the Belarussian side. Make sure you have a visa if you need one! Very little English is spoken. The road after the border goes straight to Gomel
- Brest (rus: Брест, bel: Брэст, pol: Brześć)
- Gomel (rus, bel: Гомель)
- Grodno (rus: Гродно, bel: Гродна)
- Minsk (rus: Минск, bel: Мiнск)
- Mogilev (rus: Могилёв, bel: Магiлёў)
- Vitebsk (rus: Витебск, bel: Вiцебск)
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