Belarus is the perfect place for a vacation if something about the Cold War and Soviet Era intrigues you, as this landlocked Eastern European country hasn’t changed dramatically since the fall of the Soviet Union. Belarus has two official languages, Belarusian and Russian, and much of the architecture and cities will transport you back to a different period of history. Belarus travel also includes surprises such as spectacular World Heritage sites, like Mir Castle, and it is famously known for being home to beautiful people. If you’re looking for a place to escape from Western culture that has seemed to spread so far, consider getting on the next train for Belarus.
Before departure, you’ll need to secure a visa. All westerners need to make arrangements for a visa before traveling. Visa regulations for Belarus travel change frequently, so you’ll want to contact an embassy for the latest information. The visa costs approximately $50 to $90, depending on how quickly you need the visa, and it is best secured through a travel agency; the agencies can provide the embassy with a confirmation of your hotel reservation in order to secure a visa. It is possible for independent travelers to go through this process as well, but some agencies specialize in removing the hassle from this process. Once your visa is secured, a holiday in Belarus usually begins in the capital city of Minsk.
The city of Minsk screams communism: the streets are very orderly, buildings are staunch, and colors are drab. And yet, your holiday in Belarus is sure to move beyond these surface symbols of communism and to the symbols of modernity that are sprouting up in the city. Cafés and nightclubs are growing in number and offer a great opportunity to talk to reserved, but friendly locals. Far from the beaten tourist path, it is likely you might not encounter another traveler during your Belarus trip. This removes some of the hassle from travel planning, as there is no time of year that should be avoided because of crowds. For instance, Minsk looks beautiful under a layer of winter snow, and crisp days encourage travelers to spend more time in the friendly, cozy cafés.
The currency of Belarus is the Belarusian Rouble. ATMs are easy to find, and banks will exchange money as well. Other symbols of the Soviet era include a noticeable police presence, and you might hear local people talk about spies, propaganda, or the controversial status of President Alexander Lukashenko. Minsk was destroyed in World War II and rebuilt by the Russians, and this presence is palpable when walking the streets of Minsk, whether you're visiting the National Museum of History and Culture, the baroque Holy Spirit Cathedral, or the KGB building. Hotels are comfortable and affordable, and they are typically booked in advance while making arrangements for a visa.
Belarus travel is manageable via air or train. Minsk has two international airports and a central train station, and tickets for international destinations can be purchased on the same day at the train station. Restaurants and cafés are one of the highlights of a holiday in Belarus, and both traditional and international fare is on offer, especially in the capital city. Other cities of interest include Brest, Hrodna, and, the birthplace of Marc Chagall, Vitsebsk. A strong sense of the past, feeling of international immersion, and curiosity of the unknown all attract adventurous travelers to Belarus, and you won't leave disappointed.