How safe is Belarus for travelers? Everything you need to know about crime, scams, civil unrest and the potential threat of terrorism in Belarus.
Photo © Getty Images/Frans Sellies
Coronavirus (COVID-19) travel restrictions in Belarus – updated 18 January 2022: entry into Belarus a land border for foreign citizens has been suspended. There is a narrow list of concessions, and you can check the State Border Committee website for details. Flights continue to operate in and out of Minsk and regional airports as normal. Travelers arriving from countries where COVID-19 cases have been reported (check for the latest updates on the Belarus Government website) must self-isolate for 10 days. Foreign travelers must have a negative PCR COVID-19 test result taken within 48 hours of arrival. Check to see if you require a visa. Foreign travelers must have valid medical insurance to cover their stay.
Before you buy a travel insurance policy, check your government travel warnings and health advice – there may be no travel insurance cover for locations with a government travel ban or health advice against travel.
Wondering how your travel insurance might be affected by the COVID-19 outbreak? Find answers to some of our common questions about COVID-19.
Crime in Belarus
Belarus is generally a safe place for travelers, police and security services are loyal to the government and opposition can result in an immediate crackdown. Violent crimes against travelers are rare, however you should always exercise common sense. If you find yourself in a dangerous situation, don’t be a hero – hand over whatever it is the perpetrator is asking for, or try to walk away and find a safe place. Avoid public demonstrations and protests as they are likely to be confrontational with force being used against those taking part.
The biggest threat to travelers in Belarus is petty theft, particularly on public transport, sleeper trains, and in popular tourist destinations around Minsk.
- Be cautious, alert and aware of your surroundings and belongings at all times
- Keep your wallet, bag or backpack zipped shut and in front of you
- Men should try to keep their wallets in the front rather than the back pocket
- Don’t carry large sums of money with you, or draw attention to yourself
- Wealthy tourists represent rich pickings for Belarusian thieves, so don’t make it obvious by wearing flashy jewelry or super fancy clothing.
Another target for thieves in Belarus is European, Japanese and American-made SUV and luxury cars. Car jacking is rare, but car theft and theft of car parts is common here. Again, inconspicuousness is the key: park in secure overnight parking areas, and don’t leave valuables on the back seat of the car – hide your belongings in the boot or beneath seats if you absolutely have to keep them in the car.
Civil unrest in Belarus
Following elections held in August 2020, a wave of anti-government protests began after its authoritarian president since 1994, Alexander Lukashenko, claimed to have won an 80% victory. The election outcome was widely contested, and media outlets have reported protestors being detained and injured on the streets. The opposition leader, Svetlana Tikhanouskaya, fled Belarus for her safety a few days after the election.
Belarus is an authoritarian state. Political unrest or dissention is not tolerated, and foreign travelers should stay well away from any political demonstrations, marches or large public gatherings.
If you participate in any kind of rally or demonstration, particularly if you are caught holding a banner, expect to be detained. Avoid any political demonstrations at all costs.
Drink spiking and drugs in Belarus
While there are strong penalties for possession or use of drugs in Belarus (convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines), there have been reports of drugged travelers by drink spiking in nightclubs. It can be very difficult to tell if your drink has been spiked, so here are a few ways to avoid it:
- Never accept a drink from a stranger
- Don’t leave your drink unattended
- Try to keep your hand over your drink if you are walking through nightclubs or bars
- Don’t drink anything you didn’t open yourself, see it be opened or poured by a bar tender
- If you think your drink has been spiked, if you feel dizzy or sick, ask someone you trust to take you to a safe place or a hospital, and report it to the authorities.
Prostitution is fairy common in Belarus, and it’s not unheard of for sex-workers to try to enter hotels in search of customers. This really only happens at smaller, local hotels.
As of 2020, Belarus is the only country in Europe which still has capital punishment. Execution is the punishment for murder, terrorism, treason, conspiracy and sabotage. If you are arrested for a crime in Belarus, you may not have automatic access to your consular official and you may be summarily expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Terrorism in Belarus
Terrorist attacks have not occurred in Belarus in recent years, however terrorism can occur anywhere and the threat cannot be ruled out entirely. Before you travel, check your government travel advisory.
Bombings have occurred in 2005, 2008 and 2011. In the 2011 Minsk Metro bombing, 14 people were killed and more than two hundred were injured in an explosion.
Be alert, but not alarmed. Always register your trip with consular officials.
LGBTQ+ safety in Belarus
While same-sex relationships are permitted in Belarus, the LGBTQ+ scene is very low-key and few members of the LGBTQ+ community are open about their sexuality.
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