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Travelling in Belarus

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WS Member ユーザー WS Member の写真
Travelling in Belarus

Hi everyone!
I am planning to travel from Minsk to Istanbul.

As I started looking into it and planning, the first few question marks aroused, so I thought about posting them here hoping to get clarifications.

First (and main) is the Visa issue.

I understand there is now a 5 days visa-free stay available, but it won’t be my case as you are only allowed to travel in and out the country through Minsk airport.

With the single entry visa (up to 90 days) things seem to get more restrictive (for people like me who want to wild camp). There is this thing about pre-booking the hotels/apartments that I don’t quite understand, how does that work?

I also found that there is an alternative way of applying via a “simplified procedure”, where you need to include an invitation from a Belarusian citizen complete of personal details and registration (guess registration here stands for residence?) address - which still doesn’t seem to simplify things that much, given the fact that I don’t know anybody in Belarus who can invite me (!).

Got most of these info from: http://uk.mfa.gov.by/en/consular_issues/visas/

So my questions on this are: has anyone ever had experience of traveling in Belarus? If so, how did you get your visa? And, did you camp or did you book hotels?

The second thought regards border crossing.

I’ve read of some border crossings being only for cars. Apparently in such places bikes are not allowed to cross at all, unless carried on a car (!).

Has anyone had any experience in this regards?
I am going to be crossing the southern border going into Ukraine to Kiev.
Does anyone know whether there are any issues of this kind in that area? And if so, which are the places to avoid (and/or the ones to go to)?

The last point I’d like to ask about is the areas affected by radiations.
As I will be going from Minsk to Kiev, I have the possibility to travel through the areas that were most affected by Chernobyl’s accident.
I’ve read different things about travelling in this areas (from filtering the tap water to washing clothes and tent after use in the forests, and avoiding food sold by the roadside), but haven’t found any report made by travellers.

Any thoughts or experiences on this?
I would also like to find out if there is something that is worth reporting, like problems related to these affected areas, stuff that could be filmed/shot and brought back to show the world.
If you know or have any ideas on this, put it in your answer!

I think I asked everything for now :)

Thanks for sparing your time to read my lengthy post!

Mattia

*bring positiveness around the world at the pace dictated by your heart!*

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WS Member ユーザー WS Member の写真
Hello!

Hello!
Maybe this page will be useful for you and other cyclists who are going to Belarus: https://eurovelo.by/en/useful-information/

And please feel free to ask our local cycling tourists supporting community via email euroveloguide@bike.org.by, there are some volunteers will be received your message and will try to help you.

WS Member ユーザー WS Member の写真
Belarus is very original and

Belarus is very original and worth visiting, however it takes some effort arranging. I've visited there several times, with and without a bike. Unfortunately, the visa procedures are quite strict and not favourable for a solo bike tourer who'd like to wild camp. Few years back, I organised a bike tour for a small group, and we used Rural Belarus's services http://www.ruralbelarus.by. They are specialised in farmstays, which are nice for groups, but not a practical option for a solo cycle tourer. Last summer, I visited the Belovezhkaya Pushscha area, where you can stay without a visa for max 3 days. 

Another thing is that once you have arrived at Belarus, you need to register. Usually it's done at a hotel upon arrival. More info here: https://www.visa.by/en/embassy/registration/

I'd advice contacting a Belarusian travel agency and asking them if they can arrange things for you and what's the cost. Anyway, you probably can't avoid booking at least some hotel nights. Belarus is not too expensive, but some agencies might want to sell you the more expensive hotels. 

Few other comments to your post above:

  • Crossing the border on a bike: it's actually Ukraine which doesn't allow cycling. I've hitchhiked from Poland to Ukraine, just asked folks in the vans and found a ride in 15 minutes or so. 
  • Tshernobyl & radiation: the most affected area is restriced, I don't believe you can get there by accident. Tours are organised to the area, so it has become a grim tourist attraction. Some of my friends have visited there but I haven't found it very inspirational. Outside the restricted area, normal people are living their normal life. 
  • As much as I've travelled in Belarus, it is quite convenient and safe. If there's an area to be avoided for reason or another, it's usually signed and guarded. 
  • Language: cyrillics + few phrases in Russian are recommended. Belarus and Ukraine have their own languages, but Russian is widely spoken. I speak some Russian so that I can deal with simple stuff.
  • Food & drink: tap water is usually not drinkable anyway. Unless you have dietary restrictions, all food is ok to eat, never had issues. 

So, the visa arrangements is the most difficult part. Once you get there, I'm sure you'll have a wonderful tour!

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