All You Have to Know to Survive in Belarus
Among the people of ex-Soviet Union, Belarusians enjoy a good reputation. They are considered to be educated, kind hearted, hard working people. Indeed, most of Belarusians are affable and hospitable, and we sincerely wish you to find friends in this country. If you are asked around, you will most likely find a hearty meal as dictated by the national traditions, even though the hosts may not be well-to-do people (the average monthly salary is $50 to $90).
A great variety of dishes with potatoes is the speciality of Belarusian national cuisine. Belarusian men prefer vodka to other strong drinks. Some local factories produce excellent vodka «Belaya Rus’ and the famous national coloured vodka «Belovezhskaya» drawn on herbs.
Belarus is not ranked among highly criminal countries. However, one should not forget about normal circumspection in behaviour.
The temporary monetary unit in today’s Belarus is a Belarusian rouble emitted as a bank-note of the national Bank ol Belarus which replaced the former Soviet rouble in 1992. In the future, after overcoming inflation, new permanent bank-notes are supposed to be introduced.
The bank-notes currently used are printed in 100. 200, 500, 1000. 5000,20000.50000.100000 denominations.
Over 1995-1996, the inflation was diminished in comparison with 1992-1994; but the exchange rate of USD is constantly rising, being $ 1=20,000 Belarusian roubles in November, 1996
Heading to Belarus, you should better stock up on US Dollars, DMs or Russian roubles which can be easily exchanged for Belarusian roubles at numerous exchange outlets. As lor other currencies, there may be some problems, since only few big banks buy them, and the exchange rate may not always please you. II should also be noted that many exchange outlets buy unwillingly shabby or slightly torn bank-notes, as well as bank-notes of old issues (e.g. the Dollar notes issued before 1990), and the currency exchange rate varies from bank to bank and may differ solidly from the official rate announced by the National Bank.
Passports and Visa regulations border regimes
Foreign citizens must have valid passports and visas to come to Belarus if there is no visa-free entrance agreement between your country and Belarus. To obtain a visa, you require an invitation from a Belarusian organisation, a firm or a private person. The invitation from a firm must be typed on its official letter-head and certified with a seal, and the firm itself must be registered as a participant of the foreign trade activity. The invitation from a private person must be executed on a standard blank certified by competent state authorities. Names and surnames, the date and place of birth, the passport number, the aim and duration ot visit to Belarus of the person invited must be shown in the invitation.
You must get a visa beforehand in the Belarusian consulate in your country. If there is no Belarusian consulate in you country, you may buy visa, as a case of exception, on the border of RB.
If you are a Russian visa-holder, you may come to Belarus and stay here for 48 hours for transit.
Within 72 hours (excluding days-off and holidays) after your entering the territory of Belarus, the inviting organisation or private person must register your arrival with the Internal Affairs department. If you stay up MONEY at a hotel, it will be automatically done by the administration of the hotel.
Since Belarus and Russia have created a customs union, the Bela-rusian-Russian border, unlike other borders, is practically transparent, and if you are crossing it by train or by car you are not likely to be asked to show your passport. However, formally a Belarusian visa gives you the right to come to Russia only for 72 hours for transit. It means that you may arrive in Moscow or St.Petersburg and spend 2-3 days there, after that you need not go back to Belarus but to some third country whatever required (though possibly through the territory of Belarus). We recommend that you keep your railway ticket which you used to come to Russia — it testifies that you are staying in the country less than 72 hours.
When you arrive in or depart from Belarus you must fill in a customs declaration in writing where you show the amount of the currency brought in or out. precious metals, art works, etc. The filled-in customs declaration must be kept together with the passport and you must show them when you depart. As for the rest. Belarusian customs regulations are similar to those of other countries. You are allowed to bring in duty-free up to 5 litres of alcoholic beverages, 1 000 cigarettes, 20 litres of petroleum. You are allowed to bring out duty-free up to 5 kilos of fish and crustaceans, 280 g ol black caviar and 280 g of red caviar, 20 litres of petroleum
Foreign currency may be easily brought out in the sum the USD equivalent of which does not exceed $ 500 per person. To bring out a larger sum of foreign currency, you need a permit of an authorised Belarusian bank. As a sort of permit you may use the customs declaration filled in by you on arrival where you showed the amount of currency brought in, certi¬fied by the customs stamp.
Chernobyl disaster took place on April 26,1986 on the territory ol the Ukraine 12 km oft the border with Belarus. 2/3 of all radiation fell on the territory ot Belarus, and about 23% ol its territory, mainly Gomel and Mogilev oblasts, to a different extent, were heavily contaminated by radiation. Minsk and its suburbs, Vitebsk. Brest and Grodno are considered to be clean areas.
The Belarusian language belongs to the Slavic language group and resembles Russian and Polish. According to the census of 1989, it is considered to be native by 66% of the inhabitants ot Belarus. The Belarusian language uses a Cyrillic alphabet, only instead of the letter V the letter T is used. After incorporation of Belarus into the Russian Empire in 1795, the Russian language began to spread in the Belarusian territory. After 1840, printing books in Belarusian was forbidden, teaching in educational estab¬lishments was to be in Russian only. As a result, at present the majority of Belarusians use Russian in everyday intercourse, though after the declara¬tion of independence, the Belarusian language has tended to be spoken more often Most of signboards in towns are in Belarusian, the national radio and TV broadcast in Belarusian. Both Belarusian and Russian have the status of the state languages in Belarus.
The long period of being a USSR republic, the existed restriction of foreign travel and contacts with foreigners, have led to the fact that com¬paratively few people speak foreign languages At present, however, many people try to learn foreign languages, English and German in the first turn.
Here are Russian equivalents to some English words and phrases: yes — да (da), no — нет (net), thank you — спасибо (spassibo), excuse me -извините (izvinite), please — пожалуйста (pozhaluista), how do you do -как поживаете (kak pozhivayete), hello — здравствуйте (zdraslvuite), good-by — до свидания (do svidania), how much does it cost — СКОЛЬКО ЭТО СТОИТ (skolko eto stoit).
Medical aid for foreigners
The citizens ol the Republic of Belarus have medical aid free of charge. The first aid is also gratis for the citizens ot Russia, the Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tadjikistan, Kyrghyzstan, Moldova, and Armenia For other citizens medical services are chargeable To call lor an ambulance will cost you $ 40, to see a doctor — from $10 to $14, one day ot hospitalisation costs around $ 50 However, tor humanity reasons, the first medical aid is avail¬able for everyone who needs it regardless of one’s citizenship and solvency To avoid problems with medical aid, we recommend you to turn to a reliable insurance company which will ensure you have a qualified medical service on beneficial terms.
Alternative current is 50 Hz, 220V, European sockets.
The ground floor stands for the first floor and so on.
Usually Monday-Friday 09:00-13:00 and 14:00-18:00.
Normally Monday-Friday from 09 00-10:00 till 13:00-15:00 Exchange outlets are open from morning till night, there are some round-the-clock ones
Most food stores are open Monday through Saturday 09:00-14:00 and 15:00-20:00. Sunday 09:00-18:00.
General stores are usually open Monday to Friday 10 00-14 00 and 15:00-19:00 Saturday 10:00-18:00 Closed Sunday The business hours of many stores differ from the mentioned above There has appeared a handful of 24 hour food stores lately.
The service charge is included in the restaurant and hotel bills, and taxi fees An extra tip is not obligatory though certainly appreciated.