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belarusian folk music group
Inside the Memorail Church of All Saints, Minsk..

Bordered by Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, the former USSR republic today remains with one foot in the future and one firmly planted in the past.

Having attained its independence in 1991, Belarus is still under solid authoritarian rule, with a large swath of the population happy to conform to the old ways, although among the younger generation that is changing.

Visa requirements for Belarus

With a traditional Soviet mind-set, Belarus still oversees a strict rule that requires visas for all foreign travelers, so extra planning is needed even for a brief visit into the country.

In order to obtain a visa for visiting Belarus you must first obtain a copy of tourist voucher issued by tourist company or hotel in Belarus approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

So why put up with all the hassle? Ask anyone who's been there and discover that Belarus can be mind-altering trip that combines east and west - and past and present - with the richness of Belarusian culture creating a one-of-a-kind travel experience you won't soon forget.

Seeing Belarus

belarusian folk music group
A music group in traditional costume entertains visitors on a tour of Belarusian folk traditions.

The first stop in Belarus for many travelers is the capital city of Minsk. Reduced to rubble during World War II, little remained of its centuries-long past which gave Soviet architects free reign in redesigning the city as an ideal Soviet metropolis.

While first impressions are of a trip back in time to a coldly impressive city — of wide avenues and awesomely expansive city squares — stay for awhile and peel Minsk back in layers to find hip restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and public parks that soften Soviet-style urban planning.

While in Minsk don't miss an overnight trip from the city for a contrasting look at wet and swampy Pripyatsky National Park, home to a breathtaking array of 800 different plant species, 200 species of birds, and some 50 mammal species including the zubr, or European bison.

Among the larger cities, more western flavor can be found in Brest, on the border with Poland. For historians, Brest province is also notable as the birthplace of former prime minister of Israel, Menachem Begin. Another Israeli leader of note, Golda Meyer, grew up near the town of Pinsk, a bit further west. And art historians may want to plan a pilgrimage north to Vitsebsk, the birthplace of painter Marc Chagall.

Overall, anywhere you go in Belarus expect to see (in the grand Soviet tradition) a large police presence especially in the larger cities. Here you can at least take comfort in the knowledge that you are in one of the safest places in all of Eastern Europe, and where crime is practically nonexistent.

More about Belarus travel & tourism around the Web:


Belarus Travel Information and Travel Guide - Lonely Planet - Insider details on facts, history and practical travel tips, with overviews of Minsk, Brest, and Belavezhskaja Pushcha National Park including photos, maps.

Belarus travel guide - Wikitravel - Everything you always wanted to know about getting a visa, including warnings and safety tips.

Virtual Guide to Belarus - Here's a deep guide from a team of Belarusian ex-pats covering history, culture, politics, city & travel guides, with an interactive English-Belarusian dictionary.

Minsk Travel Guide - Get practical travel tips including suggested shopping, restaurants and hotels, with related resources, photos and visa information.

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