Belarus and Its Twilight Zone at the Minsk Airport

You Need More Than Just a Visa to Visit Belarus

I almost found myself in a really bad situation as I came to Belarus last week, having no idea about the required medical insurance and home registration required by the state.

Luckily my host mentioned it at the last moment and I took care of it with their help.

The state makes no effort to make the requirements obvious, so I began to wonder: is there any list online of these kinds of requirements? Has anybody compiled one? Even a crowdsourced list would be a good idea.

And if there’s no list, a great habit in general would be to always call the embassy for any country you plan on visiting to ask for their obscure requirements beyond simply getting a visa.

Proof of Belarus Requirements

Notice these two pages aren’t even connected. Even if you found the first page, you’d still have no idea of the second.

For the details of my situation, read on:

TWILIGHT ZONE

I recently traveled to Belarus, connecting from Moscow, using my Brazilian passport, which grants me 3 months Visa free travel here.

Upon arriving at Minsk International, I simply exited the plane, walked into a room, and picked up my baggage. There were no other areas to walk through. It was literally: Exit plane. Walk to baggage carousel. And the very next door exited to the street.

  • No passport control
  • No customs
  • No checkpoint

No problem, I thought. I was coming from Moscow, and there’s no border between Russia and Belarus. In fact, I had heard about how it’s the only other country a Russian child can visit without a passport. The border is completely open.

As for me, they had already checked my passport on the Moscow side and saw I have 3 months Visa free travel, so by the time I arrived in Minsk it completely escaped me that I, a foreigner, just waltzed into Belarus without anyone even blinking an eye. Later I realized I hadn’t even had an entry stamp added to my passport.

5 days later my host randomly asked me if I had registered myself with the government, providing my residence address and purchasing the required health insurance mandatory for all foreigners.

I was like, “Uhhh… no?”

So my host insisted we come and register ourselves at the MFA office (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), and after waiting for hours, paying a $15 (one day late) fee — which my host was charged as well! — plus a €30 medical insurance policy, it was finally over. They even mentioned deporting me as a possible option!

I kept trying to ask why the airport had no passport control, customs, or checkpoint, but nobody believed me. Even my host insisted we simply must have walked the wrong way.

Impossible.

That would defeat the whole point of border control.

So here’s the official warning:
As of January 2018 Belarus is allowing foreigners to randomly walk into the country with no passport control or customs checkpoints, at least from origin in Russia to MSQ. They also have strict medical insurance requirements and registration laws that are not publicized anywhere.

In fact, proactively Googling for “requirements to visit Belarus” brings up only info about visas.

NOTE: this situation applies mainly to Couchsurfers and Airbnb guests. Most hotels in Belarus should automatically do all the registration for you. Otherwise, unless your host has graciously informed you of these obscure requirements, you’re in the dark. The airport isn’t telling you. No paperwork will be handed to you on the airplane.

As a private house guest you’ll have to take your own ass to the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs office, where no one speaks any language other than Russian, and figure out how to pay for all the necessary requirements yourself.

Failure to do so may result in potentially hundreds of dollars in fines, and even deportation.

I’ve asked both Couchsurfing and Airbnb to show a popup warning whenever a place in Belarus is booked. Something like this:

WARNING:
Visitors to Belarus are required by law to both register their residence address with the state and to purchase state authorized medical insurance for every day of your stay. This must be done within 5 days of your arrival into the country or steep penalties will accrue. The home office is closed on Mondays but that still counts towards the 5 day deadline. Traditional hotels may automatically register guests, but Airbnb guests must register themselves. If your host or local friends speak Russian you should ask for their help, as assistance in English or other languages is not available at the home office. Thank you and enjoy your stay!

Welcome to Belarus 🙂

Reference Scans

In case these help you:

Belarus medical insurance
Belarus medical insurance
Belarus migration card with home address
Belarus migration card with home address
Belarus migration card with home address
Belarus migration card with home address