Belarus introduces new 10-day visa-free regime

Travel to Belarus continues to get easier, as the country’s president Alexander Lukashenko signed a new decree in December 2017 introducing a 10-day visa-free regime for citizens of 77 countries.

Mir, Belarus
Medieval castle, Mir, Belarus. Photo by: Vicktar Malyshchyts/Shutterstock

The new visa-free regime comes after the 2017 decree which for the first time introduced a visa-free option for travellers from 80 countries, provided they arrive and leave via Minsk airport and stay in the country only up to five days; it also applied for those entering Belarus by land but only if visiting the Augustow Canal in the Hrodna region.

The new rules apply from 1 January 2018 and allow citizens of 77 countries to spend 10 days without a visa only in the Hrodna and Brest regions.  They can arrive either by car, bus or train, and can even enter the country via the local Hrodna airport. For the time being, there are no changes in the rules for air travel to Minsk – the visa-free stay is still limited to only five days, but on the plus side it allows travellers to go anywhere else in Belarus as well.

Belarus approves 10-day visa-free regime
Museum of the Great Patriotic War, Minsk. Photo by: Anita Isalska/Lonely Planet

The continuing liberalisation of the visa regime in one of Europe’s least visited countries is certainly good news for travellers wishing to get off the beaten track. It’s worth noting, though, that there are still some limitations in practice: foreign travellers must show a form at the border proving that they have purchased either a tour or accommodation from an official travel agency. They also need to register either at a registration office of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, a local tourism office or at their hotel within five days of arrival in Belarus.

The trial of Belarus’ visa-free regime in 2017 had encouraging results, with a noticeable increase in visitor numbers particularly from neighbouring Poland and Lithuania but also from other European countries. According to official sources, the annual tourist numbers reached almost 80,000 (a 12% increase compared with the previous years). It is hoped that Belarus will extend the current visa-free rules to 30 days in 2019, when the country is set to host the second-ever European Games sports event – after Baku, Azerbaijan, in 2015.

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