29 July 2015

You shall go to Belarus on a Transit Visa

Belarus is one of the last European countries where Europeans still need a visa - and whilst you can apparently get it on arrival in certain circumstances ... it's probably safer to get it in advance !

The rules state that a Transit Visa is valid for 48 hours ... and since the price of a Transit Visa is currently one third of a standard short term (90 day) visa ... there is an incentive to try using a Transit Visa - especially if you want to use the more expensive 48 hour express service.

I recently visited the Belarus embassy in London with a copy of my flight booking in hand (I had ensured that my onward flight was to a different country from my inbound - you can't back track) ... and was pleased / relieved that my Transit Visa request was accepted - after some questioning / double-checking by the staff member.  I suspect that it may depend on how the staff are feeling on the day, and if they don't like the look of you they may not allow it.

I had to come back the next day (actually the day after, as they are closed on Wednesdays) with additional paperwork - my hotel booking (I got away with a standard printout - rather than an official stamped invitation that I probably should have had), proof of my travel insurance and a photo.

On arrival in Minsk (MSQ) all foreign passports were given the most detailed examination I've ever seen - which included every page being checked under a special light, and an eyeglass being used around the photo (presumably to check that it hadn't been replaced) ... it felt like we were all potential spies !

On departure, I had to change my flight booking, and I ended up leaving about 50 hours after arrival ... but they didn't seem too worried - apparently as long as you leave within two days, you are ok.  But I doubt that the London embassy would have issued a Transit Visa if my original flights were booked 50 hours apart ... and there's always a risk that a stroppy border guard in Belarus might take a different view.  Not work testing it !

Since Minsk isn't exactly the most exciting place on earth - 48 hours was plenty of time to explore the city.

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