There are many rumors regarding Belarus – a country that doesn’t manage to attract a significant number of tourists. In spite of the country’s unique nature diversity and its surprising wildlife, Belarus has been widely unknown on the tourist market. In fact, until recently, nearly half of the tourists that visit Belarus were Russian. That was partly due to the country’s strict visa requirements.
Nevertheless, Belarus is destination you’re bound to fall in love with: its old charm, together with the beautiful, majestic nature, and the beautiful Belarusian Maldives definitely make this country worthy of your attention. And you know what they say, it’s often the less popular destinations that are most surprising, which is what makes Belarus appealing and enticing to adventurous travelers. On a different note, though, is Belarus safe to visit? What Belarus safety travel tips should you consider?
Highest Risks You Expose Yourself to When Visiting Belarus
Overall Risk: MEDIUM
Statistically speaking, traveling to Belarus doesn’t entail a lot of safety risks. With that in mind, it is, for the most part, a safe traveling destination for tourists. Additionally, rare, violent criminal incidents are pretty rare. Even so, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be mindful during your journey, as petty crime such as pickpocketing and mugging still occur on occasions. In fact, the biggest threat is, without a doubt, pickpocketing.
At the same time, pickpockets choose to operate in popular, central tourist spots.
Moving on, there are also some concerns regarding drug use. Regardless of the strict specifications regarding drug use and the many interdictions in this respect, drugging foreigners seems to be a widespread tactic. This practice is typically used in nightclubs, which is why you shouldn’t leave your drink unattended if you’re in a public place. This is a rule of thumb regardless of your traveling destination, though.
Furthermore, note that prostitution is quite common in Belarus. Hence, if you’re staying at a small, local hotel, you might be approached by a prostitute or a representative of prostitutes. Still, you shouldn’t worry about this, as it doesn’t happen at reputable, reliable hotels. Hence, you should pick your accommodation sensibly.
Also note that organized criminal activity does exist in Belarus. These groups usually operate casino clubs as well as adult clubs. This is why you ought to avoid these clubs. Another issue in Belarus is car vandalism. Criminals usually target luxury vehicles, which is why tourists ought to be mindful when they choose their parking spots.
Pickpocketing and Theft Risk: MEDIUM
Moving on, pickpocketing and theft also raises a range of concerns when it comes to traveling to Belarus. Generally speaking, pickpocketing is the most widespread crime, not only in Belarus, but in most European countries and not only.
As you might expect, unwanted incidents take place, usually, in crowded spaces. But the preferred spots for pickpockets are the public transport stations. Not only that these places tend to be frequented by tourists, but they are usually crowded. It is common for pickpockets to choose spots like these, because it allows them to get away with the crime.
Note that, when there are fewer people around, the pickpocket will most likely be caught. However, when there are crowds of people around, things change.
- How to Avoid Unwanted Incidents?
What Belarus safety travel tips should you consider in order to avoid being a victim of pickpocketing and theft during your visit? In general, there are a range of common sense tips that apply. For one thing, make sure you pay attention to your surroundings. Aside from that, you should avoid carrying all your money with you.
It’s best to carry your wallet in your front pocket, as opposed to carrying it in your back pocket – this applies to guys, in particular, as they tend to wear their wallets like this.
What is more, you should avoid drawing unnecessary attention towards you. Belarusian thieves usually target tourists that seem rich, so don’t display your wealth if you want to avoid unwanted scenarios.
Scam Risk: MEDIUM
Is there a place you can travel to and not worry about tourist scams? Probably not, unfortunately, tourist scams are everywhere you go. In some places, they might be more widespread than in others but, nonetheless, they exist. This could also be said about Belarus.
Note that such scams are usually planned in crowded spots such as metros. Always look around you so that you can spot is someone is showing increased attention to you and your belongings. Another common scam is performed by a group of thieves, who aim at distracting you, so that you become an easier target for them. Usually, one of the gang’s members will bump into you, so that another member of the gang quickly comes and takes you purse or wallet. Before you know it, you are robbed and the person responsible for that is out of your sight.
At the same time, make sure you don’t allow other people to handle your luggage, whether you are at the airport or at the train station.
Another scam you should be mindful of is that of counterfeit money. To that end, one of the most important Belarus safety travel tips is that you should always pay attention to the change – whether you have taken a cab or you have paid at a restaurant with cash. It is quintessential to familiarize with the country’s currency before your journey.
- How to Avoid Unwanted Incidents?
Our Belarus safety guide couldn’t stress enough the importance of being an informed traveler. This is the key to avoiding unwanted incidents, whether you’re traveling to Belarus, China or the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, scammers are everywhere, so always take things with a grain of salt and you’ll be on the safe side.
Kidnapping Risk: LOW
What is the official kidnapping rate in Belarus? Should you be worried about this during your visit? In this view, you should know that the official kidnapping rates are low. In spite of this, though, there are still isolated incidents that are a tad worrying, such as the case of a Ukrainian that was kidnapped in Belarus by Russia. Therefore, such incidents cannot be ruled out completely.
- How to Avoid Unwanted Scenarios?
Of course, the rules that apply in this scenario are quite general. For one thing, you should avoid going to clubs or bars by yourself, especially considering that you might get drugged by someone. At the same time, you should avoid walking on remote areas by yourself. Not only that this makes you the perfect target, but since there are no people around, no one will know if you go missing. Aside from that, it’s best to inform someone back home of your itinerary.
Rape Risk: LOW
Is Belarus safe to visit for women? Or, better said, should women worry about rape? What are the official rape rates in this country? The good thing is that the official rates of rape have gradually decreased over the last couple of years. On a different note, there has also been the Belarusian Facebook initiative #IamNotAfraidToSayIt, which encouraged women to speak out against rape and sexual violence.
Essentially, this campaign aimed at addressing issues such as sexual assault, harassment, abuse, molestation, so on and so forth. This campaign has brought into light the stories of numerous Belarusian women who have been victims in their past.
- How to Avoid Being a Victim of Rape?
Typically, in order to diminish the likelihood of being a victim, it is highly recommended to travel with someone you can trust. For instance, traveling by yourself can expose you to numerous risks – including rape. Aside from that, we would like to outline that you shouldn’t leave your drink unattended when you’re at a bar or pub. If you are drinking, keep an eye out for your drink. In essence, granted that you are careful regarding the places you go to and the neighborhoods you’re visiting, you should be on the safe side.
Terrorism Risk: LOW
How safe is Belarus for tourists when it comes to terrorism? There aren’t any recent events of terrorism in Belarus. Irrespective of this, though, we cannot say that attacks are excluded altogether, considering that attacks are usually planned in places where you least expect it. Attacks may take place anywhere, and tourists might be affected by them as well.
Risks for Women Traveling Alone: LOW
Is Belarus safe for solo women travelers? Should you attempt to go there by yourself? The solo woman traveler trend has started to grow in popularity over the last couple of years. Nonetheless, it is always sensible to assess the risks you might be exposing yourself to before booking a trip. For one thing, as we mentioned beforehand, if you intend to go to bars, never leave your drink unattended.
Even if this doesn’t happen in all case scenarios, there are many criminals that have the habit of adding drugs to the drinks of women, especially if they are alone.
Leaving this aside, if you are, indeed, planning to travel by yourself to Belarus, use common sense. And this goes for any other place you might be visiting, not only Belarus. For the most part, Minsk is a safe city, as well as Brest. Nevertheless, if you’re passionate about photography, make sure you photograph with caution.
According to the law, photographing public buildings is prohibited. If you don’t know for sure how to distinguish between official buildings and regular buildings, you should look for the Belarusian flag. If there is a flag somewhere, then, you should avoid taking a photograph.
For the most part, locals in Belarus are polite, quiet and friendly. Therefore, the answer to the question: is Belarus safe for solo women travelers, is positive.
Risks for Families Traveling with Children: LOW
Should families with children consider visiting Belarus? Yes, Belarus could be an excellent destination for families with children as well. It is a beautiful country with plenty to offer. For the most part, the country is safe, as long as you use common sense during your travels. With that in mind, you should drive safely, if you are planning to rent a car during your visit in Belarus.
At the same time, there are, of course, the threats of pickpocketing, mugging and theft, especially in the proximity of the train stations or, in some cases, on the public transport. Once again, be mindful when it comes to choosing a parking spot, as criminals often target tourists in order to steal their cars. Leaving this aside, as long as you have appropriate traveling insurance, you should be on the safe side.
Natural Disaster Risk: MEDIUM
Moving on, Belarus is susceptible to man-made and natural disasters alike. Natural hazards include extreme temperatures, floods, forest fires and storms. Spring floods occur almost on a yearly basis in Belarus, which leads to economic losses.
Fires are also common – some are natural whereas others are manmade. In the last years, roughly 9000 fires were officially recorded, which led to the loss of 1100 lives. In regards to the man-made disasters, they are widely connected with the Chernobyl disaster, as well as oil/gas pipelines.
List of Vaccines You Need for Visiting Belarus
One of the most important Belarus safety travel tips is getting the necessary vaccines, to avoid unwanted situations. On a different note, once again we would like to outline the importance of having adequate traveling and health insurance. With that said, here are the vaccines you should have on your checklist before embarking on your journey:
- Routine vaccines
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
Final Thoughts: How Safe Is Belarus for Tourists?
We hope that our Belarus safety guide has been comprehensive enough. Without a doubt, Belarus is a country worth visiting, in spite of the fact that it lack of popularity, since it has a lot to offer. In fact, Lonely Planet has included it in the top 10 countries you should visit in 2019. At the same time, considering that, overall, Belarus is a safe destination, you should definitely plan your next visit there – you won’t regret it.