A trip to Minsk may not be on everyone’s bucket list, but it is a stop well worth considering if the opportunity arises. Belarus has much to offer, especially the peace and quiet of a non-touristy city. Being within easy reach of St Petersburg, Minsk can make for a pleasant day trip or transit destination.
Minsk is a city still developing its tourist potential and is not at the top of the list of tourist destinations. Although it may not be worth dedicating a whole trip for, Minsk makes an interesting transit destination when en route to Russia or Europe. Minsk is a great place to admire a blend of Soviet architecture with modern cafés and restaurants. It is also a destination where you can stay out of the tourist crowds.
Although Russia and Belarus were once part of the Soviet Union, they are now two separate countries. Unfortunately, that means that most people who need to get a Russian visa will also have to get a Belorussian one. Transit visas are available if you are travelling from Minsk to a third country. If you are making a round trip, a proper visa is required along with a multi-entry visa into Russia as well. It is useful to remember that although Belorussian currency is also called ‘rouble’, it is not the same as the Russian rouble.
The train from St Petersburg to Minsk has been reliably operating for many years. It is an overnight train, so most departures will be during the late afternoon, arriving in Minsk the next morning. There are two types of compartments available: one is a berth in an open-plan carriage, the other is a private compartment with four berths. The prices are usually 3,797 roubles (50 euros / $58 US) for the former and 5,861 roubles for the latter (80 euros / $93 US). It is recommended that you contact the nearest Russian embassy for advice on the current immigration situation for re-entering Russia. Travel to Belarus should not be difficult.
The flights between St Petersburg and Minsk are easy and quick – about one hour and 30 minutes of travel time. The flights, usually operated by local airline companies, have a frequent schedule and are the most efficient way of getting to Minsk. The price is also not dissimilar to the train because a one-way ticket costs around 5,000 roubles (70 euros / $82 US). There is also no known impediment to foreigners flying between the two countries, so it is also the most reliable way to travel.
Foreigners travelling between the Russian and Belorussian border in any direction by road are very likely to experience difficulties and will not be allowed to pass. It is not a matter of comfort or bad roads, but a legal impediment. The Russian government has issued a law that prohibits third country citizens from crossing the border. To avoid any negative experiences when travelling between the two countries, it is recommended to seek advice prior to travelling.