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Minsk, the capital and largest city in Belarus, is home to about 2 million people. During World War II, the city was virtually obliterated during heavy fighting, leaving much rebuilding to be done under the ensuing Soviet rule. Stalin's taste has left its mark on the city, with grand buildings, broad avenues, wide square and large apartment blocks making up the city's skyline. Aside from being the capital of Belarus, Minsk is also a headquarters of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
There are 9 administrative districts in Minsk:
Mirsky Castle Complex (Мірскі замак) is an amazing sight located just outside of Mir or a day trip from Minsk. Construction of the castle was begun in the 15th century with a Gothic architecture style. Around 1568 the castle got a new Lithuanian Duke as owner who decided to finish the castle in a renaissance style. It was abandoned for about a century then it was restored in the 19th century. When the Nazi's took it over they turned the castle into a Jewish Ghetto. Today it is a very popular tourist sight and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Founded by the government to promote the country’s film, this event takes place in Minsk every November. It brings together a vast array of talented movie makers and avid cinema-goers. It achieved international status in 2003.
Held each year on August 25, a garish, military-dominated Belarusian celebration sees the army parade through the streets of Minsk, tanks and all. It is an interesting spectacle to behold, but carries with it a creepy, overly Orwellian feel.
Minsk has a continental climate with generally warm sunny summers and cold winters with regular snowfall. Daytime temperatures in summer (June to September) are around 25 °C (with a record of around 35 °C), in winter (December to February) around -3 °C. Nights are 15 °C and -10 °C respectively but can drop below -25 °C sometimes. Precipitation is fairly even during the year, although July and August are somewhat wetter. Winters have snowfall.
Minsk International Airport (MSQ) is located 42 kilometres east of the city. The national carrier Belavia operates from the airport and several international carriers have flights as well including Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines and Alitalia. Belavia theoretically flies to and from Minsk, Brest, Homel, Hrodna, Mahileu, Mazyr and Vitsebsk.
NOTE. Unless you are on a UK passport you will need to buy a local medical insurance policy (US$ 2-5) for a short-term visit. This is particularly an issue at MSQ Airport where you cannot cross the border without a local policy.
Belarus Railways operates an extensive rail network with frequent departures to and from Minsk from most major cities and towns, as well as smaller regional places.
Driving in, while possible, requires knowledge of the border system. This is a border of European Union, so control is very strict. Crossing it can take 2 hours. They may check your bags. Without knowledge of Russian, Belarusian or Polish, this can be very hard. There is a very long line of cars at every border crossing. However, if you have passport, VISA and car registration papers prepared, act honest and helpful and arrives as a tourist in a personal car the border crossing can go very smoothly and be over within 45 minutes.
Taxis are cheap. You will notice 70,000 rubles will already be on the meter. Like Russia there are no taxi ranks although you can usually find them outside the train station and can order one from the airport. You can get a local English-speaking taxi driver by phoning +375 297 777 313.
Public transportation which consists of buses, trams and subway is cheap and reliable. The Minsk Metro is noted for being clean and safe. Additionally, each metro station is decorated uniquely. For instance, the station at Oktober square is decorated in the theme of the Communist Revolution. The station at Victory square is decorated in a victory theme, and the Lenin Station includes a bust of Lenin and a host of hammer and sickle reliefs.
The subway is the most reliable transport system in Minsk. It consists of two lines crossing at the very city centre, the red line runs from the northeast to the southwest (currently being expanded with three more stations) while the blue line runs from the west to the southeast. Trains depart every 3 min and are almost never late. You can buy tokens at a window inside the station. One ride costs 3,700 rubles, but if you speak no Russian, just give 7,400 rubles and stick 2 fingers up. Make sure you hold on because it goes very fast. For those staying a week or longer, a 10-day or a 14-day pass may be a good option.
Central part of Minsk is easily manageable on foot. A hand-drawn panoramic English-language map of the centre which shows every building individually is available from bookshops and kiosks. It also has a conventional map showing more of Minsk and some tourist information. It is worth buying a copy as early on in your visit as you can because it makes getting around on foot easy and fun.
Belarusian cuisine is similar to that of the rest of Eastern Europe but particularly Russian and Ukrainian. Generally it features heavy-fat potato dishes, mushrooms, soups and baked meat. - The quality of Western European cuisine (Italian, French...) is not amazing. The average level of cafes and restaurants is low but there are several good places in the centre. The price of a meal at these places should cost between 20,000 and 40,000 rubles.
Minsk has very few budget sleeping places that are advertised online. One of these is the Hostel of International Relations Center located in central Minsk.
|Lux Apartment in Minsk||Nemiga str. 10||APARTMENT||-|
|Palace Republic Apartment Center||Nezavisimosti 23 Lenina 5||APARTMENT||-|
|Minsk Accommodation||Nezavisimosti 18-15 zip 222000||Apartment||-|
|Lido Apartment Minsk||Yakub Kolas Gikalo 18||APARTMENT||-|
|Postoyalets Hostel||Partizansky Ave. 147||HOSTEL||-|
|Hostel Jazz||Mozyrskaya Street 37a||Hostel||-|
|Viva Hostel Minsk||Zhukovskogo St, 4||HOSTEL||80|
|Prime Apartments agency 1||52-1, Nezavisimosti Avenue||APARTMENT||-|
|Prime Apartments Agency 2||52-2, Nezavisimosti avenue, Minsk||APARTMENT||-|
|Avenue-Center Hotel||Sovetskaya Str. 100 a Zaslavl||HOTEL||-|
|EasyFlat||Berestyanskaya st. 4, flat 21||Hostel||-|
|Hostel Sky||2b Leanida Biady||HOSTEL||-|
|Trinity Hostel||12 Starovilenskaya Str||HOSTEL||-|
|Best Minsk Hostel||ul. Podgornaya 42||HOSTEL||-|
|Comfort Apart-Hotel||1, Shchorsa Str. Grushevka||HOTEL||-|
|Garni Hotel||Internacionalnaya St. 11||HOTEL||-|
|IBB Hotel||11 Gazeta Pravda Ave.||HOTEL||-|
|Orbita Hotel||39 Pushkin Avenue||HOTEL||-|
|Planeta Hotel||31 Pobediteley Ave.||HOTEL||-|
|Yubileinaya Hotel||19 Pobediteley Ave.||HOTEL||-|
|Marx Hostel||C. Marx str. 8-99||HOSTEL||-|
A lot of places are appointed with WiFi hotspots but you have to buy a card and go through the login routine to get online. There are a few internet cafes in the major cities, but you’re more likely to be able to access the internet from your hotel’s Wi-Fi.
See also: International Telephone Calls
The country calling code to Belarus is: 375. To make international calls from Belarus it is necessary to dial 8, wait for a tone, then dial 10. Calls from Belarus to some countries must be booked through the international operator. Public telephones take cards. Grey booths are for internal calls and blue ones for international calls. Prepaid phone cards are available.
There are 3 major GSM providers in Belarus: MTS, Velcom and Life. All of them offer no-contract GSM SIM-cards and USB modems for Internet access. Cellular communications are very affordable and popular in Belarus. Each of these companies has numerous stores in Minsk, Brest and other regional centres. You will need your passport to purchase a SIM card, but many tariffs are available only to those who are registered with the authorities in Belarus. However, a stamp by your hotel on the back of the immigration card in your passport is sufficient to be registered, and this is routinely done by hotels upon check-in.
Avoid using your home SIM card in your own phone. Switch off data roaming and use only wifi instead.
Belposhta (Belarusian: Белпошта) is the national postal service of Belarus. Services are affordabele but slow: airmail to Western Europe takes a minimum of 10 days. Post offices are generally open between 8:00am and 6:00pm Monday to Friday, but some central offices in major cities keep slightly longer hours. Likewise, in rural small communicaties post offices might not be open every day. If you want to send a package internationally, use companies like DHL, FedEx, TNT or UPS, as they are faster and more reliable.
Ask OlgaD a question about Minsk
I live in Minsk for all my life. I'work as a guide-interpreter, and I know the city very well.
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