Situated on the Svislač and Niamiha rivers, from 1919-1991 it was the capital of the former Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic. The city was 80% destroyed during World War II and as such was rebuilt in the 1950s to the liking of Stalin. Large, Soviet-bloc style buildings make up a large portion of the heart of the city. For this reason, Minsk is a wonderful place to visit for those interested in the Soviet Union. Come quickly, however, as modern apartment buildings and developments are rapidly being built in the suburbs and along desirable riverfront property.
English is rarely spoken, and tourism is not a priority in Minsk. It would be wise to learn some key phrases in Russian (which is the default language), but Belarusian may also be spoken or understood).
In 2014, the airport underwent a major refurbishment and has mainly lost its grim feel from the USSR period. Just before the passport control, you will find a cash machine; more are available inside the arrivals. Approach the passport control with a smile and already filled-in landing card (unless you are a Belarusian or Russian citizen). Straight after that, you can collect your luggage and follow to the customs control. Even if you choose the green corridor, you may be stopped for questioning. It is a routine practice and shouldn't make anyone anxious: only large sums of cash, luxury products, alcohol and cigarettes will attract the custom officers' attention.
The "Arrivals hall" has few small kiosks with Belarusian souvenirs, alcohol, newspapers and wi-fi cards; also ATMs, currency exchange, car rentals and train/bus ticket machines (more are at the bus stop outside the airport building).
The Departure hall on the third floor has a 24/7 restaurant, several cafes, souvenir shops, bank and post offices. Free wi-fi is available at the Prime Time cafe (password: primecafe, January 2016), otherwise the whole terminal is covered by decent wi-fi from Beltelecom, an access card is required (very cheap, available from the Belsajuzdruk newspaper kiosk in the departure hall).
Upon check-in, you will be advised on the sector number for the custom and passport control - allow 15 to 20 minutes to pass them. Several duty-free shops and bars are available just before the boarding gates.
The number of Flight connections to Minsk is constantly growing. Belavia operates regular flights to many capitals across Europe, as well as Israel and Central Asia; to major cities in Russia and Ukraine. Other airlines, such as Aeroflot, Lufthansa, Austrian, LOT, Ukrainian International Airlines, Air Baltic, Air China and Etihad provide good connections to Minsk from across their networks. Although low-cost airlines do not serve Minsk, most of the available carriers offer cheap tickets every now and then.
Alternatively, Vilnius has become a popular base for visiting Belarus. A train journey to Minsk takes less than three hours. Also, Moscow and Warsaw are used by some frugal travellers, but a journey time and price are much longer and higher compared to Vilnius.
Getting to the city
The airport is served by bus no. 300э running every 30-50 minutes (less frequently late in the night) from/to Centralny bus terminal, next to the main railway station (Minsk Pasažyrski). The bus stop is clearly visible from the main airport exit - slightly on its left. For the timetable, see the airport website, , Minsktrans website  or check at the airport bus stop. At the Centralny bus terminal, tickets are sold at the ticket office. At the airport, they can be bought from the bus driver for cash or from a ticket machine inside the bus stop shelter and by the main exit from the airport building - paid by debit/credit cards. Price (April 2017) is BYN4.14 + luggage BYN0.46.
In about 30 minutes after leaving the airport by 300э, the bus stops at Uručča (Уручча | Уручье) metro station. Ticket to this stop costs about 2/3 of the Centralny bus terminal ticket. Many passengers leave here to continue by metro and other means of public transport. If travelling to the airport from Uručča, leave the metro station through the front exit, turn right, and find the outermost bus stop. There is a small, well-hidden plate with a timetable.
If you travel to the Aŭtazavod area (Аўтазавод / Автозавод) - Mahilioŭskaja metro station - you may prefer taking bus 173э to Sokal (Сокал / Сокол) suburb and changing for 112с at the same bus stop. Bus 173э, however, has a very infrequent service - see timetable .
In 2014, a train service to/from the airport was launched. Currently (April2017), it only operates five times a day and costs BYN2.50. The timetable is available from the Belarusian Railway website  (in English, search for Minsk Pasažyrski, which is the name of the main railway station, and Nacyjanaĺny aeraport Minsk - the official airport name in Belarusian). The journey takes just under an hour, incl. a short bus journey to/from the airport railway station. To catch a train from the airport, go to the bus stop from where a dedicated bus will take you to the waiting for you train. Tickets can be purchased either from a ticket machine at the bus stop or from a train crew upon boarding.
For car from the airport, there are several options. The official airport transfer service National Airport Minsk has a good reputation with short number 7373. But the official airport transfer service has several important shortcomings: Chinese cars, non-English speaking drivers, low quality of service in general. If you looking for higher level of service you can use private transfer services like Autotransfer or Minsk Airport Transfer. It should cost about €25-30 and transfers can be ordered in advance using online booking form. Taxis are available at the airport although drivers generally will not speak English – have the name of your destination written in Belorussian or Russian and be prepared to pay in cash. There's also Uber in Minsk now. If you have a cell phone, this is probably the easiest and cheapest option – a ride into town can be as cheap as €10.
The width of the train tracks is different in Poland and in Belarus, so if you choose to arrive by train please be prepared for long wheel changing. However, if you are arriving from say, Kiev, Moscow, or Lviv (Lvov) you need not worry about this. Plus as an added bonus, the prices are substantially cheaper from CIS countries.
The direct Sibirjak train from Berlin was withdrawn in December 2013, but Minsk can still be easily reached from other major cities including Kiev, Warsaw, Vilnius and Moscow.
There is a daily train leaving Tsentralnyi Vokzal (Central Station). It departs city around 9 pm and get you to Minsk next morning at around 8 am. As of November 2016 ticket fares are 1100, 1850 and 3500 UAH for different sleeping car types.
There are two options - Direct, and Cheap The Direct trip is about 10 hours. There is Two trains a day -
First departs from Central Station at 21 which arrives in Minsk around 08:00. costs about 70Euro (270 Polish Zloty) Second one departs from "Gdański" train station about 16 and arrives in Minsk about 02:00, direction Moscow. Cost about 150Euro - 600 Polish Zloty (To "Dworzec Gdański" - Gdanski Train station you should use Metro Blue Line (First Line) from Central Station, 3 stops - Direction "Młociny")
First of all - you must get to Belarusian Border. The border split cities, Polish city called Terespol and Belarusian city called Brest. You can buy Direct train to Terespol from Central Station (Warszawa Centralna) or take a bus to Terespol from Main bus Station situated at Eastern Train Station (Warszawa Zachodnia) . Cost is about 50 Polish Zloty - 11 Euro. Maybe the best way is the train from Central station that departs at 07:00
Secondly, in Terespol there isn't possibility to walk across border, you can take a train to Brest or try to be pick-uped, and cross border by car. You have to get to Brest Central, so train is better option. Train to Brest costs 3Euro, but you have to pay in Polish Zloty (last time in February it was 12,69PLN) The passport check is very long, so be in Terespol at least 40 minutes before train departs. Three trains for day, first is departing 11:25. Okey, you passed 200 km.
And the last train is from Brest to Minsk, Which costs 60 000 BYR - About 5 Euro. There are 5-8 trains a day, so easy. At ticket office ask for "Kupeyny". The Belarusian trains has numbers (train no XXXX ), so just write train number, ask for "kupejny" and Give your passport. Be aware that trains station in Brest is splited. There are "Warszawska Strona" (Warsaw Side) and "Moskevskaja Strona" (Moscov Side). Train to Minsk departs from Moscow Side. it is funny that on Polish side you have to pay 11 euro for 200 km, and on Belarusian side you will pay 2-4 Euro for 400Km :)
(info actualization : 2014-05)
From Vilnius, Lithuania, the train takes about 2.5 hours and runs three times per day (early morning, late afternoon, evening) plus there is one or two per day more expensive Kaliningrad–Moscow train at night; see timetable at Belorusian railway website. The train from Vilnius costs around €15-20 one way if bought in Lithuania or you can buy them in advance for nearly the same price at Belorusian railway online-booking website.
You have to walk to last platform and walk through Schengen passport and customs control and than board a train with selected doors (the conductor checks your tickets). Trains are quite modern with US English voice announcing the stations and border control procedures.
If you are non-belorusian citizen you will receive from a conductor a migration card with two sides to fill out; if the conductor won't give you one, ask for bumazka. Later, the Belorusian customs service will enter the train, asks you if you have alcohols and cigarettes above the limit and fast-check your baggage. Later the border control with big computer on the neck will came and ask you for your passport and filled bumazka (migration card). Sometime they can ask for a insurance, letter of invitation or whatever else (as everywhere in East Europe: more supporting documents prepared – better for you :). The guide will check everything, stamp your passport and migration card (DO NOT LOSE IT!, you will need it in hotels and while leaving Belarus) and wish you good luck in Belarus.
Overnight train leaves Moscow about 23:30 and arrives Minsk about 06:30. No stop at the border for passport checks, so a good nights sleep in the 2 berth cabins.
There are several bus routes from Vilnius central bus station to Minsk central bus station. The coach service takes 4-5 hours (0.5-1.5 of which is spent at the border, depending on the traffic).
Driving in, while possible, requires knowledge of the border system. This is a border of the 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 queue of cars at every border crossing. However, if you have passport, VISA and car registration papers prepared, act honest and helpful and arrive as a tourist in a personal car, the border crossing can go very smoothly and be over within 45 minutes. Sometimes it takes 3 hours. If you will ride from Polish Side, from Warsaw, you can see the Truck queue, just pass it, and go direct to Polish City TERESPOL / BREST (Belarussian). Be Carefull! When you are in Poland and you are 30km near border, The Customs, or Border control have this same rights as Police! (Green Cars - "Straż Graniczna") So drive slowly, and carefully
Use of two state languages, Belarusian and Russian, across the transport system in Minsk may pose inconvenience for visitors. Effectively, the same stop, station, street or square may be known and referred to by two names, in Belarusian and Russian. For example, one of the metro interchange stations is known to the Russian-speaking majority as Площадь Октябрьская (Oktiabrskaya Sq.), but maps and announcements in metro refer to it in Belarusian as Плошча Кастрычніцкая (Kastryčnickaja Sq.). As of 2013, transliteration of geographical names (streets, stations etc.) into Latin alphabet is done from Belarusian according to the new system . Learn it as it is used across Minsk metro and on many other signs already. Elsewhere, you will see plenty of examples of the geographical names transliterated from Russian, e.g. Loshytsa, rather than Belarusian Lošyca.
Get around by using bus, tram, Metro (subway) or rent a car. All are cheap and reliable. The subway is noted for being clean and safe. All public transport in Minsk operates c. 05.30-00.30; taxis are 24/7 naturally.
A panoramic English-language map of the centre of Minsk that shows every building individually is widely 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.
Bus, trolleybus, tram
There is large network of buses, trolleybuses and trams in Minsk. Thanks to this system of more lines, there is a direct connection between many places, but the intervals are longer. The ticket for a single trip costs 0.55 BYN (0,30 USD) while bought in advance or 0.60 BYN (0,32 USD) from a driver. Don't forget to validate your tickets after entering the bus, even when you bought them from a driver! Timetables are avalible at public transport operator websites (in Russian), or there is Android app in English with connection search, maps and timetables (everything offline as well).
The Minsk Metro, is the most reliable transport system around Minsk. Additionally, each metro station is decorated uniquely and the oldest stations of the red, Maskoŭskaja line, are listed architectural landmarks. For instance, the station at Kastryčnickaja Plošča (Kastryčnickaja Square) is decorated in the theme of the Communist Revolution. The station at Plošča Pieramohi (Pieramohi Square) is decorated in a victory theme, and the Plošča Lienina (Lienin Square) station includes a bust of Lenin and a host of hammer and sickle reliefs. Plošča Jakuba Kolasa (Jakub Kolas Sq) renderes Belarusian folk themes in ceramics beautifully all over its station.
The Metro consists of two lines crossing at the very city centre, the red line runs (known as Maskoŭskaja) from the northeast to the southwest, while the blue line (Aŭtazavodskaja) runs from the the west to the southeast. All the stations have numbers (for example the interchange stations, Kastryčnickaja i Kupalaŭskaja, are 116 and 216) - in addition to their proper names - for easier reference, they are listed on all new metro maps; however, it is a very recent innovation and the majority of locals are not aware of that yet. Use stations' proper names if speaking to locals. Train depart every 3 min at rush hour and are almost never late. You can buy tokens at a window inside the station. One ride costs BYN0.60 (as of March 2017) , but if you speak no Belarusian or Russian, just give some money and say: Metro. For those staying for a week or longer, a 10-day or a 14-day pass may be a good option.
You may also rent a car to travel around the country. Rates depend on period of hire and start from USD20 a day. There are offices of Europcar, Avis, SIXT and other rental companies.
Regional trains from Central Station are also cheap. A trip from Minsk to Gomel (5h) with a cabin for 4 cost BLR20,000 and almost never full.
Museums and galleries
Churches and temples
Woven and embroided linen goods are the most typical presents Belarusians take abroad. They can be purchased in specialist shops and any large department store. Souvenirs made of straw, wood and leather are traditional to Belarus too (not Russian Matryoshka, though), as well as hand-made pottery. Womens housery Milavitsa is widely known across former USSR. Belarusian vodka isn't as well marketed as Russian or Polish, but can easily compete with those on quality and is traditional to Belarus too; look for well-designed bottles and packaging and the price can generally be a reliable guide to its quality. Another authentic Belarusian alcoholic drink is krambambulia - a slightly sweet herbal infusion - hard to find. The Minsk Airport has reliable duty free shops with reasonably priced Belarusian alcohol, chocolate and souvenirs. Shop assistants, however, advise the passangers with transfers in the EU airports not to take the purchased liquids into hand luggage as they may be confiscated by the airport security (April 2014).
A typical drink is "Kefir", which is a sort of sour milk, similar to yogurt.
"Krambambulia" is a traditional medieval alcohol drink which you can buy in most stores or order in a restaurant. It's a pretty strong drink but its taste is much softer than vodka.
Please note that a foreign guest must get registered with the local police department - Department for Citizenship and Migration within 5 business days. This means that you can arrive in Belarus on Tuesday and leave on Sunday without the registration stamp. Most hotels process the registration automatically upon check-in while many apartment rentals might be reluctant to provide registration. Check if the rental service offers registration service and at what price.
On the web you can find a lot of cheap offers to rent a flat. Average price is about 50 USD for the night. There is also a good rental service provided by  . They rent rooms in good quality in the center of Minsk. They also provide assistance for Visas.
You might receive a call to your hotel room late at night offering a "massage". To avoid being woken up it is worth unplugging your phone.
Minsk is a very safe and clean city especially compared to neighbouring capital cities like Kiev or Moscow. Unlike most Central and Eastern European cities, there are very few homeless and drunkards wandering the streets. Although locals might insist otherwise, Minsk is a city where you really must go out of your way to find trouble, even at night. If you are in need of assistance, there is a strong police presence in the city centre. However, their ability to speak English in most cases will be severely limited.
Be careful when photographing government buildings and the monument to Lenin at Independence Square. While you might be observed and kindly ushered away from the monument, photographing government buildings can lead to trouble with authorities and even arrest. Be mindful of what you are photographing.
While not seen as frequently as in Kiev, be aware of cars or delivery trucks moving on sidewalks. In some areas of Minsk parking is limited forcing drivers to manoeuvre and park their vehicles onto pedestrian lanes.