Thursday, January 12, 2017

Visa-Free Travel to Belarus

As of mid-February, citizens of 80 countries will be able to visit Belarus for up to five days without going through a cumbersome visa process. Unfortunately, this provision only applies to those arriving by air at the Minsk airport, not those arriving by road or rail.

Still, Belarus is the second former Soviet country to ease travel restrictions recently, and it is a step in the right direction. I hope others, including Russia, will also make their borders more open to travellers. I don't even mind the cost of visas, it is the hassle that makes me think twice every time I visit Russia. The visa process is no easier than it was in Soviet times.

Belarus is mainly an agricultural region, and is also noted for the persistence of certain aspects of the Soviet system. It is a favourite of those nostalgic for the Soviet Union and its architecture, and also of Jewish travellers in search of their roots. Minsk was one of the major cities of the Pale of Settlement where Jews were required to live in the Czarist era.


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