After years of waiting, I was finally able to travel in Belarus, Minsk. I hoped to travel years ago, but because of the cumbersome visa policy, I wasn’t able to make the trip. Belarus relaxed the visa policy in 2017, and during my stay relaxed it even more to 30 days of visa-free travel. While it was just a short time frame, I was able to finally travel to a place of wonder and experience the adventure that awaits many that wish to travel to distance, unexplored countries.
I am a U.S. citizen. I have several masters’ degrees, one in international relations. I usually travel to countries to embrace the culture and understand foreign perspectives. When I travel, in most cases, people are just people and in Minsk, it was no different. The people were warm, welcoming, and incredibly generous. Belarus is one of the most welcoming countries I’ve ever visited.
Belarus has something for everyone. The history is captivating; the food amazing such as machanka and vereshchaka. The nightlife is especially vibrant for those seeking to party. Independence square will take your breath away with its amazing monuments; the Trinity suburbs are like taking a time machine back to the 19th century. Gorky Central Children’s Park will make you feel like a kid again especially sneaking in cotton candy on many of the rides.
I originally came to Belarus with only a five-day window to enjoy the country, the window was expanded to thirty days without a visa when traveling through the Minsk National airport, but you have to register your hotel. This is a great step for a country that has been isolated from western countries for a time because of antiquated policies.
With these relaxed visa policies, Belarus is more welcoming than ever, but my hope is the government will go even further. I hope one day Belarus will do away with the visa policy altogether from specific countries making it much easier to travel around Belarus. Many countries with relations with the United States have adopted similar visa policies, and in turn, many people have visited (including me!).
Belarus is a distance place they would have difficulty pointing to on a map. However, if Belarus reduces these visa restrictions further and promotes its wonders, more people craving adventure and excitement will come exploring, spending a little money in the process. Belarus has so much to offer the world, and with some minor policy tweaks, the world has so much to offer Belarus.
Matt Fecteau of Pawtucket, Rhode Island is a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School. Send him email at Matthew.Fecteau@gmail.com