Anything I should know about landing in MSQ Minsk Airport?
Quite a number of things, as a matter of fact. Let’s examine a typical case from my travel agent’s past with a traveler landing in Minsk Airport (MSQ) and applying for a visa. You will either be driven to the airport building in a bus, or walk across the tarmac or through the corridor that is attached to the door of the aircraft...
Getting a visa. Rush to the second floor of your arrival sector to be one of the first applicants in the queue. If you’ve landed in sector 1-2 of Minsk Airport (e.g. on a flight from Moscow or Kiev), there is no need to rush – you will be shown to the consulate in a different sector after all the passengers of your flight are out. Once you’ve reached the Minsk Airport Consulate office window holding all the papers in a neat heap (filled-in visa application, a passport-size photo stapled to it, the passport and the consular fee in cash) you will submit them and get the visa (sooner or later).
What are the common issues that the foreigners face at this stage? Visa support documents must be supplied to the Consulate in the original (Belarus tourist, business or private invitations) 3 days prior to your arrival, even if you are from a migration-secure country. (Note, from August 22, 2013, MSQ Consulate again issues visas to ALL travelers with or without a Belarusian diplomatic mission in their countries). The visa application must be printed out and not be stored on your mobile phone, flash disk, etc. The Minsk Airport Consulate officers are not excellent English-speakers and from my experience you’d better don’t exhibit any command of Russian (unless it is very good). The consular fee is to be paid in cash in brand new bank notes without any smudges or damages – euro or dollars – that you have to bring in advance (Minsk Airport visa fee). There is no ATM before the customs control and getting cash will be a problem. Don’t copy-paste your passport size photo into the visa application, even if you have a color printer – might be rejected. Foreign Affairs Ministry describes application at MSQ Airport here.
Passports control. To get through the passports control of Minsk Airport (MSQ) you must have a local insurance policy. If you already have a visa, rush to the insurance providers who can normally be seen or heard between the airplane and the passports control booths. Belarus insurance policy costs about EUR 5 per week and in general is only needed to get through the border (and is also checked at hotels). Discussing the status of your international insurance policy is normally a waste of time.
Another thing you present at the passports control is the migration card. These forms are distributed on board but if you didn’t get one or destroyed it, you’ll have a hard time – after the rest of the crowd crosses the passports control you will have to express your problem to one of the border guards (to their embarrassment) and in a while a migration card will be handed out to you (find out more about Belarus registration here).
MSQ Minsk Airport building, 2011
Any issues to be aware of? Yes, you must hand your passport, filled-in migration card and the insurance policy to the border guard and the package must not contain any foreign currency (it can be treated as a bribe). Don't use the mobile telephone at the passports control. Keep your part of the migration card till you are out of the country (border guards will collect it) – the registration stamp will be put on it by your hotel or the local OGIM if you are staying with a friend.
Customs control. There is probably one common issue here. In case of a luggage loss you will have to fill out 3 identical forms with your passport details and luggage identification number and the local address. Sometimes the assistant in charge speaks only primitive English supplemented with active gesticulation, but I believe this depends on the air carrier. The luggage will be delivered to your location in Belarus.
Currency exchange. You will probably need to buy some Belarusian rubles to get around and definitely to get to Minsk City. There is a bank on the 1st floor of the airport (sector 5-6) and there is another one on the third floor – sector 3-4.
Meeting your party. Everyone is meeting everyone after the customs control in the last airport's hall on floor 1, normally gate 5-6 (now that gates 3-4 are under reconstruction). There might be only a few people or the hall might be packed with the meeting folks - look for the print-out that was arranged to catch your attention (e.g. laminated board saying GUIDE if you are booked on my Minsk tours or Minsk transfer. Don't get out of this arrival hall unless I am terribly late and offline).
Transportation. The Minsk Airport lies about 40 kilometers away from M9 Minsk Ring Road (48 km away from Victory Square, or about one hour to get to Minsk Central Railway station). So there are three ways to get to Minsk: a shuttle bus (there can be different vehicles ranging from minibuses to coaches), a taxi and a private Minsk airport transfer to your Minsk hotel or apartment (contact me on the issue if needed).
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Taxi prices can often be negotiated – the drivers very often know the numerals in English and do not mind payments done in hard currency. Sometimes late at night there might be nothing at all once you’ve stepped out of the airport building and therefore it will make sense to book an English-speaking driver in advance to get to town.
The form of application for a visa to Belarus has become digital and you can save and send it as a PDF file. It is only a 2-page document that is available online from many resources, e.g. from the website of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus.
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