Traffic and Road Conditions in Belarus

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions

U.S. citizens on short-term visits to Belarus (up to 90 days) are permitted to drive with a valid U.S. state or international driver’s license. Therefore, you should always carry your passport with you to prove date of entry into the country in the event that police stop you. If residing in Belarus for more than 90 days, you should apply for a Belarusian driver’s license (regardless of the type of license you have, state or international), in which case you will be required to pass a two-part test in Russian. The first part of this test is a computer-based multiple-choice test on local driving rules, and the second part is a driving test. To receive a local driver’s license, you will also need to complete a medical exam at a special medical clinic, which will include a general physical, approval form from a neuro-pathologist, a surgeon, and an EENT specialist, as well as an EKG, a chest x-ray, and an eye exam.

Roads in Belarus are in generally good condition, but modern cars share the highways with tractors, horse-drawn carts, and pedestrians. Drunk driving is also common, even with a zero-tolerance law. Ice and snow in the winter months pose an added hazard. Should you get involved in an automobile accident, report it immediately to the road police, and remain at the scene until after the police arrive and complete the investigation. You may leave the scene of an accident only if you believe your personal safety is in danger.

Except for a stretch of the main east-west highway where the speed limit is 120 km/h (75 mph), the maximum speed limit on divided highways or main roads outside village, town, or city limits is 90 km/h (55 mph). Speed limits in cities are 60 km/h unless marked and will usually range between 40 km/h and 80 km/h, with frequent radar traps. Fines for speeding depend on the speed over the speed limit, and can vary from 2 to 10 minimum tariff units (from $26 to $130).

Visible and hidden dangers exist, including potholes, unlighted or poorly lighted streets, inattentive and dark-clothed pedestrians walking on unlighted roads, drivers and pedestrians under the influence of alcohol, and disregard for traffic rules. Driving in winter is especially dangerous because of ice and snow. Driving with caution is urged at all times.

DUI fines vary from 15 to 35 minimum tariff units (from $200 to $500) for the first detected offense. Repeated offenders within 365 days may be subject to criminal prosecution (up to 6 months in prison or up to two years of corrective labor).

Drivers are expected to yield for pedestrians crossing at pedestrian crossings marked by respective road signs or road markings, and intersections not controlled by a traffic signal or a road policeman.

Use of hand-held mobile phones while driving is prohibited. Radio-dispatched taxi services are generally reliable, arrive promptly once called, and usually offer the lowest fare. Most radio-dispatched taxis are metered. Current fare is approximately $1 per mile. However, the minimum charge is about 4 dollars which includes the first 3-4 miles of travel. With the majority of taxi services, the rates are the same during the day and in the overnight hours. The use of informal, unregistered taxis is not recommended.

Minsk has a clean, safe, and efficient subway system that easily reaches most of the city center. Service is stopped from 1:00 a.m.to 5:30 a.m., but otherwise runs regularly throughout the day. Ticket prices are extremely low by western standards. Though their routes are extensive, buses and trolleys lack cooling capabilities in the summer and are usually crowded.

When travelling on public transportation of any kind, you should be wary of pickpockets and other petty crime. If you are interested in car rentals, there are several western rental agencies currently operating in Minsk. In general, rental-car networks in Belarus are not well developed.

You may experience significant delays (1-12 hours)in crossing the border by road into neighboring countries, especially Poland and Lithuania.

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