Barely Getting Into Belarus
As we were preparing for our trip around the Baltic’s (Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus & Ukraine), most people were very surprised that we tagged Belarus into the mix. Even the Belarusians when we arrived were surprised.
I have no pictures of this for reasons that will become apparent. So, I have inserted other images that I feel may sum everything up.
Some quick, fun facts about Belarus:
Last dictatorship in Europe
You can enter without a visa by air once you are there for under 3 days
Belarus is also the last country with the death penalty
I am a sucker for going places off the beaten track so while in that part of the world, felt foolish to not check out this relatively untouched place for tourists. Even though it added an extra layer of complexity to everything. And was awkward, real awkward.
We were getting buses and trains from city to city and country to country but due to the visa situation, we needed to fly into Belarus. We flew on Belavia which was a lot better than I ignorantly presumed it would be. And we touched down in Minsk airport - safe and sound.
There was a fair bit of anxiety going on on our way to the airport to fly to Minsk as the website we had booked our flights on was in Belurssian or Lithuanian so what exactly I booked was unclear. Obviously my Belorussian or Lithuanian is better than I thought.
We were 5 guys throughly enjoying our adventure and we were particularly excited to see what Minsk had to offer. As we raced off the plane, we were greeted with a huge “Welcome To Belarus” sign. I whipped out my phone and proceeded to take a snap of it. Instantly, I was approached by two armed policemen and told to delete the picture.
Oh, right. This is the situation.
I apologised and deleted it. The police officer grabbed my phone off me to check. While I am an innocent chap, we all know what is sent around in WhatsApp chat groups so I was terrified as to what he could potential find but alas he waved me on.
We walked into the airport and you could sense the tension. The passport controllers had small magnifying glasses to really study your passport. And they appeared to be grilling everyone. Again, I am an innocent chap so I have nothing to worry about, right? Wrong.
So, the years of epic adventures and travel have not only taken a toll on my body but my passport also received quick the kicking. From it falling out of my pocket and getting run over by a moped in Colombia, to getting capsized on a boat in Myanmar - my passport looked like it had better days. The Irish harp on the cover was almost gone and many of the pages were ineligible. Not ideal.
We filled out our temporary entry card and I approached the desk. I had a very unpleasant lady. I fear the state of my passport just put her in a worse mood. She looked at me and my passport with disbelief. Flicking through it with pure disdain. She did not even bother using her magnifying glass. She spoke no English to pointed at me to wait as she went out of her booth to discuss my passport with someone.
I have never really had much issues with my passport but in recent years, I have only been traveling around the EU and Shengen areas where ease of travel is delicious. Enjoy your new horrible travel life once outside the EU, UK.
Anyway, a guy returned with our Moody Minskian and simply said;
“What is wrong with your passport? This is bad. Very bad”
I suddenly got an awful sinking feeling that I could potentially not be allowed into Minsk and be turfed back into the EU. I think the laws state that they have to fly me out but I think it is to the cheapest nearest EU destination. And I had my flight back to London out of Kiev.
I basically tried to act like the most innocent and non confrontational individual ever to explain myself.
“You travel a lot. To strange places. Too much”
Oh lord. It was turning really bad really quickly. He was speaking to the lady in Belarussian and giving her a look like “there is no way, we can let this dude in”.
I showed them my flight to Ukraine and back out to the UK in a desperate attempt to show them I was just on a quick holiday through. There was a small break through with that, given the dates, that I would be gone in a few days. Back to safe out Blighty. They told me to wait again and they walked off.
My friends had all gone through after a grilling but they made it through. Why are Belarus so bloody protective of people coming in and out of their country anyway?
I was left sitting there feeling pretty helpless. I began thinking getting turfed out won’t be the worst as maybe Ill be sent back to Lithuania and Latvia where I had a great time and I can chill out for a few days before returning home. Plus it will make a good blog.
The guy finally returned alone and waved me over.
“You are very lucky. Your passport is awful”
I apologise again and said that I will get a new one as soon as I get home. He nodded and stamped my passport. I was safe. Glorious. He picked up my passport one more time as if it was covered in waste and showed me the pages.
“You cannot read any of this properly.”
Ok, buddy. We get it. Can I come into your stupid country now? He then did something mental. He opened the passport, pointed at the illegible writing and then clean ripped it. Making a disastrous passport, much worse.
“Get a new one, as soon as you return”
I bowed and was very subservient as he waved me on into Belarus. And I thought my passport was terrible before? And how on earth was I going to get back out of Belarus and into Ukraine?!