Until a decade or so ago, the choice of hotels here was limited to one out of one. Soviet-style brutalist concrete monoliths, crumbling and ill-cared for, often with brutalist standards to match. Finding a nice place in Belarus can be a challenging task.
Today, a full range of accommodation is on offer, from luxury to budget. Most bookings can be made online, directly with each hotel, and payment is made either in advance or at the conclusion of the stay by credit/debit card.
Hotels in Belarus
That is by far one of the most popular ways of finding a roof over your head. There are about 20 hotels in Minsk and about 260 in Belarus. The peculiar thing about Belarusian hotels is that many of them have that Soviet flavour (which you may like anyway) and even the most expensive ones wouldn’t offer world-class service (at least at present). Fairly decent service at a bit too high price – that’s what you are most likely to get here. The price range for hotels is 35-400$ per night.
Hostels in Belarus
Hostels and budget hotels are still very rare even in the capital of Belarus, Minsk. The reason for that is simple: there’s no private territory law in Belarus and not so many people are eager to invest into something uncertain. Fortunately, the first hostels started to appear not long ago, but they still lack the convenience and atmosphere of Western European hostels. A night in a Belarusian hostel would cost you about 10-15$.
Currently, the most expensive establishment is the imposing Hotel Europe. Oozing opulence and ideally situated for the city’s best restaurants and sights, just off Svabody Square, a single room with breakfast will cost $270 per night, which compares very favourably indeed with prices elsewhere in Europe.
At the other end of the scale, a night at Hotel 40 Let Pobedy behind Gorky Park and within walking distance of many of the city’s sights will cost $50.
Apartments in Minsk
It would be true to say that some apartments in Minsk appear to be much more luxurious than 5-star hotel rooms! To rent an apartment you can either book it online or find an ad in a local newspaper. Look through some local websites where short-term apartment rates seem to be much lower. On average, you’ll be able to rent a flat in Minsk for as low as 20$ per night.
Arranging an apartment stay can be quite easy to set up. Online tourist agencies, some with their own website and some accessible through such websites as Booking.com, offer a variety of apartments in convenient areas of town, or even cottages (dachas) situated outside the city. Additionally, some provide that ever-important registration support that tourists require in order to enter Belarus.
If you can stay with friends, then so much the better. For even better value, the classified section in the local newspaper will list columns of private rentals, where the deal is struck directly with the owner. This is only possible if you speak the language or are travelling with a Belarusian friend, of course.
Couchsurfing in Belarus – Hospitality and Culture
Belarusian people are a hospitable and open-minded nation. Want to learn some new nice people from Belarus? Try to find a host on the travelling community Couchsurfing.org. Basically, you ask someone registered in the community to host you for a couple of days (or more, depending on the host). In most cases, it’s completely free of charge, but it would be nice of you to bring some souvenir from your country. Also, you can find people who can guide you through the city and show some interesting sightseeing places. If you feel that this way of travelling sounds attractive, try it out, but be careful with some cultural differences.
Living in rural areas
There has been a real move to promote ecological and agro-tourism in rural areas, offering visitors a glimpse of rural life as it has been lived for centuries in the form of a stay on a farmstead.
The risk is that it can be difficult to tell whether what is on offer is a realistic portrayal or an invented cliché of a bucolic idyll. The database maintained by the Association of Agro- and Ecotourism ‘Country Escape’ (www.ruralbelarus.by) lists a selection of properties and all major tourist agencies will have access to this and others. Expect to pay around $50 per person per night to see life ‘down on the farm’ (breakfast extra) in Minsk region. Prices elsewhere in the country are comparable, though breakfast is usually included.
Whatever the choice of accommodation, foreign visitors should remember to comply with the requirement for visitors to obtain the necessary stamp on their migration form.