Belarus is generally a safe place for travelers. Violent crimes against travelers are rare; however, you should always exercise common sense. If you find yourself in a dangerous situation, don’t be a hero – hand over whatever it is the perpetrator is asking for, or try to walk away and find a safe place.
Belarus: a safe country according to world rankings
For years Belarus was named one of the safest countries in the world with the lowest crime rate and a high safety and security level. In 2017, Belarus scored 10th in a ranking of crime in the world’s largest database of user-contributed data about cities and countries worldwide. The country went up by 15 positions since 2016. According to the ranking, Belarus’s neighbors are far more dangerous: Poland took 30th place, Latvia – 40th, Lithuania – 50th, Russia – 67th, and Ukraine – 85th.
In a world ranking of intentional homicide, Belarus took 116th position. This rating was last compiled in 2013 according to the methodology of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Compilers of the rating recorded 5.1 murders per 100,000 people in Belarus, while in 2016 the figure decreased to around 4.5. This is one of the most reputable indicators to assess the overall level of physical security in a particular state or region. Often, it is perceived as an index of the level of violence in society as a whole.
The biggest threat to travelers in Belarus is petty theft, particularly on public transport, sleeper trains, and in popular tourist destinations around Minsk.
How to avoid theft:
- Be cautious, alert, and aware of your surroundings and belongings at all times.
- Keep your wallet, bag, or backpack zipped shut and in front of you.
- Men should try to keep their wallets in the front rather than the back pocket.
- Don’t carry large sums of money with you, or draw attention to yourself.
- Wealthy tourists represent rich pickings for Belarusian thieves, so don’t make it obvious by wearing flashy jewelry or super fancy clothing.
Another target for thieves in Belarus is European, Japanese, and American-made SUV and luxury cars. Carjacking is rare, but car theft and theft of car parts is common here. Again, inconspicuousness is the key: park in secure overnight parking areas, and don’t leave valuables on the back seat of the car – hide your belongings in the boot or beneath seats if you absolutely have to keep them in the car.
Drink spiking and drugs in Belarus
While there are strong penalties for possession or use of drugs in Belarus (convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines), there have been reports of drugged travelers by drink spiking in nightclubs. It can be very difficult to tell if your drink has been spiked, so here are a few ways to avoid it
- Never accept a drink from a stranger.
- Don’t leave your drink unattended.
- Try to keep your hand over your drink if you are walking through nightclubs or bars.
- Don’t drink anything you didn’t open yourself, see it be opened or poured by a bar tender.
- If you think your drink has been spiked, if you feel dizzy or sick, ask someone you trust to take you to a safe place 5. or a hospital and report it to the authorities.
Prostitution is a fairy common in Belarus, and it’s not unheard of for sex-workers to attempt to enter hotels in search of customers. This really only happens at smaller, local hotels.
Capital punishment in Belarus
Belarus and Russia are the only countries in Europe that still have capital punishment. Execution is the punishment for murder, terrorism, treason, conspiracy, and sabotage. If you are arrested for a crime in Belarus, you may not have automatic access to your consular official and you may be summarily expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
Civil unrest in Belarus
Belarus is an authoritarian state. Political unrest or dissention is not tolerated at all, and as a foreigner, you should stay well away from any political demonstrations, marches, or large public gatherings. In late 2010 a pro-democracy rally in central Minsk was violently dispersed by authorities. Several presidential candidates remain in KGB jails, facing prison terms of up to 15 years for organizing riots and mass disorders. If you participate in any kind of rally or demonstration, particularly if you are caught holding a banner expect to be detained within minutes and how fast you are released or get access to consular officials will very much depend on your social network in Belarus.
Terrorism in Belarus
There is also a general threat from terrorism in Belarus. Bombings have occurred in 2005, 2008 and 2011. In the most recent incident, 14 people were killed and more than two hundred were injured in an explosion on the Minsk Metro. There is a general threat from terrorism in Belarus. Be alert, aware, and make sure you register with consular officials.
Although the police presence on the streets of the cities is barely noticeable, there are 405 police officers per 100,000 civilians in Belarus. Comparing that to the global median of 300 police officers per 100,000 inhabitants provided by the UN (which might be a bit outdated), one can infer that Belarus is a police state. So if anything, knock on wood, happens – you will be safe.