Travellers to Belarus will use the ruble as the legal currency while they are in the country. It is a decimal currency but while in theory each ruble is divided into 100 kapeek, this is actually not the case in reality. Devaluation has led to the practical demise of the kapeek so you will only ever see prices in rubles today.
The Belarusian ruble is actually quite an unusual currency in that it has no coins in circulation. The only instances where coins exist are when they are issued as commemorative coins.
There are plenty of banknotes to make up for this though. There are eight notes in circulation and a further two that are circulated but are not often used. The rare ones are the 50 and the 200,000 ruble notes. The common ones you will see a lot of are the 100, 500, 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 and 100,000 ruble banknotes.
We don’t have to go that far back in history to find the first use of the Belarusian ruble. It only came into existence in 1992 because the Russian ruble was used during the period where the Soviet Union was present. When the Soviet Union was no more Belarus decided it would have its own version of the ruble. It would be a couple of years before the Belarusian ruble was officially recognised as the one and only currency in use in the country though.
Devaluation has been a key issue with this currency. The new one lasted a mere eight years before it was devalued, resulting in the new version of the ruble being worth 1,000 of the former ones. The ruble in use today is linked with the US dollar. This was done in an attempt to make sure the currency was more stable than it had been before.
While you should assume you will pay with the Belarusian ruble while you are in the country, a few locations might be happy to accept US dollars and sometimes euros. This is worth knowing, although you should only ever take in the most pristine banknotes whenever you visit the country. Everyone there is very particular about the condition of the banknotes they take. This holds true if you want to exchange US dollars or euros for the local currency too. It’s not just a case of getting reasonably new notes – you might think they look okay but Belarusians will reject them. If you can, visit your bank before you leave home and ask for brand new notes to take with you. Try not to fold them either! Again it does sound extreme but the last thing you want is to get there and find you can’t use half the cash you brought with you.
When it comes to changing the currency into rubles, you should find a wide variety of banks and exchange kiosks that will do the job for you. You can also use bank cards to withdraw cash from cash machines. If you intend to take your bank cards with you, do make sure your bank knows you will be visiting Belarus prior to your trip. If you don’t let them know you might find your cards are cancelled or banned – they might suspect someone is using them fraudulently.
One final tip is to try and use up any rubles you have left by the end of your trip to the country. They are virtually impossible to change back anywhere else so it is best to spend them before you leave. Try and exchange fewer rubles towards the end of your trip so you aren’t left with plenty over.
As you can imagine, a currency that is unstable as this one seems to be can fluctuate markedly in the currency exchange results. Devaluation hasn’t helped much either. One ruble is usually worth a mere fraction of one British pound sterling, for example.
You can find out the latest rates by going to your favourite currency converter and entering your own currency followed by the Belarusian ruble. This will give you the latest exchange rate. Do remember that this won’t be the same as the rates you get when you exchange currency at a money changer or bureau de change.
To find out more details about Belarus and what you might expect if you pay a trip to the country, you can visit the official website for the Embassy of the Republic of Belarus. This can be found at http://uk.mfa.gov.by/en/.
Few people from Britain visit Belarus each year, but those that do generally have a nice stay and don’t encounter any problems. Crime isn’t a particular problem in the country although bad things have happened and petty crime can occur. Generally speaking you should simply be alert to any potential problems and make sure you take all the same measures with regard to safety that you would at home. Pickpockets do operate in some areas and although it isn’t a major problem it would be a major inconvenience to you if you were affected. Try not to keep all your cash in the same pocket or purse, and make sure you keep your passport safe too. Many hotel rooms have a safe so use it if you have one.
Belarus is a landlocked country situated in Europe. As you might guess from the mention of the Russian ruble earlier on in this article, it does share a border with Russia – its eastern border. Following round in a clockwise direction it also shares borders with Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.
The chances are you don’t know too much about Belarus, and yet there are some interesting sights to see in the country. Its capital is Minsk, which you may have heard of, and indeed this is worth a closer look if you are in the central part of the country. This has been a city for centuries, so there is some history here to be appreciated. It’s worth taking a look at the National Opera and Ballet of Belarus building, since it looks most impressive in white and has a fountain in front of it. Aside from this you can visit the Belarusian Great Patriotic War Museum, which has the title of being the first museum to open focusing on the Second World War before it even ended. Its opening day came in 1944. It has changed locations since and now enjoys a stunning collection of wartime memorabilia. Elsewhere in Minsk you can also visit the zoo, which has a great number of animals to see, both exotic and more familiar.
But what of the rest of Belarus? Well you can get a taste of nature when you go into the Bialowieza Forest, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and also a Biosphere Reserve. The forest is home to hundreds of bison, not to mention various other animals. The forest actually sits in both Poland and Belarus, so it is wise to remember this if you are going to go exploring. There is a border crossing in the forest itself so you can go from one to the other if you have your passport.
Elsewhere you can visit the Mir Castle complex, which is another World Heritage Site Belarus can lay claim to. It is also referred to as the Mirsky Castle and it is a stunningly attractive building. It has a look quite unlike any castle you may have seen in the UK. The current state of the castle can be attributed to the hard work of those who renovated it after it fell into considerable disrepair around the late 1700s and early 1800s. It World Heritage Status now protects it from any further damage that may occur for any reason in the future.
When you think of all the European countries you could visit, Belarus is unlikely to pop up as the most obvious one among them. Yet as you can see it does have plenty of historic sites worth visiting, not to mention many other towns and cities too numerous to mention here. While you can visit the capital – perhaps the best-known location in all of Belarus – there are plenty more sites that attract tourists too.
Once you get used to spending thousands of rubles at a time to access tourist attractions and to buy food and drink, you’ll become more familiar with the way of life in Belarus. You might enjoy it that much you’ll miss it when you eventually leave to return home. Just remember to restrict the amount of rubles you have left at the end of your holiday, so you’re not left out of pocket.