Minsk is located precisely in the center of Belarus. One of the main gateways to the country, the National Airport, is also located near Minsk. Although it might be a good idea to plan to visit other cities on your way to the capital, knowing how to get in and out of Minsk by public transport is a must.
There are direct flights to Minsk from more than 30 different countries. The airport is 42 km far from Minsk. It was built in 1982 to replace the older airport in the city center and is still referred to, in some places, as Minsk-2. As in every other airport, you can spend your time, while waiting for a flight, at a bar or hotel, taking a shower, buying souvenirs, and reading in the waiting area. Additionally, after the renovation in 2014, it's possible also to work out in the gym (24h, 5 rubles per hour), get a haircut, buy some medicine at 24/7 pharmacy, and leave your kids at the play area. Check-in and departures are located on the first floor, and arrivals are on the ground floor.
After (hopefully not so) rigid check-up at the border control, unless you have a credit card, you need to look for a currency exchange office to get local money – Belarusian Rubles (BYN). Please note that you can only change banknotes, as foreign coins are not accepted. Don’t change too much, as exchange rates at the airport are a bit worse than in the banks around the city. Bus ticket for one person costs around 4 rubles, which equals to about 2 USD/EUR.
Buses depart from and to the airport every couple of hours from 12 AM to 6 AM, and every 30-40 minutes during the rest of the day. A bus №300 and a route bus (a van with a sweet local name “marshrootka”) №1400 will get you to the main bus and train station in about an hour with one stop at Uruchcha metro station. Tip: Take the left side on the bus for a better view of the National Library of Belarus. There are also two additional options, which are relevant only if you booked your stay in Sokol neighborhood or near Mogilevskaya metro station – bus №173 and route bus №1430. Both operate only a few times per day, so it’s better to stick to the first options.
Located 5 minutes away from the Main Railway Station, Minsk Central Bus Station is the main hub for all the buses in Minsk. Buses go to 5 main regional cities and all the neighboring capitals. It might be a bit hard to find the bus station because you need to go around the main entrance of the Galileo Shopping Mall. All the platforms are located under the shopping mall building. There is a separate entrance for the ticket office and waiting area. Although it would be nice to have a food court and several restaurants, you might stay hungry if you decide to look for food here at night, before your trip. In that case, grab a snack at the train station, or come prepared.
The first railway station in Minsk was built in 1873. It was destroyed and rebuilt several times until the last building was open for public in 2002. It has a pretty complicated structure, so make sure to have an extra 30 minutes, or even an hour, to find your way through. If you see 2 identical buildings, like those on the story cover picture - the city gates, you’re standing at the main entrance of the railway station. There are snack corners on all of the floors, and some of them are open 24/7. The waiting area is located on the 2nd floor. Toilets, a currency exchange, a cloakroom, a pharmacy, and even a hairdresser are located underground.
Going to the left from the main entrance will take you to the international ticket office. Going to the right will get you to a place selling tickets for the local trains. Unfortunately, tickets for international trains can’t be bought through the internet. You must visit the ticket office, and you also need to have your ID or passport with you. It might also happen that the lady from one desk will send you to another one for no apparent reason. To avoid panic and frustration, I would recommend setting about an hour just for buying the tickets. It’s hard to find a proper English-speaking employee at the ticket office, so better check the train schedule that you need in advance, and write down the all the information to show it at the ticket desk.
Belarus is trying its best to become tourist-friendly, but there is still a lot to do. I hope that this small guide will help you with getting in and out of Minsk by public transport. The most important things, in all of the cases, are to plan some extra time for navigation, check your tickets and routes in advance, and ask people for support. Even if they don’t speak English, they will do what they can to help you.
Cover Picture © Credits to iStock/iStockVadim
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