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I'm planing a day's visit to Minsk on 19th June. I arrive at 6.30am on the sleeper from Warsaw and depart at 10pm the same day on the sleeper to Moscow. However the train times mean that I will cross the border from Poland just before midnight (i.e. on the 18th), and cross the border into Russia just after the following midnight (i.e on the 20th). As a UK passport holder, this means I cannot use a transit visa which only allows two consecutive calendar days in Belarus. (Some people have suggested I could get away with a transit visa as my passport won't be checked on the outward journey, but I'm not keen to risk that.)

The extra cost of a tourist visa is not a problem, and my travel agents say I can get a letter of invitation if I book a cheap hotel room. As I've already got accommodation sorted (on the sleeper), I won't set foot in the hotel, so I can get something really cheap, regardless of how dodgy or inconveniently located it is. However my travel agent has now warned me that failing to check in / out of the hotel will invalidate my visa. This seems unlikely to me. Can anyone advise me?

  • Why can't you use a transit visa? Doesn't It permis up to 2 days. You will need a valid visa for the next destination, Russia, to accompany your transit visa. – LiamH Mar 2 '16 at 18:48
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    @LiamH it appears the day calculation is by calendar days, as is common. If one is present in the country on the 18th, 19th, and 20th, that counts as three days. – phoog Mar 2 '16 at 18:59
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    Did you check whether the sleeper train accommodation will be accepted for 'hotel', as you will have proof of reservation for that. – Willeke Apr 29 '16 at 14:15
  • Also you could try a mattress-run for your cheap hotel room, i.e. book it, check in on the 19th and check out 5 minutes later. Stranger things have happened before. But by now you will have traveled and it would be great if you came back here and told us about your experience and how you were able to solve this! – mts Jun 21 '16 at 12:13
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In the end I booked a cheap hotel for a night and never set foot in it. I could have checked in and out five minutes later, as suggested above, but the cheap hotels were all a long way from where I planned to spend the day, so this wasn't an appealing prospect.

I figured that even if this was technically illegal and could potentially invalidate my visa, as my travel agent suggested, it would be well past midnight before the hotel decided I definitely wasn't going to arrive, and by then I would be out of the country.

As it happened, the train into the country was sufficiently late that the entry stamp in my passport read 19 June rather than 18 June, so I could have avoided all this with a transit visa, but obviously I wasn't to know the train would be delayed.

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I have transited through Belarus several times. You are not required to check in at the hotel with a prior arrangement. There are many reasons why people change hotels. You can stay at any hotel and Belarusian authorities don't care which hotel you stay as long as you exit the country within 48 hours. You don't want to overstay 48 hours otherwise you'll be detained at the border, pay fines, miss scheduled train or flight and possible future visa denial.

If you travel to Belarus with a tourist visa then hotel or your Belarusian host are required to register you within 5 business days if your stay will be longer than 5 business days. Failure to register could negatively impact your future visa.

Remember Belarus is an authoritarian country so don't take any chances overstaying your visa or skip registration. You must carry your passport, migration card and registration card with you at all times. The police do have the rights to stop you for no reason and inspect your papers. I am US citizen and I live in Russia for 9 years. I've seen my friends in Russia get detained, pay fines or deported for not following visa or registration rules.

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