Currently there is no visa requirement to visit Grodno area in Belarus.
- Is it valid only tourists? Can I visit it independently without buying tourist services?
- How long does it take to pass customs and cross the boarder?
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(Old question, but some things have changed recently.)
NO. You can only visit Grodno(Hrodna) without a visa if you apply via a tourist operator. From Grodno Visa Free:
Foreign visitors can enter Belarus visa-free if they plan to visit the territory of a special tourist and recreational part “Avgustov Channel”, and its adjacent territories.
One can enter Belarus through crossing Belarus State Border at the checkpoints Lesnaya (Rudavka), and Bruzgi (Kuznitsa Belostokskaya) which border on Poland; at the checkpoints Privalka (Shviandubre), and Privalka (Raigardas) which border on Lithuania.
01.01.2018 A checkpoint at the railway station in Grodno and at Grodno airport is included in the list of checkpoints that carry out visa-free entry.
Visa free territories are:
01.01.2018 The Grodno region fully included into the territory of the park "Awgustow Canal".
In order to enter the visa-free territory a foreign visitor should possess the document which is issued by Belarusian tourist agency.
In order to obtain the document a foreign visitor is:
- to address Belarusian travel agency which has the right to issue such documents;
- to receive confirmation approving a foreign traveler's right to enter Belarus visa-free, and to obtain tourist service which should be booked in advance.
Before entering Belarus a foreign visitor is to get a health insurance for staying in Belarus.
A foreign visitor entering Belarus visa-free is to present the following documents at Belarus State Border checkpoint:
a valid document which allows to cross State Borders of foreign countries (passport);
the document issued by Belarusian travel agency which allows to enter the above mentioned territories visa-free;
A migration card is to be drawn up at the checkpoint of Belarus State Border.
Comment: in case of migration card loss, a tourist will be fined.
So, it seems while you may be able to travel on your own once you're inside Belarus but you must buy the services to get there in the first place (and get the necessary documents). I suspect you may also run into issues if you don't actually use the booked service, so I would recommend arranging a custom itinerary with the operator (I would guess most of them are quite flexible).
You can check approximate load at the Border Committee website.
For example, this snapshot of Lithuanian checkpoint Benayakoni shows us queue of 10 trucks.
Cars' lines on entry can be evaluated only via CCTVs. Information is updated bihourly.
P.S. Official transcript is Hrodna.