Why Belarus and Ukraine?
Belarus and Ukraine
Neighboring countries, former Soviet republics, buffers between Russia and Europe, these are Belarus and Ukraine. And they are related people with related languages do too. But, in 2020, the differences between the two countries are also huge, which makes it interesting to visit both, possibly on one trip!
Especially in political and economic terms, Belarus and Ukraine are miles apart. Although they have a good relationship nowadays, partly because of their mutual problems – albeit of very different nature – with their big neighbor Russia. Because, in part, Belarus still has a closed state economy and can hardly be called democratic.
Ukraine has gone through several revolutions, lastly in 2013-2014 the acclaimed Maidan Revolution. By trial and error it is becoming a democratic market economy, with as its main task of eradicating widespread corruption.
Belarus is more prosperous, thanks to years of subsidies from Russia, which it is losing in 2020 – and is looking for new economic partners. Ukraine is more democratic at all levels but is catching up economically.
History is often shared, from periods in the Russian and Soviet empires to the devastation and terror by the Nazis in WW2.
The differences and similarities between the countries make it interesting to travel through them. We (Ardjan Langedijk) thought so too, and therefore have created this website with programs in both countries, including combinations!
Highlights of Belarus
After our numerous visits to Belarus we consider these to be the highlights:
– the modest, quiet and friendly people
– homestays in the countryside, spread over the whole country. They can be difficult to find if you drive yourself, but the hospitality provided, the quality of the extensive meals and the real interest of the owners are heart-warming. Note, language can be a factor
– the historic cities of Vitebsk, Grodno and Polotsk. With beautiful buildings, always clean and well maintained
– the many protected nature reserves, where lodgings are always available. Belarus consists largely of forests, marshes and lakes
– the surprisingly modern capital Minsk. You can rent bikes, attend performances, visit numerous museums, go out, admire Soviet architecture and much more
– numerous interesting and sad memories of WW2, from the Stalin Line and the village of Khatyn near Minsk to the Fortress of Brest
– drive yourself on the quiet and mostly well-maintained roads, through sleepy villages, forests and marshes
– the unexpected and sometimes bizarre. You may encounter a huge radar installation along the border with Lithuania, visit the Belaz factory with the largest trucks in the world, see a tank stationed next to a church, and more.
Above all, Belarus is safe, clean, friendly, inexpensive and offers a glimpse of life in the countryside, as it was in the former USSR, more than in any other country that originated from that huge empire, including Russia!
Highlights of Ukraine
And then Ukraine. First of all, in 2020 the country is still – unfortunately – in conflict with Russia and Russian-backed separatists over part of the eastern Donbas region. And the Crimean peninsula is still under Russian occupation after an illegal referendum in 2014. Of course we do not offer travel programs in these regions.
What are good reasons to visit Ukraine?
– the dynamic capital Kyiv, in full motion except during the daily traffic jams, with historical sights and a lively nightlife and restaurant life, much more than Minsk
– the old center of Lviv, an open air museum in the best European style
– Odesa, the third large and fascinating city in the western part, with its boulevard, grande (but somewhat) dilapidated atmosphere, and beach life in the summer
– the Carpathian Mountains and Hutsu culture in the west of the country (see our extensive tour in this area!)
– central and eastern Ukraine, economic powerhouses of the country with interesting cities such as Kharkiv and Dnipro and the possibility to visit factories and iron ore mines! See this travel program from our offer
– the possibilities for “extreme tourism” such as visits to Chornobyl and the Strategic Missile Center!
– expect a country in full development, free from its big neighbor Russia, with an enthusiastic and enterprising population!
Drive through Ukraine and you will understand why it was called the granary of the Soviet Union, with its “black gold”. Only, the roads are not always good and if you want to drive a rented car yourself, you have to take this into account!
Frequently Asked Questions about Belarus and Ukraine
1. Do I need a visa for travelling in Belarus and Ukraine?
Ukraine is visa-free for most countries.
In case you enter and leave Belarus at Minsk International Airport, you do not need a visa for a stay up to 30 days.
In almost all other cases you do need a visa, for which you need an invitation letter. We can arrange you the invitation letter if you will book a tour with us.
2. Are Belarus and Ukraine safe countries to visit?
Belarus is a very safe country, both for the inhabitants and for visitors.
At the time of writing (2020) there is an ongoing armed conflict in East Ukraine with Russia, unfortunately.
We do not visit this Donbas region, which is not recommended to anyone.
The remainder of the country is safe for travelling.
3. Do I need vaccinations to visit Belarus and Ukraine?
For both countries the Dutch Health Authorities (GGD) recommend vaccinations for Hepatitis A and for DTP (Dyptheris, Tetanus en Polio).
4. How can I pay in Belarus and Ukraine?
There are ample ATMs to collect local cash money with your debit card of your credit card in both countries. Also, in many shops and restaurants it’s possible to make contactless payments.
5. How is Internet in the countries?
In both countries network coverage is quite good, in populated areas even excellent. Apart from possible restrictions in Belarus for local and opposition-minded websites, the internet in both countries is free and open.
You may ask us to arrange a local simcard at the start of your tour. Hotels do have WiFi.
6. What is the best period to travel in Belarus and Ukraine?
You can travel all year long in both of them. Do expect pretty cold weather especially in Belarus and in Northern and Central Ukraine in winter, with snowfall. Summers are nice and can be hot and humid in southern Ukraine.
Why visit Belarus and Ukraine with us?
– we know the countries well and can advise you on the best routes and the best accommodations
– on the way, we support you on your request and without obligation, via whatsapp
– together with our local partners we can offer you excellent drivers & guides
– your trip in Belarus and Ukraine is guaranteed in case of our (not expected) financial insolvency as we are a member of the Dutch Guarantee Fund GGTO
– read the testimonials!
As per 27.07.2018 a visa for a stay up to 30 days is not needed anymore or citizins of many countries to enter Belarus, provided one enters and leaves the country through Minsk International Airport.
Ukraine is visa-free.