Stay safe & healthy
Belarus has a moderate level of crime. Fortunately, crimes against foreigners are rare, though criminals have been known to use force if met with resistance from victims. Common street crime, such as mugging and pickpocketing, occurs most frequently near public transportation venues, near hotels frequented by foreigners, and/or at night in poorly lit areas. In many areas, you should be especially alert in metro and bus stations, as criminals have a likely chance in attacking you.
Avoid visiting night clubs and discothèques, as these are operated by criminal gangs willing to search for greater money, but street-level organized criminal violence is rare and does not generally affect expatriates.
Cyber-crime of all kinds is well-developed in Belarus. Merchandise orders with fraudulent credit cards, ID theft, hacking/blackmail schemes, and Nigerian-style advanced fee fraud are gaining in popularity. If you are doing business with persons or firms in Belarus electronically, you should proceed with extreme caution. Not only is electronic fraud common at ATMs and grocery stores, serious injuries have been inflicted during assaults at street-side ATMs.
If you participate in a street demonstration with political banners, expect to be detained within minutes. How fast you get out (24 hours or 24 days) depends on your connections, your social status, etc. Westerners especially should avoid any political discussions, protests, etc., due to the government's keen opposition to dissenting views.
Belarus is still largely a discriminatory society. Gay and lesbian travellers face widespread discrimination in Belarus, as do Jews. If you are in any of these categories, it is best not to travel to Belarus in the first place.
Many demonstrations can be identified by seeing a red and white banner: a white background, with a strip of red going horizontally across in the centre, forming a white/red/white flag. If you see this flag, do your best to stay away from the demonstration.
Security personnel may at times place you, as a foreigner, under surveillance; hotel rooms, telephones, and fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched. Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with authorities; these sites are not always clearly marked and the application of these restrictions is subject to interpretation.
Visible and hidden dangers exist, including potholes, unlighted or poorly lighted streets, inattentive and dark-clothed pedestrians walking on unlighted roads, drivers and pedestrians under the influence of alcohol, and disregard for traffic rules. Driving in winter is especially dangerous because of ice and snow. Drivers are urged to exercise caution at all times.
The KGB in Belarus has not changed its name since the days of the Soviet Union - it is still called the KGB, and its habits have probably not changed much either.
Some ethnic Polish journalists and journalists with Polish citizenship had hassles with the authorities (ranging from being refused entry to a dozen or so days in prison) during 2005. If you have a Polish sounding name, you had better have good evidence that you're not a journalist.
Belarus police organizations are well trained and professional, but severely restricted by an un-reformed Soviet-era legal system, corruption, and politicization of the police force and other government authorities. Due to low salaries, it is not uncommon for officers to collect bribes during traffic stops. Sophisticated criminal investigations are often inconclusive because of a lack of resources and/or political will. Belarusians are extremely clumsy drivers.
Historically, Belarus maintained an excellent health system, but when the Chernobyl disaster broke out, the medical care has damaged the system severely. Therefore, medical care in Belarus is neither modern nor easily accessible. Of significant note is that the system is only accessible for people who speak fluent Russian and Belarussian. Ambulances are poorly equipped and unreliable; a wait time of 30 minutes or more is not unusual. The fastest way to secure Western-level care is medical evacuation to the European Union.
Tuberculosis (TB) is an increasingly serious health concern in Belarus. Consider consulting with a doctor about getting vaccinated before traveling to Belarus.
In Belarus, there is a large institute with substantial funding for studying the food chain impact of the Chernobyl disaster, which happened in 1986 in a nuclear power plant on the Ukraine-Belarus border. In principle, food inspectors check food not only for bacterial contamination but also for radiation levels. Most food is considered safe, except if sourced from the banned regions within 50 km (31 mi) of the Chernobyl plant itself or the second hotspot around the intersection of Russian, Ukrainian and Belarussian borders.