Belarus is generally not a popular destination for those looking to live abroad. The country is a former Soviet republic that remains quite isolated from the international community due to the authoritarian nature of its government. Nevertheless, expats moving to Belarus will find a unique country with an incredibly rich history and picturesque natural beauty.
Living in Belarus as an expat
Although foreign investment in Belarus has increased somewhat recently, this has been marred by international sanctions against the country for its support of Russia in its war against Ukraine. The economy is also still largely controlled by the state and perceived as centrally planned, with approximately half of the local population employed by state-controlled companies.
While it may be growing, Belarus's private sector is tiny. Manufacturing is a major contributor to the economy, with the biggest exports from Belarus including heavy machinery and agricultural and energy products.
Belarusians are known to be reserved upon first meeting, but they are incredibly kind, friendly and good-humoured people. They are keen to show foreigners the positives of their culture and will go the extra mile to ensure their guests feel welcome and happy. The majority of the local population are Belarusians, with pockets of Russians, Poles and Ukrainians.
Russian and Belarusian are the official languages of Belarus. Expats will encounter few people able to speak English. It's therefore essential that expats living in Belarus make a concerted attempt to learn the local language. A general knowledge of Cyrillic will also be helpful, as almost all street and public transport signs are written in this script.
Healthcare in Belarus isn't up to the standards most expats will be used to, so those needing significant medical treatment will likely need to seek this abroad. But for routine treatments or check-ups, expats will discover healthcare to be cheap and easily accessible.
Cost of living in Belarus
Belarus is significantly cheaper than Western European countries and the US. Its capital city, Minsk, ranked 182nd out of 227 cities surveyed in the 2023 Mercer Cost of Living Survey, indicating that the cost of living in Belarus is fairly reasonable.
Accommodation is affordable, along with public transport and groceries. Alcohol and clothing can be expensive, while the cost of schooling is on par with the rest of Europe. Overall, locals and expats in Belarus enjoy an above-average standard of living at a well-below-average cost.
Families and children in Belarus
Expat parents should note that there are few international schools in Belarus, and those that are available are mostly located in the capital city, Minsk. The standard of education in Belarus is high, and expat parents wanting to stay in Belarus long-term should therefore consider a local public school for their children.
Belarus is littered with natural attractions and cultural destinations that are perfect for day trips or family getaways. Those who enjoy the outdoors will find plenty of opportunities for activities such as hiking, canoeing and fishing in the Belarusian countryside.
Climate in Belarus
With a temperate continental climate, expats in Belarus can expect four distinct seasons, made up of warm summers, long cold winters, and mild springs and autumns. It rains intermittently throughout spring and summer, while autumns are extremely wet. Snowfall is abundant throughout winter, and temperatures average below freezing during these months.
Belarus is a charming destination that offers expats a high quality of life at a low cost. Although the country is seeing more foreign influence, the government is still primarily in control, and citizens don't have the freedom they do in other countries. Expats will therefore have to weigh up the pros and cons of moving to Belarus before committing to the relocation.
Population: Around 9.4 million
Capital city: Minsk
Neighbouring countries: Belarus is bordered by Latvia and Lithuania to the northwest, Poland to the west, Ukraine to the south, and Russia to the east.
Geography: The geography of Belarus is mainly flat, forested land with several streams, lakes and rivers.
Political system: Presidential republic
Major religions: Orthodox Christianity
Main languages: Belarusian and Russian
Currency: The Belarusian ruble (BYN) is divided into 100 kopecks. ATMs are easily accessible in all major urban centres, and expats should not have trouble using their bank cards.
Tipping: A small gratuity of around five percent is generally expected at restaurants and cafés.
Electricity: 220/240 volts and 50Hz. Plugs usually have two round pins.
Internet domain: .by
International dialling code: +375
Emergency numbers: 103 (ambulance), 101 (fire), 102 (police)
Driving: Cars in Belarus drive on the right-hand side of the road. There's an extensive public transport system of buses, trams, taxis and trolleys for expats to take advantage of in Belarus.