We recently took a trip to Minsk, Belarus. One of the first things you need to do upon arrival is to register at the OGIM – Отдел по гражданству и миграции within 5 business days. If you stay in a hotel, they’ll do it for you automatically. However, since we were invited by friends, they have to take us to the Citizenship and Migration Department, fill out the form, pay 90,000 BLR (US$6)/person, and spend half a day there to do it. Don’t lose your migration card, you’ll need it to leave the country.
One of the first places we visited was the Zhdanovichi flea-market, which has several acres of both covered and outdoor stores selling everything from clothing, shoes, electronics, building materials, restaurants, and even sub-machine guns!
There are many Vietnamese restaurants in the market, over 20 of them called Сайгон (Saigon), possibly because they were a franchise, but with different layouts. The menus, however, offer essentially the same things, at identical or almost the same prices. One look may give you “sticker shock”, as a bowl of pho (beef noodles) costs about 55,000 Belarusian Rubles (BLR). But don’t worry, as the exchange rate is about US$1 = 15,000 BLR. So it costs only US$3.67, and you become a “millionaire” if you have as little as US$67!
One of the best deals in Minsk is a metro ride. A single ride costs only 4,500 BLR i.e. US$0.30! In comparison, a one-way subway ride in Toronto costs C$3 or about US$2.40, 8 times as much! Unlike Toronto or Hong Kong, subway stations have few advertisments.
Our favorite supermarket is корона (Crown), near a State University and where many foreigners, including students, have lunch and do their grocery shopping. Most prices are very reasonable, except when you buy imported brands.
July 3 is Belarus’ Independence Day, celebrated by fireworks at 10 pm. This shot was taken from our apartment.
(To be continued)