Expats in Belarus will find that the country is not a popular destination for those looking to live abroad. The country is a former Soviet Republic which remains largely isolated from the international community due to the authoritarian nature of its government.

Little foreign investment enters Belarus and the economy is largely controlled by the state, with approximately half of the local population employed by state-controlled companies, while private business is virtually non-existent. 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 stern and conservative, which is often mistaken for unfriendliness. The majority of the local population are Belarusians, with sizeable minorities of Russians, Poles and Ukrainians.

Russian and Belarusian are the official languages of Belarus. Expats will encounter very few people able to speak English. It's therefore essential that expats living in Belarus make a concerted attempt to learn the local language. Furthermore, a general knowledge of Cyrillic will be useful as almost all street and public transport signs are written in this script.

Expat parents should note that there are very few international schools in Belarus. Those available are mostly located in the capital city, Minsk. 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.

Fast facts

Population: About 9.5 million

Capital city: Minsk

Neighbouring countries: Belarus is bordered by Latvia, Lithuania and 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 (BYR) 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 cafes. 

Time: GMT+3

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.

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