Arrival into Belarus’s National Park “Belovezhskaya Pushcha” is made possible by pre-arranging a permit, showing valid health insurance, and crossing by foot or bike at Pererov border crossing from Poland.
It seems like a simple process, but there are many important details that come into play when executing the trip. After several weeks of planning, I was still unsure and uneasy as to how exactly this trip would play-out. Though I persisted the whole way through and successfully crossed into Belarus, to say it was flawlessly executed would be one gigantic lie.
To save you from extra bus rides, long (loooongggg) walks and steady feeling of uncertainty, I’ll share with you what I learned. Here it is:
A hassle-free visa-free trip to Belarus National Park “Belovezhskaya Pushcha”
You will need to apply for a permit online. Plan far enough in advance to give the office time to process your order. They have set response times throughout the day, and are very punctual in their replies.
Apply for the permit here: http://bezvizy.npbp.by/en/
Select the dates which you will travel (remember: 72 hours validity = 3 days, 2 nights)
Select accommodation. If you purchase it on the same website as your permit was completed, you will find the prices much more affordable than if you purchase them through your standard booking website. Make sure to stay in the main city, Kamenyuki, as this is where the bus will drop you off and there is no way to get from Kamenyuki to other areas of the park with public transportation.
Select “extras”: I highly suggest a trip to the open-air park. If you’re imagining a small, cramped zoo, you’re wrong. This park has large open areas for bison and elk to roam. There are handsome horses and plenty of other regional wildlife to observe.
If you do purchase tickets, these will be given to you once you cross into Belarus, at the first visitor’s center. If you do not purchase tickets ahead of time, you will be able to purchase them at the park’s main gate in Kamenyuki.
Health insurance: You can procure health insurance at the border for roughly 1euro/person/day. If you, like me, would rather arrive with health insurance in-hand, you can purchase it with your bus ticket. I found mine through Eurolines.
Your first stop will be in Poland: Either Lublin or Bialystok depending on your starting point.
If arriving from the East:
Lviv to Lublin: Buses run overnight and cost as low as 10euro. Be warned that crossing from Ukraine will result in delays. Expect to arrive in Lublin anywhere from 1 to 5 hours after the scheduled time. Be careful not to choose a bus that cuts through Belarus! These require a pre-arranged transit visa and defeat your purpose. Find buses and trains at GoEuro.com
If arriving from South or West
Warsaw to Lublin: Poland’s capital city is accessible from virtually any main city in Europe by train or bus. Buses from Warsaw to Lublin run every 3-4 hours direct to Lublin at around 5euro per seat. Find buses at GoEuro.com
If arriving from North (Baltics)
Bialystok: Bialystok can be accessed by overnight bus from Latvia (Riga) or Lithuania (Kaunas and Vilnius).
Next Stop: Bialowieza or Grudki.
Timetables can be found at the bus stations. Those found online are inaccurate.
In Lublin, ask at the main ticket counter. You may need to transfer at Hajnowka.
Bus fare is paid onboard in Polish Zloty.
Both stations have currency exchanges and ATMs.
Time to Walk or Ride
Unless you happen upon a taxi (which are essentially are locals looking to help), you will now get to walk. The walk from Bialowieza to Grudki is roughly one hour, and from Grudki to Border Crossing Pererov is 40 minutes. If you are traveling very light, you can rent a bicycle in Bialowieza. Make sure to plan ahead (possibly staying the night in Bialowieza’s resort town) to make sure you get a bike and can head out in time to make the border crossing.
You must walk or ride your bike across the border. You may not drive.
Border Crossing Pererov
You MUST arrive by 9:15am to the border crossing!
The only transportation for the day leaves at 11am from the Belarus side. This is 10am in Poland, as there is a time change at the border.
Have your documents ready:
Permit. Make sure you know the name and address of your accommodation (listed in your Permit) I used freetranslation.com to translate the document into English first. It wasn’t perfect, but close!
Proof of Health Insurance valued at over 30,000euro.
Do not take any photos.
There are toilets at both building, though the Polish ones I found much cleaner.
You can not carry any animal products, alcohol, or cigarettes cross-border. They may search your bag.
In the park – You made it!:
You will first stop at the Belorussian visitor’s center. If you have pre-purchased any tickets, they will be given to you here. There are also snacks and drinks available for purchase, as well as maps and brochures.
Within the park, there are many things to do and see. Make sure to rent a bike and get out to explore the trails.
The bus from the border will drop you off at the front gates. You are not allowed to travel farther outside of those gates with your permit.
There are restaurants (Ресторан) in the park, ranging from simple to fancy. Markets (Magazines : Магазин) are also available.
You may pay with card or cash. ATMs are available, and vendors take Belorussian Rubles. Check here for the most up-to-date exchange rate: http://www.xe.com/currencyconverter/#
A bus will pick you up from the same location which it dropped you off. Check your permit for the time. Currently, it departs daily at 18:00h.
You will go through the same procedures to cross from Belarus to Poland. Remember: no alcohol, cigarettes, or animal products are allowed to cross with you.
Remember also that when you cross back into Poland, the time will change to be 1 hour earlier.
You can pick up a bus from Bialowieza to Bialystok as late as 20:00h. It is recommended that when you arrive initially, you check the bus’s schedule to plan accordingly.
And that’s it! Hurrah You have made it successfully to and from Belarus on a 72-hour visa!
Have you made this journey before? Any tips, tricks or thoughts to share?
Are you planning to make this journey? Let me know and I’ll do my best to help you out!