October 7, 2012 by farbolino
Before I arrived to Belarus I heard that there was no border between Belarus and Russia, which sparked an interest if it was possible to enter Russia without the tedious, expensive visa process that the Russian government makes tourists go through.
A little online research showed me that if I was caught in Russia without a visa that I wouldn’t be given a slap on the wrist and that illegal entry was taken seriously. The repercussions included jail time, extremely high fines, deportation back to the United States and a 5-10 year ban from entering Russia again.
After talking to some friends who had been to Russia and more internet research, I felt sure enough that if I were able to make it to Moscow, once in the city the chances of having my documents checked would be slim to none. On a side note, anyone with darker skin, or who looks like they may be from a Central Asian country like Uzbekistan will not be so lucky, and most likely WILL be checked because of the many illegal immigrants from these countries. Russian police have no problem profiling people.
Using the Minsk and Moscow groups on Couchsurfing I posted if anyone had ever been asked for their passports on the Minsk-Moscow train. The response was that it happens rarely, but the bigger problem would be buying the ticket back to Minsk at the Moscow train station, as they would likely ask for my passport to type my name on the ticket and they could possibly check for a visa. This led me to find an alternative, Belarusian rideshare much like carpooling.uk, people give a place in their car in exchange for gas money. Unfortunately the website is only in Russian, and hard to navigate even for Russian speakers. With the help of my Couchsurfing host, I found a guy leaving Minsk Monday and returning Thursday, which was perfect for me.
There was one more easily crossed hurdle, which is any hostel/hotel would register me upon check in. Again Couchsurfing easily fixed this for me, and after sending out some requests I got a positive reply from a guy willing to host an illegal tourist.
I also found a tattoo artist from Minsk through Couchsurfing who wanted to do the trip with me. I figured should anything go wrong, it’s best to have someone who speaks Russian with me. The only problem was he barely spoke English, which I didn’t mind because it would help me learn some Russian in the process.
Probably not to many other people actually want to risk imprisonment in Russia, but I figured I would let people know its definitely possible to do it. I’ll be posting soon about the adventure I had in Moscow too if anyone’s interested.