Russian tour operators have started offering special shopping tours to the Republic of Belarus. During such trips, you can visit the stores of brands that have left Russia. EcoTourism Expert figured out what brands work in the neighbouring country. And the ETE’s correspondent also tried to see whether the saying “the oats are cheap, but the boats are expensive” is true.
First of all, it should be noted that even in the Republic of Belarus, where a fairly large number of international companies operate under exclusive or franchising agreements, you cannot find all the goods you need. So, for example, all H&M stores in Minsk and Grodno were closed in the spring, although they should open again soon, according to the latest information. However, the stores of the Polish company LPP Group and the Spanish retailer Inditex, such as Cropp, Reserved, Sinsay, Mohito, ZARA, Bershka, Pull&Bear, and Massimo Dutti, keep on working and are always full of buyers.
As a result, you can buy a pullover from Zara for 109 Belarusian roubles (about 2,500 Russian roubles) and a pair of jeans costs 139 roubles (3,200 Russian roubles). A long jacket made of soft nappa leather from the more luxurious and high-end brand Massimo Dutti can cost you 2,190 Belarusian roubles, or just over 51,000 Russian roubles.
By the way, it’s worth mentioning that Belarus accepts banking cards of the Russian “Mir” payment system and it is much more profitable to use this card to pay for your purchases because transactions are carried out at the official rates of the central banks of the two countries. If you decide to exchange your Russian roubles for Belarusian ones at a bank’ exchange office you can lose up to 30 percent of the amount.
But we are not going to talk about what you can buy in Minsk or Grodno and how much your purchases can cost, we are more interested in how profitable it is to go shopping in these cities as part of organized shopping tours.
At the moment, travels to the neighbouring country start only on Thursdays, when you can board a plane and fly to the Minsk airport located 41 km away from the city centre.
The first day of your shopping trip you normally do not go shopping. Upon the arrival, the tourists (some could also call them “shuttle traders”, but they still differ) are transferred from the airport and they check-in at a 4-star hotel in Minsk and enjoy a welcome cocktail. In addition, one of the services that the Russians can receive as part of a shopping tour is consulting on selecting and obtaining Visa or Mastercard cards from Belarusian banks. When you make your decision about a card, an accompanying person takes you to a bank to apply for it.
On Friday, you are busy the whole day buying branded items. After breakfast at the tourist hotel, a guide tells you where you can buy foreign branded goods in Minsk and gives you the recommendations on making purchases.
As for the places with the best branded stores, visitors should go to the Galleria Minsk shopping mall in the centre of Minsk located not far from the Nemiga metro station and the city’s historical attractions. On the ground floor of the shopping mall there is a hypermarket selling various goods, including the European branded ones.
The easiest way to get to ExpoBel, another popular hypermarket in Belarus (the oldest one) located on the outskirts, is by car. Momo shopping centre is located at the same distance from the city centre and the nearest metro station is Mogilevskaya.
If you want to combine business with pleasure and admire the architectural sights of the capital, you should visit the Dana Mall located near the National Library. Three more large shopping centres in the city including the Galileo Mall located near the railway and bus stations of Minsk, there is Arena City Mall near the Minsk Arena sports complex, and the Stolitsa (Capital) underground shopping mall under Nezavisimost (Independence) Avenue.
It should be noted that a visit to Minsk as part of a shopping tour is not just a shopping trip. For those who are interested in the history of the city and the country, several excursions are offered that you can make in your leisure time left from chasing brands.
On Saturday, some visitors go shopping again, and those who decide to get a Visa or Mastercard card in Belarus obtain them. On Sunday, all the shoppers go back to Russia.
Now, let’s talk about the most interesting thing - the price. I must say, the prices are unduly high. A shopping tour (4 days/3 nights) with accommodation in a 4-star hotel (with breakfasts) without flight tickets cost 33,504 roubles for two Russians. If the flight is included in the cost of the trip, the price for a “turn-key tour” starts from 57,866 roubles for two.
You can go to Minsk to buy food products as well. It is still possible to buy French cheeses in Belarus, but it’s worth mentioning that it is not possible to buy and bring cheeses to Russia on a commercial scale as for personal needs, the limit is 5 kg per person. The same applies to strong spirits, a person crossing the border can bring 3 litres only into Russia.
The price for a shopping tour to the Republic of Belarus offered today is quite high, according to an expert in tourism Sergey Pozdnyakov. In his opinion, you can save a lot of money if you plan such a trip on your own. Moreover, the Republic of Belarus is a Russia’s neighbouring country and the transport communication between the two countries is not only by air, but also by rail and road. And there are no language problems either, as Russian is the second state language.
Sergey Pozdnyakov emphasizes, the only thing to remember is that while travelling to Minsk by a private car, you need to purchase a Green Card insurance policy. They don’t ask it when crossing the border, but if you drive in Belarus without a Green Card, the fine can be 540 Belarusian roubles (almost 9,000 Russian roubles). So, it’s better to buy it anyway, and you can do it at any roadside office close to the border. The minimum insurance period is 15 days, the price is under 1,000 roubles.