Yough Pioneer Tours

Our Belorussian Border Adventure

We went around the back of the compound with our bags to find our soviet military chariot awaiting.
During a recent border crossing YPT guide Ben, found out that the most tedious of processes can turn into an unforgettable adventure, even if not intended.

Sometimes border crossings don’t always go as planned. A few hours after visa expiry or just a surly border guard can mean the difference between a smooth crossing and an all-night unforgettable experience.

This time was the latter.


Pulling in on the train at the border between Belarus and Ukraine we were woken by customs officials for the necessary checks and stamps. Everything was going fine, until a blank stare from a border guard turned into a heavy sigh. Not one, not two, but three people had their visa expired by a mere 3 hours. If I were the border guard I would have saved myself the hassle and let me on their way, but alas, this was Belarus, where bureaucracy is king.  As a YPT guide this is where we thrive! So I accompanied our three people and the border guards to our cosy new home for the next few hours, an old train cabin inside a police compound somewhere in the southern swamps of Belarus.

Not one, not two, but three people had their visa expired by a mere 3 hours.

The guards were relatively friendly and only really seem to take frustration with their own endless paperwork and inability to pronounce the letter ‘W’. Papers were filled out and then signed and signed again.

This is where the process turned from endless paperwork to super fun adventure.

belorussia borderAs we were in the literal middle of nowhere we had to get transport to the nearest land border crossing. Our newly made military friends kindly offered us a lift. We went around the back of the compound with our bags to find our soviet military chariot awaiting. There in its green and red star glory, we had two strapping young Belorussian soldiers who would be escorting us. Yes please.

Squished in the back and speeding down muddy tracks, the experience turned from awesome to just mind boggling when one of the soldiers began to play music off his phone. He liked Hadaway the “What is love? Baby don’t hurt me” song. The atmosphere was, well, hilarious. 

We all sat smiling and quietly singing along in the back as we tried to figure how we would get transport to Kiev. We arrived at the border and were made to wait in the car with one of our soldier friends. I asked him: “It’s a very good song isn’t it?” to which he sternly replied “very”. International diplomacy at its finest.

We went around the back of the compound with our bags to find our soviet military chariot awaiting.

We were stamped out and then told to go to Ukraine. Our response was “ahh how?”. The border guard point down a freezing cold damp, misty road and we began walking. By this point we were fairly drained and were in desperate need of some love and care. Halfway on our trek into Ukraine, appeared what we could only describe as “the coffee witch”. A small old lady selling tea and coffee to truck drivers in no-man’s land. If there is not already some orthodox church dedicated to her, there should be. 1 Belorussian rouble later, and a hot cup instant coffee and we were slightly more human.

We arrived in Ukraine to even friendlier border guards who looked at us with the ‘what the hell have you guys got yourself into’ look. A Moldovan man saw us looking like the haggard backpackers we were and took pity. “I have space in my van” he exclaimed. Transportation to Kiev sorted. We waited in a café with a man who was initially unfriendly. We had no Ukrainian money and looked like crap, so it was understandable.  When he found out however that I lived in Beijing, his face lit up. His son is apparently a famous DJ there and he had videos to prove it. With some more diplomacy done and more cups of coffee down, we headed outside where the friendly disfigured stray dogs of the border and our van awaited. We were on our way to Kiev and only 5 hours behind schedule.

The moral of the story. No matter what situation you find yourself in, stay calm, be well mannered and above all, make friends.


Want to join in the fun and games next year? 

Join us on our 2018 Eurasian Adventure. 

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