Language

While there are two official languages in Belarus - Belarusian and Russian - but day-to-day life in Minsk takes place mostly in Russian. If neither language is your forte, take a moment to at least learn the Cyrillic alphabet, as this is usually the biggest barrier for western visitors to the city. Be prepared to be faced with street and metro signs exclusively in Cyrillic characters, quickly rendering your English-transliterated street map rather useless. If you don't have time to learn the Cyrillic alphabet, carrying a cheat sheet of Cyrillic-to-Latin letters can be a life saver.

Restaurant menus and the like are typically only available in Russian, though some higher-end restaurants and those catering to tourists have English menus available. Hotel staff will typically speak a little English. You'll also find that bars, clubs, and restaurants that cater to young, hip crowds are more likely to have menus in English and English-speaking staff.

A few phrases translated for your benefit... Vy gavarite pa angliyski?
Do you speak English?
Skol'ka stoit?
How much is it?
Ya vegeterianets
I am a vegetarian
Priyatnavo apetita!
Bon appetit!

Gde tualet?
Where is the toilet?
Skolko vam let?
How old are you?
Oo tebya est paryen?
Do you have a boyfriend?

Nevertheless, it's a good idea to learn a few basics of Russian before heading to Minsk. And everyone knows there's no better way to charm a local than attempting a few broken phrases in his or her native tongue! Here are a few essential words worth learning before you travel to Minsk. Of course, if you plan on staying longer in the city a proper language course wouldn't do you any harm!

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