Hardly any travel these days doesn’t include renting a car. What once was a luxury today is a pure necessity especially when exploring a new place. Our trip to Belarus was one of those adventurous endeavors when a car was an absolute must. Here is a quick disclosure though. When visiting only Minsk, a capital of the country, renting a car in Belarus is more of a burden than privilege. However, for any adventures outside of the main city of Belarus, renting a car is a crucial and fastest way of transportation.
Things to Know before Renting a Car in Belarus
Renting a car in Belarus though is not sheer pleasure. With average prices that don’t match pockets of most Belarusians, this convenient way of traveling is very expensive. Moreover, renting a car in Belarus involves lots of upselling and putting big amounts of money on hold as security deposits. So if you opt to avoid car insurance or choose to buy it from different company rather than a company providing you with a car, make sure to have a credit card with high credit limit.
Renting a Car with Avis
After a pretty exhausting and long search for a proper car (we needed an automatic car that could fit at least six people), we settled with Avis Car Rental. As some “horror” stories from travelers to Eastern Europe reached us before our departure from Los Angeles, buying car insurance was the next right thing to do. Considered, planned, booked, paid and ready to go.
However, renting a car in Belarus was nothing like renting a car in other countries including Vancouver, Canada. At some point, I though that Canada imposed the highest prices on the privilege of driving around on your own. That belief has changed after renting a car in Belarus.
Not all Car Insurances are Equal at least when Renting a Car in Belarus
Upon our arrival at Minsk National Airport, we quickly located Avis office on the first floor. Avis representative, Tatiana, already had our pre-booked and pre-completed contract sitting on her desk. Our experience of renting a car in Belarus started with regular procedures of filling out the forms. Besides a really high car rental price, nothing seemed to be out of ordinary.
However, when it came time to actually pay for the car, Tatiana informed us about mandatory car insurance. Roshan quickly opened his email and showed her confirmation containing all the details about the insurance he had purchased online. In fact, Avis Company directed him to the website of this “third party”, as Tatiana called it.
Upselling, Upselling and more Upselling
For Avis office at Minsk National Airport this car insurance was none of their business. They insisted on purchasing their own insurance. Nobody cared that we already paid and had car insurance for a car we were about to rent.
As an “excellent salesperson”, Tatiana went over a few options how we could buy THEIR car insurance. Surprisingly (which was obviously not a surprise at all), she was even able to get us a good deal and offered a special discount. Politely but firmly, we rejected it. We had the car insurance already and didn’t see any reasons of getting the second one.
Surprises Kept Coming
And here came the second surprise… In order to rent a car in Belarus without Avis direct car insurance, the company placed a $5000 hold on my credit card. What? We rent cars a lot when traveling in different countries, but haven’t encountered such issues before.
$5000 is a whole lot of money. In fact, they places on hold almost $5400 reasoning it as a difference in currency conversion. I understood their desire to protect their property, but the company was clearly going overboard.
Tips for Travelers Renting a Car in Belarus
On that note, here is one tip for fellow travelers going through similar car rental situation with Avis in Minsk. Make sure they release your money after you bring the car back. Based on Tatiana’s explanation, Avis employees release your money manually. Simply dropping car keys in a return-car-box might cause you a lot of time and phone calls to get your money back later. So take care of it on a spot.
Car Rental Parking Situation at Minsk National Airport
On top of that, Minsk National Airport doesn’t have parking where you can drop your rental car. You need to call your rental car company upon your arrival to have somebody come and pick up the car. Bringing the car in non-office hours, make sure to leave it on a free parking lot, located not particularly close to the airport.
Renting a Car in Belarus versus Using Public Transportation
Again, you can simply avoid renting a car in Belarus if your primary destination is Minsk or any other big cities. Traveling by train is also a sure way to skip dealing with rental car companies. However, although convenient, this type of transportation doesn’t cover the whole country.
Buses, another alternative to renting a car in Belarus, are somewhat useful when you travel in a city or near major cities. But this type of transportation is not the best way to traverse across the country. First, it takes a lot of time. Second, a lot of transfers to other buses or trains are involved. Thus, when you travel to remote areas of the country, renting a car is by far the best way of getting around.