Minsk public transport
Vehicles include buses with trolleybuses and their varieties (electric buses, hybrid buses; autonomously running trolleybuses will be launched by late 2019), trams, subway, suburban trains, taxis. Minsk trolleybus network is world’s largest by the number of routes; it also ranks number one globally alongside that of St. Petersburg by the contact network length, and the Moscow network—by trolleybus count. Minsk is a rare city in that almost all state-run public transport features only locally manufactured rolling stock.
The network includes two lines with 29 stations, including a connecting one. The lines cross the city edge-to-edge from southwest to northeast and northwest to southeast. The connecting station’s name is “Kupalovskaya.” It can get relatively crowded during rush hour, and it was suggested to fix that by simple manipulations. The third subway line has been under construction for almost six years. You can check out the look of the future stations here. They promise to open them in 2020.
A subway token costs 65 kopecks (~¢31). The subway fare can be paid by contactless bank cards (Visa PayVawe, MasterCard Contactless, BelKart-Maestro) and mobile devices with NFC; “Mir” payment system is not supported yet.
Access to all stations is open from 5:30 a.m. to 0:40 a.m., exit—until the last trains terminate (at 1:10am). It takes the train 29–30 minutes to pass any subway line from beginning to end. A bus or a trolleybus will take the same time to reach the central railway station from the city outskirts.
Buses, trolleybuses, trams, ‘marshrutkas’ (shuttle buses)
First trams, trolleybuses and buses start working on average around 5 a.m. and finish at 1:30 a.m. A regular bus (as well as a tram and trolleybus) fare costs 60 kopecks (~¢30), an express one—75 kopecks; the ticket will cost 5 kopecks more if bought from the driver. There are no regular conductors onboard.
“Minsktrans” has come up with ~180 types of travel card plans; all of them on an electronic medium, no paper ones (except for single-use tickets). Travel card plans can include a certain number of trips (from 10 to 100) or be valid for a certain period (from 1 to 90 days). The most expensive monthly card plan for all transport types (buses, express buses, trolleybuses, trams, subway, suburban train) costs BYN 64/$31.
Single-use tickets are to be punched in electronic validators; travel card validators by the doors is where cards are touched in. Fare payment is checked by teams of inspectors who can enter at any stop and block both validator types. Fare evasion is punishable by a fine of 0.5 base unit (similar to the minimum wage), currently BYN 12.25/$6.
The shuttle bus fare depends on the distance to be traveled. Three levels are common: 1 ruble (¢50) and 1.5 rubles in the city, 2 rubles ($1) to the near suburbs; it is paid to the driver in cash when entering—bank cards or travel cards are not used. All minibuses are made in Western Europe: Mercedes Sprinter, FIAT Ducato, Peugeot Boxer, etc. The are no “Gazelles” and “ZILs” in Minsk.
There are 16 in-city railway stations and stops usable by suburban trains, including the so-called “urban lines” (de facto—regular suburban electric trains with shortened routes and higher tariffs). No through routes across the entire city are available. The fare is distance-related; a trip from the station to the city limit will cost 26—36 kopecks (¢12–17) on a regular train or 90 kopecks (¢42) on the “urban” one.
Minsktrans, Minsk Subway and Belarusian Railway are three different large organizations who sometimes fail to agree on the common fare and travel card types. For example, a travel card valid for 1–2-days grants no access to the subway, and a 3–5-day subway one comes with mandatory ‘city line’ trips. You’ll have to pre-pay three different trip types to move around city, suburbs and suburban train—although they will all be stored on the same physical medium. The Minsk transportation agencies are not rushing to develop a system like Moscow’s “Podorozhnik,” St. Petersburg’s “Troika” or London Oyster when you top up the travel card directly so that the fare amounts due get written off depending on the type of transport used: tram, shuttle bus or suburban train).
Minsk has about a dozen and a half classic taxi operators. They have official names, but Minsk residents most often refer to them by their short phone numbers: 107, 135, 152, 157, etc. The minimal trip cost is BYN 4.5–5 ($2–2.5): this amount includes booking and a 3-km (2 mi) ride; each extra kilometer adds another 55 kopecks (¢25) when traveling inside the city limits in a regular passenger car. An average trip from the railway station to the beltway (6–7 mi/10–12 km) will run you 8–10 rubles ($4–5).
“Pyatnitsa” (“Friday”) and “Bavaria” taxi companies operate higher class cars, and the passengers are greeted by a driver in a suit that won’t impose a ‘heart-to-heart’ conversation or put on Russian chanson music. Booking a ride with them costs 6–7.5 rubles ($3–3.5), each extra kilometer adding 0.95 to 1.2 rubles (~¢60).
A regular taxi ride to Minsk National Airport or back (22 miles/35 km from the Beltway) costs 30–35 rubles ($14–17); the airport has its own taxi service that will take you to the city for 30 rubles.
All the above rates are valid for regular vehicles and only for orders made by phone, online or via an app. If you book a cab “at the curb” (= negotiate with the driver on the spot), the taxi driver is officially entitled to set absolutely any booking and mileage fare. Every so often, news outlets run articles about short trips of 5–6 miles (8–10 km) run clients a whopping BYN 60–70 ($28–33).
Also available in Minsk are Yandex.Taxi, Uber, NextApp services who link trip fares to the current ‘ratio.’ The cheapest trip is some 3.5 rubles ($1.7), each kilometer costs 40–60 kopecks (¢20–30). A ride 7–8 miles (10–12 km) long from the train station to the Beltway with normal ratio will total 6–8 rubles ($3–4).
A per-minute car rental (car sharing) was launched in Minsk in 2017. As many as four such services are up and running now: Anytime, “Vezukha,” Hello and WestGroup; their total vehicle fleet is ~700 Volkswagen Polo and similar class cars. One minute of car use costs an average of ~30 kopecks (¢14), a full day hire at the daily rate ranges from BYN 57 to 80 ($27-38). This amount includes up to 125 miles (200 km) of travel. A journalist with The Village Belarus conducted an experiment: every day for a week, instead of riding in taxis, he went for public transport, driving his own car and using car sharing so as to find the most convenient and cheap way of getting around Minsk.
Bike and scooter sharing are available in Minsk besides car sharing.
* Prices in the article: November 2019