It's great to see that there is some Minsk expertise here on the boards. I've been looking around for information but having a hard time finding much of anything on Minsk. I've got a few questions, and if someone can spare a few minutes to answer them, I'd be grateful:
1. I see various conflicting information about whether or not a visa invitation is needed, whether or not you need medical insurance, etc. My understanding is that we should get "invited" to Belarus by an accredited travel agency (whom we pay for this service), and then they forward a letter to the embassy in my country of residence. I can then apply at that embassy for my visa, paying the usual visa fee. Medical insurance is purchased at the airport on arrival. Is this correct?
2. Hotel are expensive, and private apartment rentals seem affordable. I'm looking at a few places by this agency - www.rentinminsk.com - which I found on the wikitravel page for Minsk. It looks great, but I'm having a hard time finding any sort of independent reviews of whether or not this agency (or others that I've looked at) is legitimate, or whether they're even able to actually sponsor our visas. Is there a way of finding out whether or not an agency is actually accredited with the Belarusian government to provide invitations for tourist visas?
3. There's a group of about 6-7 of us (all guys) traveling together. We're coming into town to watch some KHL hockey in January, eat food, drink, go to clubs, and to be honest, probably go to some strip clubs, too. None of us speak any Russian (or Belarusian) at all. Are we likely to get in to trouble as non-Russian speaking foreigners in these places?
4. Speaking of hockey, it looks like it's fairly straightforward to get from the centre of town out to the arena. Just the #1 bus, it seems. Is that right?