Saturday, January 29, 2011

July 18 The First Glitch (Belarus, Boo, Hiss!) TransitVisas and Train Service Cancellation

Bruce went on-line and located the Polish National Tourist Office in
Brussels. It was at Louis Schmidtlaan 119, and so we took the Metro to
Amneesens and then to P├ętillon. We found the building just fine but the
office was empty! There was a nice gentleman there, who seemed to be
connected with whatever enterprise was taking over the premises. A bit of
good luck, that turned out to be! We would likely have never found the
PNTO otherwise. He had a print-out of a Google Maps page showing the
new location, and he kindly made us a copy. It took us about thirty minutes
to walk there.

Ms. Dominika Szulc was very helpful, but gave very bad news. The
Warsaw-Vilnius rail service no longer exits, and has been replaced by a bus.
This is apparently due to low ridership, but there was also an ongoing
problem with the Lithuanian railway people not always sending the Polish
trains back on schedule. Ms. Szulc got this information from a Polish
railway official, and that man was not optimistic that Lithuanian or Russian
service from Vilnius to St. Petersburg still existed. Ms. Szulc recommended
that we fly to St. Petersburg from Warsaw.

So we left that office to contemplate our options. There is a good
train service connection from Warsaw that goes to St. Petersburg through
Minsk. But we don’t have Belarussian visas and there is no time to get them.
They are required even to transit Belarus without stepping off the train.
Train traveler web sites all warn that those who try to flout this get taken off
the train by the Belarussian police and detained in Minsk. Each visa costs
more than one hundred U.S. dollars, and for U.S. citizens, there is a
minimum six-day delay during which they hold the passports! We realized
that we would have to fly in order to get to St. Petersburg from Warsaw,
because many of the Baltic ferries to Helsinki have been taken out of service.
Ms. Szulc had shown us the LOT Polish Airlines schedule. There is
one daily non-stop flight from Warsaw to St. Petersburg. Aeroflot has more,
but they cost much more. We bit the bullet and Penny booked the flight.
We will be staying on longer in Warsaw.

We came back on the Metro again, and ate dinner at the same place as
yesterday. It was just as good as before. We sorted all this reservation
business out downstairs at Downtown BXL where the Internet connection is
good. Theo, the owner, came by and got to hear the whole saga.

1 comment:

  1. The transit visa requirement for Belarus is still a serious concern. Bloggers say the Belarussian police will take you off the train and into custody if you don't have one. These people really do miss the Cold War and are not to be trifled with.

    A good train travel web site is The Man in Seat 61.