Updated at 15:34,14-12-2017

Visiting Europes last dictatorship (and one of its booziest nations) is about to get much easier

By Gavin Haines, The Telegraf

Visiting Europes last dictatorship (and one of its booziest nations) is about to get much easier
Is "Europe's last dictatorship" finally coming in from the cold? CREDIT: ALAMY
There are many reasons why rational travellers might not have considered a trip Belarus. Nicknamed the last dictatorship in Europe, this authoritarian destination is one of the few countries that retains the death penalty, is regularly criticised for human rights violations, and still calls its intelligence agency the KGB.

Thats not all. According to the World Health Organisation, Belarus is the second most alcohol-dependant nation on Earth, while its capital, Minsk, is regularly ranked the least livable city in Europe.

Visiting Europes last dictatorship (and one of its booziest nations) is about to get much easier

Minsk was ranked by Mercer as the least livable capital city in Europe CREDIT: AP/FOTOLIA

If that isnt enough to deter you, perhaps the laborious process of entering the country will: while the Iron Curtain crumbled many moons ago, the process of getting a Belarusian visa can feel vaguely reminiscent of the Soviet days. You have to be determined to visit this country.

But not for much longer. In signs that Belarus is coming in from the cold, its Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced it will be offering visa-free travel for citizens of 80 countries, including the United Kingdom.

Visas will be waived as of next month and will cover a five-day stay in the country, providing you enter via Minsk National Airport (also known as Minsk-2).

According to official figures, there were some 137,400 arrivals of foreign tourists in Belarus in 2014. The authorities hope that relaxing visa rules will boost international arrivals by 20 per cent, which equates to just over 27,000 tourists.

Belarus began its visa waiver programme last year when it announced that Israeli and Turkish nationals would not need them to travel to the country.

Since the launch of visa-free travel, the number of Israeli nationals coming to Belarus has doubled, and the number of visits from Turkey has risen 1.5 times, Vitaly Gritsevich, of the Belarusian Sport and Tourism Ministry, told the Belarusian Telegraph Agency.

Visiting Europes last dictatorship (and one of its booziest nations) is about to get much easier

According to the World Health Organisation, Belarus is the world's booziest nation CREDIT: GETTY

Upon arrival in Minsk, British tourists may soon hear the familiar sound of English-language announcements on the citys subway; the authorities are considering introducing them to help tourists navigate the city, which was obliterated during the Second World War and rebuilt in the austere Soviet style.

Belarus is not the only authoritarian destination looking to boost tourism. Despite being the worlds most secretive state, North Korea recently set out its ambitions to welcome two million tourists per year by 2020. More surprising still, in 2016 the Syrian Ministry of Tourism released a promotional video marketing holidays to the war-torn country.

Belarus and North Korea have similar motivations for turning to tourism: over the years the economies in both countries have relied heavily on trade with Russia, but as the Russian economy stalls its dependants have been forced to look further afield for foreign investment. Tourism - one of the worlds largest industries - seems an obvious place to turn.

Visiting Europes last dictatorship (and one of its booziest nations) is about to get much easier

Inside the Museum of the Great Patriotic War, Minsk CREDIT: ALAMY