How to communicate with people in Vitebsk

How to communicate with people in Vitebsk (and the rest of Belarus)  

This page will try to explain most common methods of communication available in Vitebsk. Sometimes communication with Vitebsk is not simple and reliable thing, so I try to share my experience how did I do it.

Method of communication you choose is dependent on several things:

    1. How often you need to use it 
    2. What is amount and nature (electronic or paper) of information you want to exchange 
    3. How fast you need to do it and how reliable delivery needs to be 

From my experience I can tell you following facts.

  • If you need to send paper materials Regular Mail works differently in different directions. Regular mail works in 97% cases from Belarus (goes 1 - 2 weeks) and in only 50% to Belarus (goes 3 weeks - 6 months).
  •  Use EMS (Express Mail Service) If you need to send some important paper documents fast to Belarus. It casts $12-$30, and takes about  one week. It is very reliable and even can be delivered directly to the door of person it is sent to and can be handed to him/her. There is no real reason to use EMS to send anything from Belarus. Regular mail is same reliable and about the same speed and casts much less. You can try registered mail if you still not sure, but I really find no difference.
  • Telephone is not bad but pretty expensive $3-$5 a minute from Belarus, and $0.7 a minute to Belarus.  From US. $0.7 is the cheapest rate I have seen. It is a discount rate for which you need to subscribe to the special program with long distance telephone carrier such as MCI, AT&T or Sprint. Regular rate is $1.37 a minute. There are many small companies offering discount price telephone service to Belarus from US, but I am a bit skeptical about it. Be prepared to have poor quality of signal. In most cases (70%) level of noise on the line is very high even using AT&T True Voice. (Try radial again if you can). The most irritating thing I find when you are talking over the phone with Belarus is that you will not get full-duplex (both people can talk at the same time) telephone connection with Belarus works only in half-duplex mode. That means that you will get quality class to walky-talky. Once one person started to talk he cannot hear anything from an other end.

Message for telephone service providers: I will really appreciate if you provide me with a proof of quality and competitiveness of your service comparing to major long distance carriers, so I can be less skeptical about your service and could recommend it to be used by other people.

  • You can use Fax in some cases to send information to Belarus. But it could be problematic. First of all in order to have reliable fax exchange you need to have a Fax machine which is 24 hour switched on and ready to receive a fax. It means it requires dedicated telephone line. Dedicated telephone line in Belarus is a luxury. In most places it is impossible to get at all. To send a fax from Belarus is expensive same as a make phone call $3-$5 a minute. Because of quality of Belarussian telephone lines Fax also can be delivered garbled and hard to read. In you do not have immediate two-way communication to confirm that Fax you just sent was received in a good shape. There are also public faxes in some major post offices. They can also receive faxes and notify receiver by phone. But cost of this service is not cheap. Although it might be very useful because it does not require for person you going to send message to own any additional equipment and have it set up on the other end in Belarus.
  • The best way (My personal recommendation Cheapest, fastest and most reliable) If you are committed to a long term communication with Belarus, so far is E-mail. In some cases I managed to send E-mail and relieve replay back within 15 minutes, but this method requires a computer set up for E-mail (Internet) it means you need to subscribe to service provider on both ends. (If you are able to read this you can assume that you have enough setup on your end. So the only thing left is to make appropriate setup on the other end) This method is good because it is not required to keep a computer on all the time, comparing to a fax machine. E-mail (Internet) is no a problem to set it up in US. $800-$1500 for computer + $15 a month for Internet Service provider subscription. Internet Service Providers are a bit more expensive in Belarus, but they are real and it is possible to get subscription for about $25 a month. It is still less expensive way compare it with a fax, letter or telephone for amount information you can transmit in the both directions using this way.
  • And the last and the most promising but still experimental way is a Internet Telephony (InternetPhone). This is the most exiting way of communication. With a little bit of experience (choosing right set of settings for the best quality) you can achieve voice connection better then regular telephone, plus E-mail virtually for free. All it requires is Computer with Sound Card and microphone, and InternetPhone Software on both sides. There are several programs available for Internet Telephony. My personal preference is IPhone from Vocaltec. You can download this program for free trail, which you can extend you if you wish have some extra hassle or simply bye it two licenses cost around $45. It also needs PPP (TCP/IP or Internet) connection on both sides and then you can enjoy hours of talks paying nothing extra. I tried it several times myself with my friends in Minsk. Every time we spent 2-4 hours talking. Internet connection costs $15 a month in US and about $50 a month in Belarus. That is pretty much all I know about communication with Belarus.

Message for people who might be interested in setting up Internet Connection with Vitebsk. Currently I am looking into this opportunity and I know that it is possible to do. But I do not have enough resources on the Vitebsk side. So I am looking for somebody who is ready to make a long-term  support to me on the Vitebsk side. I am ready to share all my technical experience in this area.

            You can E-mail to me if you have any questions or if you have anything to add to this page.

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