Last updated : 22/11/2022
Chechnya isn’t really a destination that will cross your mind when thinking of “safe places to visit for solo female tourist”.
Yet, I’d recommend Chechnya to my female friends looking for an off the beaten track destination.
Why ? Because thanks to strong religious and cultural customs, a foreign woman will be treated with respect.
It was very difficult for me to find reliable informations about travelling to the Chechen Republic in general, and I found none about solo female travels. I decided to go, see for myself and spent a few weeks solo backpacking and hitchhiking around.
Here are 9 things I wish a knew before going to Chechnya :
1 – Chechen women wear long dresses and midi skirts
Before travelling to Chechnya I was in Dagestan, where I’ve tried to get informations here and there. People told me that “most women” wear skirts. Now let me correct that : ALL women wear long skirts/dresses.
I showed up in Grozny wearing jeans.
I felt like I was attracting attention as much as being in Iran without a headscarf … It wasn’t a negative one though, people spotted me from across the road with big smiles just to say hi and welcome me.
In normal times I always try to fit as much as possible. But in Chechnya I realised within a couple of hours that this attention got me to meet so many nice and hospitable people who might have not noticed me otherwise.
2 – People speak much more english than you’d expect
Chechnya is probably the one part of Russia where young people aren’t afraid to speak English!
It’s very easy to communicate with people. Chechens are educated and very open to foreigners contrary to popular beliefs. They are in general super social and curious.
Even older ones will find a way to communicate with you, either through a translation app or a video call to one of their relatives living in the West ! Yes, happenned to me, video calling that Chechen great uncle living in Belgium for example …
3 – You better be comfortable with armed men in uniforms
Chechnya is safe to travel for this very reason : there is a high police presence in the Republic.
If men in uniforms carrying AK47 is something that scared you off, or uncomfortable with, then maybe consider going elsewhere. In Chechnya you will see them on the roads, in the main avenue of Grozny, next to government buildings … a bit everywhere.
They are very friendly though, and if you are lost just ask them the way !
4 – Keep your distance
Chechnya is very conservative. Don’t give your hand to shake first, some men might be more religious than others.
If you hang out with a man unless he’s obviously a grandpa, keep a bit of a larger distance than you would normally do.
I once hanged out with a young guy who clearly felt uncomfortable with others’ looks as I was standing too close to him while chatting. However, others had no problems flirting with me from across the road … So it really depends on the person.
5 – Cigarettes & tattoos
Quit smoking during you stay there and cover your tattoos. Again, Chechnya is conservative. You will get terrible looks if you smoke out in the open.
Same goes for Dagestan; a young quite rebellious girl I was hanging out with got told off big time for smoking by a random man right in the street …
6 – Cover up when visiting a mosque
Applies for any mosques around the world – There are plenty of pretty mosques to visit, whether it’s the Heart of Chechnya in Grozny, or the biggest mosque of Russia in Shaly, make sure to wear a headscarf and avoid prayer time.
Just ask people outside if it’s okay to get in, they might even give you a tour !
7 – Don’t criticize the leaders
“Walls have ears” in Chechnya, that’s what a few people told me.
8 – Don’t ask a man for the direction of the bathroom
I kid you not. In Chechnya, you do not ask the direction of the toilets to someone of the opposite sex.
9 – Don’t refuse an invitation
Okay, if the guy is dodgy and you have a bad feeling obviously not, it applies for any country around the world.
But if a Chechen invite you, he/she means it, and it is considered rude to say no. Better be flexible on your schedule, or just posponed it, but don’t turn it down.
And truth is, people are so hospitable that you really don’t want to miss the chance to get to know them better !
Get ready for a bit of a culture shock, this isn’t regular Russia, nor Georgia. Chechnya is a “country” (you get what I mean) in itself : language, food, culture, mindset, everything is different.