A travel guide to Chechnya, in the russian Caucasus

A travel guide to Chechnya, in the russian Caucasus

Chechnya

Last updated : 23/11/2022

The infamous Republic of Chechnya (Чечня or Чеченская Республика in Russian) is surely the most popular of all the Republics of the North Caucasus because of its two wars in the 90’s and huge diaspora in the West mostly.

Officially the war is over and Chechnya has much more to offer than dark tourism ! It’s an off beaten track destination, especially if you go beyond the city of Grozny. Very welcoming people, unique culture and language, with splendid mountains and villages to discover !

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General informations

  • Capital : Grozny (Грозный)
  • Population : About 1.4 millions inhabitants
  • Languages : Chechen and Russian. In Grozny you should easily find someone who speaks English. Or people might actually call their cousins or uncles living in Germany, France or Belgium for you to have a conversation in your native language !
  • Religion : Sunni Islam. Since the wars, extremist movements like Wahabism and Salafism appeared.
  • Dress code : None, but if you don’t want to stand out too much like I did, keep in mind that all women wear knee or long dresses & skirts (they said it’s all about “feminity”) and very often a headscarf on their heads.
  • The men often wear black clothes, and younger ones leather jackets. It is a thing out there.
  • Because of some religious rules (understand President Kadyrov’s rules mostly), I really advice you to wear decent and covering outfits. Guys, do avoid above the knee shorts, really.
  • Alcohol : There are no bars in Chechnya and only one supermarket outside of Grozny where they might refuse to sell to locals. Chechens go to Khassaviurt in Dagestan but they might get caught when driving back and the drinks taken away …
  • Visa : The Republic of Chechnya is part of the Russian Federation so you will need a Russian visa if necessary depending your nationality.
  • Best time to travel : Late spring, early summer (can be quite hot) and autumn
  • Money : If you have Euros or US Dollars to change, just so you know in Chechnya like in the rest of the North Caucasus you can change your foreign currencies at the market (рынок).
  • In Grozny you can change in Berkat Market (Рынок Беркат). At the entrance a couplemen in their 50’s & 60’s seated on chairs with a little bag around their neck are changing currencies. It’s not legal but they are well known, they won’t rip you off and you will get a much better rate than in the banks.
  • Border : There is no legal border crossing point to Georgia. To get to the Pankissi valley in Georgia you will have to make the detour through Vladikavkaz in North Ossetia and cross at the Verkhniy Lars border.
  • Police posts on the roads : There are check posts on the main highway at the border of Dagestan and Ingushetia, plus one at the exit of Grozny (towards Ingushetia). You aren’t meant to register at these posts, but if they ask you to do so, there might be security problems in the area, so actually ask them.
  • They stop vehicules for regular documents and car checks, but they can also shut the roads between the republics for security purpose.
  • Deportation : Chechens among many other have been deported by the orders of Stalin and his comrade Beria. An operation named “Chechevitsa” (Чечевица = lentille) in February 1944 deported within a few days, half a million Chechens and their Ingush brothers.
  • They’ve been accused of collaboration with Nazis; men, women, children, grandpas and babushkas all deported to the steppes of Kazakhstan as a punishment.
  • A few days of ethnic cleansing and the name of the Checheno Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was wiped off the map like it never existed. Only in 1975 they were allowed to return to their homeland during the Khruchtchev’s De-Stalinisation of the USSR.

Where to sleep

Many different kind of accomodation are available in Grozny. From hostels to five stars hotels. In the rest of Chechnya you will find hotels here and there like in Argun, Gudermes, Veduchi, next to Kezenoyam lake and in Nikhaloy.

You can book your accomodations on Ostrovok.ru, the best alternative to Booking.com in Russia.

Guys, you might get invited to stay over at someone’s house, but ladies if travelling solo don’t expect any invitation. People are afraid of gossips and in the Chechen culture it’s just not acceptable to invite a woman outside of the family just like that. But you never know, especially among old people.

Transport

Chechnya is about 1500 kilometers away from Moscow, roughly 40 hours by train. Two daily flights of two and a half hours are linking the capitals. Within the Republic you can travel by marshrutka (mini local bus) between cities and villages.

Pay attention, sometimes there’s only one per day. Better ask the locals on the spot. Hitchhiking also works really well. At least for female hitchhikers.

Marshrutkas and buses are available from Grozny to get to Magas, Nazran, Makhachkala and even Baku.

Safety

In 2019 I have spent weeks travelling in Chechnya itself and half of the year travelling (hitchhiking) around the Republics of the North Caucasus where most of the Western governments “strongly discouraged to go”.

This is only my personal point of view as a solo female western tourist, aware of the potential risks and the recent history. I do not work for any NGO nor consider myself as an expect of the security situation in the North Caucasus.

I’m writing this down for informative purposes only. I have never felt unsafe in Chechnya, I have only met welcoming and kind people.

It is true that there are a lot of police, soldiers, police posts on the roads, like in the neighoring republics.

Both of my border zone permit applications have been denied for the following reasons : “because I’m a foreigner” (which is dumb because I had to apply for this permit exactly because I’m a foreigner) and “anti – terrorists operations in the border zone areas”.

So yes, maybe there’s a small risks as a foreign/westerner to bump into some nutjob. But I consider much higher the chances to meet FSB officers who definetly don’t want you, curious tourist to roam around the sensitive area of the North Caucasus. I have only met these ones …

LGBT community, the republics of the North Caucasus and many other regions of Russia aren’t LGBT friendly as you might already know.

Especially not Chechnya. Many NGOs & other Human Rights organisations have reported these violations, even though Kadyrov the president of Chechnya himself declared that “there are not any gays in Chechnya” …  

I know it sucks, but avoid telling people around and public display of affection with your partner. These areas are conservatives and religious. Even for heterosexual couples, avoid public display of affections. They just don’t do that overthere.

Must read & watch to learn more

Tips for the ones looking for thrill & dark tourism : Grozny has been fully rebuilt, you won’t find any marks of the wars. No memorials either, only a “memorial is for the ones who died fighting terrorists”, like daddy Kadyrov.

People won’t speak to you about it, or barely : “walls have ears” someone told me once. Every family has its own tragedies, and there are still recent death of family members, refugees all over Europe and beyond …

If you want to learn about the Chechen wars, here is a list of books you should read and documentaries you should watch.

Your questions can truly offend and hurt people. Please be a respectful tourist/traveler.

There are many other books, movies, documentaries out there, if you know any great ones, please feel free to share in the comments !

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Comments (1)

  • Tala 29/05/2022 at 09:50 Reply

    👍🏻👌🏻👌🏻

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