Also known as the Chechen Republic of southwestern Russia, Chechnya nestles in the North Caucasus Mountains and a neighbor to Republics of Dagestan and Ingushetia. All these three republics were once lands of conflicts and come with warnings for them who want to visit them – which was highly unlikely except for them with missions like journalists. But here, in this article, we are going to focus on Chechnya and find out several facts about this republic, which used to be the home to separatist groups that sparked terrors across Russia. Has it changed over the year? Or is it still counted as a dangerous zone? Here are 6 things you must know before visiting Chechnya:
1. It is now safe for tourists
Erase the frightening image about the old Chechnya. When you set your foot on Grozny, its capital, you will see a reborn city. There are very little evidence left of the war that ever took place there. For a change, you will see freshly built residences and shopping malls, neat and clean roads, five-star hotels, large avenues, beautiful big mosques, and condominiums. Although there are still rooms need to be fixed, Chechnya is clearly fixing up and getting ready to open its door for international travelers.
2. Fly there, hop on a train, or enjoy the road trip
Grozny is not hard to reach from Moscow. You can book a flight and fly from Vnukovo and Domodedovo Airports. There are three regular flights in a week to and from Grozny with estimated flying time around 2 hours and 30 minutes. There is a train that connects Moscow with Grozny, and it departs every two days. But this mode of transport is not recommended as the rail is still heavily guarded by the military to avoid the train getting hijacked by terrorist. You can also rent a car and drive along the 1,850 kilometers while enjoying the scenery and making stops on several towns you will come across while being on the way. The roads to Grozny from Moscow are new and paved, so there is nothing to worry about, especially if you have ever heard of how poor the road conditions are in Russia generally not to mention the crazy drivers. Stay safe, nevertheless.
3. There is more than just Grozny
Chechnya is dressing up as a whole republic, not just the capital. So, yes, there are a lot of places to see and visit in Chechnya besides Grozny. These cities are rebuilt and now sparkling:
- Argun, a modern rebuilt city you can reach from the highway
- Shali, the second biggest and most populated city in Chechnya
- Gudermes, reconstructed and studded oil city with upper class modern buildings
- Shatoi, Sharoi, and Veduchi Ski Resort which are up on the mountain parts of the republic
4. Mind your manner
Chechens don’t get to see or interact with foreigners a lot because of the history of their republic that has been making people afraid to visit. But you have to know that they are very welcoming and friendly people. Now that things are more conducive in Chechnya, tourism is pushed to flourish. Things you have to note are; because the predominant religion in Chechnya is Islam, visitors are expected to respect the custom by wearing decent clothes; covering legs and arms for women and no shorts or tattered T-shirts for men. Families in Chechnya are sociable and they love inviting travelers for lunch or dinner at their places. If you ever get invited, don’t turn the offer down as it may hurt their feelings. This could be understood, looking back at how rough life was for them before the refreshment of the republic. They try to be nice and make people feel at home, so you would want to appreciate that. Also, almost none of Chechens speak English, so you surely would need a guide to help you around unless if you are brave enough to use a dictionary.
5. Things to savor and enjoy
Everything in Chechnya follows the rules of Islam, so you won’t find pork, alcohol, or cigarettes. No night clubs or discotheques either. Visiting Chechnya can be a completely different experience for you, as a matter of fact. It can be healthier, too. For a change, you can try the things that Chechens are very proud of; sports and guns. You can go to shooting ranges and try your hands on weapons from pistols to grenade launchers. Have a look also at their famous swords and daggers. Try their delicious local food like Zhizhig Galnish or meat and noodles, Khingalsh – the pumpkin pancake, or the traditional mutton kebab and shashlik. It is not difficult to find nice restaurants or cafes around Grozny and other cities in Chechnya. So, don’t worry.
6. Safety first
Even though a lot of things have changed in Chechnya over the years, some countries still issue travel warning over the republic. They take this step because of there were reports of their citizens missing, kidnapped, even killed while visiting Chechnya. Taking this matter as a highlight, it is recommended for travelers to go with a guide who knows their way around the region so they can keep you off of dangerous zones that might put your life at risk.
With all the rebuilding and refreshments going on, Grozny has now the looks of mini Dubai. It’s beautiful! The Heart of Chechnya, which is the largest mosque in the region, is totally worth a visit. There is nothing to actually fear about in Chechnya as long as you follow the rules, stay in the grid, and respect the local custom. The 6 things you must know above would help you, too. Have the trip and enjoy the ride.