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Right now I'm drinking vodka with a Chechen guy who's staying at my hostel here in Tbilisi Georgia.

I told him I would like to visit Chechnya but it's too dangerous. He reacted like I imagine somebody from Israel or Belfast would if I told them I thought it was too dangerous to visit their homes!

He tells me it is safe for travellers after all. The only problem is he doesn't speak English and we can only communicate so much via Google Translate. He did manage to tell me that his Italian friend who brought him to my hostel was recently travelling in Chechnya though.

Now this is the exact opposite of what Wikitravel says about Chechnya. It is 99% warnings of how horribly dangerous it is with just a tiny 1% telling you about actual travel there.

So is it just that sources like Wikitravel are out of date, possibly because so few people have tried to visit recently? Or is my friend wrong and I shouldn't go there at all?rav

What are some other places I can read current travel information about Chechnya besides Wikitravel?

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4 Answers

up vote 12 down vote accepted

First of all, I'm not recommending visiting Chechnya either. It can be really dangerous. But the real danger is in the other republics in the region, especially Ingushetia.

If you're serious in your decision to visit Chechnya - I have "good news" for you - Ramzan Kadyrov (chief of the Republic) is doing his best to attract new tourists to the reconstructed republic.

As for now, the construction of the ski resort were made (April 2011), and it will be in the Argun river gorge. Construction has already started, and you can wait for it to finish - after that there will be more information about getting to the Chechnya.


Update:
Slow but useful site about visiting Chechnya.

I Can't find any info about ski resorts in English, but here is detailed situation described in Russian. It says that the work is already begun, the necessary funds have been secured, and the chiefs of the republic hope that some day people will stop fearing Chechnya.

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There was a triple suicide bombing as recently as August.

You can get more travel advice from the various foreign offices of world countries, but they all say pretty much the same thing:

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with an amendment to the Safety and Security – Political Situation section (politically motivated demonstrations). The overall level of this advice has not changed; we advise against all travel to the North Caucasus republics of Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan, and the districts of Budyonnovsky, Levokumsky, Neftekumsky, Stepnovsky and Kursky located in Stavropol Krai; and against all but essential travel to the North Caucasus republics of North Ossetia, Karachai-Cherkessia and Kabardino-Balkaria.

(from the British foreign office)

This trip report seems to indicate that not only is it very dangerous, getting permission to enter would be very difficult to begin with, and "sneaking" in is illegal:

The only ways for foreigners to get into Chechnya are by stealth (hiring a willing, sane, non-homicidal driver), sucking up (the Russian government will very occasionally allow reporters in, but only under strict supervision and “spin”) or shelling out (thousands of dollars to rebels to whom “safety” is just an unpronounceable English word). All of these options, apart from riding Putin’s Propaganda Express, are illegal. And all can be life-threatening.

I think it would be highly irresponsible for anyone on this site to recommend travel to Chechnya for anybody. As always, everyone has their own risk tolerance, but at the same time I can't imagine that visiting there would be so enjoyable as to be worth the risk.

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There was a suicide mass shooting a month before I went to Mumbai a few years ago and in my experience the travel advisories issued in Australia my home country tell me not to go to just about every country I've been in... I'm sure they would say Georgia is dangerous... Hmm who to listen to? (-: –  hippietrail Dec 17 '11 at 20:20
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I don't think it's this site's job to recommend destinations though, it's job is to answer specific questions at the expert level. My Chechen friend tells me his Italian friend was travelling there but he's not here for me to ask. I will try to get some information out of him if he drops by again though. –  hippietrail Dec 17 '11 at 20:23
    
There's a difference between India and a country that has been undergoing an intense war for most of the last decade. Anyway, that's the reason I included that link - to provide some perspective, that it's been a while since the last recorded instance of random violence (recorded in Western media anyway). At the same time though, I can't help but wonder what it is you're looking for really. If some guy comes along and says "I went there and I was fine!", is his opinion/experience more authoritative than the foreign office of every sane country out there? –  victoriah Dec 17 '11 at 20:26
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To me this is in some way like giving medical advice or something. Of course, yeah, you can do what you want and you could probably go there and not die, but I think anyone recommending for someone to do it would just be very irresponsible. –  victoriah Dec 17 '11 at 20:27
    
It's a good link. I'm reading it now but so far it's quite sensationalist, playing up the "insane" angle. The Chechen guy I know lives there so he should know more than some guy who went there and was fine - but there's the language barrier. His Italian friend didn't even strike me as an adventurer but when I get to talk to him I most definitely will take what he has to say as more authoritative than anybody's foreign office, whose sanity reports I have not seen (-: We have similar questions about Iraq and Afghanistan of course. –  hippietrail Dec 17 '11 at 20:44
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I am not affiliated with Untamed Borders. I am a journalist based in Afghanistan who met one of their groups who were skiing in Afghanistan last winter. One of their guides told me that they also ran trips to the Russian Caucasus. I was searching for further information on Chechnya when I came across this site and thought I'd give some info. I thought I'd give their ski trips a plug whilst I was at it as I liked their work. Sorry if it came across as a plug.

From what they told me, it is possible to travel. There are restrictions in some border areas but not to travel to the main towns. There are a lot of checkpoints but they are not there to keep foreigners out. You should dress down so not to stand out and keep a low profile. There is a risk due to the general instability but kidnaps and bombs are pretty targeted rather than random. Also, best not go out after dark. They also told me that Derbent in Dagestan is one of the best kept tourist secrets in the world. The citadel is the only intact Sassanid-era fort in the world and was part of a 40km stretch of fortifications that linked the Caspian Sea to the Caucasian mountains to keep the Persian Empire safe from the Barbarians from the north.

Hope this helps a little.

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Alistair, I think your response fits the picture quite well, thank you for contributing. The citadel indeed is amazing and a bit of a tourist secret :) I especially liked the old Muslim cementary just next to it. They still have to work on trash management though. There are nice waterfalls nearby as well. –  rozwal Apr 12 '13 at 12:42
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In April/May 2012 I hitchhiked from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea through all the republics, and then again on the way back. I liked Ingushetia the most where I stayed for a week. The only republic in which I did not really stay was Chechnya, I only hitchhiked through it. I am going back this year, hopefully, with a border-zone permit to visit the villages at the end of the Ingush valley and see the famous Ingush towers. This time I hope to spend some time in Chechnya too.

I think speaking at least basic Russian is essential. Otherwise, be smart and you're gonna be just fine. This is because the violence is not directed against foreigners or locals, only against occupying Russian troops and policemen. In this sense, those places are not nearly as dangerous as many others around the world.

I made this entry on hitchwiki, you will find more information, especially connected to hitchhiking.

See some pictures from this trip.

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I'm a bit confused. You say that speaking a little bit of Russian is essential, but then you state that violence is directed towards Russian troops and policemen. Wouldn't speaking Russian (the language of the occupier) piss the Chechnyans off? –  Bart Arondson Apr 12 '13 at 9:54
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That's a good question, thank you! The point is that Russian language is something seperate from "Russian occupiers" for the people out there in the Northern Caucasus. Russian is the lingua franca of the region, as many ethnic groups speak very different langauges (probably there are 40+ languages in Northern Caucasus). Even some Ingush or Chechens often speak to each other in Russian, as it is simpler or easier for them. So Russian is a daily norm so don't expect anybody looking surprised (or better angry) when hearing it. People in Ingushetia and Chechnya are happy and open to speak it. –  rozwal Apr 12 '13 at 10:53
    
BTW. Chechnya nowadays is very stable, much more than Dagestan or Ingushetia. It is one of the byproducts of Kadyrov's immense power and totalitarian rule aimed, among others, at wiping out his opponents. There are a lot of local police around, in numbers unseen in neighbouring republics. I think there are no recent reports of bombings or clashes in Chechnya. In conclusion, if someone asked me where to go in North-Eastern Caucasus, I would say that probably Chechnya would be the safest place. –  rozwal Apr 12 '13 at 12:49
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