How to get to Nalchik
تاريخ النشر على الموقع 23/03/2015
Few years ago, I wanted to go to the Caucasus but I had no idea where to start, one had to collect pieces of information from many sources. Therefore I thought it would be a good idea to compile all the useful information in one source. This guide may not be perfect, hence I rely on readers to help me add any useful details that I missed to include.
The Caucasus is famous for its virgin nature, great sense of hospitality and ancient Circassian history that once had an exposure with the Greek mythology. According to the Lonely Planet guide, it has 200 peaks over 4000m, 30 over 4500m and seven over 5000m including Mount Elbrus (known locally as Ush.ha Mafa) which is Europe’s highest mountain (5642 m).
This map (copyrights: Google maps) helps the reader identify the relative location of cities, airports and major attractions. It is good to note that historically Circassia used to be an independent state covering a larger area with Sochi being its capital. The following table also shows distances between major cities.
Getting Your Visa
It is important to decide on destination before doing the visa because the travel agent needs to fill details about your destination in the visa application. The three travel agencies listed below are all based in Amman and can help you obtain your visa. For Jordanian citizens, the visa takes about seven working days and costs between JOD 80 – 100. For me I found the visa process of the Russian Federation to be much smoother than other common visa applications (example: EU Schengen visa, UK visa ..).
For non-Jordanian citizens, please consult your travel agent, for example Turkish passport holders do not need a visa to enter the Russian federation. You can also refer to the Lonely Planet guide http://shop.lonelyplanet.com/russia/russia-travel-guide-7/ which has details about the visa procedure. The Lonely Planet guide also has a chapter about the Caucasus that you can buy separately, instead of buying the whole book.
Flying to Nalchik
Nalchik is the capital of the Republic of Kabardino Balkaria, from this city you can also access Mount Elbrus (known locally as Ush.ha Mafa) which is Europe’s highest mountain (5642 m). There are two ways to get to Nalchik:
(1) Directly to Nalchik Airport
There are some seasonal charter flights that go directly from Amman to Nalchik, for more information please consult the travel agents listed in the previous section.
Otherwise, there are regular flights from Moscow to Nalchik operating from Moscow’s Vnukovo International Airport (VKO) through Utair Airlines (www.utair.ru/en/index.html). But as Moscow has three airports, this could mean that you will have to change airports in Moscow.
(2) Through Mineralnye Vody Airport (known also as Min Vody)
There are three ways to get to Min Vody:
Fly Dubai (www.flydubai.com contacts in Amman: +962-65004445) can get you from Amman to Min Vody via Dubai. The advantage of this route is that you do not need to worry about your luggage as both legs of the trip are operated by Fly Dubai. However the disadvantage is that sometimes the stopover in Dubai is too long and Jordanian citizens need a visa to go outside the airport.
Pegasus Airlines (www.flypgs.com/en/) is a low cost carrier that has regular flights from Sabiha airport in Istanbul to Min Vody airport. As Royal Jordanian (contacts in Amman: +962-6510000) usually goes to Ataturk airport, this means travelers have to get their luggage and change airports in Istanbul through Taksim square. The good thing is that Jordanian passport holders do not need a visa to enter Turkey.
The Havatash bus is a convenient option, as it goes from Ataturk Airport to Taksim square (cost: 10 Turkish Liras) and there is another bus that leaves Taksim square to Sabiha (cost: for 13 Turkish Liras).
Always make sure you have at least 5 hours to move between the two airports in Istanbul, and if you intend to stay overnight in Istanbul, you can easily find hotels and listings through www.booking.com or www.airbnb.com
c. Additional options
Sometimes, Royal Jordanian (contacts in Amman: +962-6510000) organizes direct flights from Amman to Min Vody. Might be worth checking.
Min Vody Airport is a one hour drive from Nalchik, so for transportation between the two cities you have two options:
Costs about 2000 rubles, better to arrange pick up service through hotel.
Enjoyable, safe, comfortable and they even accept e-tickets, I booked my tickets through www.russianrail.com just make sure you choose a 2nd class (known also as: Kupé).
The trip takes about three hours because it goes through other towns, but the train station is in the city center of Nalchik (next to the main mosque). As for Min Vody, the train station is a 10 minute drive from the airport too (taxi costs about 200 rubles).
There is not much to do in Min Vody, but if you have to stay overnight, City & Business Hotel is a very good option that is close to the train station and has a nice café (www.cityhotel-kmv.ru one night costs about 2300 rubles).
3. Where to Stay in Nalchik
To overcome the language barrier you can book your stay through the popular website booking.com, here is a complete list of hotels www.booking.com/city/ru/nalchik.en-gb.html and below you will find two popular hotels.
(1) Hotel Rossia (www.booking.com/hotel/ru/rossia-nalchik.en-gb.html)
The hotel has a basic offering but it is centrally located (opposite to Maria square) and offers a pick-up service from Min Vody airport.
Keep in mind that the hotel will register your visa on your behalf (avir, a process related to the immigration policies of the Russian federation), but if you are staying at someone’s house, you need to register your visa yourself.
Relatively speaking, Nalchik is a small city but it is surrounded by beautiful sceneries of virgin nature. You can get in touch with the English-speaking local tour guide ahead of your trip to plan for a small tour (email: email@example.com).
The Circassian language mobile application (DANEF) can be useful, plus you can use a calculator to inquire about numbers/prices.
Here are a few Russian sentences that helped me communicate at borders:
Please bear in mind that the sample prices I listed here are from my last trip, where the exchange rate was different than at present (then, 100 rubles = 2 jod = $ 2.8), yet Nalchik is not an expensive city which means you will get a very good value for your money. For example, a cup of Cappuccino would cost 120 rubles (jod 2.4 or $3.4). I was also able to use my credit card (visa) in supermarkets, restaurants and some souvenir shops.
Last but not least, if you are not a Circassian we encourage you to enjoy the beauty of our homeland, and if you have Circassian roots you would realize that a visit is the first step to bonding with the homeland, and the more frequent the visits are, the closer you get to becoming a repatriate.
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