The Ossetes are an Iranian ethnic group who speak Ossete, a language related to Farsi. As a small, Orthodox Christian group in the predominantly Sunni Muslim North Caucasus, the Ossetes were quick to ally with the Russian Imperial government in its conquest and annexation of the region. This alliance has endured to the present, where Russia tacitly supports its allies the Ossetes in their goal to reunify North Ossetia with Georgian controlled South Ossetia and in their ethnic conflict with the neighboring Ingush. This particular ethnic conflict has made North Ossetia a magnet for terrorist attacks, especially in its southeast, and has led to a tight security situation policed by often corrupt officials that is discouraging for travel.
Just to make sure you sound sophisticated, Ossetia is pronounced ah-SEH-tee-yah, Ossete is ah-SEET, and Ossetian is ah-SEH-tee-uhn (not ah-SEE-shuhn)
While Ossetian is the official language, all Ossetians understand Russian. English is spoken by a very small amount of people and having a command of Russian can be extremely useful.
Travelers will find pre-arranged travel with reputable agents to be far more convenient than independent travel on unreliable public transportation.
Ossetia is famous for its delicious meat pies, very similar to Georgian khachapuri, but stuffed with lamb, beef, and mushrooms instead of cheese.
The most common food of the region are Ossetian pies with different fillings such as cheese, potatoes, meat, pumpkin etc... However "shashlik" which is similar to kebab is also wide spread like in the rest of Caucasus. Vladikavkaz offers a large variety of traditional and international restaurants.
North Ossetian State University-located in Vladikavkaz.
Although safer than its eastern neighbors, because of the ongoing Ossete-Ingush ethnic conflict, regional instability, and proximity to Chechnya, travelers should consider North Ossetia a war zone and tread very cautiously. Avoid going near the border to South Ossetia, as the border is guarded by extremely corrupt army officers. The Ossetes are understandably jumpy and may arrest travelers taking photographs of, well, anything. So stay safe, and take pictures with extreme caution.
In North Ossetia there are three GSM operators (MTS,Beeline,Megafon), one 3G-UMTS operator (Beeline) and one CDMA 2000 operator on 450 MHz frequency (SkyLink) and they often have offers that give you a SIM card for free or at least very cheap. If you are planning to stay a while and to keep in touch with North Ossetian and other North-Caucasus people, then you should consider buying a local SIM card instead of going on roaming. If you buy a SIM card from a shop you'll need your passport for identification. It only takes five minutes to do the paperwork and it will cost less than $10.
As of yet the border with Georgia remains closed to all third country nationals. Travel east to Dagestan should be done in roundabout fashion through Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkaria to avoid extremely unstable Chechnya and Ingushetia. Expect shady border officials to question you at length as to your travels when leaving.