The 1986 catastrophe in Ukrainian town Chernobyl, when the 4th energy block of Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station exploded, shocked the whole world. After this tragic event had taken place, the radiation-induced area in Pripyat` became a closed zone for many years. In the course of time, radiation level around the reactor significantly decreased, and it was decided to open the Exclusion Zone for guided excursions.
Nowadays, this unusual abandoned place with its unique post-disaster atmosphere attracts numerous tourists who wish to see everything by their own eyes. So, how to visit Chernobyl, how much does it cost and is it safe? Find all the answers below.
How to Go to Chernobyl?
Any interested traveler surely wonders: “How would I be able to visit Chernobyl?” Currently there are plenty of specialized companies offering guided trips to Chernobyl zone (for example, chornobyl-tour.ua, chernobylguide.com, go2chernobyl.com, chernobylzone.com.ua, chernobylwel.com and other). However, no matter which company you chose, any Chernobyl tour starts in Kyiv – the largest big city close to the Ghost Town (Pripyat`). This means that if you are not in Kyiv and wish to see Chernobyl, you will have to arrange a trip to Kyiv by car, train or airplane on your own.
To make a trip to the area of Chernobyl in Ukraine, visitors have to book their journeys in advance. All you need to do is to pick the desired date of an excursion, to enter your info and to make a prepayment of your booking by card or other accepted payment tools. After that, you just have to wait until the date of your trip to arrive to an agreed meeting point. Usually, applications for a trip must be submitted at least 3–10 working days before the journey, because the organizers have to prepare an entrance permit to the Exclusion Zone for each participant.
The agencies offer various kinds of tours, which differ by duration and organization type. For example, at https://chernobyl-tour.com visitors can pick one of the scheduled group trips. If you want to choose your own dates, you can apply for an individual tour, which, of course, will cost more. Both scheduled and individual tours vary by duration: you can go to Ghost Town for a period from 1 up to 7 days. The prices for scheduled group tours for citizens of foreign countries start from USD 85 (1-day scheduled tour). The prices of individual tours greatly vary depending on number of travelers. For example, a 3-day individual tour for 2 people will cost USD 650 for each person, while for a company of 6 people this price decreases to USD 350 per person. With a scheduled excursion, visitors use an agency`s bus, while during an individual tour it is possible to ride a personal vehicle.
Price of a regular guided trip to Chernobyl usually includes preparation of all documents, transportation, insurance, ecologically safe food, permission for photo and video shooting, and service of a professional guide. The excursions to Chernobyl are available in Ukrainian, English, Russian and other languages on request.
As for accommodation for tours with duration more than 1 day, the travelers spend nights in the hotels of restricted access city Chernobyl. Of course, here you will not find 5-star hotels with high quality service, but the conditions in Chernobyl hotels are suitable to spend a few nights. In summer 2017, even the first hostel was opened in Chernobyl. The good thing is that level of radiation in these hotels does not exceed the level of it in Kyiv.
Maybe you were also wondering about how to visit Chernobyl on your own… If so, we have to warn you: currently there is no way to do it. According to the official rules of visiting Chernobyl zone, people without professional attendants and special permission are not allowed to the territory of the Exclusion Zone. This rule has to be kept for the safety of visitors.
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Level of Radiation in Chernobyl
Of course, before the trip all visitors want to ask: “How much radiation would you be exposed if you pay a visit to Chernobyl and is it dangerous?” Nowadays, by virtue of efforts on Chernobyl zone cleansing and years passed (radiation level decreases with time due to natural decay), the increased level of radioactive emission is registered only in close proximity of nuclear power station (NPP), mostly in the points of the most powerful West and North fall-outs of the reactor, and in some locations inside the NPP. The routes of guided tours avoid that places or quickly pass them.
During the whole day spent in Chernobyl tour, you will get as much radioactive emission as during 1 hour of an airplane flight, which is 160 times less than amount of emission received in the course of fluorography, and 3600 times less than emission received while doing a computer tomography of your body!
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What Will You See During Chernobyl Tour
First, you will see the Chernobyl town itself. The nuclear power station is the main sight in this area. Surprisingly, Chernobyl is not a completely abandoned place. Here you can meet people who maintain nuclear power station and those who take part in construction works on the New Safe Confinement, a new object that is purposed to replace the old Shelter structure over the notorious 4th reactor. You will have a chance to see the power plant and its old and new shelters from different points of view. Of course, Chernobyl does not look like a vivid modern city, but at least here you can meet some locals, buy snacks or souvenirs. Only two monuments, one with the list of radiation-induced villages written on it, and other, near the fire department, memorializing disaster relief workers, remind of the great tragedy of 1986.
In contrast to Chernobyl, Pripyat` is a real dead city. In dense thicket of the Ghost Town, visitors can find abandoned residential buildings; stadium and amusement park; kindergarten and school; swimming pool and flooded pier; police department; city executive committee building, that served as the first headquarter of disaster consequences liquidation; “Polissya” hotel that became an observation post of helicopter operations above ruins of the reactor; hospital where the first victims of the disaster and its liquidation got help. In 1986, people were evacuated from Pripyat` in a hurry, so they left their homes with the most of their belongings. Modern visitors can still see old toys, household utensils and other things left in apartments and streets of the town. The atmosphere of this place is unbelievably depressive and impressive at the same time.
The travelers will also visit the Red Forest – the area which took the largest amount of radioactive fall-outs on the date of explosion. The territory of the forest, located right near the NPP, embraces 10 sq. km. Nowadays, life in this forest, that is completely free of human influence, is reviving in a natural way. Here you can meet animals that dwell in the dense woods. Many animals, some of which are listed in the Red book, have adapted for radiation level of Pripyat` many years ago, and now it does not seem to interfere with their life. In the forests of Pripyat`, it is possible to see deer, moose, boars, roe deer, wolf, bison, fox, beavers, otter, muskrat, Przhevalsky`s horse, bear, lynx and other rare animals. Some common dogs and cats also live here. Of course, the forest with its wetlands, lakes and rivers is also a home for many birds such as heron, swan, duck and black crane. The animals and birds do not face the problem of hunger: local forests and reservoirs are rich for insects and large fishes. It is worth mentioning that animals live not only in the forest, but also in abandoned buildings of the town, which add special notes to its post-apocalyptic ambience.
Soviet over-the-horizon radio location station called “Duga” is another unique object to see in Pripyat`. The station was originally designed to detect launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Nowadays, Ukrainian “Duga” is only one of its kind left – all the other similar stations have been demolished, which is an impossible thing to do in the Exclusion Zone.
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The Official Rules of Visiting Chernobyl
To visit Chernobyl, any tourist is obliged to have a valid passport during the trip.
Travelers aged below 18 years are not allowed to enter the Exclusion Zone, even with an official permit from parents or together with them.
Travelers do not need to provide any medical certificates. If your health allows you to take part in bus excursions and air flights, it is enough to go to Chernobyl.
All tourists have to wear clothes that cover the most part of body: pants, shirts or coats with long sleeves, closed shoes with thick sole. It is prohibited to wear shorts, skirts, open shoes and clothes with short sleeves.
You do not need respirators or gas masks for visiting both 10-km and 30-km Exclusion Zones. As for dosimeters, you can take your personal one, rent or buy it from trip organizing agency.
While visiting Chernobyl, it is strictly prohibited:
— to eat, drink and to smoke in open air;
— to touch buildings, trees, plants;
— to gather and eat mushrooms, berries, fruits and nuts;
— to sit on the ground;
— to place photo and video equipment, bags and other personal belongings on the ground;
— to drink alcohol and to use drugs;
— to take any objects found in the Exclusion Zone out of the Zone;
— to drink water from rivers, wells and other sources in the Zone.
When you come home after a visit to Chernobyl, it is highly recommended to take a good shower and to wash your clothes with detergents.
Visiting Chernobyl will undoubtedly bring you deep impressions and unique experience to remember for the rest of your life.
Photo: Vladimir Migutin. Instagram, Facebook