How to Visit Chernobyl
The Chernobyl disaster of 1986 is one of the most notable nuclear disasters in the world. The entire city of Pripyat and many surrounding areas were evacuated from the fallout area but suffered heavy doses of radiation.30 years later, radiation levels have decreased and tours of this abandoned site are offered. Planning a trip to Chernobyl is made simple with the help of tour guides and knowledgeable experts.
Planning Your Trip
Visit in the winter for the clearest views.On top of being able to see the best in winter, radiation levels are also shielded by the snow and will reduce the levels present. While no season is better than another, each season offers different benefits. Spring, autumn, and winter will offer better visibility of the abandoned buildings since the foliage is not present. Summer will have the most green if you want to see how nature has overtaken the abandoned towns but will hinder some of your visibility.
- Chernobyl is in Northern Ukraine, so temperatures in winter months may be on average −5 °C (23 °F).
Book accommodations in Kiev.The capital of Ukraine is one of the nearest major cities to Chernobyl. Most tours to the Exclusion Zone leave in the morning from Kiev. Kiev will offer many options for your stay, from private apartments like the LuxCenter Apartment to high-end hotels like the Premier Palace Hotel.
- While in Kiev, visit the Ukrainian National Chornobyl Museum for additional information and history of the site.
Plan for 2 days on site.Most, if not all, of the prominent tour companies leave from Kiev, which takes 2 hours of driving time. To ensure you get a full experience and see the most of the area, plan for a 2-day tour of the area. Staying for an extra day means visiting areas and buildings that would be skipped during a day trip.
- The price of these tour packages often includes a night at a hostel in the Exclusion Zone.
- While in the Exclusion Zone, the daily radiation levels are around 4 microsieverts (uSv) per day, while the daily safety limit is 100 uSvs.
Get your passport 6-8 weeks in advance.If you do not have a passport yet, apply for one as soon as you can. They can take up to 2 months to process, so allow yourself some time in between applying for one and your trip.
- No visa is required in Ukraine if you spend less than 90 days in the country.
Getting to the Chernobyl Site
Book a tour through a tour company.Access to Chernobyl is off limits to individuals traveling on their own. The Exclusion Zone is heavily patrolled and surrounded by fences, and entry into the site requires a day pass. Tour companies will provide transport and day passes in their fees.
- Many tour packages are offered in small groups of 15 or less and some companies will even offer private guided tours.
- Tours range in price depending on the service you use and the days you choose to go, from to upwards of 0.
Take the provided transport through your tour package.Tours leave in the morning to reach the Exclusion Zone as soon as it opens. Be sure that you are early so you can board the vehicle on time.
Wear long sleeves, pants, and closed-toe shoes.Avoid wearing flip-flops, shorts, skirts, or t-shirts. Wearing clothing that covers most of your skin prevents any accidental exposure to vegetation or objects within the Exclusion Zone.
- It’s recommended that you wear older clothes that could be thrown away if necessary.
- If you fear breathing in radioactive dust, consider purchasing or using a fabric respirator. Some tour companies will provide these as a courtesy to you.
Have your passport ready at the Dityatki Checkpoint.The officials around the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone will be provided with who will be entering the area on specific days and will be checking each individual. Passports and day passes are required at this checkpoint and will be checked for each individual.
- You will also have to sign a declaration of the rules for the Exclusion Zone while passing this checkpoint.
Visiting the Exclusion Zone
Visit Chernobyl town.The town of Chernobyl is 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) away from the power plant of the same name and will be one of the stops on your tour. The town is smaller and memorials in place for those who died during the disaster.This is a brief stop on the tour, but will help introduce you to the area.
- Check out the memorials to the firemen who helped save those in the Chernobyl disaster as well as the Wormwood Star Memorial, commemorating the villages lost in the disaster.
See the Duga radar system.Also known as “The Russian Woodpecker,” the Duga system is a now defunct Soviet radar system. The system was off-limits for visitors until 2013. It now stands as an eerie wall of metal towers abandoned after the Chernobyl disaster.
Explore the town of Pripyat.Pripyat is what many people picture when they think of visiting the Chernobyl site. The town sits right outside of the Chernobyl power plant and has the familiar imagery of the rusted Ferris wheel and abandoned structures. While exploring the interiors of the buildings is now forbidden due to structural decay, you are still able to see an entire city overrun with nature and completely abandoned.
- It is forbidden to touch or collect anything from the area due to radiation. While levels are low, contact with objects will increase the amount of radiation absorbed.
- Some tours will offer looks inside specific buildings in Pripyat, like the hospital and Middle School Number 3.
Test for radiation as you leave.As you near the end of your tour of Chernobyl, you’ll be asked to test for radiation at various checkpoints. By standing in front of a machine and placing your hands on the sides, it will be determined if you are safe to exit. As long as the light on the machines changes from red to green, you do not have high radiation levels.
- To prevent having high levels of radiation, it is forbidden to touch anything or remove anything from the exclusion site.
Wash all your clothes after.Even though the radiation levels are low during your visit, wash everything you wore immediately to avoid the risk of future radiation exposure. If you wore older clothes, you can even throw them away if needed.
- Ask your tour guide questions, as they will be experts in the area.
- There is active radiation in Chernobyl and in its Exclusion Zone, though the exposure is low in most areas. Radiation levels are measured in microsieverts (uSv), where much of Pripyat has levels less than 1 uSv. A dose that causes sickness is 1,000,000 uSv.
- Stick with your tour guide since they will know what areas are the safest and which areas pose higher risks of radiation.
- Do not remove any items from the exclusion zone.
- Do not touch anything in the area.
- Do not set anything on the ground or you run the risk of the item being confiscated for radiation exposure.
Video: A Walk Around Chernobyl
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