A Practical Guide to Arranging a One-Day Tour to Chernobyl and Pripyat

Updated on November 3, 2019
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Matt is an avid traveller and a keen photographer who showcases his work on Flickr & sells his images through Adobe Stock and Shutterstock.

Panoramic Photo of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant
Panoramic Photo of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant | Source

Tour Options for Visiting Chernobyl

Chances are, if you're planning a visit to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone it's because you've recently watched the excellent HBO series starring Jared Harris. Personally, I thought this series was incredible but I had planned to visit the site long before the show aired on our TV screens.

To visit Chernobyl, you need to join an organised tour from Kiev. It is not possible to visit Chernobyl independently—you can only visit as part of a tour. There are a number of reputable agencies operating out of Kiev, all of which have English-language websites where you can book tours online.

The most popular tour is the one-day tour, but most tour operators also offer longer tours with a stay at the hotel in the town of Chernobyl.

After meeting your bus and guide at the designated meeting point, you will be driven for around 2 hours to the first security checkpoint. Security and access to the exclusion zone is tightly controlled. You will need to submit your passport details to the agency in advance of the tour so that you can get clearance to enter the site.

Satellite View of the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant

The Tour Itinerary

If you're going on the one-day Chernobyl tour, be prepared for a long day. You will likely be asked to meet your bus at 7.30am and you may not arrive back to Kiev until 8pm.

Your first stop will be the security checkpoint at the edge of the 30km exclusion zone. Here you will collect your personal dosimeter that you will hang around your neck until you leave the zone at the end of the day. The data on all of these dosimeters will be checked and stored on a database.

Handheld dosimeters can also be hired for the day. You can point these at objects and see their radioactive readings.

Over the course of the day, you will visit the Chernobyl Power Plant and reactor number 4 (now covered by the new containment facility), Chernobyl Town, Pripyat Town, and the enormous Duba Radar tower.

The reactor number 4 containment facility will cover the reactor for the next 100 years.
The reactor number 4 containment facility will cover the reactor for the next 100 years. | Source

What to Wear for a Chernobyl Tour

You really don't need to go over the top in worrying about what to wear on your Chernobyl tour. Wear comfortable shoes, long trousers and a long-sleeved top. There is no need to wear a hat and gloves . . . unless it's really cold, of course!

Take a bag with some drinking water, some snacks and a good camera. And don't forget your passport or else you won't get to access the zone! But that's pretty much all you need. Lunch is provided in a communal canteen for a small additional charge.

Welcome to Pripyat
Welcome to Pripyat | Source

Visiting the Evacuated Town of Pripyat

The highlight of the tour is undoubtedly the visit to the evacuated town of Pripyat. For those familiar with the Chernobyl disaster or who have watched the 2019 HBO series, you will know that the entire population of Pripyat—some 40,000 people at the time of the accident—was evacuated in the days after the explosion.

A visit to Pripyat is a fascinating but at times uncomfortable experience. All of the buildings still stand but all are long since abandoned, and every one of them has had anything of value stripped out of them. The town has also been completely taken over by vegetation. It's pretty much like walking through a forest now. Our guide kept showing us pictures of how the town used to look in 1986 before the disaster.

Looking towards the Chernobyl Reactor from the roof of a nine-storey apartment block at Pripyat.
Looking towards the Chernobyl Reactor from the roof of a nine-storey apartment block at Pripyat. | Source

Abandoned Buildings in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

Technically the police do not allow visitors into the abandoned buildings but the tour guides are pretty relaxed, so if there are no police around, then they will permit you entry into the buildings. Some of the buildings are now in a poor state and it can feel a little unsafe entering them.

Buildings of note include the swimming pool/sports centre, the supermarket and the school. It's also possible to go into the apartment of Leonid Toptunov, a senior reactor control engineer who was working at reactor 4 on the night of the Chernobyl disaster. He lived on the top floor of a Pripyat apartment building in flat 88.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Inside an abandoned school in the evacuated city of Pripyat in the Chernobyl exclusion zone
Inside an abandoned school in the evacuated city of Pripyat in the Chernobyl exclusion zone
Inside an abandoned school in the evacuated city of Pripyat in the Chernobyl exclusion zone | Source
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You will also get to visit the ferris wheel and amusement park, featured in the Call of Duty video games. The park was scheduled to open on 1st May but it never got to receive it's visitors, although there are reports that it opened temporarily on 27th April as the Soviet authorities tried to maintain an aura of normalcy. The evacuation of the town happened soon after.

The Chernobyl disaster happened before the Ferris Wheel and amusement park in Pripyat ever opened
The Chernobyl disaster happened before the Ferris Wheel and amusement park in Pripyat ever opened | Source
The Pripyat Amusement Park
The Pripyat Amusement Park | Source

The Home of Ludmilla and Vasily Ignatenko

Next to Pripyat fire station is a small apartment block where, in the top corner, lived the firefighter Vasily Ignatentko and his pregnant wife, Ludmilla. Vasily was one of the first firefighters on the scene who thought he was called out to put out a regular fire. He quickly developed acute radiation sickness as did all of his firefighter colleagues who attended the scene from the fire station on that night.

Photo of Pripyat Fire Station. All of the firefighters called out to tackle the blaze at the reactor on the night of 26 April 1986 died shortly afterwards.
Photo of Pripyat Fire Station. All of the firefighters called out to tackle the blaze at the reactor on the night of 26 April 1986 died shortly afterwards. | Source

Don't Touch the Radioactive Claw!

This radioactive mechanical claw in Pripyat is heavily contaminated with radiation. No one is really sure why it is here in Pripyat. It was used to remove radioactive graphite from the reactor in the days following the blast. You can put your handheld dosimeter close to the claw to see how radioactive it is but be careful not to touch it with your hand.

Radioactive Claw
Radioactive Claw | Source

Moving the Chernobyl Containment Facility Into Place in 2017

If you have enjoyed reading this article about taking a tour of the Chernobyl site then please leave me a comment in the space provided at the bottom of the page.

If you would like to read more about the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and see more photos from the evacuated city of Pripyat then please click the link below to one of my other articles on the subject.

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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    © 2019 Matt Doran

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