What is it like to visit Chernobyl? Surprising facts about life in the exclusion zone

The sentence „I’ve been to Chernobyl“ raises many questions in almost everyone I spoke to. Starting with „Is it safe?“, „How did you get there?“ to „Are there some people living there?“ I’ll try to reply to any questions you might have about your visit to Chernobyl, tell you the most surprising facts and show you around through pictures I’ve taken there.

First of all, it is safe to go there, but of course, you have to follow some rules. When going there, you have to wear closed shoes, long trousers, and long sleeves. You can’t go everywhere and do whatever you want in there and unless you make yourself a very special permit, it is possible to visit Chernobyl only with a tour. We have chosen SoloEast Travel and we have been very happy with them. The tour starts in central Kiev and prices start at 79 USD per person, as a student, you can get a small discount. The tour includes lunch, which is a nice bonus. Don’t forget your passport, because, without it, you won’t get anywhere near Chernobyl!

Is the radiation dangerous?

Radiation is everywhere around us to some extent. In most parts of Chernobyl, the radiation is not higher than anywhere around where you live. Of course, there are zones, which are more affected, but you don’t spend too much time there and overall, you will be exposed to lower radiation over the whole day than if you have taken a flight from Europe to the US. So, calm down.

Why to visit Chernobyl?

It’s a unique experience. Pripyat (the nearest town to the reactor) is a ghost town, place where life has stopped and nature started taking over again. In my opinion, it is very important to see this place also from an educational point of view and also, I believe that this place might become a huge tourist attraction in some years and then you might regret you haven’t seen in before. So, go now!

The surprising information you might learn when you go there:

  • The nuclear power plant was still in use until quite recently.
  • The liquidation of the disaster has taken decades (and will never be completely done) and many of the people working on it (fire-fighters, scientists…) were using many of the facilities in Pripyat for a long time, such as swimming pool etc.
  • Radioactivity is not possible to be neutralized, so my question was “How did they clean it?” The answer is simple: Radioactivity can be “washed” with water underground. So all the radioactivity is still there, but a lot of it went to the bottoms of the rivers and underground, thus drinking water from Chernobyl or swimming in the river there could be one of the worst ideas you have ever had!
  • There are around 500 resettlers, who have decided to move back into the exclusion zone.
  • There are people working in the zone, mostly workers trying to cover the reactor nr. 4, which exploded in 1986, with a new (second) sarcophagus. Those people work here in shifts taking 2 weeks and then they have to spend 2 weeks away from the zone.
  • The disaster had covered with radioactivity bigger area of Belarus than Ukraine, but since there was nothing too important on the Belarusian side, they have never cleaned it (like they did in Ukraine) and it is not possible to visit these areas.

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