Tours and Holidays To the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

Visiting the exclusion zone isn’t everyone’s idea of a holiday, but it really is a trip that should be taken to understand the scale of the 1986 disaster which left this small corner of Ukraine and Belarus uninhabitable. Tight controls on who can enter the zone means that a guided tour is the only legal way to enter. There are a vast range of options and since the HBO Chernobyl series was aired in 2019 the prices and numbers of tours has increased dramatically.

Using a Geiger counter to measure radiation levels at the amusement park in Pripyat

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Things to Consider When Planning a Trip to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone from Kyiv

Booking in Advance

When you decide to travel to the exclusion zone, it cannot be done in the moment. If you turn up at the Dytiatky checkpoint on your own you will not be able to enter the exclusion zone. You will need to book in advance and provide the tour company with your full passport details as well as other information required for the documentation. They will be issued with a permit for your entry which will be checked at the entry point as well as at various times during your stay even if it is just for one day. It takes about 10 days for documentation to be processed although some companies can get things organised much quicker than this.

Length of time in the zone

One day is barely enough with travelling times included, can you manage longer to make the most of the available time? This is a real consideration. There is so much to see in Pripyat and the surrounding area that even with two days there is not enough time to do it all. The drive from Kyiv to Dytiatky takes two hours and it is then a further hour to Chernobyl town before continuing on to Pripyat. This all adds up. 6 hours of the day tour is spent travelling which if you spend longer in the zone is made more worthwhile.

The other bonus to staying in the zone is that you get time before the day trip buses arrive. The checkpoint is closed from 6pm until 8am so only people staying in the zone at the single hotel will be there at the beginning and end of the day. This means that buildings are empty and you are not racing for the checkpoint at the end of the day.

Group size

This is really important. Find out the maximum group size. Do you want to be experiencing this with 6 other people or 30 other people? All of the tours have different group sizes. These range from a small private tour in a private car with your own guide, to large group tours on a bus with thirty others. This is fine, but if you want to take photographs then having 30 others milling around is not very helpful. Ask about maximum group sizes before you book and get it confirmed by email.

Departure point

Where does the tour leave from? Is this is easy to get to early in the morning? This may seem like a mad thing to think about but the Chernobyl tours depart from all over Kyiv and usually early in the morning. Check the departure point before booking to make sure it is easy to reach either on public transport or by Uber (this is the easiest way to book taxis in Kyiv). The city is slow to wake up and a 7am departure on a Sunday morning needs to be planned in advance.

Key places you want to visit

There is no point booking a tour if your primary location isn’t included. All of the tour companies list their locations and there are similarities. If you stay for two days the list is extended. However some places, such as the Nuclear Power Plant aren’t on all of the tours.

If you want to visit a specific location the make it really clear to the company when you book. We found that the tour guide was willing to amend our route to suit the group as we went along.

There were set places for meals as these were pre-booked, but beyond that they were really flexible and accommodated our desire to visit certain locations.

Do remember however that tour companies cannot allow you to enter buildings. Lots of the photographs you will see both in my blogs and online were either taken before building entry was banned or by visitors entering buildings against the advice of the tour company.

Main Language of Your Tour

There is so much to learn from the tours and guides that you need to make sure that you will understand what they are telling you. Most companies work in a range of languages, but you do need to make sure you will have a productive trip. English is spoken by the majority of guides and from our experience it was excellent. We also had Slovaks and Belgians in our group and they had no problem at all.

Cost

The cost of a trip to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone varies for the tours and you need to check what is included in your tour. Some include everything and all you need to bring is snacks and water, others are less inclusive. There is nowhere to buy food within the zone with ease so do check that meals are included or ensure you have provisions. All of the tour buses stop at a service station just outside of Kyiv for coffee and provisions.

When looking at the inclusions on the tour lists some appear to include a lot more, but do check that it isn’t just listing things that are compulsory such as entry permits, dosimeters or radiation screening.

Passport Validity

You need to have a valid passport to enter the exclusion zone and you need to ensure that you have it with you at all times. At each checkpoint passports are checked along with documentation. This is a slow process but is essential for safety.

Age

Now, this may seem weird but if you are young then you may want to consider entry, especially if you are trying for a family. Whilst doses are low to non-existent it isn’t a risk I would want to take. A foetus is most susceptible to radiation in the first trimester, just when you don’t know you are pregnant. If there is any chance then I would say, save this trip for another time.

Similarly, children are more susceptible to radiation and whilst the risk is low, why take them somewhere that can wait until they are older. My teen kids still haven’t forgiven me for going without them as they are obsessed after playing S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games, but I would rather avoid any potential problems in their future. A lot of the tours are advertised as 18 and over for this reason.

Chernobyl Tour Operators Association

As with all tours some are good and some are not so good. Trip Advisor and Google reviews are your friend when booking trips to Chernobyl. There is also the Chernobyl Tour Operator Association. Companies who belong to this association strive to bring a deeper meaning to the visitors experience and guarantee the best possible experience for each visitor.

How to Book a Tour to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

The easiest way to book a tour is well in advance. This will ensure you get the dates you want and the group size you want. Many of the tours are booked well in advance.
The booking process is fairly easy but the company that will be taking you in has various documents they need to complete and questionnaires that you need to fill in in advance of your visit.

Make sure you complete everything by the deadlines set and give all the correct details. You will not be getting past the checkpoint of your details are incorrect.
It takes 10 days to process applications for entry and booking after this time does not guarantee you will be able to enter the zone.

It takes 10 days to process applications for entry and booking after this time does not guarantee you will be able to enter the zone.

Ideas for Tours and Holidays in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone from Kyiv

Below are some examples for trips to the exclusion zone from Kiev. We have fully researched a number of tours and recommend Chernobyl Welcome for any visit to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Having used them to explore the exclusion zone they provide small group tours with fantastic guides and drivers who listen to your requests for your tour. They have lots of tour options to choose from including some unique adventures beyond Chernobyl and will tailor the day to suit your requests.

See tours to Chernobyl Exclusion Zone with CHERNOBYL WELCOME..

Before you book make sure you read the trip descriptions carefully and do your own research on the company and their current reviews. While I hopefully chose well, companies change as do current reviews.

Chernobyl Holidays

chernobyl monument

A holiday to the exclusion zone is not your low key lazy holiday. It is intense and harrowing, but worth the journey. A number of larger tour companies incorporate the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone into a larger adventure around Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova. These are a fantastic way to see the countries beyond the disaster zone. Some Chernobyl tours include flights from the UK which makes the whole trip a little easier.

Have a look at this holiday which includes time in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and book…

Private tours to Chernobyl

 A doll and a gas mask in Pripyat

Sometimes it is better to visit the exclusion zone on your own. This gives you a chance to visit the locations you want at your own pace. This is really good if you are a photographer and want to spend time in specific location or have places to yourself. It is also good for a small group of friends who want to do it their own way. These tours are a little more expensive but also include pick up from your hotel in Kyiv making everything a little easier. You can even go in a vintage vehicle with the fantastic Chernobyl Welcome company.

A two day tour of the chernobyl Exclusion Zone with private options – view and book..

Photography Tours to the Exclusion Zone

 Photography tours in Chernobyl to the ferris wheel

Chernobyl Photo offer amazing packages for professional and enthusiastic amateur photographers to the exclusion zone. They can organise everything including helicopter flights over the zone and scheduled trips for journalists.

Other options for a photography trip is to find a private tour that you can tailor to your own needs. This means that you will have time to explore and find the most haunting locations in the area.

A private tour that can be tailored for photography – view and book..

Two Day Tour to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

 A cash register in the school canteen seen a two day visit to Chernobyl

Two days is the best way to explore Chernobyl. It gives you plenty of time in each place and also allows you to experience Ukrainian hotels and food! The tours all include the sites from day one, but then take you to additional locations that need that little extra time. It also means you can explore buildings and areas within Pripyat on foot rather than hopping in and out of the bus.

A two day tour of the chernobyl Exclusion Zone with a night in a hotel – view and book..

One Day Tour to the Exclusion Zone

 Street Art in Pripyat seen on a one day tour to the chernobyl Exclusion Zone

There are lots of one day tours to the Exclusion Zone. The tour your chose is a matter of personal preference and where you want to visit. The key places to visit are Pripyat, Nuclear Power Plant, Chernobyl and the Duga Radar. Remember to check departure times and return times to ensure you maximise your trip.

A range of tours to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone – view and book..

Tours that include the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station

 Tours that include the Nuclear power plant at Chernobyl

For many people entering the power plant is the highlight of their trip. This hasn’t been possible until very recently but slowly more areas are being opened to visitors. If this is where you want to visit make sure that a tour of the actual power plant is included. Many companies take you to the power plant but this is just to see the memorials and the canteen.

A two day tour of the chernobyl Exclusion Zone that can include the Nuclear Power Plant – view and book..

HBO Themed Tour to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

Many people became interested in the disaster after watching the amazing HBO mini series in 2019. This has lead to a number of longer tours that visit Ignalina nuclear power station in Vilnius as well as other locations featured in the series before heading into the exclusion zone. This is for the hardcore fans of the series!

See what you could be doing and book..