Complete Guide: Doing a Chernobyl Tour

Chernobyl Tours. Tours of any kind, to the location of one of the world’s worst ecological disasters may seem unusual, yet around 60,000 people visit the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster for a tour around the area each year. Official Chernobyl tours at the site which is around 130 km outside of Kiev, Ukraine, started in 2002 due to reduced levels of radiation from previous years. The appeal of Chernobyl tours for foreign visitors is seemingly unabated. There are a few reasons why people visit Chernobyl according to Artem Oliynyk, a tour guide at the site.

“We have people from all over the world that come here to Chernobyl for a tour each week. I feel very lucky to get to meet many interesting people!.”

“Many are interested in Science & Engineering, coming here to see the new sarcophagus over reactor number 4” said Artem, referring to the enormous EU funded €950 million project, to physically cover the exploded reactor at the Chernobyl site.

“Of course we are just around 2 hours from Kiev here, so visitors to will often take in a Chernobyl tour from Kiev as part of a few days there” he added.

“There is quite a lot to see here across a very large area. Apart from the Chernobyl plant, Pripyat City is just 7km from the reactor which people like to explore. As much of the 30km exclusion zone is thick with forest, we have a lot of wildlife here and amazing views of the Pripyat River with the ability to look across the border to Belarus.” said Artem.

Places to Visit During a Chernobyl Tour Itinerary

It is important to keep in mind that itineraries for a Chernobyl tour can seasonally be subject to change, based on the advice of the authorities at the site and your tour guides. Safety is top priortity on a Chernobyl tours. All visitors travel by private AC Minbus from Kiev, which remains the transport for the entire tour around Chernobly as you are out exploring the area with your guides and driver.

How long is a Chernobyl Tour? “Tours of the Chernobyl exclusion zone usually vary from 1-2 days. People get a really emphatic experience if they stay overnight here in Chernobyl!” “We have people from all over the world here they tell me this” said guide Artem. “There is actually a huge amount to see inside the 30km exclusion zone while on a Chernobyl Tour”

  • Chernobyl Nuclear Plant
  • Exploded Reactor No. 4
  • Newly Constructed Sarcophagus
  • Chernobyl Nuclear Plant Café
  • Chernobyl City – Still inhabited by exclusion zone workers
  • Overnight stay with dinner and breakfast at Chernobyl Hotel
  • Pripyat Abandoned City – Built for 50,000 workers. Soviet-era family Apartments, Azure Swimming Pool, Schools, Hospital, Prometheus, Pripyat Fairground
  • Cinema, Supermarket, Caffe Nero, Restaurant, Polissya Hotel, Yaniv Railway Station, Nuclear Science Building, Palace of Culture, Athletic Stadium.
  • Russian Woodpecker – Enormous Soviet-era Radar System
  • Possibility of seeing thriving wildlife in area
  • Abandoned lakeside, kids sanatorium
  • The Pripyat River

To cover everything around the area, you would need 2-days. Check-out our itineraries for Chernobyl Tours here. Chernobyl Tours with us, are combined into a 10-day tour that takes you to in Kiev, Odessa, Tiraspol, Chisinau and Bucharest. You can also do the Kiev/Chernobyl by itself. 

Food on a Chernobyl Tour

Yes, there are a few restaurants and cafes in the area where you can eat during a Chernobyl Tour. The food including meat, fish and vegetables is generally imported from outside the Chernobyl exclusion zone and not produced there. One of our favourites is the workers café, which caters for the construction and engineering staff, on the site of the destroyed reactor.

Myles Dwan, on a recent tour commented “It is a bit odd as you look out the window and you are eating with the reactor right there, but the food was surprisingly great here”. The Chernobyl Workers Cafe Menu of the Day can include homemade Borsht, soup made of Beetroot possibily with sourt cream. As well as Otbivnaya, a type of Ukrainian Chicken Schnitzel and perhaps some Olivye Potato Salad. 

Some of the ‘Self-settlers’ or the older people born in the area who chose to return to their homes shortly after the evacuation in 1986, often continue to consume food and drink that is produced here. Keeping in mind that they  Eating mushrooms or berries for example (which are in abundance) comes with a high risk of contamination with prolonged consumption, given the soil from which these grow. The same would go for fish and animals that graze here.

Are there Hotels in Chernobyl?

As you can imagine, accommodation options for a Chernobyl tour inside the exclusion zone are limited but surprisingly comfortable. If you are on a 2-day Chernobyl our, you will likely overnight in Chernobyl City before continuing your tour the next day and heading back to Kiev as a conclusion to the Chernobyl tour. 

Desyatka Hotel – if you are coming to Chernobyl for your first time, you will likely be delighted to chillout and relax here in the evening after a full day out exploring the surrounding area.  Rooms are basic but impeccably well kept. Staff are friendly and experienced, the hotel is actually quite busy with guests coming here nightly from all over the globe. There is wi-fi available usually.

Breakfast is available in the morning as is dinner in the evening. Again the food is brought in from outside. Meals are set so you will not have a menu option (maybe 1-2 choices) and the bar is open for a set number of hours each day. Fear not though, there is a convenience store nearby with plenty of provisions.

Chernobyl Tours Safety

According to official guidelines, a short Chernobyl Tour is completely  safe. It is important to keep in mind that up to 4,000 workers live inside the exclusion zone. A visitor as part of a Chernobyl Tour can expect to be exposed to the same amount of radiation as a 6-7 hour flight in a commercial aircraft. There are a few points to take note of below:

  • Only book a Chernobyl Tour with an established and licensed travel company
  • Solo female travellers that may wish to have single supplement accommodation should book well in advance 
  • Dress appropriately according to the weather – consider not having all your skin exposed during summer (no speedos or bikinis!)
  • Staff Tip: Take shoes with you that you can throw away after, you may want to see them in your house when you return home
  • There will be several military checkpoints in the way in and out of the exclusion zone where your Chernobyl tour will take place
  • You will be physically scanned for radiation levels at designated points when leaving the exclusion zone (takes 1-2 mins)
  • During your Chernobyl Tour, you may have 1-3 guides including a driver and/or minder
  • One of your guides will have a Geiger Counter for measuring radiation throughout your Chernobyl Tour
  • Always do exactly as your guides tell you – they are there for your safety!

Chernobyl Tours from Kiev

Chernobyl is located just 2-hours from the capital city of Ukraine, Kiev (Kyiv). The city itself is beautiful, emanating from Independence Square and there is plenty to see and do in around the city. There is good nightlife, food, architecture and the people are very good looking it has to be said! So, you can have a really good time on a city break in Kiev and a Chernobyl tour is on many visitors radar while they are here. Foreign visitors will likely find the city incredibly cheap for accommodation, food and drink.

Of course, Ukraine is in an active conflict with Russia over the annexation of Crimea, which is over 700km or an 11-hour drive from Kiev. The events that have unfolded at Independence Square in Kiev in recent years still cast a cloud here, as well as the current war with Russia. Military fatigues are common on the streets, with personnel travelling to and from the frontline.  The city makes for an interesting visit, given it’s close proximity to the European Union.