Is a private tour to the Chernobyl exclusion zone worth the extra money? What is the difference? What does it look like?
The problem with big groups is that if there’s police around then no one will risk taking the group in – and you never know when police will be around (but your tour guide will ask at checkpoints). On the day of our trip there was a patrol in Pripyat, so other trips were only entering ‘easy’ places like the restaurant of supermarket -and we got to visit the whole hospital.
The trip started at 8 in the morning, the guide was waiting in front of our hotel. By this point we had already saved a decent amount of time – normally you have to check the names of all of the visitors on tickets and passports. We just did it on the go. There’s actually a lot you should know about going to Chernobyl.
The drive to Chernobyl took us around 2 hours which we spent listening about the history of Ukraine and the political views of our tour guide (heavily right wing, anti Russia, anti america, anti polish, not too European union friendly). We were basically the first ones to arrive on checkpoint – and it took us less than 5 minutes to get in, including going to the toilet. No trouble at all, everyone was just interested in why it was only two of us – the guide was just replying that its a private tour and we were allowed to go.
The first creepy thing that happened during the trip was at the checkpoint. We saw pictures of people who had gone missing within the zone and enquired about it. Our normally quite talkactive tour guide didn’t want to tell us much about it and walked away rather quickly.
The first buildings to enter – that’s how ‘normal’ people lived – without bathrooms, water, electricity etc. In a bit richer looking houses you can see the lack of floor or bricks in chimneys – after the explosion there were a lot of bricks and wood on the market, it’s safe to say that Chernobyl was supplying quite a lot of people with things they needed without them knowing where it came from.To get to Zalissya and back to the car you have to go through high grass and bushes. I’m quite a small woman so to protect my face i was hiding it behind my arms. 5 days after our trip I got a weird rash on my arms, despite the fact that I was wearing a long sleeve t-shirt and I don’t have any allergies.
In Chernobyl town we also had the pleasure of meeting the first of the Chernobyl dogs – surprisingly they are very healthy and in a much better condition than those around the border crossings or in small villages around Kiev. That’s all thanks to Clean Futures Fund which pays for castration, vaccinations and general vet checks.
Next stop – secret soviet military base and secret radar Duga-3
This was an over-the-horizon radar system, now open for visitors. It’s a absolutely enormous structure with signs asking you not to go under it due to falling parts and to not try to climb it. Some people have tried and died due to falling off of the top of it. Trust us, if you fall off the top you will have a long time to properly consider the mistakes you’ve just made. Next to Duga radar we also had our first hotspot.
Then to another hotspot – kindergarten in Kopachi village.
Despite the ban on entering buildings, the kindergarten is full of people. We had problems with finding somewhere to park, but it was the only time it happened and just seemed to be due to everyone choosing the same spot to go to next on their respective tours.According to our tour guide kids were playing in the kindergarten and ground around it for up to 3 days after the explosion.
You can buy a tour to the inside, but there’s no time for it on a day trip. It’s another spot where you can see a lot of other tourists. Some of them sitting down despite the fact it’s not the healthiest or smartest decision to make, especially next to the power-plant. The tour inside is apparently only conducted by one man, so I would presume it’s something you have to book relatively far in advance for, but that’s something you’ll have to look up for yourself.
Next to the power plant, however, is a really rather interesting sight. Huge cat fish.
According to your guide, who is a rather keen fisherman and has his own YouTube fishing channel, the biggest one he has seen was about the size of my husband (i.e around 2 metres long). I am not sure if we can tell you the secret to summoning them, but maybe your guide will know!
Not a very good one. According to our tour guide it’s better to order fish cause it’s questionable what the chicken actually is.
No one bothered to do a radiation check on us, we just went to the toilets and then to the food hall. Funnily enough, before eating you should wash your hands very carefully. To do that you have only cubes of soap. The boxes for liquid ones are empty and look like they haven’t been used this century. Bon appetite.
It was an incredible feeling to walk around a beautiful around a completely empty town. Maybe pretty isn’t the right word, but that’s what it looked like – empty but pretty. Until we entered the hospital.
It was the first ‘proper’ few-floor-high building we entered during the trip and we knew there were police in the town. Well, as you can see we took the risk and would do it again. The reception of the hospital – behind that a staircase to the upper floors and the basement, where you still can find firefighters uniforms which makes it still very dangerous place.
On the front desk, covered with plastic there’s a scalp of one of firefighters – taken here from the basement with the helmet – the helmet is now missing, possibly decorating the ledge of an unlucky mother-in-law somewhere in the world.
The abortion room – with a book on the ledge with names of patients and dates of abortion, as well as addresses. If you have enough time you can go to their now empty apartments, but that’s a rather grim tour to have. Not far from the abortion room is a room for newborn kids. Each year there were 1000 kids born in Pripyat. It was one of the youngest towns in the Soviet Union – the average age was just 25.