Are Chernobyl Tours Worth the Time and Money?
Have you heard of Chernobyl tours? Do you like the idea of being radioactive? Read on if so…
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I did got the opportunity to head out to Chernobyl once, so let’s get started with some pictures and a review of my Chernobyl tour experience.
How to Book Chernobyl Tours
We booked our trip through this company, and they were fantastic. Olga in the office in the Podil District was extremely helpful.
It’s a pretty dull experience getting out there. Get up way too early. Get on a bus. Stop at gas station to get coffee for those who were too lazy to wake up in time.
Some of the scenery on the way there is nice (very green), but Ukrianian roads, even in a modern bus, is like tackling Indiana Jones at Disneyland.
While my Ukrainian girlfriend and I were in a large bus, there were some specific Russian-only tours that went in small busses like these. I’d imagine the air conditioning and on-off speed of these tours was much quicker than the English tour.
So, if you speak Russian, you can save some cash and take that tour 😉
Before I forget—cost for me was $119, cost for a Ukrainian citizen was $67.
Passport Checks & First Impressions
One very important note if you decide to take one of many available Chernobyl tours—you must always have your passport! They’ll check it before you leave Kiev in the bus, and again when you cross the first radiation control.
There are two radiation checks, or zones. One at 30 kilometers from the nuclear reactor, and another that’s at 10 kilometers. Both of them have the same scanners when you leave (keep reading).
After you go through the first check at 30km, you stop at the side of the roads. You can wander in to some villages (hell if I remember the name of them), take some pictures of the signs, and see some of the “modern” towns that are used for…well, something.
Chernobyl has a pretty cool radar (Duga Radar). Built in the 70s, it’s capable (or was) of detecting missiles all the way from my homeland of America. It’s pretty spectacular in person:
And really, there’s no way to accurately describe the size of this thing—it’s absolutely massive. While the reasons for the shutdown vary on who you ask, it’s pretty easy to say now it’s now a gigantic…well, eyesore?
Depending on who you ask.
I like to think of it as art.
I won’t lie, the trip blurred together. The heat, constant on-and-off, and somewhat repetitive nature (not to sound like a dick, but it’s all incredibly devastating and you “take it for granted” after a while, at least until Pripyat). There was a lunch in a cafeteria at some point, but I can’t remember if it was before or after we saw the reactor itself.
At some point, we also went to some bridge where we were supposedly going to feed human size catfish, but they were hard to see. I’m not totally convinced. In fact, I was so unconvinced I didn’t even bother taking pictures of this.
By the time we got to the reactor, it must have been close to 4pm.
I’ll warn you now: Chernobyl tours are a very long day.
In a perfect world, I would have much preferred to just pay for a shorter tour—see the radar, the reactor, Pripyat, and gotten home at a decent hour. Between the metro ride to the pickup spot (at the Kiev train station), as well as everything else—I was gone from 6:45am to nearly 9:30pm.
Also known as ПРИПЯТЬ in Russian.
This city (yes, CITY) is what you see in all of the documentaries, movies, video games etc. My first knowledge of Chernobyl came from playing Call of Duty when I was 14 years old.
The ferris wheel and bumper cars are seemingly modern-day video game icons.
But it’s far, far bigger than any of the Western media and entertainment outlets paint it as. Those movies and video games are guilty of just throwing all of the major icons into one main square and calling it Pripyat. In reality, the town is huge, spread out — and was home for a lot of people.
I’ll just let the photos speak for themselves.
Conclusion: Are Chernobyl Tours Worth the $$$?
I’ve been writing and blogging on a very consistent basis for nearly three years. I’d like to think my writing skills are above average.
But even I can’t even put into words on this website what a Chernobyl tour looks like.
Hell, I couldn’t even find words in person.
As for my Ukrianian girlfriend?
Well, I think she was in the same boat. She has been raised with Chernobyl in the back of her mind since birth, seeing as she was born well after the explosion itself (as was I). I believe her grandfather participated in a couple (albeit minor) rescue missions in the wake of the explosion, though I’d have to get the whole story.
For those of you reading from America, the best way to describe it is to simply think of it as being the rough equivalent of September 11th for us.
With one exception: Chernobyl is more spectacular and in your face. The 9/11 Memorial is now a beautiful, peaceful peace of art.
Our country has moved on from that.
Chernobyl and it’s devastation is right in front of your eyes. You just can’t look away. You aren’t sure if you should just stare with your mouth open, or if you should cry. Unlike 9/11, the rubble here can’t just be cleared. Radiation cannot be removed with a powerful crane.
Something new and more spectacular cannot be built.
As far as Chernobyl is concerned, there will never be a phoenix that rises from the ashes.
And perhaps that’s what truly makes it so devastating.
PS: In case you missed it, the company we used for this tour is this one.