‘The massive success of the recent HBO drama based on the events surrounding the accident at Chernobyl nuclear power plant has resulted in a huge spike in visitor numbers to the site…’

Tours are run frequently through a number of different providers and provide pick up points throughout downtown Kyiv.  Although your tour provider will provide you with a few instructions before you depart, here are a few things we discovered along the way…

Be Fully Clothed

For obvious reasons, you are not permitted to wear shorts, t-shirts or open toe shoes. If you travel during summer, ensure your clothing is light and loose. I can’t begin to tell you how sticky and uncomfortable it is to wear a hoodie in 32-degree heat.

Wear Comfortable Shoes

Although you’ll spend a great deal of time on your bus, you will also do a fair bit of walking. Many trips are made through the trees and vegetation and the ground isn’t exactly flat. Even in Prypiat, the paving stones are broken and the ground uneven. Flat sensible shoes with good sole are a must. There’s a great deal of glass around, so something flimsy could be hazardous.

Watch Where You Take Photos

You are not permitted to photograph the guards or soldiers, nor can you take snaps of any checkpoints. The workers in the power plant and the ladies in the canteen also like to be left to get on with their business without being targeted. Apart from that, you can take photos of anything you like.

I took around 300 snaps during the 11 hours we were on the tour. In fact, I ended up deleting a few apps from my phone as I was running out of space. Lo siento, Duolingo.

Don’t Touch ANYTHING

It’s against the rules of the exclusion zone to lay your meaty pie hands on anything. This includes rails, doors, windows, and even trees and flowers. The 10km zone is still contaminated and it’s best to stay well clear.

We had a guy on our tour who decided he’d wear plastic gloves. You know the ones you get in the supermarket for picking up doughnuts? Yeah, them. He still wasn’t allowed to touch anything and he had to dispose of them before he left the checkpoint. I’m unsure what his thought process was but his hands must’ve been SO sweaty.

Don’t Smoke

No smoking except in designated areas. I don’t smoke, so I didn’t really pay attention to where all these areas were, but outside the power plant was one. The reason I picked up on that was I thought it’d be the very last place to permit smoking, but there we are.

Arm Yourself with Mozzie Repellant

As the entire area you’ll be touring has been taken back by nature and you’ll spend some time wandering through heavily wooded sections, mozzie spray will be your friend/

The beasties at Chernobyl are FIERCE. I got munched a few times through my trousers and top, so these are not the kind of mozzie that are willing to settle for only exposed flesh. They’ll bite you anywhere. And they’re huge.

Do Not Be Pregnant

I think this one goes without saying but even if you think there’s a chance you might be in the early stages of pregnancy – don’t risk your health and that of your baby for a day out in a radiation zone. Also, if you’re showing, they won’t let you near, anyway. 

Take your Passport 

Take your Passport. You need it to book your trip but you also need to have it with you all day to get you through various police checkpoints. Also, when you give the tour operator your passport number, triple check it. If you mess up a digit and it doesn’t match your ticket, it causes a fair bit of trouble. There was a man on our tour who had a couple of numbers in the wrong order and it held everyone up for a bit.

Although there are quite a few rules, they’re all straightforward and, given where you’re going, it’s easy to understand why they need to be in place.


Suz xx