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I have heard that it's possible to visit Chernobyl as a tourist (and some questions here on Travel bear this out, asking if it's safe to do so.)

I'd like to visit it. What do I need to know to do so well, that is, to get there and to have a good trip? I'd like to avoid overly-touristy tours, if they exist. I also really enjoy urban exploration, and I'd love to be able to explore the city, although I think Chernobyl would be somewhere I would have to be careful! So:

  • How can I visit it? How is best to get there from (say) Kiev?
  • Are there tour companies or guides? Are these high-quality, interesting, at-your-own-pace or maybe even one-on-one tours, or 'touristy' tours?
  • Can you stay nearby overnight, in order to not be hurried?
  • (Related to the linked question) Are there maps of safe areas and irradiated areas? How do you know where to go and where not to go?
  • What specific things should I keep an eye out for? For example, is it true you can see the nuclear plant glow at night?
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    Health risks from radiation are directly proportional to how long you spend in the irradiated area. You may not want to take the "at your own pace" or "not hurried" tour. – DJClayworth Apr 11 '12 at 13:24
  • @DJClayworth - yes, that's worth thinking about! I think I would take a personal dosimeter with me to track radiation. Re pace, I meant not having to follow a group, if everyone else wants to go somewhere - you know what it's like taking a tour with lots of people... It's nicer being able to say 'hey, can we look at that bit?' without inconveniencing others, or having to give up and stick with other people. – David Apr 11 '12 at 15:57
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    There is a movie about this, I am not sure how accurate it is... – Gunter Mar 14 '13 at 18:56
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There is a lot of questions so let's start in order:

  • You can book a tour online from Tour Kiev for example. They will all originate from Kiev since it's the closest major city.
  • Yes. One of them is listed above and you can find plenty online. One thing I would suggest is not doing it at your own pace unless you know exactly how to operate within a high radiation area.
  • This site answers this question pretty well
  • Have a guide with you since irradiated areas may not be the only concern.
  • The term "glow" is somewhat misleading and refers to irradiated area still producing more alpha, beta, gamma radiation which don't produce luminous glow. What to keep an eye out for? I'd say your Dosimeter.

EDIT

And apparently there are mutants out to get you!

  • Thanks Karlson! Have you used either of those tour groups you linked yourself (or know someone who has?) Also, what other concerns may there be there (animals, people, dangerous structures...?) By 'glow' I meant that I've heard that at night you can see a hazy blue halo around the entombed reactor - i.e., light in the visible spectrum. Is that a false rumour? – David Apr 11 '12 at 15:55
  • @DavidM Having lived in Ukraine in 1986 why would I want to go on a tour? There are other extreme things I could think of doing. :) The visible glow is possible due to a similar effect as Aurora effect. – Karlson Apr 11 '12 at 15:59
  • I didn't know you lived in Ukraine back then! Must have been an interesting time... What other things might you think of doing? I'm always up for suggestions :) – David Apr 11 '12 at 16:53
  • Deep see diving, mountain climbing like Mt McKinley, visiting Antarctica just to name a few. – Karlson Apr 11 '12 at 16:58
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    @DavidM Must have been an interesting time... Ahem!... One that I wouldn't care to repeat any time soon... – Karlson Apr 13 '12 at 15:19
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According to https://chernobyl-tour.com/faq_en.html:

staying on its territory for civilians without accompanying guide and itinerary is strictly forbidden

So you should buy a tour with a guide or try smuggling. There are several companies which provide such service - takes you from Kiev to Chernobyl/Pripyat and back, guides talk in English. I have booked on tourkiev.com - it was one day trip with lunch in Chernobyl. You may try 2 days trip if you stay overnight. Radiation shouldn't be a concern because guide will take through the safe path. There are few zombies but nothing to worry about. Tourists are checked for radiation limit before leaving Chernobyl zone - if they do not carry out too much radioactive particles on their clothes.

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