Visit to Chernobyl and Pripyat the day of my birthday
They told me not to go, that it was dangerous, and they asked me what I was going to do about radiation. Did you know that the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and Pripyat city can be visited since 1996? Did you know that the radiation to which we are exposed during the tour in one day is equal to one hour of a plane flight?
I went to Chernobyl on my birthday, so the agency that took us there gave me one book and a hat as a gift. I was born in 1986, the same year the fateful explosion took place. In order to visit this famous destination that was a big Nuclear Center from the Soviet Union, you can take a tour from Kiev. The passport is required to enter if you are a foreigner and it will be controlled in all “checkpoints”. Then, at the exit of the Exclusion Zone, you will go through a radiation detector.
I took the tour with “Solo East”, one of the most famous agencies to do it. Apart from the one-day tour, they offer a two-day tour, with accommodation in a hotel in Chernobyl. The starting point is Independence Square in Kiev. After two hours in a van, you arrive at Chernobyl. Lunch is provided, bread is given to fish (the size really impressed me; they know fishing is forbidden so they are fed and that is why they are so big. I don’t think it has to do with radiation; I even thought about it and asked). Then, you visit the Nuclear Center area (from the outside, obviously. You don’t enter) for the typical picture. You wait for a kind of “sarcophagus” to cover reactor number 4, where the explosion took place, to remove any toxic remainder. The first sign that indicated that there was more radiation than the normal levels was detected by Sweden. Then, days or weeks later, it was confirmed it was coming from Ukraine.
Asking someone who works in Chernobyl’s exclusion zone if they are healthy or making jokes about running out of gasoline in the area is very offensive. They don’t take it the good way (and they are right: it’s their job). They are myths and the truth is that I checked this because there are people who live in the area or others who work there four days a week.
The fateful night of April 26th,1986, a test was being performed and there was a failure, which caused the explosion of reactor number 4. On April 27th, Pripyat, which was the city that was closer to Chernobyl (3 km) was completely evacuated. And people never returned: they were taken to different cities where they were lodged. Today, you can visit the famous amusement park that was opened by the end of 1985, but it was never open to the public, the school, swimming pool and departments of the inhabitants.
The rest of the cities, near the area of the accident, were evacuated some days later (from May 2nd, 1986). It was verified that many Pripyat inhabitants caught leukemia some years after the explosion. Regarding people that were born with “physical malformations”, it is not scientifically proven that they were caused by the accident, since there were only a few cases in relation to Pripyat inhabitants (even though media and documentaries about Chernobyl say otherwise). At the time of the accident, many pregnant women from Pripyat were forced to terminate their pregnancies. It is worth mentioning that after the explosion, many Pripyat inhabitants went to the bridge that communicates the city with the Nuclear Center and they were exposed to high levels of radiation.
Something that caught my attention is that the percentage of tourists in Kiev that choose to visit Chernobyl is very low: many are afraid, they are not interested, they say it’s too sad or they simply don’t go because they find it expensive. This last thing should be mentioned: the possibilities of finding lodging and the price depend on how much time in advance you book the tour. The price for the one-day tour goes from 110 to 150 USD (with insurance) and the price for the two-day tour is approximately 350 USD, staying one night in Chernobyl. In 2012, Chernobyl had a record of visits: 30 thousand people. In 2014, the number went down due to the war in Ukraine, which discouraged tourists from travelling to the country. However, I always say that one way of supporting countries that are going through difficult times is to visit them. Let me remind you that today, the conflict is in the East of the country, not in Kiev and around. You can visit countries, always being careful and not going to risky areas. Ukraine has an extensive territory and the truth is that Kiev is a very nice city, picturesque, with history and great nightlife. And Chernobyl is an excellent trip to take from Kiev; especially for anyone who likes to go deep into what happened… without fear, because the truth is that today at least the area that is visited is not a problem and Ukraine needs from us, tourists!
Kindergarden in Pripyat
To measure the radiation
Restaurant in Pripyat
Checking the radiation