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Be Brave And Visit Chernobyl in Ukraine

Posted by Abbey Krzymowski on 1/17/19 6:20 PM

ILP Ukraine

Do you love ghost stories? Scary movies? Eerie places? Then Chernobyl, Ukraine is a place you cannot miss. Never heard of it? Buckle up — here's everything you need to know about visiting this deserted city. 

Ukraine is a beautiful country with a very diverse and interesting history. There is a ton to do in it's major cities, like Kiev and Lviv, but then there are the charming little gems, like the Tunnel of Love, that make for perfect day trips. Now, Chernobyl is neither a charming gem nor a major city, but we think it is one of the coolest places you can visit in Ukraine! 

With International Language Programs, you can actually live in Ukraine for an entire semester as an English teaching volunteer! Best part, the program fee is significantly cheaper than study abroad programs. Plus, it covers housing, airfare, your visa, and three meals a day. Crazy, right?! Such a good deal! 

Quick ILP Update — This post was written prior to the war and information is likely out of date. We’re keeping this post live in hopes to update it once travel and peace returns to Ukraine.

If you're volunteering in Ukraine, you'll have weekends and vacation time to travel and explore. Of course you'll want to see some of these 15 must-see European countries, but don't forget all there is to see just in Ukraine too! Chernobyl is one of those perfect day trips we mentioned! Here's everything you need to know about planning this unforgettable experience: 

Everything to Know About Chernobyl

ILP Ukraine

The History

The story of Chernobyl is no boring history lesson. The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant is located near the city of Pripyat, Ukraine and had only been in operation for about a decade before the accident. On April 26, 1986 during a test at 1:30 am to see how much power they would need to keep the plant running in case there was ever a black out, something went terribly wrong. The Chernobyl Nuclear Station exploded, releasing deadly amounts of radioactive chemicals into the air. 

In the weeks after the explosion, 31 people died from immediate effects of radiation.  Although attempts have been made to estimate how many Chernobyl-related deaths have occurred in the following decades, it is hard to know for sure. Researchers say it is probably higher than 10,000. The events of Chernobyl are recorded as the most disastrous nuclear power plant accident ever. 

Many cities were affected by the radioactive chemicals, but Pripyat (the closest city to the plant) was the most devastated. It was home to a majority of the plant workers, and just hours after the explosion many were already sick from the radiation. 49,000 residents from the surrounding areas were forced to evacuate within 24 hours, and a total of 350,000 evacuated in future years.  

Now, the city of Pripyat is a ghost town, left exactly how it was that day in 1986. You can see the Communist propaganda. The ferris wheel that was going to be in operation for the first time during May Day festivities. The clocks, all stopped at 11:55 when the electricity was cut. It's an eerie and fascinating slice of history not to be missed. Visitors compare Pripyat to a mummy: it has a body but no soul. 

ILP Ukraine

Going With A Tour

If you want to tour the Chernobyl plant or the surrounding cities, you will first need to get a day pass from the government. These passes can be obtained through tour companies. In fact, the easiest (and really the only) way to visit Chernobyl is just to book a tour since they'll take care of all the details for you!

Companies Past Volunteers Recommend 

We've had groups in the past highly recommend a tour with Chernobyl Exclusives. It's about $100 per person for a day tour and that included the bus ride there and back and an English speaking tour guide. This group brought their own lunches (or you can you can purchase lunch when your group stops).

Some of our past volunteers also recommended booking your tour through StayinKiev.com. You'll leave from Kiev in the morning, and then get back at about 6:00 PM. This tour includes many sites around Chernobyl and even serves you lunch (all catered from Kiev).

Another group or two have toured Chernobyl with Chernobyl Tours who have been taking excursions to the site since 1986, just months after the accident. This company has one-day options (for around 99$ USD for citizens of other countries) but also multi-day excursions if you're interested in seeing more of the site, learning about radiation pollution and protection, and more. 

This looks like another great option that is a couple hours longer and includes a few more places. On this tour you will be fed dinner at the end, for an extra fee of $5. 

Something To Note 

Due to high risk of radiation and the associated health concerns, ILP has a few special rules related to visiting Chernobyl. In order for a trip to Chernobyl to be approved, each participating ILP group member must do their own research on Chernobyl and the risks of visiting, and then talk to their parents to determine whether they are comfortable taking those risks. Once you've done  this, email your Program Manager letting them know you've done your own research and personally assume all risks associated with visiting Chernobyl. Visits will only be approved if the above conditions are met and volunteers are visiting with an organized tour. To keep your mind at ease, the tour ends by checking your radiation levels. 

ILP Ukraine

What To Bring

Every tour emphasizes the importance of wearing long sleeves and long pants. Other clothing isn't even allowed.

You must also wear shoes that fully cover your feet. Boots (with no cutouts) are recommended. 

Make sure you bring your passport, since those without one won't even be allowed entry. 

You will also have to sign two documents prior to entering Chernobyl that ensure you will not make any claims against the government or the tour if your health deteriorates in any way following your visit. 

What To Expect 

Expect to be scanned to  check your radiation levels as you leave each of the exclusion zones. Make sure you follow all of the rules and do not touch anything. You also get a tracker to hang around your neck that will tell you how much radiation you have absorbed (it is very minimal, when getting an x-ray, you're exposed to much higher levels if that grants you some peace of mind).

There have been situations where visitors have been asked to leave their shoes or pants in Chernobyl due to higher levels of radiation. It's best to bring an extra just in case, however, this is quite rare (just something to know about). 

You'll see tons of other sites in Europe, but there is nothing quite like this. After decades of being abandoned, these towns are starting to be taken over by the surrounding forests, and eventually they will be fully engulfed. Make sure you experience this historical site while you still can! 

ILP Ukraine

Want to know more about volunteering with ILP? 

Click the button below to read up on some of the details about the 
requirements for acceptance and what you'll be doing as a teacher! 

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Topics: Europe

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We are ILP, a Utah-based non-profit org that has service abroad opportunities for college-age volunteers. We love travel so we're sharing all our tips for making the most of your time living abroad + seeing the world, and how to do it all on the tiniest budget.

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