Is it possible to visit the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone?

During the years passed after the Chornobyl catastrophe, an almost abandoned zone has turned into a natural reserve, where new types of plants have appeared and endangered animal populations have recovered. The zone inhabited by the white-tailed eagles, trots, wolves, wild horses has turned into a unique laboratory for the scientists. The spontaneous natural development of the ecosystems has resulted into a formation of the unique and valuable landscapes at the territory of the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone.
A number of scientific and research organizations carry out multi-year researches at the territory of the Exclusion Zone, clearing out impacts of radiation exposure onto environmental conditions. Since 1987 many foreigners have visited Chornobyl. For the most part, they were scientists and journalists and members of official delegations too.
Such unusual and sporadic places as the Exclusion Zone attract both experts and merely tourists. Therefore, numerous tour agencies organize tours here during several recent years.
It is necessary to mention, that the term ‘tourism’ should not be used as far as visits to the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone are concerned as this notion envisages such attributes as rest, entertainment, etc. It should be stated about the information and get-to-know visit to the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone.
If you plan a visit to this area, you should clearly understand the nature of the possible health risks. Advisable would be the knowledge of basics notions of radiation safety, understanding of fundamentals forming the basis for rules of conduct within the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone.
How to visit the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone?
A stay within the Exclusion Zone and the Zone of absolute (mandatory) resettlement is regulated by the Law of Ukraine ‘On legal status of the territory subject to radioactive contamination as a result of the Chornobyl catastrophe’. This Law imposes some constraints on the visits to the contaminated areas.
Organization of visits to the Chornobyl Zone is done by the permission of the Head of the State Agency on the Exclusion Zone Management (SAEZ) http://dazv.gov.ua.
In order to get the permission to visit the Exclusion Zone, the interested individuals or organizations shall send a request to the Head of SAEZ stating a goal and a desired date of their visit, as well as citizenship, date of birth, and passport number for each member of delegation. This letter may be faxed to the number +380 44 594 82 45 or e-mailed to dazv@dazv.gov.ua. As unassisted movement of strangers within the Exclusion Zone is prohibited, all visitors may travel within this area only in the company of a guide, who may perform the functions of an interpreter for the foreigners. During the period when the Exclusion Zone is the most frequently attended (March-May), it is not always possible to receive all applicants exactly on their requested dates. In such cases, the groups are formed based on an application submission date.
As a rule, the visitors cover the expenses for the preparation of a visit program, guide’s services and transport (transfer from Kyiv and within the Exclusion Zone). In addition, it is possible to order meals or to book a room in a hotel if a multi-day visit is scheduled. Total cost of a trip shall be calculated on a case-by-case basis depending on a number of visitors and types of services.
Are there any restrictions on taking pictures and filming within the Exclusion Zone?
Taking pictures and filming are authorized everywhere within the Zone, excluding security facilities. These restrictions are regulated by the Law of Ukraine ‘On legal status of the territory subject to radioactive contamination as a result of the Chornobyl catastrophe’.
Is it possible to use my own measuring instruments to control a radiation level during my visit to the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone?
The visitors may, without any restrictions, use their own measuring instruments or they may get radiation control sensors from the managers of their visit.
Do I need any special protective clothes or footwear during my visit to the Chornobyl Zone?
Any special clothes, footwear or protective equipment is not required for the visit of the Exclusion Zone. The program and route for a visit are usually developed in a way to prevent radiation contamination of the visitors.
What one should know and remember:

  • The level of irradiation that you may get during your excursion to the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone is equal to the one you usually get during a jet flight and an important thing is that this level is several times less than in case of a routine radiography during a medical survey;
  • Children under 18 are NOT permitted to attend excursions to the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone;
  • Beside the permit documents it is necessary to have with you a valid passport mentioned in these documents.