On the last day of the trip to Kiev (pictures here) we went Chernobyl and Prypiat. The Chernobyl area is just two hours by car from Kiev and it’s not hard to get a guided tour there, including transportation from Kiev and back again.

If the name “Chernobyl” doesn’t ring a bell you’re either too young to know anything about it or you’re just ignorant. The Chernobyl disaster is the most devastating nuclear accident - so far. On April 26th 1986, reactor 4 at the Chernobyl power plant exploded, sending a massive amount of radioactive fallout into the atmosphere. The fallout drifted over extensive parts of the western Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Northern Europe, and eastern North America.

Over 336,000 people were evacuated or resettled and the overall cost of the disaster is estimated at $200 billion USD, taking inflation into account.

Why do one venture voluntarily into Chernobyl, through three checkpoints to an area where it’s not safe to live and where the people working there are only allowed to stay for 15 days before they have to leave? I guess it’s a combination of curiosity, being an idiot and a need to see with my own eyes what happened. I was only 8 years old in 1986, but I still remember the first news cast about the accident. I’m not sure if I even knew what nuclear power was, but I understood that what had happened was not a good thing.

So, it is safe to go there as a tourist now? Short answer: Yes. Probably. Maybe it’s a bit naive to think that they would not let people in for a short time if it was not safe, but that’s what I think. Here’s also a snippet about Chernobyl safety from Wikitravel:

A lethal dose of radiation is in the range of 300 to 500 roentgens when administered within an hour. Levels on the tour reportedly range from 15 to several hundred microroentgens an hour. A microroentgen is one-millionth of a roentgen.

You should not, however, play in the grass but keep to the paved roads and if it rains it’s a good thing because you will not breathe contaminated dust. The highest level I saw on our guide’s measuring equipment was about 500 microroentgens, except for when we drove through The Red Forest and the meter went totally off the scale and only showed “Error”. I didn’t actually see this myself, though, but a video should exist and I’m trying to dig it up.