FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Chernobyl, Ukraine

by Kimberly Krol Inlander

Mar 1, 2018
Destinations / Europe

THE FORLORN, LONG-FORGOTTEN amusement park swing swayed ever so slightly in the breeze. Hauntingly, the neighboring abandoned Ferris wheel creaked quietly as the wind passed through its never-used carts.

It sketched a scene from a scary movie in many ways. As I learned that day, it was quite literally the set of a disaster horror film, 2012’s Chernobyl Diaries. And it was also one of many areas affected by the world’s worst manmade disaster, the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster in 1986. There I stood, steps from these aging, slightly creepy amusement park rides, simply imagining the weight of the meltdown and its innumerable casualties.

old toys

Old toys left behind © KIMBERLY KROL

And I’m not alone. As disaster tourism and urban exploration continue to surge in popularity, sites like Chernobyl become increasingly interesting to tourists. In 2016 approximately 40,000 visited the Ukrainian site, opting for daytrips or multiday journeys of up to seven days. That number is only expected to climb.

Is it safe? Naturally, this question crossed my mind and, truthfully, the minds of those closest to me. I read articles in advance of making my decision and was told the radiation exposure of one day in Chernobyl is equivalent to that of a round-trip, trans-Atlantic flight. My visit was more than 30 years beyond the April 26, 1986, incident, and after research, preparation and other assurances, I felt comfortable and confident in the decision to explore the area.

Perhaps there is no definitive answer to the question of safety; deciding to visit is a personal choice. As a precaution, I packed old clothes and bought cheap sneakers, all of which I discarded after my visit. People work at Chernobyl, tourists visit and life in some ways continues in the Exclusion Zone.

Chornobyl Tour operated my daytrip, departing Kyiv around 7:30 a.m. My group met the tour van near Kyiv Railway Station. Before departing, it’s important to keep in mind the guidelines required by Exclusion Zone regulations. No one is allowed in without a passport, so you must bring this with you. This is of critical importance. Our van stopped outside the entrance to the Exclusion Zone for nearly 30 minutes as our credentials were checked. A jacket or a shirt with long sleeves and trousers (no shorts, skirts or leggings allowed) and fully enclosed boots or sneakers are required. We didn’t arrive back in Kyiv until almost 8 p.m., so, additionally, prepare for an entire day away from the city and your hotel.

On the way from Kyiv to Chernobyl (with a stop to use restrooms and load up on snacks), our tour guide both shared information about the disaster and played a documentary that included commentary from involved parties such as Mikhail Gorbachev. It was heartbreaking to watch video clips of people living and working in Pripyat — a town built and planned specifically for the workers of Chernobyl Power Plant and their families and only three kilometers from the reactor — as radiation filled the air they breathed. They remained unaware as government officials, it seemed, figured out how to conceal the issue. Acid rain in Sweden in the days following the meltdown clued the world to the truth. The documentary also delved into the various clean-up efforts.

entrance sign

The entrance sign © KIMBERLY KROL

My daytrip included several different stops, starting with the Dytyatky checkpoint, the official entrance to the Exclusion Zone, and the village of Zalissya, an abandoned town including the house of the only self-settler, Rozaliya Ivanivna. The village of Kopachi is almost fully buried, but a kindergarten remains. Here, our Geiger counters, which we wore around our necks, went crazy, registering the highest levels of radiation we experienced all day. This offered a sobering thought. More than 30 years later, it’s still highly radioactive, yet children attended classes there the day after the reactor fire.

With a few other stops along the way — including to the reactor; to the power plant’s cooling pond where we fed giant catfish; and to a giant Soviet radar antenna, “DUGA-1,” in the secret town of Chernobyl-2 — we finally arrived in Pripyat, where we explored on foot the land Mother Nature is reclaiming. A former four-lane highway now is a barely discernible trail. The dilapidated buildings and soccer stadium remain home to everyday items like shopping carts, and some curtains still sway in the breeze, visible through shards of broken glass. Soviet-era vending machines stand ramshackle against a building, while the never-used, aforementioned amusement park lives on eerily. Urban explorers were once able to walk in these buildings, but today the threat of collapse renders the structures off limits. Our visit concluded in Chernobyl, where we ate a late lunch, viewed an open-air exhibition of the transport vehicles and robots used in the clean-up activities and paused for a moment at the memorial “to those who saved the world.”

Before departing from the Exclusion Zone, our radiation levels were measured. I received a 0.003 mSv irradiation dose.

As we began the trip back to Kyiv to spend the next few days exploring the country, I was certain of one thing: A spirit of revolution is alive in Ukraine.

Chernobyl Info to Go

International flights will arrive at Boryspil International Airport in Kyiv. Ukraine International Airlines operates a direct flight from New York (JFK) to Kyiv. As you visit Chernobyl with a tour company, transportation will be arranged to the Exclusion Zone.

Introducing

FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

#globility

Insta Feed

Hit the High Notes in Nashville

Nashville’s once-modest skyline continues to evolve as its luxury market grows. Lavish hotel properties are added to the landscape while acclaimed chefs stake claim in the robust culinary scene and premier cultural offerings round out the city’s repertoire.

Slideshow
Jan 30, 2023

6 U.S. Civil Rights Locations to See on Your Travels

It’s time to start planning your next trip. Take a visual journey through these U.S. locations where historically significant moments in the Civil Rights movement occurred.

Daily
Jan 30, 2023

Have Your Own James Bond Experience

You know the drill: sexy cars, impossibly gorgeous scenery, sparkling jewels, edge-of-your-seat espionage and just the right amount of romance to round things out — served with a martini, stirred, not shaken. If you’ve ever fallen under the spell of a James Bond film, you’ll love the new collection of private, 007-inspired travel experiences paying homage to dazzling locations from the film franchise — all curated by U.K.- and U.S.-based Black Tomato (official partner of EON Productions) in collaboration with Globe-Trotter, a British luxury travel lifestyle brand and maker of handcrafted luggage and fine leather goods collections.

Luxurious Adventures Await.

Discover why Global Traveler readers named Cunard® the Best Large-Ship Cruise Line for seven consecutive years. For a limited time, book your voyage during Cunard’s Explore with More promotion and take advantage of lower fares*, up to $1,200 Onboard Credit†, Free Specialty Dining for Two^, 50% Reduced Deposit††, and more. Choose from an array of exciting journeys, including Transatlantic Crossings and voyages to Alaska, the Caribbean and Canada & New England.

Daily
Jan 30, 2023

United Family of Cards from Chase Announces Jet Set & Reset Sweepstakes

The United Family of Cards from Chase recently teamed with Timeshifter, a circadian technology platform, to launch the Jet Set & Reset pledge and sweepstakes, exclusive to United MileagePlus members. Members who take the pledge in 2023 will be entered into a sweepstakes for a chance to win a prize from three potential prize categories.

eFlyer News
Jan 25, 2023

Uber Partners with Brightline High-Speed Intercity Rail in Florida

Go car free in Miami, Florida, thanks to a new partnership between Brightline and Uber. Brightline, a high-speed rail, works with Uber to offer guests a familiar rideshare option integrated within Brightline’s app. The partnership makes it easier for visitors and locals to get to and from all of Brightline’s five South Florida stations.

Discover Seoul’s Sustainable Side

Awareness about fair and sustainable travel continues to grow around the globe, with travelers everywhere considering a destination’s eco-friendly options before visiting. As public consciousness for this important aspect of tourism strengthens, tourists also look beyond just ecotourism and delve deeper into types of travel that allow them to respect the local culture, interact with locals and distribute benefits fairly.

eFlyer News
Jan 25, 2023

Almanac Hotels to Debut Almanac Palais Vienna April 2023

Vienna, Austria, welcomes the highly anticipated Almanac Palais Vienna April 1. The boutique property, part of Almanac Hotels, lies inside a set of former palais dating back to 1871 and overlooks Stadtpark, the city’s first public green space.