Updated: Nov 16, 2019
Following my decision to visit Chernobyl, I had to book this trip with an authorized tour guide as they offer the complete package. After all, following the book and the movie, this is a growing business.
Although I booked mine the last minute, less than 24 hours before the actual trip, I strongly advise you to book well in advance. I was lucky enough, and tickets were available with my selected agency. You might not be as fortunate, as Chernobyl turns out to be a trendy place.
If you decide to book you need to pay 25% of the total cost upfront and in case of a no show (from your side), you can reschedule it at a later date without losing the entire amount. In fact, there are tour agencies that do not penalize you for a no show, and the amount you paid during booking can be used at a future date.
The process is rather easy as the requirements are that you are at least 18 years old, minors are not allowed, and have a valid ID or passport. In case of a health condition, the chances of visiting Chernobyl are instead nil. As I like to say you, need to be fully functional, and there is a reason for that. The application process is easy and can be done online, as well as the payment, which is mandatory.
Some additional emails will follow with specific details for the trip. The agency provides all the information that you may need, but feel free to contact them if you have any additional questions.
There are plenty of options to choose from, group tours, private tours, selected areas of interest etc. The cheapest one is obviously a group tour which is what I booked. Prices range from 150$ to 500$ given the type of trip you choose, and of course, there are additional fees if you want to buy protective gear, buy a souvenir, and having lunch near Chernobyl.
Now I need to tell you a piece of valuable information for aerial photographers (Drones or UAVs)
You may use your drone on a Private Tour only as there will be no time for you to do so on a group tour. You have to be with your guide at all times, he/she will be watching you, and you will be watching him/her.
I spend some time online chatting with an agent, regarding drone flights, and the information provided was totally wrong.
No matter what they tell you or what is mentioned on their website, you need a permit which costs around 100$ (additionally). The tour agency needs to have the S/N of your drone/UAV. This must be done in advance and before showing up for the trip (time of booking).
Special permission is required by the authorities, and I found this the hard way. I wasn't allowed to fly my drone!!! Even though I asked the online chat agent, nobody provided the exact process that I had to follow. Showing up at the meeting point with my drone, I was instantly informed that I could not use it.
Make sure you acquire permission!
There are regulations for flying a drone in Ukraine, as everywhere these days. Flying a drone at Chernobyl is an entirely different story.
Some additional information for regular visitors.
You don't need to plan for anything other than clothing and food. If you buy the lunch option, you may need to have some more snacks with you and water (a bottle will do).
Regular clothes will do, and comfortable shoes as a lot of walking is involved. Be aware that you need having your entire body clothed. No short sleeves, no skirts or shorts.
You will be provided with a body dosimeter at the entrance. This is used to measure the total amount of radiation that you were exposed to. The body dosimeter can not be used to measure the radioactivity of various objects.
If you need to buy some souvenirs, including Chernobyl Air, you can do so at the entrance of the 30km exclusion zone, or at the restaurant.
Be always with your group. If you find yourself alone or get lost, then a zillion problems awaits you, most of them have to be dealt with authorities.
Do not try to remove anything from the Zone. It is strictly prohibited! If you get caught, and you will get caught, you will face penalties.
Do not touch anything while in the exclusion zone.
You will be checked for radiation twice while exiting the two zones (10km and 30km).
Hopefully, you will pass the checks. If not, you will be decontaminated, and dangerous objects might be confiscated.
Most of all, use common sense. This is not an average visiting place! Your trip will be as safe as you make it.
For obvious reasons, I am not going to mention the agency that I booked with still, you can contact me if you need to know.
Stay tuned for the actual trip!
See also, Post 1, the reasons that led me to Chernobyl.