Is it safe?
Yes. Visiting Chernobyl is totally safe providing you visit with a certified guide and comply with all rules. Radiation levels have fallen considerably since 1986, and whilst some places are still dangerous, you will not visit these dangerous places. You will be checked twice daily for radiation levels.
How do I get there?
From London to Kyiv
From London there are a number of airlines operating direct flights to Kyiv. Ryanair and WizzAir are cheapest and run a few days each week, Ukraine International Airlines operate multiple times each day and other connecting options are available from LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, KLM, Swiss and Austrian. UIA normally have the most convenient flight timetable with a departure from Gatwick around lunchtime, arriving in Kyiv in time for dinner local time.
From elsewhere in the UK
At the current time the only direct flights from the UK are from London – however during special events in Kyiv flights may operate direct from Edinburgh, Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham.
Where do I stay?
Ukraine uses Hryvnia, and despite what some people say this is always the best currency to have. Many places will simply refuse foreign money and others will give you a terrible exchange rate.
Do not exchange money before you go to Ukraine. It is very hard to find places that stock Hryvnia and those that do will give you a bad rate. In Kyiv, there are money exchanges everywhere and you will have no problems finding one. They all have more-or-less the same exchange rate as each other.
The exchange rate is good, and prices in Ukraine are cheap.
If you are using a UK/EU passport then you can travel to Ukraine without a visa. You will get a stamp on arrival and departure and can spend 90 days out of every 180 days in the country.
Both airports have mobile phone shops in the arrival hall, at either airport you need to turn left after coming through the automatic doors and you will see them.
I recommend “LifeCell” for data, their “LifeHack” plan gives you 20gb data for a month for a very reasonable price, much cheaper than Western prices.
Getting from the airport to the city
The best way from airport to city centre if you do not have a pre-arranged transfer is by Uber. Both main airports have free wifi where you can order your car.
If you have booked a private Chernobyl trip then airport transfer is included as part of your package.
Getting around Kyiv
Uber is a great way to navigate Kyiv, however the Metro is also becoming a very easy way to travel.
On the metro, the best way to use the system is to touch a contactless bank/credit card on the yellow ticket gate. It will save you waiting in line to buy tokens or a smartcard and the price is exactly the same.
Places to eat
There are many places to eat and drink in Kyiv, a few of my favourites are listed below.
Queens Pub is a fantastic small place run by husband and wife team Sergei and Julia. It has many regular guests and has excellent reviews. The food and drink here is of a very high quality, the steak is simply amazing.
If you are not sure of what to drink, then ask for some recommendations at the bar. The friendly staff are always happy to help.
Address: Antonovycha St, 3, Kyiv, Ukraine, 01004
Open: Noon until late
Phone: +380 63 704 7744
This is a place that you HAVE to go once you’re in Kiev if you’re into the nightlife. It was inspired by Chekhov’s ‘Ward nº 6’: it is set as a psychiatric hospital ward, the staff wears medical uniforms and a hospital bed awaits you at the entrance. Make sure you do the full experience of having the bartenders dress you in mad people’s clothing and do the 3 drinks thing, with fire on your head and a lot, a lot of fun.
Address: Bulvarno-Kudriavska St, 31А, Kyiv, Київська, Ukraine, 01054
Open: 11am – 2am (next day)
Phone: +380 44 486 5152
Cooper (Also sometimes known as “Copper”) is located on the edge of Independence Square and is open 24/7. Staff here normally speak English and the food/drink is pretty good.
Address: Mykhailivs’ka St, 2, Kyiv, Ukraine, 02000
Phone: +380 44 278 8855
Kasta Sushi Ta Panaziya
Nice place, with the best burgers in Kyiv.
Address: Khreschatyk St, 19, Kyiv, Ukraine, 02000
Open: 9am – 6am (next day)
Phone: +380 44 377 7888
Very local, small and cozy bar. Best to go with friends. You can try a lot of cocktails and few types of very delicious cider.
Address: 02000, Reitarska St, 21/13, Kyiv, Ukraine, 02000
Open: 6pm – late
Phone: +380 97 684 5010
Things to see in Kyiv
There are many many things to do in Kyiv and something interesting on every street, here are a few of the highlights;
This small and unassuming museum documents the catastrophic nuclear incident that occurred at Chernobyl on 26th April 1986 at 01:23, Moscow time. The museum’s slogan is “est dolendi modus, non est timendi,” Latin for “there is a limit of sadness, anxiety has no limits.”
Standing at 102 m tall, the Rodina Mat or “Motherland” statue can be seen from all over the city. Inside there is a very cool museum dedicated to World War II.
State Aviation Museum
Anyone with an eye for aircraft or Soviet hardware will be in heaven here.
The museum opened in 2003 on the 100th anniversary of the first manned flight.
It’s the second largest museum of its kind in former Soviet countries and has a growing fleet of aircraft, which numbered over 70 at the last count.
You can inspect Ilyushins, Antonovs, Sukhois, Tupolevs, Yakovlevs and of course, aircraft produced by the fabled Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau (MiGs). The size of some of the helicopters may catch you by surprise, like the Mi-24, which is both a gunship and a transport for eight passengers.
Arsenalna metro station
The deepest subway station in the world at 105.5m, the escalator takes over 5 minutes to go down and 7 minutes to come back to street level!