On April 26, 1986, the Unit 4 reactor of the Chernobyl nuclear power station exploded, the result of an experiment gone dreadfully wrong. That moment marked the worst nuclear disaster the world has ever encountered, releasing catastrophic amounts of radioactive material into the environment, which quickly spread over Ukraine, Belarus and as far away as Western Europe. The impact of the nuclear meltdown caused a global reaction, while people in the region suffered physically, mentally and financially.
Chernobyl’s Exclusion Zone opened to visitors in 1999 but has closed several times in the past years due to lack of legal regulations. Ukraine is one of the most corrupted countries in the world – this is one of the reason why someone has to be careful when dealing with local business. We did a study on those who offer tours to Chernobyl based on the information available on the Internet, customers reviews and our own inquiries.
Legal Registered Travel Agencies:
1. Lupine Travel – www.lupinetravel.co.uk – Lupine Travel is a UK based tour company, founded in 2007 and specialising in unique destinations and travel ideas. They also offer tours to North Korea, Trans-Mongolia, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Trans-Mongolian. The company offers full packeges for those who wish to travel to Ukraine and take Chernobyl Tour which they provide in assosiation with SoloEast Travel. The company is Licensed in the UK.
2. SoloEast Travel – www.tourkiev.com – Ukrainian based tour operator known to be one of the first agencies to offer tours to Chernobyl. Run by a Ukrainian/Canadian owners SoloEast is believed to handle most of the English speaking tours to Chernobyl. They have their own fleet of the minibuses and they accept credit cards to pay for the tour. Discounts for students and for groups are offered. You can get on their tours for less if you book through one of the hostels located in Kiev or directly at their office in the centre of Kiev. The agency is licensed in Ukraine.
3. Unipress Travel – www.travel-2-ukraine.com – This company from Odessa offers many tours around Ukraine including a tour of Chernobyl. Unipress has been on the market for ages and is know for it’s great customer service. They also provide horse-riding at vast Ukrainian steppe, learning how to cook Ukrainian borsch and dumplings. The agency is licensed in Ukraine.
Chernobyl-tour.com – A “company” claiming on it’s website:
– to be an “official” provider of the tours – myth, no official status even exists; The only official organization within Chernobyl Exclusion zone is State Agency of Ukraine on the Exclusion Zone Management. http://dazv.gov.ua/en/
Even a thorough search on it’s website brings no result for Chernobyl-Tour.com in either language. (The statement being “official” was deleted in March, 2017 in English version, however it is still present in Russian version)
– to have an office in Chernobyl town at #1, Polupanova St.
It’s unclear why they lie about this as anyone who visit Chernobyl can see that there is an old hotel there. Even to get to Chernobyl everyone need a pass. On the other hand “official” provider – need “official” address 🙂
– there was a fake branch in Vancouver, Canada up to 2016 – the information was deleted from the website – but a screenshot remains.
– they have #1 ranking on TripAdvisor – 391 – excellent reviews, 25 – good once. Most of them in Russian.
The facts: – the website claiming experience of guiding to the Chernobyl Zone since 1986
They don’t explain what kind of experience is that and how it related to Chernobyl-tour.
– officially Chernobyl-tour.com (the same as Chornobyl tour) is registered in 2016 – the same time they moved to a real office at 11, St. Andrew in Kiev (this was announced on their FB in 2016 as well).
The travel licence was issued on March 29th, 2016 (this is posted on their website)
Meaning Chernobyl-Tour’s young age it is very interesting to read about their partners (in Russian version) and collaboration (in English) with world famous organization such as BBC, AP, Forbes etc. Moreover there is a research department and scientific input into the world’s herritage claimed on the website.
2. Chernobylwel – http://www.chernobylwel.com – The agency claims to be from Slovak Republic and provide 101% tours to Chernobyl.. There is no evidence if Chernobylwel is registered as a business representative and how they do business in Ukraine. In their disclaimer they mention Orfi Ltd. registration number 46 799 656 in Slovakia. The “founder” of Chernobylwel is Dominik Orfanus a Slovak national who tries to disguise himself, but who directly benefits from the business. His website claims to have European headquarter in Bratislava and offices in UK, Germany (the same phone number for three countries) and in the USA. The addresses mentioned on their website are more likely fake as there are no office or unit numbers – just buildings. The headquarter in Ukraine is in an old apartment building in the outskirt of Kiev. The Chief Operator is Alexey Loginov (from Ukraine), who is also a founder of Chernobyl Tour Operator Association http://www.chtoa.org . The “Assocoation” has only one existing member which is Chernobylwel.com . Alexey Loginov used to work for the government organisation called “ChernobylInterinform” which was shut down due to the corruption in 2013. For many years this government firm had the right to provide logistics inside the zone. The logistics included issuing the permits to access the area and providing guides. Loginov who worked there for less then a year was fired. Known as “one of the greediest” clerks in the history of Chernobyl tours. They use quite primitive way of charging people – the deposit or full payment is required to be sent to a private paypal account and the rest to be paid in cash to the company “representative” before the tour. Unlike the previous “operator” who avoid paying taxes in it’s own country – this one manages not to pay taxes in two countries or even in five if one takes into the consideration their “offices” around the world.
3. Ukrainianweb.com – another fake company with an Ontario phone# and address claiming to sell “certified” tours to Chernobyl. They are using the same trick as the above when paying for the tours. Recently changed the phone number on their website to a local Ukrainian cell phone.
Internet Based Mediators:
There are many individuals who re-sell tickets for the trips to Chernobyl. The name of the “business” is usually a web domain name. In most cases they transfer all the responsibilities to a service provider. There is usually no refund. They will ask for a deposit via Western Union or a bank wire to a person – not a business. If you are asked to pay via PayPal please be aware that now Ukraine is one of the countries that can only use PayPal to send money and not receive it.
Some of the internet based “providers” of the tours to Chernobyl
The tour to Chernobyl is a very exiting experience and there are hundreds of honest good reviews on the websites like TripAdvisor. But one has to be careful when choosing a company as there could be a 100% fraud behind 101% official or 100% certified tour operator. It is very easy to define a shady dealer – check the website well and use a common sense.