The famous abandoned city, which once housed 50,000 residents. Sights to see are the schools, kindergarten, public buildings and the amazing cultural palace which contains a swimming pool, cinema and gymnasium, and overlooks the famous ferris wheel. Hazards are the crumbling buildings, and decaying wooden floors in places – so be careful. As of July 2008, most tours will not let you enter the buildings due to their current structural stability.
Minibus day-trips from Kiev typically stop in the town’s center, at the west end of Lenin Street near the Palace of Culture. Short-term visitors are confined to the pavement at ground level; if you join one of these tours, your risk exposure is minimal, but so too is your exposure to the vast cultural reliquary that is Pripyat. A more in-depth visit (several days, staying overnight at the Desiatka hotel in Chornobyl, eating meals at the Desiatka restaurant) costs about $400 per person (2014). The long-term visitor is rewarded with considerably more freedom to explore, accompanied of course by an guide.
Decades of neglect have resulted in a physically-hazardous ex-urban environment in which radiation is of distant, secondary concern. Hazards include uncovered manholes in the middle of barely-recognizable streets, open elevator shafts, flooded basements, decayed wooden floors, collapsed roofs, large amounts of broken glass, challenging footpath obstructions in dark hallways, and quite possibly asbestos. Flashlights are essential to exploring interiors. Although radiation isn’t a relatively major concern, the “hotter” spots in town would most certainly be off-limits to the public in the United States or Western Europe. As an example, the basement of the Hospital contains first responders’ clothing (firefighters’ clothes, boots, helmets, etc.) and presents external gamma exposure rates approaching one roentgen (R) per hour (June 2010). Some other hot spots are well-known to guides and they can either help you avoid these places or find them if so inclined. The most important precaution concerning radioactivity is to avoid ingesting loose contamination. Although your guide might eat snacks or smoke in Pripyat, you should not–particularly if you have been handling things or visiting places like the hospital basement. Buy an ample supply of drinking water at one of the the magazines in Chornobyl before going to Pripyat. (Obviously there is not potable water there.) Water can also be used to rinse contaminated shoes before re-entering vehicles.