HBO and Sky Atlantic’s drama Chernobyl has sparked increasing interest in Chernobyl and thousands are flocking to northern Ukraine for a tour. However, curious travellers should be aware that whilst travel insurance will cover the trip, it will not include any long-term effects, according to Travel Insurance Explained. This means if someone experiences symptoms of radiation sickness while they are in Ukraine and they receive emergency medical treatment they will be due compensation from their insurance company, but if there are any medical complications once back home this will not be covered.
Brand Manager Rebecca Kingsley said: “Since the success of Sky’s drama Chernobyl there has been a major surge in interest from the more adventurous traveller to see the time capsule of the Cold War era.
“Most travel insurance policies can cover you for this trip as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has given the all-clear to travel to the Ukrainian site.
“However, a travel insurance policy only covers you from the duration of the holiday.
“So once you land back home after the trip, any cover for medical assistance also ends at that point.
“So if you become sick after returning from Chernobyl, your travel insurance won’t cover the costs.”
A spokesperson added: “Those planning on going should proceed with caution.”
The Chernobyl exclusion zone was set up after reactor four at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded in April 1986, causing a nuclear fallout 400 times larger than the Hiroshima bomb.
Around 335,000 people were evacuated – 115,000 from the surrounding area in 1986 and 220,000 people from Belarus, Russia and Ukraine after 1986.
The exclusion zone was 30km and left several ‘ghost towns’ including the nearby town of Pripyat.
In the absence of human life, Pripyat has been taken over by plants and wildlife.
No one was allowed to return to their homes but in 2011 the area was opened up for tourists to visit for short periods.
Even before the HBO drama aired, tourism was on the rise.
In 2013, 8,000 tourists visited the exclusion zone but this rose to 65,000 by 2018 according to Gamma Travel tour guide Alexandra Chalenko.
Ms Chalenko told the Independent that she expects the figure to rise to 100,000 this year.
However, visitors are warned to take a guide, not touch anything and not stay too long in areas of higher radiation.
A spokesperson for Travel Insurance Explained warned: “Levels of radioactivity in Pripyat, the closest town to the plant, can be dangerously high.
“While it is open to visit, you should take the advice of the guide and understand where the radioactive zones are on the site.”
They added: “While the area is generally at a safe level of radiation, the ground and anything found on the ground could have very dangerous levels of radiation.
“The Ukrainian government recommends that you do not enter any buildings, touch anything, eat anything, and always follow the advice of your guide.”
It is illegal to take any “souvenirs” you find in the exclusion zone as they will be “highly irradiated and a danger to your health”.
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