Travel agency advertises tours to Ukraine, tourists can see the war zone

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  • The tourist site Visit Ukraine offers tours of Ukrainian war-torn cities.
  • The site says visitors can see bombed buildings, bomb debris and destroyed military equipment.
  • Ukraine is currently on a “Level 4: Do Not Travel” advisory due to the ongoing war with Russia.

A travel agency invites tourists to visit Ukraine and see what it’s like to live in the midst of war.

Last month the online site Visit Ukraine began offering its guests guided tours in Ukraine, including expeditions through Kyiv, Bucha, Irpin and Kharkiv – all cities directly affected by Russian forces.

Visit Ukraine CEO Anton Taranenko told Insider that the company has offered several dozen tours since the site’s update and has booked more than 200. Much of the interest has come from Ukrainians who were displaced during the war or who moved to other countries earlier. However, more than a dozen Americans have also booked tours, he said.

Ukraine is currently under the highest travel advisory level due to the ongoing conflict with Russia. The US State Department urged all US citizens to leave the country immediately and warned it would not be able to help Americans in Ukraine.

The tourist site has not received any official approval from the Ukrainian government. Although not recommended, it is still technically possible to enter Ukraine through several places in Europe.

“Brave Cities”

The site says people who sign up for “Brave City” tours will be able to see bombed-out buildings, bomb debris and destroyed military equipment. Travelers could still face the risk of active landmines and air raids.

Taranenko said Kyiv is the safest city to visit as many people have resumed normal activities, but admits it is not “100% safe”.

Taranenko told Insider he doesn’t consider visiting today to be riskier than the visits of millions of tourists to Chernobyl before the war began.

Visit Ukraine tours usually consist of around 10 people led by a guide and last around 3-4 hours. Tour guides act as translators and guards, providing step-by-step instructions on how to avoid landmines and information on where to go if the air raid sirens sound.

A destroyed Russian tank seen with graffiti in Kyiv Oblast.

A destroyed Russian tank seen with graffiti in Kyiv Oblast.

Photo by Hesther Ng/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images



Ultimately, Taranenko said a tourist’s safety depends on how willing they are to follow instructions. In Bucha, where the bombs could explode at any timefailure to follow instructions can mean death.

“For example, when we were taking people to Chernobyl, the guide would tell them, ‘Listen, don’t go this way or that way, because then you’ll be exposed to more radiation,'” Taranenko said. “But, people will always do what they want.”

The CEO said that while for many the tour is about reconnecting with their country, for others it is about “black tourism”.

“Some people like that bit dangerous,” Taranenko said. “There’s always this guy. They want to see him in real life.”

“It’s not all you see on TV”

On the website, the company seems to lean into this narrative.

In a list of reasons to visit Bucha and Irpin, the site says visitors will be able to see the results of “the most massive civilian massacres that took place during the Russian attack on Ukraine”.

The site also offers other tours, including “Nature” and “Family Tours”. Meanwhile, other areas, including Mariupol and Mykolaiv, are completely off-limits to tourists as they are under Russian control or are under continuous attack from Russian forces.

Ukrainian demonstrators move towards Russian army trucks.

People carrying Ukrainian flags march towards Russian army trucks during a rally against Russian occupation in Kherson, Ukraine, Sunday, March 20, 2022.

AP Photo/Olexandr Chornyi



Ultimately, Taranenko said the site aims to show the brave spirit of the Ukrainian people. He said funds from the tours, which cost around €50 per person, support war refugees.

“We show the brave and strong people who live in Ukraine. You can feel the atmosphere,” he said. “It’s not all you see on TV. We’re just people who live our lives with the hope that the war will soon be over.”

“If tourists can come to Ukraine, enjoy our amazing city and tell their friends about it, maybe they too will understand the pride we have in our country, our independence,” Taranenko added.

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