Here is our beginners’ guide to Pyongyang airport - one of the least visited airports in the world!
While many airports of the developing world, especially in Asia can be awful, hot, sticky, dirty, unorganised places, Pyongyang’s airport is all bells and whistles with its newly renovated, sparkling terminals. This airport, like most of the DPRK, is spotless and has all the basic amenities one might need during a quick visit. And while many of the DPRK’s finest construction projects still seem to having something a little bit ‘off’ about them, Pyongyang Airport impressively lacks this aesthetic oddness in its construction. Don’t worry though, there’s still plenty of DPRK charm to go around.
An infamous Air Koryo plane awaiting departure.
Pyongyang Airport consists of two terminal buildings: international and domestic which sit adjacent to each other, with a corridor of various shops connecting them.
The domestic terminal is two stories: first floor consists of departure and arrival areas, and the second floor has various shops and restaurants.
Yep, that's real coke.
The international terminal – where you’re most likely to be visiting – has the arrival hall on the first floor, the departure hall on the second floor, and a variety of other shops and restaurants on the third floor.
Arriving to the airport:
For your first visit to Pyongyang airport, you’ll probably be arriving into the international terminal. From here, you’ll head downstairs to the arrival area where you’ll go through quarantine and immigration before heading to the luggage carousel. Fairly normal so far. Then, once you’ve gathered your baggage, you head through the customs checkpoint, where passports and cell phones are inspected. Here, you’ll have your bags scanned and your phone, books and other electronics quickly inspected (religious materials, Kim Jong Un memes and naked selfies should all be discarded long before this point). YPT top tip - make sure to hold onto your luggage tag as the airport staff are very strict about checking that you’ve got the right bag!
Once you’ve made it through customs, head through the sliding glass doors to the main foyer area. Here, you’ll be warmly greeted by your Korean guides who will be with you during your stay in Pyongyang! There’s also a variety of small souvenir shops, restrooms, the Koryolink counter (for those wishing to rent a SIM card), and a smoking lounge on the first floor - so feel free to hit the loo, have a smoke, and grab a drink to tide you over before your 30-minute drive into town. Welcome to Pyongyang!
YPT's Amanda "interneting" in Pyongyang Airport
Departing from the airport:
If you need to grab a quick snack before you head through security, then head to the convenience store located just to your left upon entering the second floor departure hall. Just remember, like all airports nowadays, you can’t bring liquids through security so, finish those last bottles of Taedonggang beer, water, and import quality Coca-Cola before you head through.
If you have arrived early and want to grab a bite to eat before you check in, head upstairs to the restaurant floor. On the left hand side is the Western cuisine restaurant, which features burgers, western, and Russian fare as well as a lengthy cocktail list. We recommend a cocktail called “the journalist” which comes served in a nifty martini glass. Also available are a selection of coffee and espresso drinks – but avoid the Ristretto (it’s far from Italian perfection here). In this case, Pyongyang airport is no different from any other airport in the world, so expect to pay inflated airport prices.
If you’d prefer Asian style food, the restaurant on the opposite side of the third floor serves Korean and Chinese food. If you’re just looking for a quick drink, then upstairs is smattered with bars serving a range of beers and spirits, ready to calm those pre-flight nerves.
An egg pancake, stuffed with white rice, delicately adorned with ketchup. Delicious.
If you’re in the mood for some last minute retail therapy, the third floor also has you covered, although this isn’t your typical international airport duty free selection. Amongst the shops you will find a children’s store, clothing store, shoe store, and even an electronics shop! Likewise, once passing through security there are a few small duty free shops, a DVD store with lots of DPRK favourites (Moranbong Band, anyone?), and some other shops with some last-minute DPRK goodies as well. However, like any city, there is much better (and cheaper!) souvenir shopping in downtown Pyongyang, so if it’s last minute souvenirs you’re looking for, we recommend planning ahead and purchasing them at the hotel before you fly out.
We know what you’re thinking: retail therapy and drinking isn’t everybody’s cup-o-tea. So if you’re looking for some entertainment, then head back downstairs to the main hall: here, you’ll find a single plasma screen TV playing the greatest hits of North Korea recorded from live performance. ‘Arirang’ and ‘Pangapsumnida’ feature very regularly, and they never get old (at least, in our professional opinion)!
Snack booth on quintessentially shiny marbled floor in PY airport.
Finally, one of our favourite things about Pyongyang airport is… the toilets. As stated before, this airport is spotless, which goes for the toilets as well. We can safely say that these toilets are far cleaner than those of Kuala Lumpur, Beijing and of course Denpasar in Bali. You could eat your kimchi straight off the cistern. These airport cleaners deserve a medal.