North Korea FAQ
How safe is it?
Despite what you may hear, for most nationalities, North Korea is probably one of the safest places on Earth to visit provided you follow the laws as provided by our documentation and pre-tour briefings. Tourism is very welcomed in North Korea. North Korean’s are friendly and accommodating, if you let them into your world and avoid insulting their beliefs or ideology. Even during tense political moments tourism to the DPRK is never affected.
However it is important to note that they have what amount to extremely strict lèse-majesté laws (our pre tour travel agreement which all tourists must sign before a tour cover these in greater details) and in the event you should contravene those laws the consequences can be severe.
Recent cases of severe unwarranted consequences for American detainees in North Korea means we now consider the risk to Americans visiting North Korea to be too high and as such we can no longer accept Americans travelling on US passports for tours to North Korea.
Do I need to be vaccinated?
No. There aren’t any required vaccinations for travel to North Korea, but as always, it’s sensible to get checked out before your trip, and take any advice given by your doctor.
What do your group tour costs include?
Our tour costs covers rail transportation from Beijing to the DPRK and back, all meals unless detailed as an option on the itinerary, hotel accommodation, two Korean tour guides and a driver, a YPT western guide, all transportation within the DPRK and all entry fees for attractions unless specified within the itinerary.
What if I don’t want to travel in a group?
Understandable. We offer independent tours, as well as group tours. Check out the tours page or get in touch for more details. We do, however, feel that group travel is most enjoyable for North Korea. It may get a little lonely if you’re spending your entire trip with just you and your Korean guides. Independents however are great for those with special interests, families & friends, return visitors or those who are definitely sure they’d rather be on their own.
Can I take photos/videos/selfies?
Of course you can! But some lenses can be restricted mostly professional long zoom lenses. There’s no real hard and fast rule any more, but if you’re concerned send us a picture of the lens and we can give you advice. Rason and Extreme North East tours are exceptions lenses to those areas should be 250mm or less. When taking photos and videos your Korean guides will give you warning of the ‘no-no’ zones, and it’s crucial to follow their requests. For the most part, you are only unable to take pictures of military zones (aside from the D.M.Z), check points, or close up of soldiers.
It’s also suggested and courteous, to ask locals if you can take their picture. Other than these, or whatever else your guides deem unsuitable, snap away! Another thing to be aware of is that we usually will not go back to the hotel during the day, if you plan to use your camera a lot you may want to bring your charger with you.
Am I free to wander?
No. You must be accompanied by a guide at all times, but this kind of adds to the mysticism of the country. Whilst staying in any given hotel feel free to explore around the hotel and to invite your Korean guides for a drink. If you see a place outside you’d like to visit you can ask your YPT guide or if you’re travelling as an independent tourist you may ask your Korean guides, but please understand if the answer is no, it can’t be done.
If I travel to the DPRK will this restrict my future travel to other countries?
Definitely not. Travelling to North Korea doesn’t restrict you from any future travel to other countries especially to South Korea or the U.S. If you are travelling to South Korea directly before or after a tour with us to North Korea it is absolutely fine.
I’m South Korean. Can I go?
South Koreans holding a passport of another nation are able to use this to travel to the DPRK without any issues. We’ve taken plenty of overseas Koreans to the DPRK on many of our trips and enjoyed watching the friendly and very involving interactions between the locals and the Korean tourists. Koreans travelling on a Republic of Korea (ROK, South Korea) passport are restricted from travelling to the DPRK.
I’m an expat living in South Korea.. can I still visit the DPRK?
Absolutely! If you are living in South Korea with a South Korean residency or study/work permit you are able to visit the DPRK. Unfortunately this excludes, Japanese and South Korean people travelling with those passports. However, if you happen to be Japanese or a South Korean with a second national passport which belongs to another country you are able to visit!
I am a journalist. Can I join you on tour?
Journalists need a special visa and permission from the government to enter the DPRK. We do not have permission to bring in journalists. If you try to sneak into our tours as a journalist your DPRK visa will be denied and you run the risk of breaching our terms & conditions.
What currency should I bring?
Euro or Chinese Yuan (RMB) are the best currencies, personally we recommend RMB as it is much easier to get change for. In some areas USD are preferred, especially on the East coast, but we will advise you before the tour if USD will be useful. Prices are usually set in euros and RMB. Credit cards (including American Express) are not accepted in the DPRK, nor are their ATM’s available so it’s best to bring more than you’ll need just in case.
How much money should I bring with me?
The amount you decide to bring is completely up to you, but once inside the DPRK the daily costs are minimal. You can buy drinks and food to take with you on your day trips, but mostly those who travel to the DPRK will spend the majority of their spending money on souvenirs. €250 or 2500RMB should be sufficient for the ‘average’ traveller. (Not including tip money, or certain seasonal expenses such as Mass Games ticket money)
Should I be tipping?
YES! You need to tip your guides. If you want to get what you’ve paid for and then some, a tip goes a long way; as it does in any tipping culture. The male guides enjoy foreign cigarettes and liquor. This does not however, benefit the female guides. They’d prefer to receive chocolate, cosmetics, medicine, or any other fun feminine products. Cash is obviously well appreciated by all, and should be included in your “gift”, usually given at the end of your trip.
We also strongly recommend giving an entrance gift when you first arrive at the hotel, and have a ‘sit down’ with your guides. This gives them a taste of what’s to come when you leave, and you will be very accommodated throughout your holiday. In general you are not required to tip service staff, though it has become accepted in Pyongyang but not expected. If you feel service staff have made a special effort you can quietly give them a tip if you wish. Keep in mind, that as in any service industry, the guides rely greatly on their tips, so be as generous as you like.
Gifts from America or South Korea are very welcomed. Although these governments have politically differences, North Koreans appreciate good products from those countries such as cigarettes, cosmetics, liquor, electronics, etc.
What if I have differing opinions?
Well, you more than likely will, but we recommend refraining from having a debate with the guides. Remember, that their beliefs are important to them. Be respectful, don’t laugh, and keep your comments to yourself, until you’ve left. You can ask questions, but in a respectful manner. The guides will delicately let you know if they can’t answer. Everyone has read or seen lots on North Korea, this is your opportunity to listen to the other side. If you’re quiet and listen you’ll be surprised just how much you can learn.
What plugs do the North Koreans use?
Electric plugs are 220 volts, and the plug sizes are the same ones used in Western Europe. If you have different plugs, your hotel can provide adaptors for you.
Can I take my cellphone, smartphone, tablet, e-reader and laptop?
These devices are completely fine to bring into the DPRK. As a tourist you are unable to purchase a local simcard but you are able to make international phone calls (yes, this also includes USA) or send emails out from certain hotels around the country. Satellite phones are illegal to bring inside North Korea.
What to wear to Kumsusan Palace of the Sun (Mausoleum)?
The mausoleum is a very important place for North Koreans. It’s important that you show respect when visiting. ‘Smart casual’ is an easy description of the minimum dress code. You don’t have to wear a suit or formal dress, but definitely no jeans or sandals. Ties are not required, but your Korean guides will appreciate the effort. Pants with a shirt or blouse would be a perfect choice! You will not be allowed to bring anything inside the Mausoleum bar your wallet, so please leave your cameras, cigarettes etc on the bus. The same rules apply to the International Friendship exhibition in Mt Myohyang and the Korean National Treasure house.
Not only do we arrange all of your tickets, but they are usually included in the price of your tour (NB flights generally incur an extra charge). Please keep in mind that particularly during peak season, train & flight tickets can be quite difficult to get hold of, so the later you book the harder they are to get. YPT reserve the right to change, or provide a suitable alternative transport solution should this occur.
What happens during the DPRK immigration process?
The experience at Sinuijiu or Pyongyang is pretty straightforward- at the airport they will scan your bags and ask to see your electronics. At Sinuijiu on the train they may check through your bags and ask to see your electronics. They may fiddle around with them out of curiosity but will allow pretty much everything in.
For Extreme North East tours and Rason the experience is much more thorough they will go through everything including your laptops which will be taken to a separate building. Before arrival please put all your electronics including USB and SD cards in a separate bag or somewhere easy to locate and declare them in your customs form. Often books or publications will not be allowed into the country at these borders.
What facilities/services do the hotels have?
In the Deluxe hotels – The Yanggakdo and the Koryo hotel there is a wide range of services including laundry, business services such as copying and faxes, and post. All hotels provide shampoo, body wash and toothbrushes/toothpaste. They also feature numerous entertainment facilities and services such as massage, karaoke, billiards, ping pong and bowling. For hotels outside Pyongyang services are a lot less encompassing. If you have any enquiries about your hotels, please contact us.
I have a strict dietary requirement. Will this cause any issues during the tour?
The restaurants we visit caters for all vegetarians, vegans and other unique dietary requirements out there. We do recommend bringing in some snacks you prefer from home just in case you get the munchies on the road and can’t find anything suitable at the time.
Do I need to apply for a Chinese visa if I’m only there for a few days just to visit North Korea?
China now offers a 72 hour transfer visa to most foreigners so you don’t need to purchase a Chinese visa. Please review the following link for more information; China transit visa. The requirements are quite rigid so please be sure you meet them and feel free to ask us about it. If you are using the train you will need a Chinese visa, transits do not apply to overland entries or exits.
Can I apply for a Chinese visa in North Korea?
Yes but there are restrictions. We recommend for you to apply for a double entry visa or preparing a 72 hour transfer visa before visiting China and partaking in our tour.
If you are doing a Pyongyang or North East tour you can apply for a single entry Chinese visa. However, when applying in Pyongyang you’ll need to partake in a tour longer than six days as the visa application process requires four full working days (Monday – Friday). When you apply for the visa you will need to supply a flight itinerary (with your flight exiting China), a hotel reservation document and to visit the Chinese Embassy for an interview to successfully apply which will result in you missing out on some of the items on the tour itinerary. There is no Chinese embassy in Rason so tourists will need to organise a Chinese visa beforehand.
If you are doing an Ultra Budget tour or a five day tour with us you will not have enough time to apply for a Chinese visa in the DPRK.
I want to volunteer in North Korea, where do I sign?
As tourism to the DPRK grows so does the interest of foreigners wanting to do and to experience more in North Korea. We are giving you the opportunity to not only learn more about the Korean culture but to also help out local communities in the country by getting involved. For each volunteer tour, a distinct program will be selected, and the entire tour would be based around this program as well as seeing all the must see sights of the country. This introduces each traveller to something very rarely seen, done or performed in the DPRK. Please contact us for more information.
But I have so many other questions!
If you have any more questions, drop us an email, or give us a call. We are North Korea veterans. We’re able to answer most of your questions. Those of which we can’t, we’ll find out.