While many airports of the developing world — especially in Asia — can be overcrowded or completely disorganised, Pyongyang’s airport is all bells and whistles with its newly renovated terminals. This airport, like most of North Korea, is spotless and has all the basic amenities one might need during a visit. While many of the DPRK’s finest construction projects still seem to have 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.
The domestic terminal is two stories: first floor consists of departure and arrival areas, and the second floor has various shops and restaurants.
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 at 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 cell phones, and books are briefly inspected and counted. Ensure to hold onto your luggage tag as the airport staff are careful about checking all luggage leaving the terminal.
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 local Korean guides who will be with you during your stay in North Korea. 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 – your drive from here to downtown Pyongyang is 35 minutes.
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 water or 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. There’s 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. The airport accepts Chinese RMB, Euro, USD, Japanese Yen and Russian Ruble.
If you’d prefer Asian 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, head upstairs to a bar serving a range of beers and imported spirits.
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)!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 selling portable DVD players and North Korean cellphones.
Likewise, once passing through security there are a few small duty free shops, a DVD store with lots of DPRK favourites such as live performances by the Moranbong Band, 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.
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. Hand soap and paper towels to dry your hands are available. We can safely say that these toilets are far cleaner than those of Kuala Lumpur, Beijing and Denpasar in Bali.
Pyongyang International Airport/Pyongyang Sunan International Airport IATA code FNJ, ICAO – ZKPY. So therefore Beijing to Pyongyang would be coded as ‘PEK to FNJ’, or ‘FNJ to PEK’.