With North Korea having a semi-justified reputation for being an expensive place to visit, the question of “how can I travel to North Korea cheaply” is a common one. The short answer to this question is to book an Ultra Budget to North Korea with Young Pioneer Tours! In fact, it was the desire to make North Korea travel cheaper that inspired us to start the company.
But with a range of travel options available, what is pound for pound the cheapest way to go to North Korea? At 445 Euro, our Ultra-Budget Tours, which last for two nights, three days starting and finishing in Dandong are by far the cheapest group tours – it is not the cheapest way to go to North Korea.
To Chinese tourists, North Korea has always been the “near abroad”, with Chinese guests being able to do day trips from border towns Tumen, Ji’an, and Dandong without even need for a passport (instead using a special two way single use passport). In Sinuiju, the North Korean border town across from Dandong, North Korea is even trying to build a special tourist zone (somewhat like the old Kumgang Zone), which will basically be visa and passport free, for Chinese guests at least.
But for western guests these avenues were always closed, until 2014 at least, when Chinese tourists were briefly banned from going into North Korea. At this time, Sinuiju decided to open the gates to western tourists wishing to do a day trip in North Korea.
The day tours to Sinuiju start and finish in Dandong, a city that itself is worth a few days exploration, if nothing else just to see the statue of Chairman Mao waving at a poster of Nicholas Cage. Or to eat good quality North Korean food at decent prices, without even stepping across the border!
During the Sinuiju day tour, you experience North Korean customs (always interesting), explore the large central square and see the giant bronze statue of President Kim Il Sung, you partake in many local folklore activities, watch a breath taking children’s performance at the local kindergarten and visit a few museums.
Can you really truly see a country in a day? My personal belief is that unless you’ve drank Soju and sang Karaoke at night you haven’t been to North Korea, but to genuine country collectors, you get to tick it off.
As for cost, joining a group tour will cost 1690 RMB ($255). So, whilst it’s far from cheap in most people’s books, it is the cheapest way to tick off the DPRK on your visited countries list.
Oh, and before you ask, if you count doing the DMZ tour from South Korea and stepping over the “border” as visiting North Korea, you are an ass. That is all.