Young Pioneer Tours

North Korean FAQ

North Korea FAQ

Despite what you may hear, it is safe to travel to North Korea. The DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) is probably one of the safest places on Earth to visit provided you follow the laws and regulations as covered in our booking documents, at our pre-tour briefings, and throughout your stay in the DPRK.

Tourism is very welcomed in North Korea. North Koreans are friendly and accommodating if you let them into your world and avoid insulting their beliefs or ideology. Even during tense political moments, tourism within the DPRK is never affected.

With that said, it is important to know that North Korea has what amounts to extremely strict lèse-majesté laws, covered in further detail by our terms of travel agreement, and in the event of you contravening those laws the consequences can be severe.

We arrange tours for all those who are not travelling on USA or South Korean passports. We strongly encourage anyone considering travel to the DPRK to familiarize yourself with your own country’s statements and suggestions regarding travel to the DPRK; as well as to adequately prepare before your trip by notifying the relevant agencies, embassies, or consulates of your travel plans where recommended.

Furthermore, we continue to get up-to-date travel information from both the UK and Swedish embassies in Pyongyang. While in the country, our YPT guides carry local SIM cards, which can be used to make international phone calls and contact foreign embassy staff in Pyongyang.

More can be read here.
North Korea (DPRK) is one of the most closed off countries in the world. However, arranging your North Korean visa through YPT is a very simple process and is included as part of our tour booking process. North Korean visas are €50 per person.

Everything we need from you to complete the visa process can be easily given to us online, we don’t need your physical passport. The North Korean visa is printed on separate piece of paper and isn’t attached to your passport. Your DPRK visa is handed to you at our arranged pre-tour meeting in China or Russia by your YPT guide before you enter North Korea.

It can usually take up to two weeks to prepare your DPRK visa. More can be read here.
The vast majority of our scheduled North Korean group tours begin and finish in China. Our standard North Korean tours include trains from Beijing into Pyongyang and back with the option of flights. Our Ultra Budget tours which have been designed to be the cheapest ever tour to North Korea, begin and finish in Dandong – the Chinese border town city to North Korea.
The only nationalities restricted from travel to North Korea are tourists travelling on South Korean (Republic of Korea) and United States of America (USA) passports. All other nationalities are legally allowed to visit the DPRK.

You are allowed to travel to North Korea if you are a South Korean who has taken up a new nationality or are a person of South Korean heritage. You are also allowed to travel to North Korea if you are an expat based now or previously in South Korea.
Due to the travel ban put in place by the US State Department on travelling to North Korea on a US passport; we can no longer accept those travelling on US passports for tours to North Korea.

If you are a dual citizen of the US then you may travel to North Korea using your second passport. If you are a resident or green card holder of the US on any passport except South Korean then you may also visit North Korea.
After you have visited North Korea this will not affect your travel to any other countries. Your passport will not be stamped on entry or exit to the DPRK. However, if you wish to visit the United States after your tour to North Korea, you will no longer be eligible for the ESTA visa waiver program (providing you would have been otherwise) and will need to apply for a normal visa from your nearest US embassy or consulate.

You are able to travel to any country, including South Korea and Japan, with no hassle.
Yes. Having a South Korean visa and/or entry and exit stamps from South Korea in your passport is not a problem If you are living in South Korea with a South Korean residency or study/work permit you are able to visit the DPRK.
Yes. There are no issues visiting South Korea after your trip with us to North Korea. Declaring with the South Korean immigration that you were in North Korea within the last 14 days is not an issue. However, please note it is illegal to bring in North Korean propaganda items such as postcards or posters to South Korea.
Journalists need a special visa and permission from the government to enter the DPRK. We cannot bring journalists on a tour using a DPRK tourist visa. 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. However, we are able to arrange special delegation visits for journalists for documentary or research purposes. Please contact us for more information.
All YPT group tours are conducted in English. Our tour leaders are native or fluent English speakers and are multilingual with Chinese and/or Korean.

We can arrange your private independent tours to North Korea in another language based on your request. Feel free to contact us for more details.
Our tour costs cover rail transportation from China to North Korea and back, hotel accommodation, all meals unless detailed as an option on the itinerary, 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. Flights are optional and extra cost which are detailed on our tour page.
If our scheduled group tours don’t match your travel dates or interests, we can create your very own North Korea private tour. Our independent tours are suitable for all solo travelers, couples, friends or families. During your private tour you will be accompanied by two local Korean guides (several languages are available such as Chinese, Russian. French, Spanish, German, Italian, Arabic, Japanese and many other languages), and you will have your own driver and vehicle.
No. You must be accompanied by a local guide at all times, but this kind of adds to the mysticism of the country. Whilst you’re staying in any North Korean hotel, feel free to explore around the hotel and invite your Korean guides for a drink. If you see an area outside which you’d like to visit, you may ask your YPT guide or if you’re travelling as an independent tourist you may ask your local Korean guides, but please understand if the answer is no, it can’t be done.
You are more than likely to have differing opinions, but we recommend refraining from having a debate with the guides. They won’t try to brainwash you, so remember, that whilst their beliefs are important to them, they will also respect yours. We encourage you to ask questions, but in a respectful manner. The guides will delicately let you know if they can’t answer. If you have a complicated question please let our YPT guide know, we have over 10 years’ experience and can share fascinating stories or facts we’ve encountered along the way.

We have all read or watched many documentaries on North Korea - this is your opportunity to experience and listen to the other side.
One common argument we hear against visiting North Korea is that all our money goes into the hands of the government which is used for its nuclear weapons programme or other such things.

We do not believe so. Firstly, the amount of money the DPRK receives from tourism is quite minimal to its economy as a whole. North Korea struggles to see more than 4000 tourists in total travelling with a European travel company each year.

As we have seen with cases like the COVID-19 pandemic or the Ebola scare, North Korea will close its borders to tourism quickly and completely, showing that tourism is in no way crucial to their regime survival.

Secondly, and more importantly, the money you spend on a DPRK tour goes directly to the North Korean tour guides and their travel company, their office and staff, the drivers, the restaurants, and hotels and their staff, so it goes directly to keeping these people in a job to support their families.

More broadly, we think the value of human interaction that tourism brings about, in a country like the DPRK where the average person will not meet many people from the outside world, is very high. It demonstrates to North Korean people what foreigners are really like, and conversely it also gives you, the traveler, an insight into what North Koreans are like.

In a world where the media and certain governments place more emphasis on generalisations, simplifications and sensationalisations, this interaction is wholly worthwhile even if still not the free interaction you would get with locals in a different country. Indeed, one piece of feedback we often receive is how amazing it is to be able to spend some time with North Koreans and talk to them about everyday discussions such as their jobs, their families and their lives.

Travel is a means to broaden your mind and horizons, both for the traveler and the local people through the everyday communications that happen on a tour and this is something we whole heartily encourage.
While there are pros and cons for both options, we believe taking the train is an excellent way to begin your journey into North Korea by getting to know your fellow group members or your neighbours who may be Chinese or North Korean. The scenery from your window is incredible and it is your chance to have a better understanding on both the Chinese and North Korean rural life.

However, the convenience of flying direct between Beijing and Pyongyang on North Korea’s flagship carrier, Air Koryo is well worth the experience.

The overnight sleeper train between Beijing and Pyongyang is 24 hours and is included in all our standard tour itineraries and cost. The train between Dandong – the Chinese border town city to North Korea and Pyongyang for our Ultra Budget tours is 8 hours. We organise comfortable sleeper beds for our tourists but the option of being upgraded to first class cabins are available.

Air Koryo have almost daily flights to and from Beijing, as well as weekly services to Vladivostok (Russia), Shenyang (China) and occasionally Shanghai (China).

Please keep in mind that particularly during peak season, tickets can be quite difficult to get hold of, so the later you book the harder they are to arrange. YPT reserve the right to change, or provide a suitable alternative transport solution should this occur.

To read more about the train or flight experience into North Korea click here.
Taking photos in North Korea is fine but photos of Korean military and construction sites are not permitted. If you are visiting the DMZ, photos of the soldiers at the Joint Security Area is fine. During your tour your YPT and local Korean guides will give you the ‘go ahead’ and the ‘no- no’ zones for taking photos – it is crucial to follow their requests.

Digital and film cameras are allowed to be taken into North Korea, but professional video cameras are not. For DSLR cameras lenses should be less than 250mm in physical size. If you have an external GPS attachment for your DSLR camera please do not bring it. If your camera has GPS features built in this is acceptable.
As with any border crossing in the world, the North Korean customs officials have the right to search your belongings. This includes any electronics you are carrying on you and memory cards.

Laptops, tablets, smart phones, e-readers and MP3 players are fine to bring with you on your tour to North Korea, although you cannot access the internet within the DPRK.

Dedicated GPS tracking devices are not allowed to bring in. However, devices where GPS are built in such as smart watches, cameras or smart phones are fine.

Satellite phones, drones and pornographic material is strictly forbidden, as is any material that could be considered insulting to the leadership or the country.
We encourage our customers to share their experience with us in North Korea on all social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram. Sharing photos and videos are also acceptable. Blogging is generally not a problem which we break into further details in our DPRK Travel Agreement which must be signed during your tour booking process.

We are also very happy to share your blogs on our YPT Facebook page to help gain you more view and followers, and we really appreciate to hear feedback from our customers on our TripAdvisor page.
We highly recommend bringing Chinese RMB to make your travels easier and more convenient.

Having access to the local DPRK Won currency is not permitted for foreign tourists so either Chinese RMB, EURO or USD is accepted within the country. RMB is used widely within North Korea and much preferred by the locals. It is also easier receiving change in RMB. EURO and USD are accepted in most places however your change may be given back to you with RMB.

RMB, Euro or USD coins are not accepted in North Korea. If your note is torn, dirty, old or faded you will encounter issues with Koreans accepting it. Clean and crisp notes are preferred by the Koreans.

There are no ATMs, Western Unions or credit card facilities in North Korea. The money you bring in with you on the tour is the money you have during your entire duration. If you run out, there is no way to access cash from your bank accounts.
In terms of spending money in North Korea, it depends on how much you like to drink and how many gifts you want to buy. People tend to spend the most money in the evenings – a pint of draft beer at the hotel bar is roughly 15 RMB, a can of soft drink is usually around 10 RMB. A packet of cigarettes starts at 5 RMB, mineral water is about 2 RMB per bottle and 7 RMB for sparkling. The tap water in North Korea is not considered safe to drink.

North Korean books range from 10 RMB to 35 RMB for short pamphlets, hard cover pictorials can cost up to 400 RMB. A regular paperback can cost around 40 RMB. Original artworks range from 250 RMB – 1000+ RMB.

Postcards are 5 RMB each and international stamps are around 10 RMB each. With most things included in the tour price it is possible to bring very little money, but people tend to spend more than they expected on drinks, souvenirs and evening entertainment, such as billiards and karaoke, so bring more than you think you’ll need to avoid any issues with running out of spending cash in North Korea.

We also encourage you to set aside a tip for the North Korea guides to give at the end of the tour, which is the custom and as such is somewhat expected.
At the Mansudae Grand Monument (the large bronze statues of the leaders) there is a simple dress code. For men it's required to wear long trousers and enclosed shoes (sneakers, travel/hiking boots are fine but no sandals or flip flops). For women it's required to wear long trousers or a skirt/dress that comes down past the knees; open dress shoes are ok as are sneakers or shoes but not flip flops or sandals. Please ensure you bring these with you, or you will not be able to visit the monument.

If Kumsusan Palace of the Sun (Mausoleum of Kim Il Sung & Kim Jong Il) is on your tour itinerary you are required to wear either a formal dress/suit/shirt with long trousers and dress shoes or clean sneakers. Smart casual is also accepted as long as you have a button up shirt with a collar. Blue jeans, trousers with tears, shorts, sandals or flip flops are not acceptable. Without the correct attire you will not be able to visit this palace.

The two venues mentioned above are the only places where there is a strict clothing requirement within North Korea. During your stay on the tour there are no other restrictions. If you have tattoos, piercings, facial hair, or prefer wearing hijab/niqab or blue jeans this is no issue.
There are a total of 28 cities, 9 provinces and a Special Economic Zone within North Korea. However, many of them are still closed to tourists which we are constantly working on opening. There are over 15 cities currently opened for foreigners to visit and explore. Between these cities are numerous counties and scenic sites which are also available for visits. Read our quick guide to North Korean cities to learn more.
There are multiple hotels located around North Korea and within Pyongyang city. Hotels in Pyongyang such as the Sosan Hotel or Yanggakdo Hotel have a wide range of services including laundry, international phone calls, and the ability to post postcards. The majority of hotels in North Korea include entertainment facilities such as karaoke, billiards, swimming, ping pong, massage and bars.

Hotels outside of Pyongyang are less well developed than those in Pyongyang and have limited supplies of electricity and hot water. However, there are beautiful hotels located in the countryside that can give you an incredibly unique experience in North Korea.

Backpacker or hostel-styled dormitories are not available in the country. The rooms we arrange for our tours are twin share accommodation. If you prefer to have your own room, single rooms are available for an extra 40 euros per night.
The Mass Games concept is not actually based on any games, but a performance featuring over 100,000 participants in a 90-minute display of gymnastics, dance, acrobatics, and dramatic performance. This, together with music and other effects, all comes together wrapped in a highly politicized and synchronized package. It also features the ‘largest picture in the world’ – a giant mosaic of 18,000 students each holding a book whose pages links with their neighbours’ to make up one gigantic scene. Recognised as the world’s largest performance by the Guinness Book of Records and therefore held in the world’s largest stadium located in Pyongyang, North Korea.
If you are planning on taking the train in or out of North Korea from China – you will require a Chinese entry visa in your passport. China do offer a 144 hour transit visa to some nationalities which is only valid for flights between China and North Korea. The requirements for the transit visa are rather rigid so please read the policy carefully, and make sure you have a full understanding of how it works. Feel free to contact us for more information or to clarify your travel plans.
The restaurants we arrange during our tours can cater for vegetarians, vegans and other dietary requirements. We do recommend bringing in some snacks you prefer from home just in case you get the munchies on the road and if you can’t find anything suitable at the time.
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.
The DPRK is very much a developing country, and as a result, washrooms can at times be broken or be without soap. We highly recommend bringing a small bottle of hand sanitiser and small packets of tissues with you for toilet paper.

Furthermore, while we visit restaurants that follow safe food handling practices, if in doubt about any food, give it a skip as you do not want to risk missing a day of touring due to illness. Despite our best efforts, when traveling food poisoning can happen, as such we recommend bringing anti-diarrheal medication such as Imodium and Gastrolytes for emergencies. Basic Painkillers are also likely to come in handy. Medicine in general can be difficult to find in the DPRK so if there is anything you tend to need, please be sure to bring it.

Feminine hygiene products can also be difficult to come by while in the DPRK, so we advise female travelers to please be prepared.

Bringing in your own prescribe medication or any devices that you are medically required to have with you on tour is fine.

There is a special hospital located in Pyongyang that treats foreign visitors. If you need any urgent medical assistance please inform your YPT guide and they will make the arrangements for you to go to hospital. YPT cannot be held responsible for any medical costs. It is compulsory for travelers to all our destinations have travel insurance. Insurance is not included in our tour cost. We can arrange your North Korean travel insurance for you.
Yes, we offer discounts for those making group bookings on our scheduled group tours. We also have a YPT membership programme available which offers goodies and discounts.