A common question we receive is what to pack for North Korea? Here is our complete packing list on what you need to bring to North Korea and what not to bring to North Korea to better prepare your trip to the DPRK.
We cover the following in this article:
What to bring to North Korea
- Spending Cash
- Vegan / Vegetarian Snacks
- Power Adaptors
What not to bring to North Korea
- Offensive movies
- Books about Korea
- Religious Materials
- Satellite Phones
In general clothing restrictions in North Korea are fairly laxed. During summer its fine to wear shorts & light clothing and in winter we recommend bringing thermals and winter jackets. However, there’s a few important aspects you should note if your tour includes the below sightseeing areas:
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 pass 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 causal is also accepted as long as you have a button up shirt with 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/burqas or blue jeans this is no issue
Spending cash in North Korea
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. Some areas in North Korea give the exchange rate of 10RMB to 1USD or 1 EURO.
We highly recommend bringing Chinese RMB to make your travels easier and more convenient. Euro coins are not always 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.
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.
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
We can cater for all dietary requirements within the DPRK. However, there are certain snacks in North Korea that aren’t vegan or vegetarian friendly so if you get the munchies a lot easier than others we’d recommend bringing in some snacks from home.
The power points in Pyongyang hotels are universal however it is a good idea to bring your own universal adaptor for your devices. In some restaurants and rural hotels, the power points are usually 2 point flat or round pin points with 220v power supply. If your camera battery is running low during the day you can recharge in restaurants at lunch or dinner – just ask your YPT guides.
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.
Taking photos in North Korea is fine but photos of Korean military, construction sites are not permitted. If you are visiting the DMZ with us, 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. If you have any questions during the tour please let them know and they will be happy to assist.
What NOT to bring to North Korea
Any movies or TV shows that could be considered insulting to the leadership or the country such as Team America, The Interview or any documentaries about North Korea are strictly forbidden.
Books about Korea
Kindles & e-books are fine to bring with you on tour, as are novels and books. Religious material & books about North Korea are not allowed. Lonely Planet, Bradt Guide or any other guide books for North Korea, South Korea or Japan are also not allowed. Please avoid bringing in magazines and newspapers of current events.
Pornography in North Korea
North Koreans are quite conservative so if on the rare chance your phone is checked at immigration please make sure you have removed any pornographic materials to avoid any embarrassing moments.
Whilst religion in North Korea exists, strictly no bibles or any other religious materials are allowed into North Korea on tours.
The chances of you having a satellite phone are very slim but a reminder that they’re not allowed.
Drones in North Korea
Drones in North Korea are not allowed at all. If you’ve been travelling with a drone your YPT guide can arrange for you to leave it behind in China at various storage lockers found at Dandong Railway Station, Beijing Railway Station or at Beijing International Airport.
And that is our handle list on what to bring, and equally what not to bring on your journey to North Korea!.