FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
On Travelling to the DPRK …
What travel to the DPRK?
- to enhance the participants general understanding of the DPRK and the surrounding regions by experiencing it first hand.
- to promote positive people-to-people exchanges in a non-political, neutral setting between citizens of nation-states that share mutually disreputable perceptions of each other’s systems and peoples due to historical legacies, the influences of mainstream media / propaganda, and a very limited opportunity for interaction amongst ordinary people.
- to offer the opportunity to create new friendships and a positive lasting impression of the participants home country, society and culture to members of DPRK society
- to challenge or break-down pre-existing (pre-conceived) labels and stereotypes among participants, our hosts and the DPRK citizens we interact with.
- to build empathy and compassion between the participants whose nations have historically been at war and continue to have mutual resentment and sentiments
- to initiate exchanges that can assist confidence building in the relationships between the organizations involved, relationships which, if nurtured, may lead to expansion of activities or invite future opportunities
- to visit to the least traveled country in the world and have a great time!
About the DPRK
What does DPRK stand for?
The DPRK is the official name of “North Korea” which stands for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (조선민주주의인민공화국) which is pronounced Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk. The Koreans refer to their country, as the DPRK, DPR Korea or simply Korea. Using “North Korea” can be offensive and politically incorrect.
Safety and Security
Is it safe to travel to the DPRK?
Travel to the DPRK is indeed safe. Just as if you were to travel to any other foreign country, the laws and rules of that country must be followed. There have not been cases of visitors or tourists being detained without cause or reason. In the past few years there have been some individuals detained for entering the country illegally, entering the country with false documents, disrespecting the government, breaking laws or distributing religious or anti-government materials. That being said, some basic and general rules need to be observed while in the country. More details on this will addressed in a pre-trip briefing in China.
Can I freely take photos and video in the DPRK?
When permitted by our local guides you may take video and photos while in the DPRK. Taking photos or videos of the military, citizens without their permission or filming outside moving vehicles is prohibited. Tripods and zoom lenses over 200mm are not permitted in the country.
Am I allowed to wonder or walk around freely on my own while in the DPRK?
Tourist travel to the DPRK is only possible as part of a guided tour. Independent travel is not permitted. If you are NOT prepared to accept some limitations on your movements, behavior, and freedom of expression, you should reconsider travelling to the DPRK.
Will the DPRK government do a background check on me?
The DPRK government commonly conducts simple background checks on visitors and official guests who plan on visiting their country for national security purposes. This background or security check will sometimes involve a friendly phone call to your home or mobile phone number to confirm your identity but also to welcome you on your future trip to their country.
Do I need travel insurance for the DPRK?
Travel insurance is not necessary but is available at an additional cost. If you already have international travel insurance that doesn’t cover the DPRK you can add on coverage for the DPRK for about 300 RMB.
Visas, Transportation and other Logistics
How do we enter and exit the DPRK?
The DPRK has different entry and exit points which are by airplane (Air Koryo), by train and by bus. These entry exit points are located at Beijing / Pyongyang, Dandong / Sinuiju, and Quenhe / Wonchong, respectfully.
How do I get a visa for China?
Free 72-Hour Chinese Visa (or Double entry Chinese Tourist Visa)
Those who will be arriving in Beijing less than 72 hours before departure to North Korea can qualify for the 72 Hour Visa. This also applies when you return from the DPRK to Beijing. Please make sure you qualify, there are some conditions and details here:
Double entry Chinese Tourist Visa
If you plan to arrive earlier than 72-hours before we depart for Pyongyang or plan on staying more than 72 hours after we return to Beijing you will need to apply for a double entry Chinese Tourist Visa which you will have to check with the Chinese Embassy or consulate in your home country or country of residence.
How do I obtain a visa for the DPRK?
The DPRK visa, application and processing fees are included in the trips travel costs. The required visa application information will be collected from the participants and prepared by the organizers.
Who CAN’T travel to the DPRK?
Current military personnel, South Korean nationals (holding South Korean passports) and journalists are not permitted to travel to the DPRK. Ethnic Koreans with foreign passports can obtain visas to the DPRK but are sometimes required to submit some additional information. Non-South Koreans (Foreign expats) living in South Korea can also travel to the DPRK.
How much luggage am I allowed to take to the DPRK?
It is recommended that you pack generally pack light. Also keep in mind that check-in luggage over 20kg is subject to extra charges depending on the airline.
You are also allowed to bring a 10kg standard airline carry-on bag and a notebook computer or a small handbag.
Money, Tips and Currencies
Which additional costs can I expect during the trip?
You can expect to pay for some additional fees during the trip such: alcohol, souvenirs, snacks, purchasing additional food during meals, some optional extracurricular activities that may include (amusement parks, the circus, bowling, depending on which trip your are on). Also, additional hotel services such as laundry, haircuts, massage, long-distance phone calls and other services are not included.
Which currencies can I use while in the DPRK?
Among locals the DPRK won (KPW) is used, however foreign visitors are only permitted to use US Dollars, Chinese RMB, and the Euro. Note: Smaller denominations of cash are preferred as change is not generally available.
Are there ATMs in the DPRK? Can I use my credit card or travellers checks?
There are no ATM’s in the DPRK, please access ATM’s in your home country or while you are in China. You may also want to notify your bank that you may be withdrawing cash from China beforehand, so that they do not put a hold on your account. Credit cards and travellers checks are NOT accepted in the DPRK.
Do you tip in the DPRK?
General tipping at restaurants is not common or necessary in the DPRK. It is however expected to tip our local translators, guides and drivers. A small tip of about 10 euros per day is expected and required; however if you feel that you have received exceptional services from your guides additional tipping / gifts will be greatly appreciated.
NOTE: Some tours tips are included. See trip details for more information
Is it possible to get a refund if I have to withdraw from the trip prior to departure?
Yes, a full refund is available if written notice of your withdrawal is received at least 30 days prior to the date of departure to Pyongyang. If we receive written notice of your withdrawal within 30 days of departure, you may receive a partial refund, with the proportion of fees paid that can be refunded varying depending on the amount of notice you give. Please see below (Figure 1.1) for details.
Note: If for any reason the trip is cancelled by the North or for reasons beyond our organizations control, a full refund will be offered.
Health & Food
Do I need to take medicine to the DPRK?
You should take any required personal medications you would normally or could require. A basic medical kit will be available during the trip, which includes basic medicines and basic first-aid equipment.
Can I drink the tap water in Korea?
It is not recommended that you drink the tap water in China or the DPRK; it should be boiled and is usually provided in the hotel rooms. Bottled water is also readily available in hotels, restaurants and shops. In the countryside some hotels provide salt water in an unsealed water bottle, which is intended for brushing your teeth not consumption.
In case of an emergency or a serious problem while travelling in the DPRK what can I do?
The local guides and drivers have cell phones on them at all times. In case of emergency they will contact local or international medical services, family members and the relevant Embassy in Pyongyang if necessary.
If I get sick in the DPRK, where can I get medical attention?
Hospitals in the capital Pyongyang are able to provide basic medical services. Many Korean doctors have training abroad, and there is an international friendship hospital in Pyongyang, which services the foreign diplomats, UN workers, NGO’s and others living in the capital. More severe cases may require seeking medical attention in Beijing by commercial flight or medical evacuation, which can be arranged by the relevant embassy in Pyongyang. Insurance is available upon request for about 50 to 150 USD depending on coverage. If you already have international travel insurance that doesn’t cover the DPRK, extra coverage for the DPRK is about 50USD
What about if I have special dietary preferences or allergies?
If you have any special dietary preferences or allergies, please let us know in advance and we will do our best to accommodate. There are many vegetarian dishes available and other special dietary needs can be easily accommodated.
What kind of foods do we eat in the DPRK?
Generally, we eat Korean food, which is healthy and delicious. It commonly consists of a bowl of rice, soups, seafood or grilled meats, it is generally spicy, and features a variety of tasty side dishes. Vegetarian options are plentiful and many Chinese foods and some western foods are normally available.
International phone calls, email and postal services
Can I access the Internet while in the DPRK?
At some hotels in Pyongyang outgoing email services are available, this means you cannot access the Internet and check your email account or search the web. If your phone is compatible with the DPRK cell phone system you are able to purchase a SIM card. The SIM card can be activated to use the countries 3G network, however coverage is limited to major urban areas. Calling overseas using a local SIM card can cost anywhere between 3 and 7 USD per minute. Data transfer fees are also very expensive.
Can you call abroad from the DPRK?
Most major hotels in urban areas have overseas lines in which you can call overseas. Calls can cost anywhere between 3 and 7 USD per minute. You cannot call South Korea from the DPRK.
Can I send letters or post cards?
Postcards and letters may be sent from most major hotels.
How can I engage with local people and have a great time?
Can I bring presents for the local population and our hosts?
It is recommended to bring some gifts for your translators, guides, drivers and others you will interact with in the DPRK. Gift giving can make a great first impression and also show your appreciation. Popular gifts are souvenirs from your hometown or country, cigarettes (European and foreign non-Chinese brands are preferred) for men and cosmetics, chocolates, or candy for women. During our trip we will have the opportunity to visit schools and watch children’s performances in which our delegations can offer them candies, chocolates, sports equipment or small toys. Toys and candies for DPRK children originating from South Korean are not permitted.
What should I bring and what should I NOT bring?
Can I bring my mobile phone, laptop, ipad, e-reader etc. to the DPRK?
Yes, you can bring your mobile phone, laptop, ipad, e-reader etc. to the DPRK, however they might be thoroughly searched at customs. Pornography, foreign published materials on the DPRK and any materials in the Korean language are NOT permitted to bring into the country. USB drives, external hard drives, mp3 players are also all subject to inspection.
What CAN’T you take with you to the DPRK?
You can not bring the following items to the DPRK: GPS units or GPS enabled equipment phones or other equipment, binoculars, tripods, written or electronic materials (books, music, videos) which are in Korean or about the DPRK or religious in nature (music produced in the DPRK is permitted), weapons, pornography, illegal drugs and substances. Bibles and other religious texts are NOT permitted.
What do you suggest I bring along on the trip?
- 1 set of business casual clothes & a tie for men (for visiting formal sites such as statues and the mausoleum)
- Clothing – In the summer you can expect hot and potentially humid weather; note the possibility of rain. Spring and Fall are mild and pleasant while the winter can get quite cold.
- Summer (umbrella or raincoat) Winter (warm coat, gloves and a warm hat)
- walking shoes
- personal effects such as a watch/alarm clock and bathroom items
- 1 or 2 set of sports / workout / clothes & shoes
- sun block or sun screen
- sports equipment that you expect to use and give away (balls, Frisbees, etc)
- mosquito repellant
- gifts for our local guides, drivers and other people we interact with. Some recommended gifts are cigarettes, chocolates, candies, toys, souvenirs from your hometown or country
- 1 swimsuit
- basic over-the-counter medicines (i.e. for diarrhea, motion sickness, and aspirin or Tylenol)
- camera with battery charger
- hand sanitizer
- small flashlight
- Polaroid camera- instant photographs are a great way to engage with people and the photos make excellent gifts for the Koreans. Locals are usually more willing to have their picture take if they can share in the fun.