North Korea Travel
A common question in the travel world is “can you travel to North Korea?” The simple answer to this is, yes! Small amounts of travelers have been visiting North Korea on organized tours for quite some time now. So why is it that when I show a photo on social media so many people are still in shock to see that I traveled extensively in North Korea? In this post I will show you the complete guide to traveling in North Korea and answer questions like: can you visit North Korea independently? Where in North Korea can you visit and all the bizarre experiences that a trip to North Korea can give you! Join me on one of the most strange but wonderful adventures into the most secretive nation on earth, North Korea!
How to Visit North Korea?
North Korea is not your typical tourist destination, in fact, it’s one of the least visited destinations on the planet! With North Korea being constantly in the headlines for less than positive things leave many asking, “how do you visit North Korea?”. A trip to North Korea requires planning, a fair bit of money, and a sense of adventure into the unknown.
The first step to traveling to North Korea begins with contacting a North Korean tour company. Over the past few years, more and more tours have been opening which has allowed travelers visiting North Korea to experience more than the typical path that most have done. Once you finally picked the tour you would like then the real adventure begins (completing lots of paperwork).
How to Get into North Korea
The next question I am often asked is “how do you get into North Korea?”, this might sound silly but go ahead and try and research flights! North Korea has one national airline that you can indeed fly on, but your tour company must book the tickets for you. The most common places to fly into Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital city is from Beijing or Shanghai.
There are also opportunities to cross into North Korea by land via a train that travels from Beijing north to Pyongyang via Dandong and the Korean Friendship Bridge. I do not, however, recommend this trip; it is a long 24-hour train, and security is very tight. Most travelers will experience soldiers boarding the train and searching through all your luggage and checking all your photos/videos.
Can You Travel to North Korea Independently?
Now, I know what your thinking, traveling to North Korea with a tour company sounds like the logical thing to do, but what if I want to strap my backpack on and travel around on local transport for my gap year trip? Well, I have terrible news for you, not only does this question sound ridiculous (you would be surprised how much I get asked), but we do need to address it! So, can you travel to North Korea independently on your own? No… there I said it, traveling to North Korea solo is impossible, do not attempt it, go looking for it or even contemplate it any further. If you continue your search for solo travel in North Korea I am certain you will get yourself into some serious trouble, just face the fact that if you want to travel to North Korea you will need a tour.
Alas!! Traveling with a tour company does not mean a big crowded bus with no freedom, however! Tour companies in North Korea can be flexible, you can also book a private tour and visit places that tourists seldom go!
Do you Need a Visa to Visit North Korea?
North Korea being one of the strangest destinations you will ever travel to also requires a strange visa system. Fortunately, your tour company will handle all the visa work for your trip, you will just be required to fill out some forms that your tour company will send you after purchasing your chosen tour.
I know what a lot of you are thinking, a North Korean stamp in your passport will look so badass! This is not the case for travel in North Korea. When you meet your tour guide in China, they will provide you with a special North Korean passport. This is what you will use to enter and leave North Korea with, during your visit throughout North Korea your guide will hold onto your actual passport. Do not worry they do this because if you were to lose your passport in North Korea there would be some difficult and expensive procedures. Unfortunately, your temporary passport must be forfeited when leaving North Korea.
Is North Korea Dangerous to Travel?
The answer you’re about to hear might shock you! North Korea is one of the world’s safest destinations to travel to! Why is it so safe you ask? Traveling in North Korea requires a tour and guide. North Korea being as politically sensitive as it has trained their guides to teach you how to behave, what to say, and guides you about all things North Korean! Your guide will be by your side to ensure your safety every single moment of your trip, apart from when you are in the government selected hotel.
Because of all this, you are not allowed to make mistakes nor are you given any chances. In the past mistakes had been made, but with a growing interest in tourism to North Korea, the government has taken actions to ensure that nothing bad can happen. So as a standard travel safety question goes, yes North Korea is a profoundly safe destination to travel too!
Where in North Korea Can you Travel?
This is a tough question for me to answer because the answer is always changing. The government of North Korea does decide where you as a traveler can visit. This does not mean however that you are limited to the same places all the time. The government constantly opens new areas and unfortunately sometimes closes certain areas due to political situations.
When deciding where you would like to go you can in fact request traveling to areas that might be considered a no go! Your tour company can contact the tourism authorities and enquire about this. You will be incredibly surprised about some of the remote corners I have been, and you too can travel to in North Korea just by asking! Check UriTours out for some of their latest off the beaten track destinations in North Korea.
Can I Take Photos in North Korea?
Well from this post you will probably realize the answer by now, but yes taking photos in North Korea is becoming more and more relaxed. You cannot take photos of some government sectors and military zones just like you cannot in most countries. IF you would like to photograph people then you must first ask like as in most countries. Taking photos in North Korea has remarkably similar guidelines as in taking photos anywhere else in the world (catch my drift?).
So, if you are a photography obsessed traveled do not fret, you will be able to secure plenty of amazing, one of a kind photos from North Korea!
Are Things Staged in North Korea?
There are movies, vloggers, and plenty of media portraying North Korea in many incorrect ways. Are things in North Korea staged when you travel there? The answer is no, not in the way you might be thinking. It is a fact that the government does not want you to see some parts of the country, but can you name a country where absolutely every part of it is accessible? No, I didn’t think so.
North Korea suffers from a serious image problem and they want to improve this, can you blame them? The country wants to show you their progression, monuments, history, and culture! They do not want to show you the obvious problems that I am sure you’re aware of. North Korea has functioning grocery stores, schools, and industries that they are immensely proud of to show you. There are even some military zones you will be allowed to see and people in North Korea will indeed talk to you.
Does this mean you are free to go and do whatever you please? No, but traveling to North Korea with an open mind will get you so much more than coming here just to expose what everyone already knows about the country. Just be positive!
What is the Strangest Thing I Saw in North Korea?
Time and time again I am asked: “what is the strangest thing in North Korea?” There are so many obvious answers to this, but I am going to hit you with a surprising one! The strangest thing for me after traveling to North Korea was realizing it is a nation just like anywhere else. Sure, it suffers from many problems, but so does every country.
People in North Korea want what everyone else around the world wants, happiness. They want to be successful in their jobs, have a comfortable life, and meet their significant other. Everyone I talked to wants the Korean war to end and to reunite with their brothers.
With so much negativity surrounding the North Korea dilemma, I believe seeing all the positives was the strangest thing going into a country we were taught to be on the lines of evil. Sure, I did see plenty of other strange things that I could probably write a book about, but for those, you are going to have to go see for yourself!
Can You Travel to North Korea Video
Travel to North Korea with Uri Tours
Having a government-issued tour company to North Korea is not a common occurrence. There is not a lot to choose from out there and in my opinion, Uri Tours is the most well run and connected company that does tours to North Korea. They have built a long-lasting relationship that has allowed them privileges for tours in North Korea that no other company has access to! For example, check out my trip for Surfing in North Korea HERE! Check out some of Uri Tours one of a kind tours HERE