What can I and can I not bring to North Korea?
You can take almost anything with you to North Korea. Still, there are some things to keep in mind;
– As with any border crossing in the world, North Korean customs have the right to search your belongings, including electronics and memory cards you bring with you.
– Digital cameras can be taken to North Korea, but professional video cameras cannot. With SLR cameras, lenses must be less than 250mm. Bigger lenses can be confiscated at customs until you leave the country. Also try to cover the text GPS on your camera, if there’s a big sign of it.
– Laptops, tablets, smartphones, e-readers and mp3 players can be taken with you, although you won’t have an internet connection in North Korea. It is also wise to remove maps and GPS functions from your desktop, in case customs want to check your laptop more thoroughly.
– GPS devices and satellite phones are absolutely not allowed.
– Pornographic material is illegal.
– E-readers and normal books are allowed, as long as it is not the Bible, Quran or any other religious text.
– (Travel) books about North Korea are not allowed in the country.
Can you travel between North and South Korea?
No, you cannot travel between North and South Korea. If you want to combine a visit to these countries, you will have to travel via China. You can take a ferry between South Korea and China or you can fly.
Can I watch a military parade in North Korea?
If you’re lucky you can. Unfortunately, we only know a few days (or sometimes hours) beforehand what special festivities are organized during the holidays. However, as a general rule you have a bigger chance of seeing a parade on special anniversaries (e.g. 75th or 80th anniversary.)
When is the best time to plan my visit to North Korea?
As in the Netherlands, North Korea has four seasons. Winters are often dry and cold, while summers are wet and warm. The best time in terms of temperature to visit the country is in the spring (March / April) or in the autumn (September / October). The summer months can get very hot (around 30 degrees) and the winter months very cold (around 0 degrees).
Do I need insurance for my trip to North Korea?
Everyone must take out travel and health insurance before leaving for North Korea. Whether North Korea is covered by your policy differs per insurance policy. In most cases this will not be a problem. If not, we recommend that you check with one of the following international insurance companies: Global Underwriters or IATI Travel Insurance. They have different packages and you can put together exactly what works best for you.
Do I need a visa for North Korea?
We will arrange the visa for North Korea for you. Upon arrival in China you will receive the visa from us. The visa is a separate piece of paper that you keep with your passport. You will not receive a stamp from North Korea in your passport. The costs for the visa are € 50.
For a visa application to North Korea, you must meet the following requirements:
– You are not a professional journalist, photographer or working in the media (if in doubt, ask us).
– You are not a North Korean citizen.
– You do not intend to professionally publish any video or photo material recorded during or after the tour.
What is the time zone in North Korea?
North Korea uses the time zone UCT +9.
North Korea has no difference between summer and winter time.
How can I pay and how much will I spend in North Korea?
North Koreans pay with the North Korean Won (KPW). It is for tourists not allowed to pay in local currency in North Korea. For payments we use Euros, US Dollars or Chinese RMB. RMB is the easiest to use, as change for Euros or US dollars is more difficult. If you still want to pay with Dollars or Euros, make sure you bring small banknotes with you. The only place where you can get Korean Won is in the Kwanbok Supermarket. Here you can use the local currency to pay for goods in the supermarket.
How much money you spend in North Korea depends entirely on how much you want to drink and / or how many souvenirs you want to purchase. In general, you spend the most in the evenings – a glass of beer in the hotel bar costs 22RMB, while a bottle of beer at the bowling alley, billiards room or in the store costs only 10RMB. We also recommend setting aside some money to tip the North Korean guides, which is common and somewhat expected.
Books cost from € 3.00 for a small pamphlet to € 50.00 for a hardcover with images. A normal paperback costs about € 5.00. Unique works of art cost € 50.00 to € 2,000.00, postcards € 0.20 and an international stamp € 1.20. Since most prizes are already included in the tour, you don’t have to bring a lot of extra cash, but most people still spend more than expected on drinks, souvenirs and entertainment such as billiards and karaoke. So bring enough! At Beijing station you can, if necessary, withdraw or exchange some extra money before you leave.
Do I have to arrange my international flight to China myself?
We are always available to advise you when booking a flight. However, most customers prefer to book the flight themselves. Often this is cheaper in terms of price and you can pick your own preferences.
Do you also arrange the visa for China?
You must apply for the visa for China yourself at the consulate. If you need a document for the double entry in China, we can give you a supporting document.
Can I use the transit visa for China?
You can use the 72-hour transit visa for China if you meet the following requirements:
– You must arrive and depart from the same airport in China. In addition, you must stay in the same city. If you go to North Korea, you will not be able to take the train.
– Before you go to China you must have the following documents ready:
1. Follow-up flight confirmation from China (departing within 72 hours of arrival)
2. A valid visa for the following country (if necessary). Visas for North Korea are only issued a few days before departure. Try to arrive in China one day before the tour starts.
– Make sure you print everything before departure (they do not accept digital copies). For example, they want to see a confirmation from your flight ticket to Pyongyang including date, flight number and name before you leave for China.
– Always check the latest up-to-date information on the China Visa Application Center website: https://bio.visaforchina.org/.
If you want to use the 72-hour transit visa, please let us know in time. We help you with this, but do not take any responsibility for the application.
Can you book an overnight stay for me in Beijing?
As stated in the tour schedule, the trip to North Korea will start from Beijing. If you want to stay in Beijing before or after the tour, we can arrange the overnight stay for you.
What is the voltage and which plug should I use in North Korea?
The complete electricity supply in North Korea is 220 Volt / 50 Hz. The flat and round plugs are used, so we recommend that you bring a universal plug.
Is there internet access and can I make calls in North Korea?
You have no internet access and no mobile coverage in North Korea. Before you leave, make sure you inform the home front of your absence. In the hotels you can make international calls via the reception if you wish. It is not possible to buy a local SIM card. The Koreans have their own frequency for their local internet, which does not work with our phones or laptops.
What are the local customs in North Korea?
North Korea is a country with laws designed to protect the image of their leaders and the Juche ideology. That is why we request all tourists to enter the country open-minded. If you have a different opinion than the guides, we advise you to keep this opinion with you until you are out of the country.
A few rules to keep in mind:
– Do not engage in discussions about politics with the Koreans.
– Do not be critical of the government or its leaders. Also, never fold images of the leaders.
– Respect the local way of thinking, you can ask questions but in a respectful way. So be kind to your Korean guides. Listen to them. This will make them more relaxed and give you more space.
– If you are not sure whether your question is appropriate, you can first ask the Western guide.|
– In some places, often with statues of the leaders, we will bow to show our respect. This is a local custom. If for any reason you feel uncomfortable with this, please let us know well in advance. This will prevent you from getting into trouble when we are standing in front of the statue. You can also often buy flowers (€ 5.00). This is not expected of you, but the Korean guides will appreciate it very much.
– If the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun is on the program, we request that you wear proper clothing. Think of a neat dress, a suit, or a shirt with long pants and neat closed shoes. This shows that you respect Korean leaders and avoid offending local guides and residents. Jeans, shorts, slippers and sandals are out of the question. Without proper clothing you cannot visit the palace and you will have to wait in the hotel or the bus.
Is it safe in North Korea?
Yes, North Korea is a safe country. As long as you behave and respect the local regulations virtually nothing can happen. North Korea is known as a very safe country for tourists. If the situation changes, the tour will be adjusted on the spot. Of course we want to give everyone the best possible tour; however, the guide always has the final say regarding changes to the tour schedule.
If you want, you can register at your local embassy. Should you have problems on the spot, it is much easier to get in touch with the embassy on site. In Pyongyang there’s a Swedish embassy. They work on behalf of the entire European Union in North Korea.
Can I take pictures in North Korea?
Digital cameras can be taken to North Korea, but professional video cameras cannot. With SLR cameras, lenses must be less than 250mm – lenses that exceed this can be confiscated from customs until you leave. Also make sure that there is no ‘GPS’ written on your camera, because it can also be confiscated. The Korean guides will indicate when you can take photos and where the ‘no-no’ zones are. It is crucial that you follow this.
In general, you can take photos freely in North Korea. However, there are a few points to keep in mind.
– Always ask permission before taking a photo of a person.
– You cannot take pictures of soldiers, military installations, police, construction sites and public buildings.
– You can’t take pictures of poverty.
– If you take a picture of the leaders images, but they should always be completely on the picture.
– You may also not take photos of soldiers, military installations, police officers or government buildings.
Food and drinks in North Korea
In North Korea you get more than enough to eat every day. Most dishes will consist in part of rice and kimchi. You will eat at several restaurants which will introduce you to various aspects of Korean cuisine, including the famous cold noodles and Korean barbecue. Both meat and fish are served. Are you a vegetarian? Discuss this with your guide in advance. It is not possible to drink water from the tap in North Korea. This is due to a bad filter system for bacteria.
Alcohol is widely consumed in North Korea, especially beer and soju (rice wine).
What should I wear in North Korea?
You are free to wear whatever you want in North Korea. We do ask you to deal with this respectfully. The Koreans are quite conservative in terms of clothing and are quickly offended with clothes that are too bare (such as a short shirt or short skirt). When swimming, you should cover your tattoos as much as possible.
During your visit to Kumsusan Palace of the Sun we ask you to wear a formal dress. Think of a nice dress, suit, or a shirt with long pants and neat closed shoes. This shows you that you respect the Korean leaders and avoids any trouble for the local guides and residents. Jeans, shorts, slippers and sandals are out of the question. Without proper clothing you cannot visit the palace and you will have to wait in the hotel or the bus.
In most hotels in the big cities there is an opportunity to do laundry.
Health and hygiene
North Korea is a developing country with a very turbulent recent history. Healthcare is therefore very limited. Also in terms of hygiene, the standard is much lower than in the Western world. Make sure you have enough disinfection gel, sunscreen and insect repellent.
We advise you always to the last (health) risk programs for the region where you’re going to visit. Check with your own government for the latest info about your destination.