Backpacking in North Korea
But it comes at quite a cost, solo-travel is an impossibility due to each trip being monitored by the state-run KITC (Korea International Tourism Company) so you’re effectively required to take a tour. That being said, it’s such an awesome destination for any true traveler it’s a pill you’ll be willing to swallow. Check out my FAQs to get an idea of how to travel in North Korea.
Can I go to North Korea?
Yes, aside from a few obscure nationalities North Korea accepts tourists from nearly all corners of the globe. Normally though, for visa purposes, you have to go through a company. I went with Young Pioneer Tours generally because they’re young, (relatively) cheap and they just ‘get it’. I’d recommend them highly, Gareth and Troy, the directors, are two top top dudes too =)
Can Americans visit North Korea?
You’ll be happy to know that you most certainly can. Although as of January 2012 Americans still can’t take the train from Beijing to Pyongyang, they’re required to fly in and out of the city (this is up for review later this year), they’re the only nationality affected by this rule. The US is the DPRK’s biggest enemy so be prepared to hear anti-American sentiments throughout your trip.
How much does it cost to visit North Korea?
It’s not cheap, that’s for sure. Due to the fact that you have to join a tour for the trip, the cost depends on how long you want to stay. The shortest trips available are generally 3 or 4 nights, with cost starting around $1,000. The longest trips stay in the DPRK for around 2 weeks but you’ll have to fork out in excess of $2k for those.
Is it safe to visit North Korea?
If you behave yourself, yes. If you run around Pyongyang with an American flag hanging around your waist, singing “George Bush is the man” and spitting at monuments, it may get a little dangerous. Follow the rules, be respectful and don’t veer to far from your ‘minders’ and you’ll be all good. I never had a problem at all.
What are the North Korean people like?
You don’t get too much of an opportunity to mingle with the locals, and unless your Korean is up to scratch you’ll struggle if you managed to find one to talk to. The North Koreans are intrigued by our presence but aside from a few stray smiles and waves there’s not too much interaction. All in all, they seemed pretty friendly, if a little subdued.
What is there to see in North Korea?
There are a host of awesome sights to see but to be honest, the real beauty of being in North Korea is just feeling the atmosphere as you walk around the city (in full view of your minders of course). You’ll definitely check out the Juche Tower, the Workers’ Party Monument, the DMZ (most fortified border in the world) and if you’re lucky Pyongyang stadium which hosts the Mass Games once a year. The stadium is the biggest in the world, holding more than 200,000 people at capacity.
How do I get a visa for North Korea?
Your tour company will sort it all out for you. All that is required from you is a scanned image of your passport, the visa itself doesn’t actually get stamped in your passport so your passport isn’t even required. You’ll get a slip of paper from one of your guides just before you enter the country and you’re good to go.
Alright guys, that’s the basic run down – if you have any other questions drop me an email or comment below. I’ll be writing a few more articles about my time in North Korea in the next week or two, complete with stories about shooting chickens, eating dogs, North Korean bars and enough propaganda to last you a lifetime. Happy travels!