Can You Travel Independently to North Korea?
You’ve got time to travel around Asia and a trip to North Korea has taken your fancy. Can you simply book a flight to the capital Pyongyang and begin exploring North Korea by yourself? Read on to find out!
Can you travel independently to North Korea?
Unfortunately, no. Independent travel is not possible for tourists in North Korea. Travellers are not permitted to free roam and explore unguided. There are no exceptions to this.
Then how does travel to North Korea work?
You need to book an organised tour in advance. All tourists must visit North Korea on a guided tour arranged by an approved operator such as Uri Tours where you will be accompanied by guides on excursions outside of your hotel. Your tour will have two Korean guides (who speak a number of foreign languages) and a driver (and often a third Korean guide and/or a foreign guide). This applies irrespective of the number of travellers in your group.
What if I’m a solo traveller? Can I still visit North Korea?
Of course, but an organised tour remains mandatory in all cases. A tour can be as small as 1 person — an individual private tour where you’ll trailblaze the country alongside two guides and a driver. Private tours present a great opportunity for personalized service, interaction and flexibility.
Solo travellers can also join our scheduled group tours and stay in either their own room or twin share with a like-minded traveller.
Can I free roam within the hotels?
Yes. You’re welcome to use available hotel facilities and come and go from your room as you please, you are simply not allowed to venture beyond the hotel grounds without your guides. This is local regulation and is not imposed by travel companies.
Radical beliefs of bolted hotel doors or guards in the hotel lobby are concepts of fiction, but the policy of not venturing beyond the hotel grounds is strictly enforced and none of our travellers visit North Korea ignorant to this restriction. Breaching local regulations will result in serious consequences for yourself and your guides.
Can I head out to smoke, go for a walk or run by myself?
Within the hotel grounds, yes. Otherwise no, not without your guides. The extent of the hotel grounds varies, some open to the street directly but most commonly the hotel will have a courtyard, parking area or surroundings such as gardens, or even a beach (yes, you can swim!) Many rooms have private balconies.
If you’d like to stretch your legs with an early morning run beyond hotel grounds, such as along the Taedong River in Pyongyang, your guides must go with you.
Will these restrictions mean wasted time in the hotel?
No. The tour experience is seamless with minimal downtime spent in the hotel. Our itineraries are well organized and busy to make the most of your time, and we work hard to ensure they’re varied and well-paced. A typical day on tour may begin with breakfast at 8am, departure at 9am followed by a day of activities and an 8pm return to the hotel after dinner.
For those looking to socialize into the night, the hotels we stay in have bars, cafes, pool table and/or table tennis, karaoke, swimming pool, massage parlour, fitness centre, and shops to buy souvenirs and snacks.
Does my North Korea itinerary need to be arranged in advance?
Yes, your itinerary needs to be prepared prior to your trip. Many sites are time-sensitive with closures on certain days or times. Whilst it’s simple to arrange spontaneous visits to public spaces such as Kim Il Sung Square or the Pyongyang Metro, a sudden urge to sit in on an English class at Pyongsong Primary School or arrange a Korean cooking experience in a local restaurant will be more challenging. You’ll make the most of your tour by providing us with any requests in advance.
Does this mean I can choose where to stay, what to do and what to see?
On a private tour, absolutely. One of our tour managers will work with you to tailor your perfect itinerary. It’s possible to visit all nine provinces of North Korea, how far-flung you travel is up to you and will be a balance of priorities. If you wish to tour North Korea for a full month, we can do it!
We can even tailor itineraries with a targeted interest focus, such as architecture, transport, contemporary politics, ancient UNESCO sites, or sports such as skiing, golf, or surfing.
How do I arrange my North Korea tour?
We at Uri Tours handle the entire process for you. Tours to North Korea are booked as a package and are all-inclusive except for optional extras and incidental costs. You are not required to separately arrange flights or trains to North Korea, to book your own hotels or to apply for your North Korean visa at an Embassy. We do this for you and all ground services such as guides, transfers, meals, lodgings are included, and your itinerary is pre-arranged.
Although any visions of hitchhiking and couch surfing will fall short in North Korea, there are major benefits to a guided tour. With the heavy lifting being handled by us here at Uri Tours, you can simply sit back and enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience!