North Korea Travel Guide

At A Glance

Get excited for your trip to North Korea! This destination, officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (“DPRK”), is a double black diamond adventure for travelers looking for a true once in a lifetime experience. Come witness living history and a friendly, welcoming people in this Cold War holdout that is underappreciated among Western travelers for its raw scenery, historic socialist sites, and incredibly genuine people!




Pyongyang (Pop. 2,600,000)

Largest City


Notable Cities

Hamhung (pop. 769,000), Chongjin (pop. 627,000),


The DPRK is a single-party communist monarchical regime


The DPRK is racially homogenous, with the Korean ethnicity being dominant.




  • Korean Words and Phrases

    Hello! — Anyonghahseyo –안녕하세요!
    How are you? Jal jilnayess-oyo? 잘 지냈어요?
    My name is… je ileum-eun …-ieyo
    Hotel — hotel –호텔

  • Travel Requirements and Visas

    All tourists need a DPRK visa before boarding the airplane or train in China to enter the country. These should be obtained at least a month in advance of your trip, and using our connections, we will provide you with and process your visa paperwork with the DPRK government. Eligible travelers transiting to the DPRK through Beijing (PEK) or Shanghai (PVG) airport can in many cases use the 144-hour visa-free transit policy in lieu of a Chinese visa, which allows travelers passing through Beijing or Shanghai to other destinations to stay in these cities for up to six days without a Chinese visa. A direct-transit visa exemption also applies to a number of other Chinese airports for a period of 24 hours, as long as you can provide your final destination ticket as proof of your travel plans. However, there are strict eligibility requirements for this and the safest method is to obtain a Chinese visa in advance and we recommend this instead of using the transit policy. If your nationality is ineligible, or if you plan to spend more time in China than the transit policies provide, you will need to obtain a Chinese tourist visa in all cases from a Chinese embassy or consulate in your country, or online at

    Updated August 13, 2020: Currently, South Korean, Malaysian, or United States passport holders are ineligible to visit North Korea due to restrictions imposed by their respective governments. While specific exemptions exist such as the Special Validation Passport required for U.S. passport holders, unfortunately, tourism is not a valid exemption.

  • Money

    The DPRK’s currency is called the Won. There are 100 chon in 1 won. As a foreigner making purchases at tourist sites, shops, venues and hotels, you will primarily use foreign currency. Euro, USD and Chinese RMB are commonly accepted and preferred for use by tourists, and although they’re interchangeable, it’s handy to have a mix of these currencies in low denomination for the best rate and convenience. Our guide on which currency to use during your visit to the DPRK can be found here. In the past, there were different currencies in use in the DPRK, one type of Won for use by DPRK citizens, one type of Won existing for visitors from capitalist and Western countries, and one type of Won exists for visitors from communist, formerly-communist, and friendly nations. Learn more about the current circulation DPRK banknotes here.

  • Food

    As a foreign visitor to the DPRK, you will always be well fed. Food in the DPRK is pretty basic, ranging from an egg soup with bread to white rice (bab) with veggies and meat, potato (gamja) and egg (dalya)-based soups (gug), stews (jigae), casseroles (jeon-gul), and salads (saengchae). Chicken and fish are the most common meats, and neither pork nor beef are common. Duck is most commonly used in Korean barbecues, cooked over a tray of coals in the middle of your table (always a fun experience). You will find that your set dinners consist of multiple courses of small plates and rice or noodles signifies the end of the meal.

  • Climate and Weather

    The DPRK experiences all four seasons with mild and dry springs and autumns with long, cold winters and short, hot, humid, and rainy summers. It’s possible to visit North Korea in all seasons, but depending on the seasonal weather, some activities can be limited. We’ve outlined the pros and cons of each season to help your planning in our guide on when to visit the DPRK. The peak (relatively!) tourist season is between April and October, tapering off as the weather begins to get cold in November until the country emerges from winter again in March.

  • Festivals and Holidays

    The most important holiday in the DPRK each year is the Day of the Sun, marking the birthday of the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung, every April 15th. Koreans celebrate by making pilgrimages to relevant venerated sites, including his birthplace Mangyongdae in Pyongyang. The most important observances take place in the capital, including large group homages at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun (the mausoleum) and the Mansudae Grand Monument. Similarly, Koreans celebrate the birthday of Kim’s son, the late leader Kim Jong Il, every February 16 during the Day of the Shining Star. On October 10, the nation celebrates Party Foundation Day, which commemorates the establishment of the Workers Party of Korea, and on September 9, the people mark Foundation Day, with public dancing, artistic displays, and political speeches. Visiting the DPRK during a national holiday is sure to be memorable with festivities such as special exhibitions, performances, mass dances, military parades, or the Mass Games, the largest performance of it’s kind in the world. Due to extreme demand and limited logistics over these periods, we recommend booking well in advance.

  • Religion

    Officially atheist. Traditionally Buddhist, Confucian, and a local syncretic faith called Chondogyo. Religious activities are essentially non-existent, but some practicing government-run religious groups exist.

  • Health and Medical

    Medical facilities in the country are very basic, particularly in the rural areas, and offer only minimum care. Clinical hygiene is poor, and anesthetics are rare. Electricity supply to hospitals in the capital can be intermittent. You should take extra precautions to avoid circumstances that could result in serious injury while in the DPRK, and we require all travellers to obtain medical insurance (inclusive of medical evacuation) covering the DPRK before you travel with us. Every hotel has a doctor on-site, and some tourist sites may have modest medical facilities. Tourists will be taken to the Pyongyang International Friendship Hospital. Take with you all required prescription medication, and medications you think you may need, ideally with backups stored separately, as certain medications will be difficult (if not impossible) to find once inside the DPRK.

  • Safety

    We’ve been traveling to the DPRK for over 15 years, and based on our experience, the DPRK is a safe destination to travel as long as you adhere to local law and follow the rules of the tour. We wrote an extensive blog post covering whether the DPRK is safe to visit, which we recommend you read here. Crime against tourists visiting the DPRK is essentially unheard of. Because of the closed, tightly-controlled nature of guided tour groups, it is very unlikely there would ever be a chance for you to fall victim to someone who’s not a part of your group. Though exceedingly rare, some petty theft may occur from hotels, so be sure to keep your passport, cash, and any valuables on your person or in safekeeping at all times. You will need to bring plenty of cash as traveler’s cheques are not accepted, bank transfers are not possible, and there are no ATMs. Make sure that you have some valid form of identification on your person at all times.

  • LGBTQ+ Travel

    While not illegal, homosexuality is not existent in North Korea. However, LGBTQ+ travelers are allowed and are not treated any differently from other travelers. They are welcomed in the DPRK as most other travelers.

  • Solo Female Travel

    The DPRK is generally a safe destination for female travelers and in fact, gender equality is fairly prominent in the DPRK due to the socialist system of values. Our founder has traveled extensively throughout the country with no issues relating to her gender. The DPRK is a conservative society and it is always wise to dress modestly, particularly at important sites and memorials dedicated to the leaders and especially in situations where you are uncertain of local customs.

  • Disabled Travel

    Many historical sites and tourist areas in the DPRK do not have elevators or handicapped access. Hotels within Pyongyang, including the Koryo Hotel which we stay, typically have an elevator or escalator but this is the exception and not the rule beyond the capital. Intermittent power cuts can also render elevators unusable, and uneven ground or steps render wheelchair access limited. Visitors to historic sites and other outdoor attractions should expect stairs and, in some cases, challenging terrain. Road conditions outside of Pyongyang are poor and can be rough, particularly for long journeys.