Frequently Asked Questions on North Korea Travel
What is the DPRK?
The DPRK stands for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (commonly known as “North Korea”). This site uses DPRK and North Korea interchangeably. Following World War II and subsequently the Korean War, the Korean Peninsula was divided into North and South and remains divided along the 38th parallel. The Juche philosophy is the official state ideology. The DPRK is a country slightly smaller than the size of Mississippi and inhabited by approximately 24 million people.
What does “Uri” mean?
Uri (“우리”) means our or us: “Our Tours.” It’s a universal Korean concept signifying community and unity.
When is the best time to travel to the DPRK?
During national holidays is the best time to visit the DPRK as North Koreans really take their holidays seriously! Holidays come complete with mass dances in the square, fireworks, special exhibitions and performances, and during larger occasions, military parades.
Travel to North Korea is now possible all year round due to changes in policy from the DPRK national tourism bureau. North Korea enjoys all four seasons. Spring and fall are probably the best times to travel, but each season offers its unique charm in the DPRK. It’s rainy season from July to the beginning of August in Korea. If you’re traveling during the rainy season, bring ponchos and umbrellas. We have tour options during all major holidays in North Korea.
Is it safe to travel to the DPRK?
We’ve been traveling to the DPRK and safely bringing tourists with us for over a decade. The DPRK boasts a very low crime rate and in our experience, the DPRK is an incredibly safe destination for tourists. We have not had any reported thefts or incidents on any of our tours and our local guides take good care to ensure the traveler’s safety and well-being. Despite recent political events, tourism is not affected and our staff maintains good relations with foreign embassies to monitor the safety of all of our tourists. See our blog posts “Effects of UN Sanctions and Political Threats on Travel” and “Is it Safe to Visit North Korea?” for more details.
Can Americans travel to North Korea?
Effective September 1, 2017 it is not permitted for U.S. citizens traveling on U.S passports to travel to North Korea. On August 2 2017, the U.S Department of State announced that all U.S. passports are declared invalid for travel to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) unless the travel meets certain criteria. Tourism does not meet these criteria. The travel ban became effective beginning on September 1, 2017.
On September 1, 2018, the U.S. Department of State extended this travel ban until August 31, 2019 unless extended or sooner revoked by the Secretary of State.
We are no longer accepting tour applications from U.S. citizens traveling on U.S. passports. For more, see our Official Statement.
Does the U.S. have an embassy in the DPRK?
The U.S. does not have an embassy in the DPRK. On September 20, 1995, the U.S. signed a consular protecting power agreement with the Swedish embassy to provide basic consular protection services to U.S. citizens traveling to the DPRK. We maintain good relations with the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang and pre-register our North Korea tour groups with the embassy. Please consult the State Department website for more information on this agreement.
If you are not a U.S. citizen, you may have different arrangements under your home country. Please check with your government travel advisory for the protocols. Many of the European, Asian and African countries have permanent diplomatic missions in the DPRK and citizens of those countries may call upon their home embassy in case of an emergency.
Is there an age restriction on your tours?
Anyone over the age of 18 can travel with us independently. Those from ages 13-17 need parental permission to travel with us independently, although adult accompaniment is strongly recommended. Those under 13 must travel with a parent or guardian. Please inquire about discounts for travelers under the age of 13.
I am ethnically Korean. Can I visit North Korea?
Yes! Ethnic Koreans are welcome to join any of our tours so long as you are traveling on a passport that is valid for travel to the DPRK. If you have Korean language skills, you will be at an advantage and you are encouraged to use them. Speaking in Korean is a great way to bond with our guides and to share closer interactions with locals.
How can I book a tour?
What payment types do you accept?
We take international wire transfer in a range of currencies, domestic transfer in a range of currencies, major credit cards, Paypal, WeChat, Alipay, check, and even Bitcoin.
What is your refund policy?
Please see our Terms and Conditions page for our full cancellation policy.
Who cannot book a North Korea tour?
Journalists and South Korean citizens cannot be granted DPRK tourist visas at this time. We are also unable to take U.S. citizens traveling on U.S. passports or Malaysian citizens traveling on Malaysian passports at this time due to restrictions imposed by their respective governments. If you are not a journalist but are a professional photographer, blogger or work at a newspaper or other media-related roles in any capacity, please contact us first. For more information, see our article on “How to get a North Korean visa”.
I live in South Korea but I’m not South Korean. Can I go to North Korea?
Yes! Expats living in South Korea are totally welcome to join our tours to North Korea. It’s okay if you have an obscene amount of passport stamps from South Korea. For more information, see our article on “How to get a North Korean visa”.
How physically fit should I be?
You should be reasonably fit and able to follow along with a good attitude. A typical day can be long, leaving in the morning and not returning to the hotel until the evening. Although our bus accommodations are comfortable, roads in the outer provinces can get bumpy and rides through the countryside can be lengthy. There are hiking options on most of our tours, but you can always hike at your own pace or choose to rest at the bottom of the mountain if you’re unable to join us. All said, our tours are as physically demanding as you want it to be, with some of our adventure tours designed for the more active traveler.
How are your tours organized?
Our tours are organized in partnership with a direct DPRK travel agency. All visa applications are submitted to this Pyongyang agency and any tourist visas we obtain are validly issued by the DPRK. Our local guides are professional and engaging, and customer safety is a demonstrated priority for them.
In what language are your tours?
Our tours are predominantly in English, and of course Korean for those who speak it. We also have local guides who speak Chinese, German, Russian, Spanish, French, Italian and Thai. We can arrange local guides speaking these languages on a private tour. If you need assistance in a language other than English or Korean, please contact us.
Will my North Korean visa be approved?
DPRK tourist visas are almost always issued except if the applicant is a journalist and/or South Korean citizen. Although it has never happened on any of our trips, in the very rare case that the DPRK cancels your visa after it has been approved, we will refund any paid amounts made to us (less bank charges). We encourage all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance (typically $20-40) to cover any other incidentals.
Do I need a Chinese visa?
You may. The majority of our tours begin in Beijing, which is the largest hub facilitating travel to the DPRK. It’s always recommended to get a Chinese visa when entering China. You can apply for a double-entry or multi-entry visa at your local Chinese consulate by bringing in a copy of your flight itinerary to Beijing and a Beijing hotel confirmation. We also provide stamp-sealed invitation letters to all of our travelers certifying that you’ve joined a tour with us.
Beijing International Airport has introduced a policy, effective January 2013, that allows citizens of 53 qualifying countries to enter Beijing visa-free for a period of 144 hours or less. You may be able to take advantage of this policy. See our step-by-step guide on taking advantage of this 144-hour visa-free policy through either Beijing or Shanghai.
If you plan to stay in Beijing or Shanghai for less than 24 hours, you likely qualify for the 24-hour visa-free policy. This policy is available to most nationalities and is more flexible with qualifying flights.
Can I take pictures and videos during my trip?
Yes, you can take pictures and videos in most places in North Korea. There are certain places where pictures are not allowed and our local guides will brief you on these picture and video taking protocols. Generally, pictures of the military and of construction sites are prohibited. When in doubt, please refer to your local guides first. We provide a comprehensive Orientation Pack to our travelers at the time of booking which outlines the rules and regulations of travel to the DPRK, including relevant photography and video restrictions.
Is there Internet or phone access in the DPRK?
As of 2013, foreigners are permitted to bring their cell phones and purchase local SIM cards for local calls and 3G internet. The bad news is that the 3G internet is incredibly expensive, has limited coverage and takes time to register and get started. Please see our blog post “The Nuts and Bolts of Phone and Internet Access in North Korea” for more information. In addition, the international hotels allow you to send emails using the hotel email address and there are phone booths to make international calls or send faxes internationally for a fee (typically 1-3 Euros depending on the country).
Can I bring a laptop, an iPad, or Kindle?
Yes. There are no restrictions on bringing electronic devices as long as they are not a GPS device. Laptops, smartphones, tablets, and e-book readers are all permissible.
What currency is accepted in North Korea?
USD, EUR, and Chinese RMB can all be used interchangeably in North Korea. We recommend using Chinese RMB for smaller purchases like water, snacks, souvenirs. EUR is good for entrance fees to special events. USD can be used everywhere else, and much like all other countries in the world, it’s the currency of choice. It’s best to bring a mixture of these currencies and to bring small bills, as some vendors will not have the right amount of change. In addition, notes that are marked, worn or torn, issued prior to 2000 or generally look like they’ve been “washed” will strictly not be accepted. Please ensure you bring newer, cleaner bills. There are no ATMs or currency exchange counters in North Korea, so come prepared with more cash than you expect to spend.
As a general rule, tourists are not permitted to use the local North Korean Won. Although if you’re lucky, you may be able to snag a bill to take home as a souvenir!
What if I get sick while I am in North Korea?
We require travelers to purchase emergency medical insurance. Due to the isolation of the country, we will not take you without emergency medical insurance. Many providers such as Bupa Global, SOS International, and Travel Guard offer emergency evacuation policies out of North Korea. Although medical treatment is available in Pyongyang at the hospital in the diplomatic compound, medical resources may be limited in the outer provinces. In the case where airlift is required for emergency situations, our local guides will work with the foreign embassies to arrange this.
Do you have further questions? Contact us and we will assist you!