North Korea Travel Guide

At A Glance

Prepare for an unforgettable journey to North Korea. Often overlooked by travellers, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (‘DPRK)’, as it’s officially known, is a captivating destination filled with unique landmarks and architecture, unspoiled landscapes, and ancient heritage.

With a culture deeply intertwined with the legacy of the Korean War, North Korea operates on its own timeline in stark contrast to the rapid globalisation and digital revolution sweeping much of the world. While in North Korea, you’ll become immersed in a socialist society, where you’ll find friendly, welcoming people who display admirable patriotism and remarkable resilience.

For the open-minded traveler, visiting North Korea offers an opportunity to go beyond the media stereotypes and to experience this enigmatic country for themselves.


Flag ofNorth Korea Travel Guide


Emblem ofNorth Korea Travel Guide


Pyongyang (Pop. 3,222,000)

Largest City


Notable Cities

Hamhung (Pop. 559,056), Chongjin (Pop. 327,000)


September 9, 1948



Country Land Area

120,540 km²


The DPRK is a single-party communist monarchical regime


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




Korean Won



Internet Suffix


Calling Area Code


Places We Visit


  • Travel Requirements and Visas

    All tourists require a North Korean visa to visit the country. This is arranged by your tour company, such as Uri Tours, who will provide you with and process your application paperwork with the relevant authorities. The DPRK visa is typically issued as a separate paper card and not inside your passport, although it’s possible to obtain the DPRK visa inside your passport at a DPRK Embassy. As at 2024, South Korean, Malaysian, or United States passport holders are ineligible to visit North Korea due to restrictions imposed by their respective governments.

    The primary gateway to North Korea is Beijing, China by flight or train to Pyongyang. Further options are Shanghai, Shenyang or Dandong in China, or Vladivostok in Russia. If traveling via China, you’ll need to clear immigration which can be either with a Chinese visa or, if eligible and traveling by flight, using the 144-hour visa-free transit policy in lieu of a Chinese visa. If travelling via Russia, you’ll need either a Russian visa or an e-visa applicable to certain nationalities and valid through Vladivostok.

  • Money

    North Korea’s currency is the Korean Won. There are 100 chon in 1 won. As a foreigner making purchases at tourism 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 existing for visitors from communist, formerly-communist, and friendly nations. Learn more about the current circulation DPRK banknotes here.

  • Food

    North Korean cuisine is similar to, yet distinct from, its southern counterpart. Traditional dishes such as naengmyeon (cold noodles), bibimbap (mixed rice with vegetables and meat), and jeongol (hotpot) are popular, as is Korean BBQ, where meats are cooked over a tray of coals in the middle of your table. North Korea also has some iconic dishes like injogogibap (mock meat), pansanggi (a traditional meal historically eaten by royalty), samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup), and the famous petrol clam bake.

    Meals are often communal and accompanied by sides such as bulgogi, mung bean pancakes, and rice cakes, as well as staples like kimchi, rice, noodles, corn, and potatoes. Two essential condiments are gochujang (red pepper paste) and doenjang (soybean paste), which are used as bases or marinades in many dishes. Soups and stews featuring vegetables and meats such as duck, pork, and chicken are common, with beef being considered a delicacy. Being surrounded by sea, there is a wide variety of seafood available.

    Beverages such as tea, soy milk, soju, and makgeolli are commonly consumed, with beer and coffee becoming increasingly popular.

    On our tours, we can cater to a wide variety of dietary requirements.

  • Climate and Weather

    North Korea 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 and accessibility can be limited. To assist your planning, we’ve outlined the pros and cons of each season in our guide on when is the best time to visit North Korea. 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 North Korea each year is the Day of the Sun, marking the birthday of the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung on April 15th. Koreans celebrate by making pilgrimages to relevant venerated sites, including his birthplace Mangyongdae in Pyongyang. The largest observances take place in the capital, including group homages at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun (the mausoleum) and the Mansudae Grand Monument. Similarly, Koreans celebrate the birthday of Kim Il Sung’s son, late leader Kim Jong Il, on February 16 known as the Day of the Shining Star. On October 10 the nation celebrates Party Foundation Day, commemorating the establishment of the Workers’ Party of Korea, and September 9 marks National Day, the foundation of the DPRK, featuring 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 its 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 Medicine

    Medical facilities in the country are very basic, particularly in the rural areas, and offer only minimum care. Clinical hygiene is poor, and anaesthetics are not readily available. 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 North Korea, and we require all travellers to obtain medical insurance (inclusive of medical evacuation) covering North Korea 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. It’s necessary for any traveller to North Korea to bring with them 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 North Korea.

  • Safety

    We’ve been traveling to North Korea for over 15 years, and based on our experience, North Korea 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 North Korea is safe to visit, which we recommend you read here.

    Crime against tourists visiting North Korea 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 officially recognised as existent in North Korea. However, LGBTQ+ travelers are allowed, welcome and are not treated any differently from other travelers.

  • Solo Female Travel

    North Korea is generally a safe destination for female travelers. Gender equality is fairly prominent in North Korea due to the socialist system of values. Our founder has traveled extensively throughout the country with no issues relating to her gender. North Korea 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 North Korea do not have elevators or handicapped access. Hotels within Pyongyang, including the Koryo Hotel where we primarily 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.

  • Korean Words and Phrases

    Hello! — 안녕하십니까! (Annyeonghasibnikka!)
    Goodbye (to someone leaving) — 안녕히 가십시요! (Annyeonghi gasibsiyo!)
    Thank you — 감사합니다! (Gamsahamnida!)
    Yes — 예 (ye)
    No — 아니요 (Aniyo)
    Please — 제발 (Jebal)
    Excuse me — 실례합니다 (Sillyehamnida)
    I’m sorry — 미안합니다 (Mianhamnida)
    How are you? — 어떻게 지내십니까? (Eotteoke jinaesibnikka?)
    My name is… — 제 이름은 …입니다 (Je ireumeun … imnida)