North Korea is an anomaly, a symptom of the Cold War, a relic of a bygone era.
Military parades, a controversial nuclear weapons program, a horrific human rights record and a starving populace dominate the perception of a nation, that seems to be frozen in time. Its turbulent history is a tragic tale of a people divided and of a country isolated and shunned by the West. However, it is also a story of a warm and beautiful people, of a rich and centuries-old culture and of a thrilling past.
And change is coming.
Although progress is happening slowly, North Korea is a counrty in transition. Hundreds of buildings are being painted to say goodbye to the colourless monotony of the last decades, individualism (at least fashion-wise) is flourishing through Chinese imports, and capitalism, appearing in form of department stores offering Western products, is creeping into the country. In addition, more and more uncharted regions are being opened up for tourism, just waiting for intrepid travellers to be explored.
Beyond the propaganda war, being waged on both sides, the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) is a country as fascinating as it is controversial.
North Korea is not flawless, far from it, but its people deserve a chance.
TOUR | It is not possible to travel to North Korea independently!
If you want to experience this fascinating country, you will have to book a spot on a government guided tour. There will be a fixed itinerary and you will be accompanied by guides for the entirety of your visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
VISA | Believe it or not, the North Korean visa might be one of the easiest attainable visas in the world!
Since a government guided tour is mandatory when visiting the DPRK, your tour operator will manage the visa process for you. All you have to do is send them the required documents, so they can apply for your North Korean visa. On entering the country, you will receive a blue tourist card, instead of a stamp in your passport, to avoid future trouble travelling. Sadly, the tourist card must be returned to the authorities when departing.
South Koreans are not permitted to visit the DPRK, whereas U.S. citizens have been banned from tours organized by Western companies, following the Otto Warmbier incident. Americans in possession of a dual citizenship may travel to the DPRK without issues, however.
For further info read the first section of this blog post.
MONEY | Currency: North Korean Won (KPW). Tourists will have to pay with hard currency (e.g. Dollar, Euro, Chinese Yuan, etc.), when inside the DPRK, however.
Since you won’t be able to withdraw any money in North Korea, make sure to bring enough cash (for extra drinks, souvenirs, etc.) on your trip.
SECURITY SITUATION | Despite the apparent volatility being portrayed by Western media, the rhetorical sabre-rattling, and frequent threats being exchanged quite regularly, the political situation on the Korean peninsula has been relatively stable over the last decades.
While not entirely improbable, an anew escalation of the conflict seems very unlikely. Nevertheless, always keep an eye on the political landscape of Korea, when booking a tour to the DPRK.