1. You need to use an agency to book
First of all, it needs to be importantly noted that you cannot travel to North Korea freelance or independently. If you are to go, you must go through a second party agent or tour company. Any visit to North Korea is thus an inclusive tour with a set itinerary, there is no getting round this.
Don’t fret however, this makes it less, not more complicated. It ensures that first of all (as you will see below) transport into North Korea from China is scheduled on your behalf, the company you choose to book through will also handle your North Korean tourist visa which actually requires very little input bar you handing over a scanned passport copy and number.
So basically, a trip to North Korea requires less planning and stress. You must use an agency. A simple and straightforward process!
2. You will be travelling in from China
Ok, once you’ve got your agency and booked your trip. The next thing you need to keep in mind when travelling to North Korea is that you must do so via entering China. To do so, you will need to acquire a Chinese Double Entry Tourist Visa (double as you will be entering twice- once on the way back from North Korea) There is no way around this. Most travel agencies will thus give you two options concerning how you use China to access North Korea:
- You can fly to North Korea via China by North Korea’s sole airline Air Koryo
- Or you can enter North Korea via a train from Dandong in North East China
Option two is the most preferable to tourists, namely as the train journey gives you an exciting and eyeopening insight into the North Korean countryside on the journey to Pyongyang. This option also includes a day or so in the Chinese border city of Dandong, which has a lot of sites to see relating to the Korean War.
Therefore, your trip is to also include China. Our trips can also include Beijing, which involves getting a train to Dandong on the afternoon. Do not forget the Chinese visa, make sure you sort this out with about 2 weeks minimum to spare before you actually go.
3. Entering North Korea by train
The process of entering North Korea from here is straightforwards. On the train entrance into North Korea, the train will stop in the North Korean border city of sinuiju where North Korean soldiers will do a visa, passport and customs check. This seems intimidating, but it is straightforwards. They may ask you to open your suitcase in front of them so they can take a look (but the most they will do is peer inside without moving anything).
You will be given forms asking to declare to them the electronic devices that you are bringing into the country. Although your devices will be “registered” they will not likely be followed up on. We highly recommend you do not bring laptops into North Korea, the guards will ask you to open it up and show them the files. Possession of pornography is an offence. Although it is questionable how computer savvy these soldiers are to check everything anyway…
After this customs period, the train will depart on the journey to Pyongyang. Enjoy the scenes of North Korean life on the way!
4. Your guides will run the show
The time should be took again to emphasise that any tour or trip to North Korea is not independent. Upon your arrival in Pyongyang, you will meet two local North Koreans who will be your “guides” (there will also be a driver and a bus to take you about in). These people can speak English fluently, they will take you around, show you everything and run your itinerary. Outside of the hotel you may not leave their presence (or the hotel without them in that case).
These guides however, are nothing to be scared of. They are not brainwashed robots, but real people. You will find that they are down to earth, that they have interests, lives, likes and dislikes. It is possible for you to form a friendship with them and win their trust- although this will of course be conditional of how you behave in North Korea. They are responsible for you, if you “misbehave” in North Korea then they are likely to get blamed as well. If you try anything, they will find out about it.
You will find that the guides run for you an extremely organized trip which packs full the day from start to finish. There are no flaws or time wasting. Through them, you will get to see a variety of the main sites in North Korea. They will be with you until the tours end when you check in at the airport or the railway station.
5. That’s it, you can do it!
How/Can do I visit North Korea? There you have it! This is what visiting North Korea will consist of. Book through an agency, travel in through China, enter North Korea via plane or train, your tour is then ran with the local guides.
What’s our message then? Our message is that visiting North Korea is both possible and simple! Don’t be afraid to try it out! Any further questions please contact us