After boarding the train at Dandong, the train will proceed across the Sino-Korean Friendship bridge and stop in Sinuiju, The DPRK’s border city. Here, the process of North Korean Customs and entry will begin. For the new traveler, the process may seem intimidating. However, it is very much a simple, albeit timely process. Our guide here will help you ensure you know what to do when reaching this stage at one of our trips. The North Korean soldiers appear scary, but in reality are quite relaxed. But just what happens? Let’s find out.
What to know
The train will stop in Sinuiju station, where North Korean customs begin immediately. Here, you will not be able to take any photos. Immediately upon stopping, North Korean soldiers will board the train. They will soon after begin the immigration process. They will take your passport and North Korean visa away for a check. They will also give you a customs declaration form which will query what you are taking into the country, as well as querying if you are bringing in any prohibited items. Of course, the traveler to North Korea might wonder just how broad the list of “prohibited items” is here. Well for starters, there’s the common list for any country. No drugs, weapons, etc, you know the score. Then there’s the more specific list. This includes religious texts, as well as Korean language or any political literature. If you bring a laptop computer into the country, the guards may want to check its contents in front of you as well.
Whilst the passport process is ongoing. The soldiers will want to check your luggage and possessions. You will be searched with a metal detector, (this is done with gender sensitivity, female guards for female visitors). In addition, they will ask you to open your suitcase and bags to engage in a quick check. The attitude and thoroughness by which this is done varies from guard to guard depending on their personality. Some may be more rigorous than others, so prepare for this. Nevertheless, they are friendly and relaxed. They will respond well to positive incentives, such as speaking in Korean.
The waiting game
You should expect this entire process to take 1-2 hours, it’s lengthy and inefficient. Whilst you are waiting, you are free to exit the train onto the platform at Sinuiju, where a drinks and snacks trolley is set up. At least you get some fresh air. Use this time to talk and get to know people in your group, you will need something to quell your boredom. At this point there will certainly not be any wifi, so unless you have a Chinese simcard and data you can’t do that either. Eventually however, the guards will reboard and hand back everyone’s passport and visa in the order they were taken. You will note that the visa itself has been stamped. Then, finally, the train will commence onwards towards Pyongyang! The tiresome process of North Korean customs and entry is over!