Here’s a travel fact you might not know: U.S. citizens and citizens of many other nations are able to travel to North Korea for vacation. Since North Korea and the United States are not exactly compadres, the process can be a little complicated. However, it is possible, and here’s how you can do it.
How to Apply for Entry
To get a travel visa for North Korea, you have to book a tour package through the government, including hotels, guides, meals—the whole works. Once you have booked your tour and paid a 50% deposit, you should hear within two months whether you can get a visa. Once your booking is approved, you will be able to pick up your visa from the consulate in your country. If you do not have a North Korean embassy in your country, you can get your visa from the consulate in Beijing or mail in your passport to receive the stamp. If your application is rejected, you will receive a refund on your booking deposit.
To get into North Korea, you can take a train from Beijing or fly in. United States citizens are not allowed to take the train anywhere in North Korea, so they must fly in. Everyone else can take the train. Within the country, you must travel with a guide at all times. You cannot even walk outside your hotel without a tour guide.
What to Do When You Get There
Always be respectful of Korean culture. This is a good principle for anywhere you visit, but it is especially true in North Korea. North Korea only gets about 2,000 tourists total each year, so the locals aren’t used to seeing a lot of foreigners. Making a good impression is important. Bring gifts for people; it’s considered polite. Tipping your guides is also polite. Also, card is not accepted, so be sure to bring cash, preferably in Euros. Be sure to dress modestly at all times, and dress up a little if you are planning to visit a religious center of the mausoleum of Kim II Sung. The upside to being attached to a tour guide is that they can show you everything interesting, so you’ll get a great tour by locals!
What Not to Do When You Get There
When you get to North Korea, be sure to follow the stringent rules and parameters set up for tourists. Do not walk around by yourself. Do not try to pay with local currency, as it is off-limit to foreigners. Don’t take photos of anything you shouldn’t, including military or close-ups of people. In fact, you should ask you guide before taking a photo of anything you’re not sure about. Your photos may be screened before you leave.
With all these procedures and restrictions, why go to North Korea at all? There are a couple reasons why you might want to take this adventure. First, there is a lot of interesting and unique culture within North Korea that you can only learn by visiting. Secondly, you’ll be vising a country that almost no one in the world ever travels to. How cool is that? Pretty darn awesome, I’d say.