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North Korea

North Korea essential info

Probably the planet's most secretive, little-visited country, North Korea is a destination unlike any other

Travel in North Korea: vital stats

  • Capital of North Korea: Pyongyang
  • Population of North Korea: 23 million
  • Languages in North Korea: Korean
  • Time in North Korea: GMT+9
  • International dialing code for North Korea: +850
  • Voltage in North Korea: 110/220V 60Hz AC
  • Visas for North Korea: North Korea visas
  • Money in North Korea: North Korean won (KPW). Take cash in euros, the preferred currency for all transactions by foreigners, though your change could come in myriad currencies.
  • North Korea travel advice: Foreign & Commonwealth Office

When to go to North Korea

Late summer/autumn is best weather-wise and also means you’ll catch the Arirang Mass Games. However, part of the surreal joy of traveling in North Korea is staying at massive empty hotels, which is less likely at this time of year. But even in a busy year, North Korea sees only a few thousand tourists.

International airport

Pyongyang (FNJ) is just a little way north of the city.

Getting around in North Korea

Once through customs you’ll be met by your tour guides from the Korea International Tourist Company. They will be with you wherever you go, all day, everyday. You’ll travel by coach for the duration of your trip, except for excursions to Mount Paekdu, which involves flights. Note that it is routine for your guide to take your passport for the duration of your stay in North Korea.

North Korea accommodation

If you go on a pre-arranged tour you’ll be offered the finest hotels in North Korea: four stars masquerading as five. They don’t come cheap, though. All amenities are provided to obscure the fact that you can’t leave the compound. Prepare for gambling, karaoke and bowling, all in a bid to make you forget how confined you are.

North Korea food & drink

Food is pretty repetitive, often cooked in advance and served cold. Rice is prevalent, as is kimchi (spicy pickled cabbage). Barbecued meat is a national dish – it’s a tough place to be a vegetarian. Few people will ever have experienced a country with more extreme and weirdly labelled spirits; a particular, though revolting, favourite being deoxyribonucleic acid (aka DNA) liquor, which was best described as tasting like ‘dead man’s alcoholic puke’!

Health & safety in North Korea

Crime is very low in North Korea. What is risky is openly criticising the regime while in the country. Note that hotel phones and faxes are likely to be monitored. Be considerate to your guides: disobeying them is likely to be far more dangerous for them than it is for you.

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