North Korea – Practical Information

Pohyon Temple complex - Mt Myhongyang, North Korea

Pohyon Temple complex – Mt Myhongyang, North Korea

Before you go:  To travel to North Korea, you must book a tour with one of the authorised tour operators – I chose Young Pioneer Tours.   They will apply for your visa on your behalf, which unfortunately does not appear in your passport, but on a green piece of paper instead. The only currencies accepted are Euros and Chinese Renimbi – there are no credit facilities or ATMs in the country, so bring what you require in cash.

There are theoretically restrictions on bringing in mobile/cell phones, but these appear to be relaxed recently. Lenses over 150mm in length on a DSLR are also prohibited, but I was allowed to bring my 18-200 lens after a few tense moments of uncertainty at the border.  Avoid bringing any “propaganda”, which could mean any Western newspaper or book regardless of content and definitely not anything that paints North Korea in any negative manner. I strongly recommend not bringing any religious material into the country.

Accommodation: You will have little choice in where you stay in the country, as tourists can only reside at approved hotels. Within Pyongyang, the most popular hotel is the Yanggakdo Hotel. It is the most luxurious hotel in the country and everyone will stay here at some stage and you can watch BBC World News here. If you are able, try for some nights at the Pothoggang Hotel in Pyongyang. While not as comfortable, it had the most courteous staff and best gift shop in he country. One even has access to CNN.

Outside of the capital, the standard of accommodation is not as strong, with no guarantee that everything will be working (such as electricity or flushing toilets).  Regardless, it is still more than acceptable.

Food: All food is provided and the overall standard is very good, with some meals being excellent. Again, there is little choice to be had, but if you do wish to try a meal at a specific restaurant (such as Italian), then it is best to ask your tour company prior to arrival so that your visit can be approved.

Transport: All transport is provided, whether it be in a car, mini-bus or a larger bus.