Things to Note:
A visit to the DPRK is unlike any other tourist experience in the world. However it also comes with its own unique style of operation which must be respected. We therefore urge all visitorsto the country to bewareof the following points in order to get the most from their tour. If you have any other questions, please ask us and we will happy to answer.
Anytourist to the DPRKwill be accompanied by two KITC guides, who will escort the tourist at all times, except in and around the hotel, throughout their stay in the country. This sounds far more daunting than it is in reality. KITC guides are generally intelligent, friendly and resourceful people. They speak adequate, if not excellent, English.
The DPRK possesses a unique social and political system, and travelers to the country are asked to respect this. Regardless of your own views, the people of the DPRK hold the eternal President Kim II Sung, General Kim Jong II and present supreme leader Kim Jong Un in extremely high regard. (Contrary to popular belief, the two former leaders are not usually referred to as the “Great Leader” and the “Dear Leader” in English.)Any outward criticism, sarcasm, or negative comments about any of three will not be tolerated. It would result in you losing the respect and trust of your guides and, if it is severe enough, it could even result you in being ejected from the country. There will be occasions such as at the Mansudae Grand Monument and the Kumsusan Memorial Palace where you will be expected to offer flowers and bow to the statutes of the former leaders, as is the custom of the DPRK.
During the tour, there may well be times when you find yourselves strongly disagreeing with the DPRK’s official stance on various matters, or how a certain event in history is portrayed. In such a case, we strongly recommend going with the flow, putting up with the country’s idiosyncrasies, and saving any criticism you may have until you are back in your home country. By doing this, you will get the most out of your tour and have a far more pleasant and productive experience.
Visa, Customs and Nationality
To travel to the DPRK, all visitors will need a tourist visa, which normally takes a few weeks to prepare. This will be arranged by us using the information provided on your application form. More detailed information can be found in the ‘Apply’ section, but the actual process is very simple and straightforward.
Almost all nationalities, including USA citizens, can visit the DPRK for tourism. The only exception is South Korean passport holders, who are not permitted.
Customs exclusions include the usual items: drugs, arms, pornography etc. A customs declaration is required to be filled in upon arrival, this also lists electronic items you are carrying and how much currency you are bringing into the country.
The authorities do not seem to stop cameras at the border based on the sizes of the lenses anymore. Feel free to try and bring a long lens if you wish, so long as you have a smaller lens or camera in case things change again. If anything is not allowed in, you will get it back as you leave the country. You will find your guides are sometimes quite sensitive about photography, especially if it is of something deemed to paint the country in a negative light. Please be respectful and understanding when taking photos. As a general rule, do not photograph people in uniform. They are particularly strict about this in the airport terminal. However, the famous Pyongyang traffic police are an exception. Grooms having their wedding photos taken in uniform usually are fair game as well. Ask for permission from your tour guides if you are unsure.
Freedom of Movement
While local tour guides are supposed to accompany their charges at all times and tourists are kept on a narrow path, it is possible to have some limited freedom of movement. The Yanggakdo Hotel is on a small island – Yanggakdo, or Sheep Horn Island. Guests are allowed to stroll on the grounds around the hotel, but are not allowed to approach the bridge that leads to the mainland. Either between activities during the day or in one of the evenings, the tour guides may be happy to take the group on a walk through downtown Pyongyang. At night, the central square is all but empty, the streets are dimly lit, and there are few pedestrians. One will be able to peer into – and photograph –sparselystocked local stores and antiquated hair salons that are found one every block or two.
Money and Tipping
The euro is the officially accepted foreign currency in DPRK, but US dollars and Renminbiare also accepted almost everywhere – everywhere tourists can shop, that is. Be sure to take small denomination notes with you, as change is often not available for larger notes. Small change might be given in any of the three currencies. Credit cards are NOT accepted and there are no ATMs in the country. Tourists are not permitted to use the local currency, though it may be purchased as a souvenir from the hotel. Some tour guides may be interested in selling you some local notes and coins – very discretely.
CCC will take care of tips and gifts for the tour guides and the driver.If you want to show personal appreciation with extra gifts, Chinese cigarettes for men and cosmetics for women would be most appropriate. Western alcoholic drinks, chocolate, confectionary, pens, etc. are other options.
Communications and Electronics
Visitors are now able to take mobile phones into the country, though they would be of limited use, since international roaming is not possible. Laptops, tablets and MP3 players are OK to bring in to the country. Personal video cameras may be brought in, but professional video cameras may not.
To contact the outside world, you may use the telephone at the “business center” in the lobby of the hotel. You can also send emails from the hotel’s common email account for a fee, and go back to check for replies at no charge. In other words, there is no private email access.You will not be able to use the World Wide Web.
Voltage in the country is 220 Volts. Plug type is Western European two pin. We suggest taking any adapters you require with you, as they may not be available to purchase or borrowlocally. A small flashlightmay also prove useful, as there are occasional power cuts. There is one potential use for your mobile phone!
Food and Drink
The standard of food in the restaurants is generally good. For the majority of time you will eat Korean cuisine, although there are opportunities to enjoy “Western” style foods, especially in Pyongyang itself, and at breakfast. Please let us know if you are vegetarian or have other dietary requirements, so arrangements can be made accordingly.
There is a full range of beverages, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, and bottled mineral water is always available. Of the local beers, Taedonggang is very pleasant. Soju, the Korean spirit, is drunk in large quantities, especially by the male Korean guides, and can be an acquired taste. The brand Songak is noticeably smoother than other sorts.
Please ensure you bring adequate supplies of any prescription drugs and medicines that you take, plus any usual travel medicines and lotions (such as stomach upset relief, sun cream etc.) as a precaution. As usual, the CCC leader will have a simple first aid and medicine box.
The DPRK has a continental climate with four distinct seasons. Winters can be bitterly cold, often with snow and sub-zero temperatures. Summers are hot and humid, with occasional heavy rainfall during the day. Consequently, the most pleasant times to visit are spring and fall, providing milder temperatures and a more conducive atmosphere to sightseeing. Nevertheless, the country can be visited at all times of the year, and each season brings with it its own visual rewards. As the saying goes, ‘There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing!’ If you pack the right sort of clothes, it is a comfortable tourist destination all year round.
As with any international travel, we strongly recommend taking travel insurance for your visit, in case of any unforeseen circumstances. Be sure that the travel to the DPRK is included in the policy.
If you are a journalist and wish to travel to the DPRK, even as a genuine tourist, we are regrettably not the people to help you. We are notpermitted to take journalists– whether they intend to engage in journalism or not – to the country.Joining a touristgroup while concealing your profession will create all sorts of problems for yourself, for us, and, worst of all, for your Korean hosts.
“Arirang” the Mass Gymnastics and Art Performance
Arirang performance is available from July 22 to the end of August.