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There are people who say that visiting a country such as North Korea is wrong and that all we are doing is supporting the government - is this true?

We don't believe this to be true. The amount of money the DPRK government receives through tourism is very minimal and certainly not enough to fund a nuclear programme or the like. Travel broadens the mind and nowhere is that truer than in North Korea. We believe that there is a benefit to be gained by both those who visit and those who are visited from increased human-level contact between both sides. Just as most North Koreans have hardly any experience of interacting face to face with foreigners, almost nobody outside of the DPRK has ever met a North Korean. We would like to see that ratio change over time and believe that non-governmental tourism is the best way to go about this. There are very few restrictions on who can visit and the United Nations, European Union and other agencies see tourism as a positive way of engagement.

 Is it possible to visit North Korea? Can I visit North Korea?

Despite what the majority of people think, it's possible to visit North Korea as a tourist, and we have been doing so since 1993. The whole process is surprisingly easy — we can arrange it all for you, including travel, guides, food, accommodation, and even your DPRK visa. The only nationalities restricted from travel to North Korea as tourists are citizens of the Republic of Korea (ROK), and — from 1 Sep 2017 — citizens of the United States of America (USA). The latter are legally allowed to visit by the DPRK, but not by their own government.

Is it safe to travel to the DPRK? I have seen news stories about tourists getting detained in North Korea — will this happen to me?

Safety is our number one priority, and, as we have done since our first tour in 1993, we take every step to ensure and maintain the safety of everyone who chooses to travel with us. We do this by providing crucial information, briefings, and warnings about the risks of travel to North Korea, which is a destination, more than any other, that one should be fully prepared for before making a visit. 
When you travel to the DPRK with us you are legally entering the country as a tourist, and therefore must obey the local laws to ensure your safety, and that of the group. Breaking the rules is when safety becomes compromised. But, based on our experience of running tours for the last 25 years, as well as our continual consultations with those inside and outside of the country, if no rules are broken there will be no issue with tour safety, or how you are treated. 
However, we believe it's important that you familiarise yourself with your own government's position before booking a tour as many of them involve advice against all but essential travel, and it is only right and proper that you are fully aware of those statements, and their content, when making the decision to travel with us.  We take these sorts of warnings extremely seriously, of course, and make sure that — because of our regular visits to the country, unequalled time spent on the ground, and continual consultations with our partners in Pyongyang, as well as various international government representatives and other interested agencies — we continue to run our DPRK (North Korea) tours safely, and with full knowledge of the most up-to-date assessments and situational changes. 
We insist that anyone travelling with us attends a mandatory pre-tour meeting, and — thanks to our thorough tour briefings, our experienced and professional staff, and our unparalleled understanding from over two decades in the country — continue to conduct our tours to North Korea in a safe and responsible manner — for anyone and everyone who chooses to travel with us. 
However, as we cover on our website, and via email, and in the information we send out after receiving your booking, as well as at the mandatory pre-tour briefing — it is *very* important to note that offences that would be considered trivial in other countries can incur very severe penalties in North Korea, particularly actions the authorities deem to be disrespectful towards the North Korean leadership or government, or those involving religion. 
We have all heard of visitors to North Korea — including tourists — being detained in the country. These extremely rare cases are all on the public record, have made international news, and have been extensively reported. It is advisable to familiarise yourself with these cases and to be fully informed about the level of risk that comes from falling foul of the law when in the DPRK. 
Punishment for what are seen as crimes there is disproportionate and exceedingly harsh. This is not something that should be whitewashed or downplayed at all. However, the maxim that, if you obey all of the country’s laws and rules, then you will face no punishment or problems at all, remains true — whatever your nationality may be. 
We don’t take the situation in the DPRK lightly, but we don’t want to sensationalise the risks involved in visiting, either. Rather, we continue — as we always have done — to take a sober and informed view. Our staff are in North Korea most weeks, where they have mobile phone contact with our office in Beijing, and regular contact in Pyongyang with the British and Swedish Embassies. 
We started tourism to North Korea in 1993 and, to this day, still take in the highest percentage of Western tourists to the country, and continue to do so in a safe and considered manner.

Will visiting North Korea affect me travelling to other countries in the future?

Not at all. There are no countries who will refuse you entry because you have travelled to North Korea - including the US and ROK. In any case, for most people there won't actually be any evidence that you have travelled there anyway as the visa is on a separate piece of paper and this is what gets stamped rather than anything going in your passport.

I have a South Korean stamp in my passport - will this cause a problem?

No, the DPRK authorities do not care if you have visited South Korea before, so having a stamp in your passport won't cause any problems.

Will I be spied on/will the guides try and brainwash me?

Despite claims in various newspapers and blogs, it seems to us (although we don't know for sure) very unlikely indeed that the Koreans would bug the hotel rooms of western visitors. Paranoid fantasies aside, what can the average visitor possibly have to say that would be of interest to the Korean authorities? If they want to hear a foreign viewpoint on something they will ask you! Nevertheless, as in all places in the DPRK, it is best to restrain any criticisms until having left the country. 
The guides, like all North Koreans, have very strong beliefs which probably differ quite starkly from most tourists; however, they will not try to brainwash you for perhaps the simple reason that their system of 'Juche' socialism is intended for those of Korean blood only. They are not into spreading world revolution through the mouths of their handful of western visitors. They express their beliefs and faiths very strongly and these are held universally throughout the DPRK so it is both impolite and futile to argue certain points with the Koreans. They will not try to brainwash you, so don't try to 'liberate' their minds in return, it is disrespectful, will breed resentment and cause irritation.

What are the hotels like in North Korea?

It is not possible for tourists to stay in back-packer/hostel-type accommodation, so the hotel we usually use in Pyongyang is the deluxe class Yanggakdo Hotel. It is roughly a western 3 star (Chinese 4 star) equivalent and equipped with bars, restaurants, shops, swimming pool, bowling, casino, and other entertainment facilities (including Karaoke of course). The hotel has reliable electricity, heating, air conditioning, hot water, and now have foreign TV channels including BBC World and Japanese and Chinese TV. There are some slightly cheaper options in Pyongyang but the drop in standard is generally not worth the reduction in cost. 
The hotels we use outside of Pyongyang are less well developed and have temperamental supplies of electricity and hot water, however there are some spectacular hotels in other places in DPRK such as the traditional Korean style Minsok (Folk) Hotel in Kaesong and the Pyramidal Hyangsan Hotel near Mount Myohyang.

 Can I talk to locals?

Contact with local people is possible. It’s allowed and is legal both for you to talk to locals, and for them to talk to you. However, it can be difficult for several reasons; the main one being the language barrier (foreign languages are not widely spoken in DPRK). Other reasons include the fact that people are generally very wary of foreigners and also are very shy, conservative and careful of drawing attention to themselves. You are free to attempt a dialogue with a local but do not be surprised if they are not interested in talking to you. It can be very rewarding when you do manage to make some human contact and your guides and tour leader will make every effort to enable it. We make sure we take you to the best spots for mixing with the locals, for example the May Day games in the park or at the Kimjongilia flower show. In terms of finding locals at ease and more willing to interact with foreigners we suggest visiting the country on a national holiday; at these times people are often more willing to chat, dance, and share home-made drinks and so on. A day off work and a little liquid social lubricant work wonders to break the suspicious veneer!

What about the food?

As a visitor and guest in the DPRK, you will be well fed with 3 meals a day including meat and fish. The Koreans take the role of host very seriously so they will always over-cater! The food in the DPRK is far from fantastic but is not too bad. Some meals are very good and some are just good enough. Vegetarians can be catered for although it cannot be guaranteed that utensils used to touch food will not have touched meat, or that cooking oil does not contain animal fats. If you are a vegan then we would need to discuss this with you before your trip. Fruit and chocolate are scarce in the DPRK so if you need this while you are on the tour then you should take it with you from Beijing.

What happens if I get sick in North Korea?

Pyongyang has a foreigners’ hospital which is of higher quality than the other hospitals in the country. If you need any medical treatment above the order of a few aspirin or a plaster/band-aid then you would be sent here (note that Koryo Tours cannot be held responsible for any medical costs and we require that all our tourists are covered by medical insurance - we can provide this). In dire emergencies, you should check that your insurance company has a provision to have you airlifted back to Beijing where there are international hospitals available. We recommend taking a simple first aid kit with painkillers, medicine for diarrhoea, etc as these are not easily available.

Once I am there, am I free to go where I want?

No, tourists are not allowed to travel around freely so at all times other than in the hotel, you will be accompanied by 2 guides and a driver regardless of how many people are in your group. Please remember this is not a policy set by the travel company but by higher powers and there is no way round this. Any attempt to sneak off from the guides will have serious consequences for them and for you.

I am a journalist, can I visit?

North Korea does not issue visas to journalists except in special circumstances where they are invited by the authorities. Occasionally this restriction is relaxed and we are able to take journalists. If you are a journalist wanting to go then please contact us and we can try on your behalf or we can add your name to a list to be informed as and when you are permitted to go. In the past, some journalists have tried to sneak in to DPRK by submitting false details. When this happens the company they travel with is held responsible and there are grave consequences; in 1997 we were shut down for 9 months when a British Channel 4 journalist came on a tour with fake details - this not only caused us and our Korean guides problems, it also created problems for two aid agencies we had introduced to the country. Please do not compromise our work in North Korea. We require each of our tourists to sign a form stating that they will not publish any articles about the tours without our express permission. This is something we are required to insist upon by DPRK law.

How do I get to North Korea?

The only way to travel as a tourist is to join a tour. You can either sign up for one of our group tours or we can design a private tour for you. You need to get yourself to Beijing and arrange your own accommodation there (we can provide recommendations and help with bookings). We then take care of all the rest!

How far in advance do I need to be in Beijing?

You only need to be in Beijing in time for the pre-tour briefing which is held at 4pm the day before departure. This is an important part of the travel process and ensures that you are fully prepared for your trip and will therefore get the most out of it.

Will I need to give you my passport at any time?

No, all visas are issued using a passport copy and passport photo which we ask you to send us when you apply for a tour. The visas are then issued in Beijing on a separate piece of paper so there will be nothing stuck in your passport.

I would like to have a visa in my passport - is there a way to get one?

The only way is if there is a DPRK consulate in your country of residence. We will then arrange for the visa to be issued there and once it is ready to be collected you will need to make an appointment to have it issued.

 Can I write about my trip to North Korea afterwards? Is it OK to put pictures online?

There is no problem with you writing a travelogue about the tour, posting pictures on Facebook or other social media, or other normal and conventional methods of telling people about the journey. As for blogging, this is generally not a problem either although the North Koreans would consider DPRK-focussed blogs to be a form of journalism so please do contact us if you are concerned that you may fall into this classification and we can advise. We are often sent people’s blog postings and travelogues after the tour so that we can fact-check or provide any more info for them and are always more than happy to help out in this regard.

Please contact Guidepost Tours at anytime if you require further information on travelling to North Korea.