Why travel to the DPRK?


What are our goals in travelling to the DPRK?

  • to enhance participants general understanding of the DPRK and Northeast Asia through firsthand experiences.

  • to promote positive people-to-people exchanges. To do so in a non-political, neutral setting between citizens of nation-states that share mutually disreputable perceptions of each other due to historical legacies, the influences of mainstream media / propaganda, and very limited opportunities for interaction amongst ordinary people.

  • to offer the opportunity to create new friendships and a positive lasting impression of the participant’s country, society and culture to members of DPRK society.

  • to challenge pre-existing (pre-conceived) labels and stereotypes among participants, our hosts and the DPRK citizens we interact with.

  • to build empathy and compassion between the participants whose nations have historically been at war and continue to have mutual resentment and negative sentiments.

  • to initiate exchanges that can assist confidence building in the relationships between the organizations involved, relationships which, if nurtured, may lead to expansion of activities or invite future opportunities.



What does DPRK stand for?

The DPRK is the official name of “North Korea” which stands for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (조선민주주의인민공화국) which is pronounced Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk. Koreans refer to their own country as the DPRK, DPR Korea or simply Korea in English or Chosŏn in Korean. Using “North Korea” can be seen as offensive and politically incorrect.

Safety and Security


Is it safe to travel to the DPRK?

Travel to the DPRK is indeed safe. Just as if you were to travel to any other foreign country, the laws and rules of that country must be followed.  There have not been cases of visitors or tourists being detained without cause or reason.  In the past few years, there have been some individuals detained for entering the country illegally, entering the country with false documents, disrespecting the government and distributing religious or anti-government materials.  That being said, some basic and general rules need to be observed while in the country.  More details on this will be addressed in a pre-trip briefing in China.


Can I freely take photos and video in the DPRK?

When permitted by our local guides you may take video and photos while in the DPRK. Taking photos or videos of the military, citizens without their permission or filming outside from moving vehicles is prohibited.  Note: Filming from your group vehicle while in Pyongyang is generally ok, however, it is always a good idea to ask your guides beforehand.


Am I allowed to wonder or walk around freely on my own while in the DPRK?

No, tourist travel to the DPRK is only possible as part of a guided tour. Independent travel is not permitted.  If you are NOT prepared to accept some limitations on your movements, behavior, and freedom of expression, you should reconsider traveling to the DPRK.


Will the DPRK government do a background check on me?

The DPRK government commonly conducts simple background checks on visitors and official guests who plan on visiting their country for national security purposes.  This background or security check will occasionally involve a friendly phone call to your home or mobile phone number to confirm your identity but also to welcome you on your future trip to their country.


Do I need travel insurance for the DPRK?

Travel insurance is not necessary but is available at an additional cost.  If you already have international travel insurance that does not cover the DPRK you can add on coverage for the DPRK for about 400 RMB (46 Euro) depending on length of stay and the activities included in the trip.  If you do not have existing international travel insurance, it can be arranged by the PCE for an additional fee.

Visas, transportation, and other logistics


How do we enter and exit the DPRK?

Depending on which trip you are taking will have different entry and exit points which are by airplane (Air Koryo), by train and by bus.  The entry-exit points are located at Beijing / Pyongyang, Dandong / Sinuiju, and Quenhe / Wonjong.


How do I get a visa for China?

All participants are responsible for attaining their Chinese Visa from their country of residence. A double entry visa or a multiple entry visa is absolutely required.  Note: The new Beijing 72-hour Visa (applicable to select nationalities) may require some additional documents such as trip itinerary, hotel name and proof of transportation in and out of China, in which case the necessary documents will be provided to you via email.  As all Chinese embassies and consulates have slightly different policies and procedures each individual is responsible for making his or her own Chinese Visa arrangements.


How do I obtain a visa for the DPRK?

Included in the DPRK visa fee (about 50 Euro) are the application, processing, pick-up and delivery fees. The required visa application information will be collected from the participants and prepared by the organizers.  We will arrange the visa for you and give it to you before we enter the DPRK.  For a tourist visa, your physical passport is not required as the visa comes on a separate piece of paper unattached to your passport.

Note: Some of the PCE delegations do require an official visa in which case we will require your physical passport to process and a least one business day to process, normally in Beijing. If the PCE delegation requires official visas we will inform you in advance of all the requirements and procedures. Official visas range in price but usually about 50-100 Euros.


Who can’t travel to the DPRK?

Current military personnel, South Korean nationals (holding South Korean passports) and journalists are not permitted to travel to the DPRK.  Ethnic Koreans with foreign passports can obtain visas to the DPRK but are required to submit some additional information.


How much luggage am I allowed to take to the DPRK?

It is recommended that you pack as light as possible as we will be travelling extensively throughout the country.  Also, keep in mind that check-in luggage over 20kg is subject to extra charges depending on the airline.  You are also allowed to bring a 10kg standard airline carry-on bag and a notebook computer or a small handbag.

Cost and Money


What is included in the delegation fees trip

Prices quoted include accommodation, transportation, meals, DPRK visa fees, entrance fees and administration fees.


Which additional costs can I expect during the trip?

You can expect to pay for some additional fees during the trip such: alcohol, souvenirs, snacks, purchasing additional food during meals, some optional extracurricular activities may include a boat ride, circus, bowling etc.  Also, additional hotel services such as laundry, haircuts, massage, long-distance phone calls and other services are not included.


Which currencies can I use while in the DPRK?

Among locals the DPRK won (KPW) is used, however, foreign visitors are only permitted to use US Dollars, Chinese RMB, and the Euro.  Note: Smaller denominations of cash are preferred as change for larger bills is not always available.


Are there ATMs in the DPRK? Can I use my credit card or travellers checks?

There are no ATM’s in the DPRK, please access ATM’s in your home country or while you are in China.  You may also want to notify your bank that you may be withdrawing cash from China beforehand so that they do not put a hold on your account. Credit cards and travellers checks are NOT accepted in the DPRK.

Health & Food


Do I need to take medicine to the DPRK?

You should take any required personal medications you would normally or could require.  A basic medical kit will be available during the trip, which includes basic medicines and basic first-aid equipment.


Can I drink the tap water in Korea?

It is not recommended that you drink the tap water in China or the DPRK; it should be boiled and is usually provided in hotel rooms.  Bottled water is also readily available in hotels, restaurants, and shops.  In the countryside, some hotels provide salt water in an unsealed water bottle, which is intended for brushing your teeth but is not for consumption.


In case of an emergency or a serious problem while travelling in the DPRK what can I do?

The local guides and the foreign tour leader will have cell phones on them at all times.  In case of emergency, we will contact local or international medical services, family members or the relevant Embassy in Pyongyang if necessary.


If I get sick in the DPRK, where can I get medical attention?

Hospitals in the capital Pyongyang are able to provide basic medical services.  Many Korean doctors have trained abroad, and there is an international friendship hospital in Pyongyang which services the foreign diplomats, UN workers, NGO’s and others living in the capital.  More severe cases may require seeking medical attention in Beijing by commercial flight or medical evacuation which can be arranged by the relevant embassy in Pyongyang.


What about if I have special dietary preferences or allergies?

If you have any special dietary preferences or allergies, please let us know in advance and we will do our best to accommodate.  There are many vegetarian dishes available and other special dietary needs can be easily accommodated.


What kind of foods do we eat in the DPRK?

Generally, we eat Korean food, which is healthy and delicious.  It commonly consists of a bowl of rice, soups, seafood or grilled meats, it is generally spicy and features a variety of tasty side dishes.  Vegetarian options are plentiful and many Chinese foods and some western foods are normally available.

International phone calls, email and postal services


Can I access the Internet while in the DPRK?

At some hotels in Pyongyang outgoing email services are available, this means you cannot access the internet and check your email account or search the web.  If your phone is compatible with the DPRK cell phone system, you are able to purchase a SIM card.  The SIM card can be activated to use the country’s 3G network, however coverage is limited to Pyongyang and major urban areas.  Calling overseas using a local SIM card can cost anywhere between 3 and 7 USD per minute.  Data transfer fees are also quite expensive. The cost of setting up a SIM card with 3G is roughly 250 USD plus usage. Your western guide will have an cell number which can be contacted in case of emergency.



Can you call abroad from the DPRK?

Most major hotels in urban areas have overseas lines in which you can call overseas. Calls can cost anywhere between 3 and 7 USD per minute.


Can I send letters or post cards?

Postcards and letters may be sent from most major hotels.  They can be sent to any destination with the exception of South Korea.

How can I engage with local people and have a great time?


Can/shall I bring presents for the local population and our hosts?

It is recommended to bring some gifts for your translators, guides, drivers and others you will interact with in the DPRK.  Gift giving can make a great first impression and also show your appreciation.  Popular gifts are souvenirs from your hometown or country, cigarettes (European and foreign non-Chinese brands are preferred) for men and cosmetics, chocolates, or candy for women.  During our trip we will have the opportunity to visit schools and watch children’s performances in which our delegations can offer them candies, chocolates, sports equipment or small toys.

What to bring and what NOT to bring


Can I bring my mobile phone, laptop, iPad, e-reader etc. to the DPRK?

Yes, you can bring your mobile phone, laptop, iPad, e-reader etc. to the DPRK, however, they might be thoroughly searched at customs.  Pornography, foreign published materials on the DPRK and in the materials in the Korean language are NOT permitted to bring into the country.  This includes travel guides. USB drives, external hard drives, mp3 players are also all subject to inspection.


What CAN’T you take with you to The DPRK?

You cannot bring the following items to the DPRK: GPS units or GPS enabled equipment phones or other equipment, binoculars, tripods, written or electronic materials (books, music, videos) which are in Korean (music produced in the DPRK is permitted) or about the DPRK or religious in nature, weapons, pornography, illegal drugs, and substances. Tripods for smart-phones or other smart-phone attachments are generally acceptable.  Please check with organizers prior to departing your home country.


What do you suggest I bring with me on the trip?


Highly recommended:

  • one set of business casual clothes and tie
  • clothing – during the summer months, expect hot and potentially humid weather with the possibility of heavy rain. Winter can be much cooler including the possibility of snow.
  • an umbrella or raincoat
  • walking shoes
  • a watch or travel clock with an alarm
  • personal effects and toiletries
  • one set of sports / workout clothes & shoes
  • pen, pencil, and notebook

Optional / Seasonal

  • sports equipment that you expect to use and/or give away (balls, Frisbees, etc.)
  • sunglasses and sun block
  • mosquito repellant
  • gifts for our local guides, drivers, and other people we interact with. Some recommended gifts are cigarettes, chocolates, candies, toys, souvenirs from your hometown or country
  • a swimsuit
  • basic over-the-counter medicines (i.e. for diarrhea, motion sickness, and aspirin or Tylenol)
  • camera with battery charger
  • hand sanitizer
  • small flashlight
  • Polaroid Camera – instant photographs are a great way to engage with people and the photos make excellent gifts for the Koreans. Locals are usually more willing to have their picture take if they can share in the fun.


My question is not in here or how can I get my question answered and find out more information?

Please contact us with any question at: contact@paektuculturalexchange.org

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