North Korea, officially referred to as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is a country located in East Asia covering the northern half of the Korean Peninsula that is situated between Korea Bay and the East Sea.
It shares its borders with China to the north, Russia to the north east and South Korea to the south. This country is under a totalitarian dictatorship and after its complicated history, travelers generally are skeptic when it comes to visiting this country.
Tourists that do travel to North Korea will be immediately met by a tour guide from a local state owned travel company who will decide what they can and cannot see. Traveling independently isn’t possible, and you can see North Korea only as part of a guided tour.
When traveling to this county, your movements, freedom and behavior will be severely limited. As soon as you step out on the street, you will be accompanied by one or more guides.
Usually, the sightseeing is limited to war memorials, monuments to the Great Leader and the Workers Party of Korea, and war-related museums. Another popular landmark for tourists is The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
Warnings & Dangers in North Korea
OVERALL RISK : HIGH
Generally speaking, North Korea isn't safe and some governments advise their citizens against traveling to this country. If you're already in North Korea and if you don't abide to its strict rules, you can be faced with imprisonment, torture and death.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
The fact that all your traveling is completely controlled by the state is also helpful when it comes to transport, as all your transport needs will be dealt with by your tour company. Using any other form of local public transport is generally impossible.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
The good thing in North Korea is that the crime levels are close to zero. There is no petty crime on the streets at least to tourists, and as it's been said, there is no individual traveling in North Korea either way, so your risks of having an experience with a pickpocket are close to none.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : HIGH
The biggest natural threats for North Korea are devastating floods. Typhoons have also been known to cause damage. In 2002, a flood occurred that killed 170 people and left 84,000 homeless.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
The same goes for violent crimes, like muggings, robberies and kidnappings. Even the night life in Pyongyang is extremely safe and non-violent.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There haven't been recent terrorist attacks in North Korea, but they shouldn't be ruled out, so you should remain vigilant and be aware of your surroundings at all times.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
There aren't many known scams in North Korea. Generally speaking, ways of crossing over tourists are limited given the fact that traveling independently is impossible in this country and everything is strictly controlled by the state.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM
Women are safe when it comes to crime in North Korea, but you should know that if you have any needs as a tourist, or want help, the assistance from your embassy will be limited and due to strict dictatorship in this country, your actions and behavior here will be limited and in that sense, North Korea can be dangerous.
So... How Safe Is North Korea Really?
North Korea’s history and political situation is complicated and extremely strict, being that this country is under a totalitarian dictatorship.
Due to this and the uncertainty caused by North Korea’s nuclear weapons development program and related tension in the country, some governments strongly discourage traveling to North Korea. If you go to North Korea and do not abide by its strict laws, be prepared to face imprisonment, torture, and even death.
North Korea and the US have had a complicated history and relationship for decades. As of September 2017 all American residents with a US passport will not be allowed to travel to North Korea without having a special permission from the US State Department.
You should keep in mind all the time that North Korea in general places blame on America for starting the Korean War, and you should, under no circumstances, disagree with that viewpoint as you might get yourself in trouble.
Also, the country is covered in landmines and dotted with minefields so you mustn’t stray from your group as it may have deadly consequences. Do not take photographs as this is a huge issue in North Korea and only some places are allowed to be photographed, like the “peace village” Panmunjom.
- Visas - All countries do need a visa in order to enter North Korea, and the visa must be acquired from one of the North Korean diplomatic missions. If you're traveling for tourism, you will also require an authorization from a North Korean travel agency. If you are not sure about your visa status, visit www.doyouneedvisa.com which will let you know whether or not you need visa based on your nationality and the country you want to visit.
- Currency - North Korean Won is the official currency in North Korea. There are no ATMs in this country and credit cards are completely useless here, so make sure to bring lots of cash.
- Weather - North Korea has a combination of a continental climate and an oceanic climate, characterized by four distinct seasons. For the most part, North Korea has humid climate, with warm summers and cold winters, without much precipitation.
- Airports - Pyongyang International Airport, also referred to as the Pyongyang Sunan International Airport is the main airport of North Korea. It is located in the Sunan District, in Pyongyang, capital of North Korea.
- Travel Insurance - Just like anywhere else, we recommend getting travel insurance when traveling to North Korea, since it covers not only medical problems, but also theft and loss of valuables.