How to travel to North Korea

There are few communist countries left in the world and one of them is North Korea. The question is, can I go sightseeing there? It is not a country open to mass tourism but even so, can be visited.

Are you interested in opening this window to the past? Or is it a parallel world? The truth is that it can undoubtedly be an unforgettable experience. Let's see then how you can do to travel to North Korea, what procedure to follow and what can be done there.

North Korea

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is in the east asia and it is the northern part of the Korean peninsula. Have border with China and Russia and of course with South Korea, Demilitarized Zone through.

The Korean peninsula was in the hands of the Japanese from 1910 until the end of World War II (Hence, the Koreans do not like the Japanese very much), but after the conflict it was divided into two zones.

On one side were the forces of the Soviet Union and on the other those of the United States. All the negotiations to reunify the country failed and thus, andn 1948, two governments were born, the First Republic of Korea (in the south), and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, in the north.

North Korea is a socialist state, with a cult of the personality of the leader typical of other times. He is the third male member of the ruling Kim family. It is a country that lives in the socialist past: state companies, collective farms and an army that takes a lot of money.

Regarding culture, although there is a clear Chinese influence, the truth is that Korean culture as a whole (from the south and the north) has acquired a unique form that not even the cultural violence exerted by the Japanese during the occupation could delete. Now, in the years following liberation, South Koreans began to have great contact with the world while North Koreans began to lock themselves in.

Thus, if South Korea is a modern nation for us, North Korea has returned to a traditional culture, with many folk forms they have gained new strength.

Travel to North Korea

We agree that it is not the most typical thing in the world to travel as a tourist to North Korea. AND some people can't directly do it, for example, the Americans, the South Koreans or those from Malaysia. The rest of us can go, but following a series of steps.

First, you can't go to north korea on your own. Only through a tour operator who has to make reservations on your behalf and even process the visa, sign an agreement, give you a copy of that agreement for your passport.

Before there were tougher restrictions but for a time to be part they are lax and they only ask you to specify the name of the company for which you work and profession. But be careful, if by chance you work in a media or a political organization for human rights, there is a possibility that they will not give you a visa.

Always display it goes through China first  and the North Korean visa can be received while there. That will be explained by the agency. The good thing, there had to be something good, is that the procedure is not done by you at the embassy.

Your passport may be stamped at customs as it may not. AND the visa does not go in the passport but separately. And you must deliver it when leaving the country. Do you want to keep it as a souvenir? It is convenient to photocopy it, worse always asking the tour guide if you can do it or not. It is advisable not to screw up.

Regarding the options that there are in terms of tours, it is great to know that you will be able to see more than the capital city, Pyongyang. You can go to Rason, a special economic zone, you can ski in Masik, climb the highest mountain that is Paektu Mountain or attend a cultural event.

Yes you can take photos. It is said that they will not let you, but it is not true or at least not completely. Being discreet, asking your guide and without doing a photography show is possible. And obviously, it all depends on where you are and who or what you want to take a picture of.

Tourists are not allowed to carry books or CD's or anything like that, it's not going to be something that influences North Korean holy culture. And the same works the other way around, no taking "souvenirs." Recapping a bit, What places can I visit in North Korea?

Pyongyang it is the front door. You will walk through squares and squares with many statues. The tour is very political in this city because you are not going to leave the country without a good image of the leader. Then, you will see the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, the Monument to the Founding Party, the Kim II-sung Square, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Mausoleum of Kim II-sung and Kim Jong-il or the Mansu Hill Monument.

Beyond the bus too you can travel by metro, something possible for foreigners only since 2015, or biking or shopping. That is more fun and without a doubt, unforgettable. After, Another destination is Rason, the Special Economic Zone. Very special, the only place where the communist dictatorship allows certain capitalist sparks. It is a city that is super close to the borders with Russia and China.

Masik is the destination for skiing. Here is the Masikryong Ski Resort, a site of good standard in terms of lifts, equipment and accommodation. And many karaoke bars and restaurants. You can go up to 1200 meters and enjoy 100 kilometers of slopes.

Chongjin is the third largest city in North Korea and it is its industrial heart. It is remote and receives few visitors But maybe that's why you like it better. It has a central square that is its most attractive point, with its statues of the leaders, obviously. And here we come. There really isn't much else. Between the fact that it is an extremely small country and has a million restrictions ...

Well, finally we can name the tour operators: Koryo Tours (somewhat expensive, it tends to receive older travelers and not so many young people), Uri tours (they were the ones who organized Dennis Rodan's trip), Lupine Travel and Juche Travel Services (both English), Rocky road travel (based in Beijing), FarRail Tours and KTG. These are on the web always, but a very popular one is also Young Pioneer Tour.

This last agency offers basic tours from 500 euros (accommodation, train Beijing- Pyongyang - Beijing, meals, transfers with guides, entrance fees. It does not include extra expenses, drinks and tips, but they are in charge of processing the visa and tickets. all of these agencies work with the North Korean government so it's basically tours organized by him.

In North Korea you will never be alone. You may not travel in a group, yes, but once on North Korean soil they will always keep you company, from your arrival to your departure, from the moment you get up in the morning until the night. Nor can you leave the hotel alone, nor turn away from the guide or the group, nor shout, nor run, nor touch the statues or images of the venerable leaders, or take photos of them cutting off their heads ...

There are no great comforts or luxuries, life is very simple, bordering on the precarious in some cases. There are no advertisements on public roads, there is no Internet, control is permanent. It may be that you will not find toilet paper or soap, that the further you go outside the capital you go to places without electricity or hot water. It is like this, everyone who was says that the feeling of strangeness and unreality are tremendous.

The truth is that such a tour is far from being a pleasure trip or vacation, but it is certainly something that you will never, ever forget.

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