How to get to North Korea

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is a controversial and unique place to visit. Over the past few years more tourists have become increasingly interested in observing the local culture, exploring the hills of Kumgang or hoping to visit Kim Il Sung's Mausoleum. If you want to head that way, here is some essential information on how to get to North Korea.

    David Eerdmans - Wikimedia

While North Korea does not have a limit on how many tourists can enter each year, it is extremely difficult to be approved for a visa if you are a journalist or a citizen from South Korea. In order to enter North Korea as a tourist, you will need to be part of an organized tour, which can be either in a large or small group. Regardless of the size, each tour group is required to have two North Korean guides accompany them at all times. These are appointed by the country's Ministry of Tourism and it is impossible to travel through the country independently.

Tour operators based out of the UK include Luche Travel Services, Young Pioneer Tours and Lupine Travel. Visas, accommodation, meals and transport are included in handy package from these agencies for one lump sum which take the hassle away from what is ultimately a challenging trip for travellers logistically.

There are a few ways to enter the country and UK tour operators will connect you with a flight to Beijing. From there, North Korea's one star airline, Air Koryo and China's airline, Air China fly out 3 times a week to Pyongyang. Travelling by train from Beijing to Pyongyang is another option. K27/K28 heads that way 4 times a week but you need to book it well in advance. Once a week there is also a direct sleeping car from Moscow via China that finishes in Pyongyang.

For those that like a little more adventure, an alternative option is to cross the border by minibus from Dandong to Sinuiju. You can then take a domestic train to Pyongyang with KPA Soldiers and party workers. Make sure though that you do not take photos while on board though as you will certainly get in trouble as this is only allowed in certain areas of the country.

Another option if you do not want to fully enter North Korea is to visit the border via South Korea. Day bus trips are plentiful from Seoul to the joint security Area, which is a jointly controlled truce village in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). While it is not the same as entering the country, it does provide a glimpse into North Korea and you will have no trouble securing a trip here from Seoul.

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