One of the questions I have been asked a number of times is: Have you been to North Korea? The answer is, of course, yes, as I have been to every country and it’s not that difficult to visit. You don’t even need to visit a North Korean embassy to get your North Korean visa, but you most probably do need to visit an embassy if you want to properly visit North Korea.
The easy way to visit North Korea
All you need is a double-entry Chinese or Russian visa and the tour operator will take care of the rest. Please note this may not apply to all nationalities at the moment, but you will obviously find out if you mention your nationality to your tour operator of choice. In 2019 it was reported that North Korea’s state carrier Air Koryo would begin twice-weekly service from Macau to Pyongyang, and that might make a visit to North Korea easier in the future.
There is nothing like North Korea.
Having visited all the world’s countries, it’s easy for me to conclude that there is one country that is completely different from all the others and that is North Korea. There is nothing like North Korea. Bhutan, Eritrea and Turkmenistan might also be unique in their own way, but the total lack of travel freedom and no internet access for tourists is only to be ‘experienced’ in North Korea.
Below are four options I know of on how you can visit North Korea. It is not among the most difficult countries to visit as it’s relatively straight forward, but if you want a proper experience of North Korea, it is not going to be cheap. If you want to visit North Korea, it is important to check yourself if the below options are up to date. Some options might no longer be available, and new opportunities may have arisen.
The ‘Stupid’ Option: DMZ, South Korea
Some travellers (including some that have visited and some that are trying to visit every country in the world) have travelled to the South Korean side of the Korean Demilitarized Zone, spend some seconds in a room that is technically in North Korea and have then said that they have been to North Korea. I call it a stupid option as you don’t experience North Korea, but it is an option and a possibility if all you want to do is to say you have technically been to North Korea.
Ultra Budget Option: Day trip
You can take the train from China and spend a day at the border town of Sinuiju on a group tour. You, of course, need to book through a tour operator. Young Pioneer Tours have prices as low as RMB 1.390 / USD 211. I guess this is comparable with a visit to a smaller town in England without going to London. Koryo Tours also has the day trip, but at a higher price.
Group Tour Option: Ultra Budget Tours
It is possible to have a proper experience of North Korea with Young Pioneer Tours for just 445 Euros. Or you can pay more for longer trips in group tours with Young Pioneer Tours or Koryo Tours. Koryo Tours is excellent but more expensive than Young Pioneer Tours.
The Best Option: Private Tour with Koryo Tours
I did a private tour of North Korea, and it was one of the most interesting travel experiences of my life. North Korea is much more than impressive buildings. The countryside is stunning and to have many sights for yourself is to me much preferred. You can do everything at your pace and fully explore the sights instead of constantly depending on travellers. I loved the experience and can highly recommend it. Just note it’s the most expensive option. If your budget can allow it, I believe it will be well worth it.
So there you have it. The options on how you can visit the single most interesting country by far, in my opinion.
By Henrik Jeppesen.