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North Korea. Two words which probably evoke some type of negative thought or feeling in you. It’s one of those destinations that polarises people. Some people thought it was so cool that I was visiting. Others thought I was absolutely crazy. There wasn’t a middle ground.
I am so glad I went.
I expected Korea to challenge me and give me the most fascinating experience of my life. It delivered.
What I didn’t expect, however, was that it would challenge me as much as it did and that I would laugh the hardest I have ever laughed in my life.
It is challenging because North Korea is just so different. How I wish I could jump into the mind of a North Korean and really experience how they find their life. Their perspective on events with the US and the rest of the world, while ridiculous at times, made much more sense than it did before.
I entered with many questions. I exited with even more!
I went in with questions mostly about the political situation and with a general curiosity. I left with questions not just about the Korean way of life but wondering how truly happy the people are there and how that compares with people in my own society.
I laughed so hard in North Korea.
There was a strong sense of camaraderie in my tour group and things became ridiculous fast. I have done some crazy tours in my time but none involved a dead snake and a cow leg joining us on the bus. Yes, this happened.
I wonder if the underlying tension caused us to become crazier, if I just had a particularly funny tour group or everything just aligned to give me such a fun experience. It is hard not to over analyse experiences in the DPRK.
I found it hard not to find the people of the DPRK endearing. Although I found them impossible to understand and robot like at times, the people we met were good, ordinary people (albeit innocent) and the country seems like such a time capsule.
One thing is for sure, I am never going hear the words North Korea in the news in the same way again.
I won’t see a demon rogue state.
Instead, I will smile. I will picture our Korean guides laughing with us. I will see Pyongyang which was, quite honestly, amazing. I will think about the little kids I saw, the dancing, singing waitresses and the people on the train so happy to be returning home.
In fact, I think it is going to be hard to listen to news reports in my home country of Australia that like to demonise this country. It’s just a place made up of people after all.
I never expected to have so much fun and enjoy the experience so much.
Which isn’t to say North Korea is all sunshine and roses. Quite the contrary. This is a country that will challenge you like no other. What was real? What was orchestrated? I’ll never know and it’s hard to stop thinking about it.
I had no freedom of movement which is a strange thing to give up.
However, I did love my time there and I am so excited to share North Korea with you. To give you a different perspective and to open your eyes to a different side of this country which is so often demonised.
I am no political expert and this article is not about political policy or what is right or wrong. I am a travel blogger and this article is about the experience of visiting North Korea. A country that I enjoyed very much. I just wish I was a better writer so I could do a better job of explaining everything to you. Hell, I wish I understood everything I experienced so I could explain it to myself!
There are two sides to every story and it is interesting to hear the North Korean (or Korean as you would say if you were in the country) side.
My guides on this site are generally very informational with lots of details so you can easily have the same experiences. This one will be different because there is no solo travel allowed. You have to do either a group or private tour. You will have local tour guides and probably a foreign one too.
I will still highlight what to do in North Korea, information about getting in and out of North Korea (I took the train in and plane out), what you can see, eat, everything about my experience visiting this truly fascinating place.
I wanted to go to North Korea after visiting South Korea back in 2006. South Korea was great and it made me much more intrigued about the northern part especially after visiting the DMZ which, at that point, was the freakiest experience of my life. It’s only just been beaten.
To say I was intensely curious about North Korea would be an understatement. I knew so little about this country other than what is portrayed in the media and I wanted to see what life was like in this country.
There really is nowhere like it and if you want to feel like you have entered a time warp, you love interesting North Korea attractions or you just want the most interesting experience of your life, you should go.
If you are at all considering visiting North Korea, GO. If North Korea sounds at all interesting, GO.
I don’t think there is anywhere more fascinating in the world.
Quite a few people were shocked when I said I visited North Korea simply because they didn’t realise it was possible. If you are wondering can you travel to North Korea, the answer is yes unless you only have a South Korean passport.
Everyone else is allowed to visit North Korea, including people from the USA. People travelling on a US passport can’t travel overland in to North Korea but they can fly.
It’s actually very easy to book North Korea. You do have to book a tour and you’ll have a form to fill in so they can get your visa but everything is taken care of for you.
This is a much harder question to answer. I visited North Korea right when it seemed like things were escalating and it was in the news a lot. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me.
However, the Australian Government did not increase their travel warning so I felt it was safe to visit North Korea. The reality is that a lot of the information in the media is over blown so I would avoid looking at that as your source of information. Check our your own government’s travel warnings.
Once you are there, there is not much to worry about as long as you keep to the rules. The chance of you being a victim of crime in North Korea must be incredibly low. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was one of the safest places to visit in terms of chances of being mugged or a victim of the usual types of crimes against tourists.
Entering North Korea is like entering a time warp. I often felt like I was in an old 50s movies in Pyongyang. It seems like a world long forgotten elsewhere. My visit to North Korea was like no other trip I have done.
Even ignoring the restrictions placed on tourists, everything is just so different that I’m sure I would have felt like I was looking through a lens at a different world and seeing it from behind glass even without the restrictions.
Everything feels different.
The people seem so disciplined and obedient. They all seem to be doing the right thing all the time. For example, many people are on bikes and when they cross the road, they get off their bike and walk it across. All people, all of the time.
It’s perhaps only a little thing but it is like this all the time. There isn’t litter or graffiti. People mostly seem quiet and serious. Kids are well behaved except young toddlers which were like toddlers everywhere. Everyone seemed to have a good work ethic and take their jobs seriously.
Everyone I saw was impeccably dressed and well groomed. Many jobs required uniforms which were well done. The first time I went in the elevator at the hotel I was greeted by someone working the buttons who had a full uniform on including hat and gloves.
It felt like some weird version of The Stepford Wives or like I was in The Truman Show. I kept expecting to see the same people walk past.
Of course the North Koreans are obviously still people like the rest of us. They mostly ignored us but we were always treated like honoured guests. I was embarrassed to realise that I was surprised to see normal people. Women, men, kids. Living life.
As tourists there are restrictions. We have to travel with local guides. You can never walk off and you are only allowed in certain areas. There are rules about many things like how to behave at monuments and not folding pictures of the leaders. You can’t take photos of any military (except at the DMZ).
It was obvious as soon as we crossed over to North Korea on the train. After customs had checked us, we were allowed to exit the train and stand on the platform. However, we could only stand right near the door on the platform. By this I mean the door that you exited from.
I wanted to buy something from a seller by the next door, like 10 metres away. I wasn’t allowed to walk to them. I had to go back in the train and walk to the other end of the carriage and exit there to buy it.
Most of the time, I forgot about the restrictions but then I would do something that would remind me. For example, on the last night I went to the toilet during dinner. The sign for women’s toilet pointed to a stair well. When I went in there, I didn’t know whether to go up or down which gave me a strong sense of panic. If you walk somewhere you are not allowed you can get in big trouble.
The freedom of movement restriction wasn’t the biggest deal in the world but it did make me feel an underlying tension.
Since you have to do a tour to travel to North Korea, I did one with Young Pioneer Tours. I basically picked them because they are a great price, they have a great website and they answered my questions very fast. I found them to be very good both before and during the tour.
Note: I have no commercial relationship with Young Pioneer Tours at all.
This tour company does attract a younger crowd but there were older people as well and a man with his son. Below, I will detail exactly what we did in our tour.
We had two Australian guides who led the tour I did which was over the Military Foundation Day holiday. They were fantastic. They were both very knowledgeable, friendly and professional. Their casual manner helped put me at ease as I had been feeling quite anxious in the lead up to the tour.
My tour group was small. There was only about 30 of us and we were split into two smaller groups. They said the previous tour had been over 100 people so if you want a smaller group, it may be better to avoid the bigger events like the marathon and Kim Il Sung birthday.
In my list of things to do in North Korea, I walk through what we did on my tour. They are all fairly similar but note that things change all the time and nothing will be 100% confirmed until you are doing it.
During my tour I managed to see a far bit of the country. I entered by train (more about this below) and we drove down to the Korean border so I did travel the whole length of the country. Obviously, they control what we see but that is still a lot of the country and everything did look pretty much the same – and much more developed than I expected.
My tour spent three days in North Korea. One day was on the train, one day in Pyongyang and one day going to the DMZ and surrounding areas. It is quite a drive to the DMZ. It is not as close to Pyongyang as it is to Seoul.
We arrived at 5:30pm on the train from China. This is what we did in order…
I was super excited to get off the train in Pyongyang and not just because the train was super stuffy. It was obvious we were somewhere else immediately especially when there was a film playing on a big screen in the station car park which showed war and things being blown up.
We were straight on a bus to go see some North Korea tourist attractions.
My first views of this city were fascinating. There are so many grand monuments, some big plazas and impressive buildings. The infamous, huge pyramid hotel makes for quite a site as well.
Then there were all the propaganda posters. Where we would have advertisements in our countries, they have big murals and posters about North Korea.
Everything looks good, clean and tidy. There’s barely any trash and no graffiti. I kept being surprised throughout my time in North Korea by how nice everything looked.
Our first stop of the places to visit in North Korea was the Mansudae Fountain Park. This is a square with a huge fountain and a grand looking library across the street.
It’s a big park with many fountains but we only saw a part of it as it started to rain. Other than this short rain shower, there was beautiful weather over my time in North Korea.
The Mansudae Grand Monument is one of the places in North Korea where it’s great to go first. This is a massive monument to North Korea’s previous leaders. The two leaders are in the middle with big monuments on either side. One is to commemorate being liberated in 1945 and the other is for the revolution.
This is also where you have to show respect to President Kim Il Sung and Leader Kim Jong Il. If you visit this monument, you have to bow to the leaders. It’s optional to buy flowers to lie down.
If you aren’t willing to bow, you have to miss this one of the North Korea attractions and stay on the bus (make sure you tell the guide beforehand if you fall into this category).
It’s a grand spot. It’s on a hill with good views and there’s music playing on the way up. This will sound like a bizarre comparison, but it reminded me of walking into Hong Kong Disneyland the week before. It’s all surreal and the music adds an extra layer.
I found it a great introduction to the whole bizarre experience of visiting North Korea.
After this, we had our first dinner in North Korea and finally headed to the hotel for a shower. Many people kicked on in the bars and karaoke room but I hit the sack, exhausted. More about meals and the hotel below.
I woke up on my first morning in Pyongyang very excited to explore! It was Military Foundation Day, so a public holiday, and we weren’t sure if there would be a parade or any special events on. There wasn’t a parade but we did get to see some mass dancing (more below).
Unfortunately, this did mean that the Korean War Museum was shut so we missed out on visiting the USS Pueblo. It’s meant to be an interesting, propaganda filled visit.
We started the day by visiting the birthplace of Kim Il Sung. We weren’t the only ones and there were many locals there (pictured above). They were beautifully presented (as always), quiet and respectful.
It’s in a big park (but don’t step on the grass! I tripped and had like a quarter of the foot touch grass and got yelled at!) and it’s a nice setting. Our guides told us more about Kim Il Sung and his early life.
My favourite tourist attractions in North Korea were not “tourist” attractions at all. Instead they were seeing the regular things – like the metro and department store. We were able to take two lines of the metro on our way to the Arch of Triumph.
It’s one of those experiences that shows you we are all the same. In many ways catching the metro here was like catching it anywhere in the world. Many people were on phones and we were somewhat squished.
The stations are deep underground with North Korea having some of the deepest in the world – this is so they make good bomb shelters. They are also quite pretty and well presented with some fabulous murals in parts.
It can feel so normal but then you find out that you can’t pass some arbitrary line in a station and you remember where you are and the limitations on you as a tourist.
We came out of the Metro at one of tourist spots in North Korea, Arch of Triumph. The is one of the largest victory arches in the world and it celebrates the triumphant return of Kim Il Sung after the Anti Japanese war.
For an extra fee, we were able to go to the top of the monument which had great views over the city. It really illustrated to me just how few people are in cars and some of the advantages of this – what would have been huge car parks had volleyball courts!
This large square was constructed in 1954 right in the centre of Pyongyang and it’s quite a landmark especially being opposite the Juche Tower. It can hold over 100,000 people!
It was empty when we visited but still worth visiting as one of the famous places in North Korea.
The Foreign Language Bookshop was next on our list of North Korea tourist spots. This shop is a good place to go for books about North Korea, propaganda posters and other souvenirs.
There are actually many chances to buy souvenirs in North Korea (and I bought far more than I usually do). Many North Korea things to do have little shops attached.
While I was here, I bought two books and a magazine.
After lunch, we headed to the Juche Tower. It’s named after the Juche ideology introduced by Kim Il-sung.
You can travel to the top of the 150 metre spire which is what I did. There are great views of Pyongyang
Another of the North Korea famous places is the Monument to Party Founding.
This monument is 50 metres high, to symbolise the 50 year anniversary of the founding of the Worker’s Party of Korea. The number of slabs that are used in the belt around the monument, as well as the diameter, represent the date of birth of Kim Jong Il. Every monument in Pyongyang seems to have dimensions to symbolise something.
The sickle, hammer and calligraphy brush represent the farmers, workers and intellectuals.
At this site, there is also a small museum and shop.
If you get the chance, one of the most interesting North Korea activities is seeing some mass dancing. This was actually the most bizarre experiences I had in North Korea.
We found out not long beforehand that mass dancing would be taking part at the Monument to Party Founding so we made sure to get there on time. When we arrived, we found hundreds of young Koreans crouched neatly and quietly waiting for the start time.
This was bizarre in itself. They were crouched in an uncomfortable position for quite awhile and kept quiet.
At the allotted starting time, the dancing started. It was good and the people were beautiful but no one smiled, no one seemed to be having fun, no one looked at each other (considered rude in their culture, but still). Their dresses all looked brand new and perfect. Not a speck of dirt on any hem.
It really did seem put on for us as I don’t know why they would have all decided to turn up otherwise when they did not seem to enjoy it.
However, it seems crazy to believe that all of this was put on for 30 tourists. There were hundreds of people dancing.
We were also able to join in which I found weird. Can you imagine what people would think if weird foreigners jumped into a big synchronised dance performance back in your home country?
Regardless, it was an interesting, if slightly disturbing experience.
Our next stop was Moran Hill which is one of the beautiful places in North Korea. It’s also where the people of Pyongyang like to go to have a picnic on a public holiday which is what it was when I visited.
There were many locals around, having picnics, relaxing with beers, posing for wedding photos and dancing.
The dancing was fun. In great contrast to the mass dancing, locals were dancing in this park relaxed and looking like they were having fun. Many of the guys in my tour group were dragged in. The locals seemed to enjoy that as much as us. A local man pulled me to the front so I could take better photos and seemed to be trying to make sure I was having a good time.
The dancing here was a highlight of my visit to North Korea until I talked to one of my tour mates about it later. He had a very good point that this seemed to be fake too. It didn’t make sense that these generally quiet Koreans who never even looked at us would be pulling some of us into the mix.
Our next stop was one of my fun things to do in North Korea – we visited a department store.
I don’t know why the ordinary seems so extraordinary in North Korea but it does. Here we had the chance to exchange some foreign currency for some local (only place we could do this or spend local currency) and do some shopping. There was a supermarket and a department store with clothes, home goods, etc like you would see in one at home.
I couldn’t find much to buy but it was fun to walk around (ALONE!) and look at everything. I also liked the chance to get some local currency.
After our shopping experience, we stopped at another shop to buy alcohol before heading to a fun dinner. Back at the hotel, it was time for karaoke!
Karaoke may not come up as a North Korea tourist destination but it was lots of fun and a good way to unwind after a very full day at the strangest place on earth.
One of the main things to see in North Korea is definitely the border with South Korea at the DMZ.
The DMZ is the demilitarised zone between the two Koreas. This is a strip of land that runs right across the Korean peninsula and is about four kilometres thick. It was created in 1953 by North Korea, China and the UN.
Right on the border, in Panmunjom, is the Joint Security Area. This is where talks can take place between the two sides and tourists can visit. There are United Nations buildings straddling the border and you can go inside them and technically walk over to the other Korea (although only inside the building, you are not allowed to enter the other country.
As mentioned above, I have been to the DMZ before, on the South Korean side. To say it’s a different experience coming from the North would be an understatement but probably not in the way you would expect.
When I visited from the South, there was so much tension. I felt like if I even just pointed or waved a hand, I could start World War III. Our guide went on and on about how we had to behave and what would happen if we even twitched inappropriately.
There was none of this in the North. As long as we went where we were told, we could do what we like. You can scream at the other side, drink beer and tell the Yankee imperialists to go home.
This isn’t to say it isn’t distressing or without its tension. It’s crazy to think what a different world there is on the other side of the border.
I also felt for our Korean guides who find it a very sad place. It was one of our Korean guide’s first time there and she was very distressed.
The contrast between the two sides is interesting though. The North Koreans find it sad because they want to “free” their southern neighbours and reunite Korea. The target of their anger is always Americans and never the rest of Korea.
On the other side, it felt like a fearful place and that they were all afraid of North Korea. It was hard for that not to rub off on me when I visited from the south.
In the lead up to visiting the DMZ, there were a couple of stops to learn some history and to see a building where they had talks before the UN buildings in Panmunjom existed. If you visit on a day when there are lots of tourists, you don’t get to go into the UN buildings which would be a shame.
This area is a three hour drive from Pyongyang. It makes for a long day. The views on the way were much the same as I had seen from the train from China but prettier as there were lots of hills.
After leaving the DMZ we went to the nearby Koryo Museum which is in the town of Kaesong. It’s a museum of history and culture located in the first Korean university.
It’s a nice spot and a different type of North Korea tourist places. With all the focus on recent history on my North Korean trip, it’s easy to forget that Korea has a rich and interesting history. We learned about some of it here.
There was also a great shop and I bought a cool little book of propaganda posters and stamps.
We had a great lunch here in Kaesong at our next stop. I loved all the different things to try and there was also the option to try dog soup (I passed). It was right by a big monument on a hill which was worth a look as well.
Our final stop in the DMZ was another of the places to see in North Korea. This time it was a concrete wall. A Korean General told us about this wall (and showed it to us) that the Americans say doesn’t exist to show us how they lie. The general gave us an interesting talk about the war and army today.
At this point, we had phone reception from South Korea so I was unfortunately a bit distracted! It was good to have a moment to check in with home.
Our final stop at one of the tourist places in North Korea was at a local folk custom park in Sariwon City on the drive back to Pyongyang.
This involved walking up a hill to a lovely pagoda and watching the sunset over the city. It was the perfect way to end my exploration of North Korea.
The next morning I flew back to China. More about the flight below.
I stayed at the Sosan Hotel in Pyongyang. It was great.
It’s a huge hotel with many bars, a big restaurant where we had breakfast every morning, karaoke and a shop. I didn’t have time to do anything but eat breakfast, sleep and sing karaoke but it’s a good hotel for that!
I had my own private room thanks to being the only solo female (although you could pay extra to guarantee a private room on my tour). The room was a good, international standard hotel room. My only complaint was that some of the lights did not work so it was quite dark. They also only had hand towel sized towels.
More annoying was the lights in the hallway where my room was were always off. It made it hard to find my room!
I liked these little quirks though as I found it added to the experience.
What was very cool was I had a whole area behind my curtains and in front of the floor to ceiling windows. I liked it a lot.
Eating in North Korea was surprisingly good. I had very low expectations (and I certainly didn’t go for the food) and they were very much surpassed.
We were given lots of well prepared food at every meal. So much food that I felt bad. Often there would be plates of food all over the dining table and then we would still have a main come out. I didn’t realise how much I liked kimchi or just vegetables in general. They were good.
We usually got a beer with our meals as well.
There was usually entertainment which involved singing and dancing waitresses. It was fun.
My only complaint was breakfast. It was Korean style with no real western options and I wasn’t a fan.
I have never had a shopping section in one of my articles before because the fact is I hate shopping. We don’t buy souvenirs (apart from magnets). However, I changed my attitude in North Korea!
There are some very unique souvenirs in North Korea and it was fun to buy them. The favourite things on my tour were books, propaganda posters and postcards. You definitely want to bring in some money for these unique souvenirs.
There are two ways that you are realistically going to get to North Korea:
I wanted the experience of travelling overland to North Korea but I also needed to be fast so I caught the train into North Korea and flew out. I found this to be a great combination
*Americans are currently not able to catch the train into or out of North Korea
The train to North Korea is a great experience and I am very glad that I did this.
From Beijing, the journey consists of two trains. We left Beijing at 5:30pm and arrived at the border city, Dandong at 7:30am the next morning. We then caught an onward train to Pyongyang at about 10am so there was time to check out North Korea from the river bank in Dandong and to go through Chinese immigration. The journey all up takes about 24 hours.
The train ride into North Korea is awesome. The border is a river and you know when you hit the North Korean side as there is another bridge next to train one which is blown up right at the border point (you can see it in a video above).
On both trains we were in open cabins with 3 levels of sleeper beds and small chairs and tables in the corridor. It was reasonably comfortable and I managed to get some sleep.
The train to Pyongyang was much the same but far less pleasant. It was very hot and stuffy thanks to people smoking in it and we couldn’t open the windows. I am very happy I caught the train but I was so happy to get off and get some fresh air!
After we crossed the river and made it into North Korea, we went through immigration. The guards came on the train and we couldn’t get off until they had finished processing us.
We had to put all our electronics in one pile and books in another. They went through the reading material (the guard seemed particularly interested in an Ikea like catalogue!) and searched our cameras.
This was quite annoying as he managed to change a setting on my camera so everything was in sepia! And I couldn’t work out how to turn it off!
It seemed somewhat appropriate to take photos in Sepia thanks to how much it feels like North Korea is in a time warp but it meant I had to use my phone for photos. Annoying!
We were also patted down.
Our guide told us that what happens at immigration (in both directions) varies. Sometimes you get absolutely everything checked, sometimes nothing. I was glad we had some type of check as it did add to the experience. I would have been somewhat disappointed to just get straight in.
After the immigration check we could stand on platform, but only just outside the carriage door like I described above.
I bought a beer on the train and got chewing gum as change! This happens as they can have problems with change.
I bought a good lunch on the train although it was pricey at RMB60.
The countryside on the way to Pyongyang looked good. I expected to see signs of extreme poverty but I did not. There were many small villages and not many cars. Most people walked with some on bikes.
Stupidly, it seemed weird to see how normal everyone looked. I say stupidly as I have no idea what I expected. Of course, North Koreans are just like the rest of us but it seemed weird that that was the case to start with!
I flew out of North Korea on Air Koryo, famous for being the world’s only one star airline.
This is completely undeserved and is about sanctions rather than anything else.
The flight was fine. It’s about two hours and was quick and easy especially as it leaves from an airport which must be the least busy of any capital city in the world. There were two flights for the day and our flight had barely any people!
I had the (in)famous burger and some water and, before I knew it, I was back in Beijing. I would never have thought that arriving in China would make me feel so free!
My experience of leaving was very easy. No checks, no questions. Simple.
If you are like me and need to travel to North Korea from Australia, I found the easiest way was to fly to Beijing and do a tour from there. There are plenty of options to get to Beijing (I took China Southern Airlines which was good) and most tours leave from Beijing.
I flew into Beijing late the night before the tour and flew back to Melbourne on the same day as I arrived back from Pyongyang.
I did not take my kids to North Korea. At the time they were aged 0, 5 and 6 and they seemed too young. I think this was the right choice.
There are many rules in North Korea. People are so quiet and obedient. My kids are not. People do take kids of all ages but I think it would be very stressful with young kids.
There are kid friendly attractions in Pyongyang. I saw amusement parks, many playgrounds and read a story about the Natural History Museum. If you do want to take kids to North Korea, you could organise a private tour and make it much more kid friendly (which is what I would advise). It would be hard to visit the bigger monuments unless they know how to behave.
If you are considering doing a group tour with kids, I would not recommend this unless your kids are 12+. I would not take my kids until they are old enough to ask to go themselves. There was a father and teenage son on our trip and he enjoyed it.
My group tour was full on. If your kids can’t handle being out all day (and by that I mean early morning to late at night) then it’s not a good choice. It’s exhausting and there is no option when you have had enough to catch a taxi back to the hotel. You have to stay together.
On the upside with Young Pioneer Tours, under 2’s are free and kids under 13 are 30% off.
Don’t expect to be able to talk to people at home or use the internet in North Korea.
It’s possible to get a sim card but it takes a day and a half to be approved and is expensive so it’s not plausible for a short trip.
When we were in the border region with South Korea, I was able to get reception with my home sim card and communicate with home. I was not able to ring home from the hotel.
You can send postcards back.
The only time we had access to local currency in North Korea was at the department store. Otherwise, we used RMB or Euros. There is no access to more money once you are in the country so make sure you take enough.
I stuck to RMB since it was easy for me to get it on the way. If you want to save money, a bit of both would work best as sometimes things worked out cheaper in one currency than the other. Everything is quite cheap though so it’s not worth worrying about in my opinion.
It’s actually surprisingly affordable to visit North Korea. The cost to visit North Korea is probably lower than you expect. My tour was 790 Euros plus an extra 50 for the visa and 100 to fly out rather than catch the train.
I did not spend much money while I was in the country. You could get away with spending barely anything. Meals are included and drinks are cheap. Most of the money I spent went on some cool souvenirs which are generally very affordable as well.
I loved visiting North Korea.
It challenged and puzzled me and I loved just about every second.
I travel in huge part because I am an experience junkie and this really is an experience like no other. What was real? What was fake? What is it like to be North Korean?
I have no idea but I found it strangely compelling.
Everything and everywhere was much nicer than I imagined. I expected to see extreme poverty at every turn and I did not see it at all.
Of course, what I saw was controlled but at the same time, I travelled the whole length of the country. I saw much of Pyongyang. I have been to places like India, Guatemala, Bolivia. It was nothing like that there.
It was nothing like anywhere which is what I enjoyed most about this experience. It was so captivating that I didn’t even get a chance to miss my family. Usually when I have travelled alone, the experience has been partly ruined by how much I miss the kids, but that was not the case this time.
This doesn’t mean it didn’t have its challenges. Not at all. It was stressful whenever I looked around and didn’t see someone else from my tour immediately. It’s not nice to lose freedom of movement and worry what might happen if you lose the group. At least, it’s not nice if you are a worrier like me. This did not seem to affect everyone.
I wondered and worried about the people and what their lives must be like. How can they be so obedient? Is it that scary to break any type of rule in North Korea?
I loved the local experiences on the tour best like the department store and Moran Hill. It was nice when we were among the people rather than separated like we were a lot of time.
I spent three days in North Korea. A fourth day would have been great but I feel like I saw and experienced so much in those three days that I don’t feel like I missed out either. It was absolutely exhausting though, especially for an over thinker like me.
All in all, I loved visiting North Korea. The only problem is how will any travel experience I have from now on ever live up to this?
Would you like to visit North Korea?