Tomb of King Tongmyong, Pyongyang, North Korea
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Tomb of King Tongmyong, Pyongyang, North Korea

© Creative Commons / yeowatzup

North Korea Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

120,538 sq km (45,540 sq miles).

Population

24.7 million (2013).

Population density

205.1 per sq km.

Capital

Pyongyang.

Government

Communist Republic.

Head of state

First Chairman Kim Jong-un since 2011.

Head of government

Premier Pak Pong-ju since 2013.

Electricity

240 volts AC, 60Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins are commonly used.

North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) shares borders with China, the Sea of Japan, the Yellow Sea and the demilitarised zone (separating it from the Republic of Korea).

North Korea's capital, Pyongyang, was completely rebuilt after the Korean War as a city of wide avenues, neatly designed parks and enormous marble public buildings. The Palace of Culture, the Grand Theatre, the Juche Tower and the Ongrui Restaurant epitomise the Korean variant of Communist architecture. The Gates of Pyongyang and the Arch of Triumph (built in honour of Kim Il-Sung's 70th birthday) are particularly impressive. Many ancient buildings in Kaesong (six hours from the capital by train) bear witness to Korea's 500-year-old imperial history. The town is surrounded by beautiful pine-clad hills.

Kumgangsan is the country's largest national park, consisting of a range of mountains (known as 'the Diamond Mountains') along the east coast of the country.Note that only travel companies officially recognised by the North Korean Authorities are permitted to bring groups of tourists to Korea (Dem Rep). Independent tourism is not permitted, and foreigners must be accompanied by a guide at all times.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 30 October 2014

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.

In response to the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, the government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) announced on 25 October 2014 that no tourists would be allowed to enter the DPRK until further notice.

On 30 October 2014, the DPRK further announced that foreign nationals intending to enter the country, regardless of their point of origin, would be subject to 21 days in quarantine. Under these new measures:

  • travellers to North Korea from regions and countries the DPRK considers may have been affected by the Ebola virus, including Africa, will be quarantined for a period of 21 days in a government appointed hotel under medical supervision
  • travellers entering North Korea from any other country will be quarantined in hotels appointed by their DPRK host organisation
  • diplomatic personnel and members of international organisations resident in DPRK will be quarantined in their respective missions

If you’re planning to travel to North Korea as an official visitor or tourist, you should contact your sponsor or tour company for further advice. There have been no reported cases of Ebola in DPRK.

The DPRK authorities have also announced that anyone intending to enter the DPRK as an official visitor from a country the DPRK considers may have been affected by the Ebola virus will be put into quarantine for a period of 21 days from the date of departure from the affected area. If you’re planning to travel to North Korea as an official visitor, you should contact your sponsor for further advice. There have been no suspected cases of Ebola in DPRK.

In recent months, the political situation in North Korea has been relatively calm, although the situation could change quickly. On 10 October 2014, activists in South Korea released balloons near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) border containing anti-DPRK leaflets. The DPRK responded by firing at the balloons, prompting an exchange of fire between South Korean and DPRK military. This has not been occurring in areas open to tourists in North Korea.

British nationals resident in or travelling to the DPRK who are not with tour groups should inform the British Embassy in Pyongyang about their travel plans prior to, or on arrival.

You can’t enter or leave North Korea through the border with South Korea without special permission.

The British Embassy Pyongyang can provide only limited consular assistance to those visiting parts of the DPRK outside the capital Pyongyang due to restricted access.

Flooding is common in the rainy season (July to August).

There is a low threat from terrorism.

Very few British nationals visit North Korea and those that do are usually part of an organised tour. Most visits are trouble-free. However, the North Korean authorities have arrested other legal visitors, including 3 US citizens during recent years.

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