Travel Guide for North Korea (DPRK)

Getting in and out

There are two main ways that the majority of tourists will use to get in and out of North Korea.


This is by far the most popular way to get in and out of North Korea. There is an overnight train from Beijing to Dandong (a Chinese city that lies on the North Korean border). In the morning you will go through Chinese/Korean border formalities and then you'll board your North Korean train to Pyongyang. The total journey takes roughly 24 hours and is a fantastic way to see the North Korean countryside.


There are direct flights between Beijing and Pyongyang daily. This way is much quicker than the train and is a great way to experience North Korea’s airline, Air Koryo. Both train and plane are interesting and unique experiences in themselves, so it's quite popular to do in one way and out the other.

Land Borders

It has previously also been possible to cross into North Korea from China, at the land border near the city of Tumen. This is a very unique border crossing that you cross on foot, and is previously the only way to obtain a North Korean entry stamp in your passport.

It is not known yet whether the land border with Russia will be an option for people looking to leave from Rason to Vladivostok.

See and Do

North Korea is an incredibly beautiful country with many things both natural and man-made to see. For everyone a highlight of a visit to North Korea will be visiting the capital of Pyongyang, with all the amazing monuments such as: The Party Foundation Monument, The Arch of Triumph, The Juche Tower , as well as paying respects to the two large statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il .

North Korea maintains some very pristine natural areas as well that are arguably some of the most beautiful national parks on the entire Korean peninsula. Some of the most notable include:

Kumgangsan National Park located on the south eastern section of the peninsula, along the border with South Korea, has stunning rock formations and waterfalls, and absolutely comes alive in autumn with the changing colours of the leaves.

Chilbosan , located in the north west of the country is also incredibly beautiful, with snow-capped peaks and ancient temples, some of which are now more than 1000 years old.

Mount Paektu is considered to be the most sacred place for all North Koreans and is often depicted in national emblems of the country. It is the highest mountain in all of North Korea at 2,744m and runs along the border with China. This mountain is also able to be visited from the Chinese side where it is referred to as Changbai Shan. The mountain is an active volcano with the most recent activity occurring in 2011.

Wonsan is on the east coast of North Korea and offers a unique look at a more relaxed way of life, with beautiful seaside towns such as Wonsan where families go for beach holidays. Due to its proximity to the coast this area is also very famous for seafood.

Kaesong and the Demilitarised zone (DMZ) – Kaesong is a city that lies very close to the border with South Korea and is filled with many sites relating to the history of ancient Korea, as it was once the ancient capital. This is usually a stop on all visits to the DMZ where you can tour around with military guards and peer into South Korea, visit the room where the 1953 armistice was signed, and also technically cross the border inside the blue UN building.

Dress code

While North Koreans are a more conservative people in general, there is not a strict dress code like in some Islamic countries. Shorts and t-shirts are absolutely fine, especially in hotter months, for both men and women.

Korean people will dress in smart conservative clothing, but you do not have to all the time. In saying this, it is best to avoid clothing with provocative statements or certain flags (especially the flags of the USA, South Korea or North Korea).

For visits to certain places in North Korea we must act respectfully. For these certain sites that require more care you must wear trousers/pants (no jeans) and no clothes with rips. We would suggest a nice polo shirt and slacks for men, and for ladies a nice dress that goes below the knee. If you choose to wear a suit to these more important sites, then that will be very well received.

If you travel in the winter to North Korea, you will be wanting to cover up anyway, as weather can be very cold with temperatures sometimes reaching -20 or below, and with snow being quite common.

Topics of discussion

There are certain things during the tour which we will avoid talking about, and it is very important that if you are unsure, that you first speak with your Saiga guide on whether the topic is appropriate. It’s natural to be curious, however this must be approached in a very diplomatic way when visiting North Korea.

The general rule of thumb is, if you have heard it in the media and it portrays the country in a negative light, then it is to be avoided. This of course does not apply to every single topic, and so this is why talking with your Saiga guide is important if you are unsure. An example of a sensitive topic that is okay to talk about is nuclear testing, which we have been able to discuss previously.


Contrary to popular belief, there is religion in North Korea, however it is not very widespread. There exists a small number of Christians and Buddhists who are allowed to practise their religion. There are a few churches in Pyongyang, and even a single mosque inside the Iranian embassy.

Like with many countries that have had socialist or communist governments, the importance of religion has faded and people no longer see this as an essential part of their life or culture.


North Korea is considered one of the most homogenous countries on earth with the population being almost 100% ethnically Korean. This is due to the complete lack of immigration into the country over the past 70 years.

The areas along the border with North Korea and China are also home to what people in China refer to as ethnic Koreans, known in Chinese as “xian zu ren”. These people look like ethnic Koreans, have many Korean cultural practices, and often speak a dialect of Korean inside China.

Outside of North Korea you can also find ethnic North Koreans living in communities inside Japan. These people are known as “zainichis” which translates to Koreans in Japanese. Zainichis are the descendants of Korean prisoners of war in Japan and the Soviet Union during World War II.


It is a common misconception that photography in North Korea is banned. You can take photos all across North Korea but yes, there are rules. Firstly, you cannot take photos of military at all in the country. Photos of construction are also banned. This is due to the fact that because North Korea has a large military, many of the soldiers will be used to help out with construction projects.

The type of equipment you bring into the country is also restricted. Digital and film cameras as well as your mobile phone are fine to bring into the country, however you should not bring a lens that is over 250mm in size.

You can bring go pros to North Korea, however going across the border you must leave it in its case as its small size will arouse suspicion.

Drones are absolutely a no go for North Korea.

During your visit to North Korea your Saiga guide and local North Korean guide will advise you on when you can and can’t take photos. There will be opportunities to take some great pictures of the country, but you need to follow the advice of your guides, as trying to skirt around these rules will not only cause issues for you, but the group as a whole.



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