Citizens of all countries need a visa to enter North Korea, which will not be granted until a package tour has been booked and paid for. US citizens have been allowed to visit the country since 2010, but are banned from train travel, either from Beijing or once inside the country. The easiest way to arrange a visa is through your chosen travel company and your tour guide will hold your visa for the duration of your trip. Visas are normally issued in Beijing and only one percent of applications are refused. If you love showing off your exotic passport locales, you may be disappointed to learn that North Korea has no entry stamp.

Health and Safety

No specific vaccinations are required for entry to North Korea, although all routine shots should be up to date. Tap water is untreated and unsafe, but bottled water will be provided as required by your tour guide and, as with meals in your hotel, is included in the price of your tour. If you’re on any regular medication, supplies must be brought with you as, although medical facilities are clean, they are poorly stocked and outdated. If you get sick, it’s best to head back to China for treatment. Medication for travelers’ diarrhea should be brought with you.

North Korea is a totally safe place to visit provided you are aware that speaking out against the regime or any aspect of the country or its people in any way will lead to big trouble, especially for your guide, who may be blamed for not keeping you in line. You should assume you will be under surveillance at all times, even in your hotel room.

Petty crime is not a problem here, and you will need to get permission to wander around the area of your hotel accompanied by your guide. Common sense should be used in regards photographs and establishing a good relationship with your guide is the way to go to get the best out of the unique North Korean experience. The general rule of thumb is, “if you have nothing good to say, say nothing at all.”