Whenever I travel I’m always looking to travel to unique or undiscovered destinations that feel like an adventure and are away from the general tourist trail. I also like to experience a rich culture and learn something for myself and I thought that The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (aka DPRK – North Korea) was the perfect opportunity to combine all of these with the fact nobody I know had been to the country before.
Trips to North Korea aren’t for everybody because you won’t have the freedom to explore the country at will. Your itinerary will have been agreed between your tour company and the North Koreans in advance and every group, even groups of one person, will be accompanied by at least two guides who will be with you for the entire time in the country. You must follow the rules the guides give you and you will not be able to leave your hotel without them.
If that doesn’t bother you, and you are willing to respect North Korean culture, then a trip here can be very rewarding. The architecture, scenery and culture of the country are all beautiful and you will learn a lot. You will also see ane experience a lot of things that you will not find anywhere else in the world.
Many people wonder about the safety of a trip to North Korea, and several of my friends asked me whether my visit would be safe, but I felt safer here than I have in many places around the world. The guides that were with us in country kept us safe and watched out for us all the time and would not have let anything happen to us – they wanted us to have a great time and see the best of North Korea and they did this incredibly well.
I was a little worried about the food before visiting the country – the staple diet always contains Kimchi (cold, spicy pickled cabbage) and I knew I wouldn’t like this but we were always presented with many options for all of our meals. Our breakfasts each morning were buffet style and most evening meals were family service where all of the food was on the table for us to help ourselves. The food was not of the highest quality compared to some places I have visited but it was always filling and you will definitely not go hungry on a trip here.
October 9th – October 16th, 2010 [view blog]
A trip to The DPRK to see the highlight of the country including The DMZ, the sights of Pyongyang and the Arirang Mass Games, among others. I flew into the country on Air Koryo and took the train back to Beijing.
There are so many things to see in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea that even with one of the extended trips that some tour companies offer you will never see everything. Other things I saw, however, include a hot spring resort, the military circus, the maternity hospital, library, an orphanage, a film studio, a cemetary of war heroes, a captured American spy ship, lots of monuments, another museum, a buddhist temple, the tomb of King Kongmin, the birth place of President Kim il-Sung, a city park, a school, the bronze statue of President Kim il-Sung and much more. Every trip to the country will be packed full and you will never find yourself bored.
I am glad I visited this country and would like to visit again some time in the future so that I’m able to see some more of the country. This will have to wait until I visit other places on my to-do list but I feel very honoured to have visited the DPRK and feel it helped me grow as a person. If you’re reading this and are considering visiting you’ll most likely already know if it is a place for you. It’s definitely not a place for families with young children but if you are willing to respect the culture and rules of the country, and want to visit a unique destination, then it is a place I would highly recommend. Trips here can work out pricey compared to some trips but they offer very good value for money when you think about how much is included.
If you decide to visit The DPRK make sure you take plenty of Euros – they will offer the best exchange rate of all currencies you can use and most items are priced in Euros anyway. If you can make sure you take lots of small notes and coins (0.5, 1 and 2 Euros) as you will find these incredibly useful – as will the North Koreans due to the lack of people paying with coins. For example on my last day in Pyongyang the cashier at a souvenir shop saw I had coins and asked if she could have all of the coins I had (around 50 Euros) in exchange for notes of the same value.
(Please note – I have been given permission to include details of my trip on my blog by the tour company but the names of my guides as well as photos of them have left out to respect their privacy. It is forbidden for journalists to visit The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on a tourist visa and it is forbidden for us to publish information about our trip in any capacity without permission. As a result I do NOT give permission for anything I write about North Korea in this blog, or any photos I upload of North Korea, to be used anywhere for any purpose other than reading directly on my blog if you are considering travelling to North Korea as a tourist. In addition I do NOT give permission for my name, my blog’s address, or any photos of me to be used or quoted anywhere for any purpose related to The DPRK. If you breach this notice you will be subject to legal action from the tour company. Thank you for your understanding.
If you feel that the post / page containing this notice breaches any regulations or if it contains any information or photos which should be changed or removed to respect the rules of the tour company or the traditions of The DPRK please let me know ASAP so I can fix the problem.)