Electricity

Electrical current is 120 or 220 volts, 60Hz. They use two-prong plugs, with either round or flat pins. (Plug type A and C.)

Language

Korean is the official language of North Korea, but there are minor differences between the Korean spoken in North and South Korea.

Money

The Korean won (KPW) is the official currency in North Korea.

Tipping

North Korea is not a wealthy country, so guides and hotel staff will appreciate tips. They will never ask for them, however, and there is no standard for what the size of a tip ought to be. Gift giving is an important part of Korean culture and is often an acceptable alternative to tipping. Tourists can show gratitude through gifting male guides with cigarettes, and female guides with chocolates. Literature or media from the outside world are not acceptable gifts, as these items will cause trouble for tourists and their guides.

Health

Recommended routine vaccinations include MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) updates, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and a yearly flu shot. Typhoid and hepatitis A vaccinations are recommended for most travellers, and some travellers should consider hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis and rabies vaccines. All visitors who are older than 16 should get fully vaccinated for COVID-19; proof of a yellow fever vaccination is required for travellers who are older the one, and are arriving from countries where there is a risk of yellow fever transmission. There is a risk of malaria in certain parts of the country, so visitors should use anti-malarial medication and take plenty of insect repellent.

The most common ailment is travellers' diarrhoea, and it can be avoided with basic precautions. Visitors shouldn't eat unwashed fruits and vegetables, or food that has not been cooked. Neither should they drink tap water unless it has been disinfected, boiled or filtered. Visitors who plan to enter North Korea with prescription medication should bring a letter from their doctor detailing what their condition is, and confirming the necessity of their medication; it is also important to find out, from a tour operator, what OTC medication they are allowed to bring.

Medical facilities are limited, so people with underlying problems should avoid travelling to North Korea. The Friendship Hospital in Pyongyang provides adequate surgical facilities, but it's not comparable to major hospitals in nearby Asian countries. Visitors should have medical insurance with provision for air evacuation to well-developed medical facilities in Beijing.

Safety

Crime against foreigners is rare but visitors should always carry ID, and normal travel precautions are advised. All tourism in North Korea is guided, so visitors should not leave the group and wander off alone, as this could result in serious reprimand from police or officials, and their tour guide is likely to bear the brunt of this.

Visitors shouldn't criticise the government and they should stick to photographic regulations. All contraband media will be confiscated and there are strict laws regarding contraband items; tour operators can furnish tourists with a list of safe and contraband items.

All travel outside of Pyongyang must be government sanctioned and local taxi drivers are unlikely to take visitors anywhere unaccompanied by a guide. The situation at the demilitarised zone between the DPRK and South Korea is changeable, and relations between the two countries remain tense.

Local customs

Locals warm up to friendly travellers who respect tour rules and take the time to learn a few Korean phrases. In terms of social etiquette, bowing is the normal form of greeting (the deeper the bow, the more respect being shown), and travellers will be expected to remove their shoes when entering certain buildings or places of historical interest.

Bowing to pictures and statues of the supreme family is also expected. Homosexuality is not illegal, but is discouraged and frowned upon by the authorities. Smart clothing is preferable to casual, meaning collared shirts are a better choice than T-shirts, and trousers and neat jeans will go over better than shorts or tracksuits.


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Duty free

Information on the exact amounts of duty-free cigarettes, tobacco and liquor allowed is unclear and it is best to check with a tour operator before visiting North Korea. Prohibited items include binoculars, guns and ammunition, explosives, drugs, seeds, pornography, certain types of media and books or literature in Korean. Gifts, cameras, watches, tape recorders and precious metals must be declared on arrival.


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Passport & Visa

Passports must be valid on arrival, visitors must hold tickets and documents required for their next destination, and they must have sufficient funds to cover their stay. It is highly recommended that travellers' passports have at least six months' validity remaining after the intended date of departure from their travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Entry requirements

United States citizens must have a valid passport. A visa is required.

UK citizens must have a valid passport. A visa is required.

Canadian citizens must have a valid passport. A visa is required.

Australian citizens must have a valid passport. A visa is required.

South African citizens must have a valid passport. A visa is required.

Irish citizens must have a valid passport. A visa is required.

New Zealand citizens must have a valid passport. A visa is required.

Useful contacts


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Embassies / consulates in other countries

Embassy of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, London, United Kingdom: +020 8992 4965.

Embassy of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Pretoria, South Africa: +012 991 8661

Embassies / consulates in North Korea

Embassy of Sweden, Pyongyang, North Korea (also responsible for the United States): +850 2 3817 485

Embassy of the United Kingdom, Pyongyang: (850) 2 381 7982

Embassy of Sweden, Pyongyang, North Korea (also responsible for Canada): +850 2 3817 485

Embassy of Sweden, Pyongyang, North Korea (also responsible for Australia): +850 2 3817 485

Embassy of the United Kingdom, Pyongyang (also responsible for South Africa): (850) 2 381 7982

Embassy of the United Kingdom, Pyongyang (also responsible for New Zealand): (850) 2 381 7982

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