We recommend that visitors staying for any length of time register with the British Embassy in Pyongyang.
SAFETY AND SECURITY
There is no recent history of terrorism in the DPRK. We are unaware of any evidence of a threat to western interests from terrorism in the DPRK. But British nationals should be aware of the risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, in all countries of the world, against civilian targets in public places, including tourist sites.
Travel within the DPRK is restricted. Generally permission is required for any travel beyond a 30km radius of Pyongyang. Even within Pyongyang you will only be allowed to go where your guide is content for you to go.
If you are travelling as part of a tour group then it is likely that the agent will already have obtained all requisite permission for travel, as per the itinerary, however it is advisable to check before travelling. Roads leading from Pyongyang have police checkpoints, where identity documents may have to be produced before onward travel is permitted. There are also checkpoints outside all main cities.
A limited number of hire cars, with the licence prefix "50", are available from hotels, or outside department stores.
International driving licences are not accepted in the DPRK and in order to drive, you must be in possession of a local licence. For foreign nationals resident in the DPRK, this can be obtained after taking a local driving test.
Rail travel is possible, but timetables are not published; it is best to check well in advance of travel and tickets can only be bought through an agent, and not at the station on the day. Lack of electricity can often affect trains. There are no long distance buses.
Direct flights from Beijing to Pyongyang run twice-weekly on Air Koryo, the national airline of the DPRK.
Air Koryo uses IL-62 and TU-154 jet aircraft plus AN-24 turboprop aircraft on its international routes, and 12 turbo-props on domestic routes. It is IATA bonded.
International aircraft maintenance procedures and safety standards on some flights are not always properly observed. There are no Western airlines currently serving the DPRK.
LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS
It is best not to bring books and papers in Korean language with you. Mobile telephones and GPS systems are not permitted in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and must be deposited on entry and collected on departure at the Customs checkpoint.
Tipping is officially frowned upon, but is increasingly expected by some hotel staff.
All visitors to the DPRK must have a valid British passport. Visitors should contact the Embassy of the DPRK in London (North Korean representation in the UK
) for further information about obtaining visas.
Registration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is required for stays over twenty-four hours, but most hotels will automatically complete this process on your behalf.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and Department of Health (DoH) are no longer advising against travel to any destination because of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) concerns. The DPRK government has suspended the quarantine and isolation measures taken to prevent the introduction of SARS into the country.
Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)
The electricity supply in hospitals both in and outside Pyongyang is not constant, and the facilities and standard of care are not the same as in the UK. You should avoid invasive surgery if at all possible.
You should ensure that you take sufficient supplies of any medication that you may require, as it not possible to purchase supplies of most foreign manufactured medicines and local medical supplies are severely limited. We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive medical insurance before travelling to DPRK.
There have been outbreaks of malaria reported in the DPRK; therefore visitors should take appropriate precautions. Prior to travel you should seek medical advice on required immunisations and medication.
Cholera is a risk in the DPRK and precautions are essential. You should seek up-to-date advice before deciding whether these precautions should include a vaccination, as medical opinion is divided over its effectiveness.
All water is a potential health risk. For drinking and brushing teeth, you should use bottled water.
Milk is unpasteurised and should be boiled. Powdered or tinned milk is available and is advised, but make sure it is reconstituted with pure water. Avoid dairy products, which are likely to have been made from unboiled milk. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish, preferably served hot. Pork, salad and mayonnaise may carry increased risk. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled.
Flooding is common in the rainy season (July – August). This can disrupt travel especially to rural areas. You are advised to check that routes are passable before setting out on long journeys.
We strongly recommend that all travellers abroad should take out adequate comprehensive insurance including insurance cover for unexpected losses such as cancelled flights, theft of passport or luggage.
You should ensure that you carry some form of identification when travelling in the DPRK. Hotels will want passports for registration, but you should ask for them back after an hour or so.
It is always advisable to ask permission before taking any photographs. Photographs of Korean officials or guarded or protected buildings should be avoided.
Cash is the most acceptable form of payment, and the Euro is the most widely recognised and accepted form of payment (replacing the dollar, as of 1 December 2002). Local currency is the Korean won. The import and export of local currency is prohibited. The import and export of foreign currency is unrestricted subject to declaration on arrival.
The main hotels in Pyongyang will take credit and debit cards (Visa and Mastercard but not American Express). Travellers’ cheques are not accepted. Hotels generally insist on full payment in advance when checking in.
It is also essential to reconfirm your ticket booking for your return journey some days before you travel, as an issued air ticket does not guarantee a seat, unless it has been confirmed and endorsed prior to travel. For most travellers this will be done by their travel agents or inviting organisation in the DPRK.