North Korea – DPRK Tour
What Next for The World's Most Isolated State?
We look at life inside North Korea under the leadership of Kim Jung Un. The tour is led by the world renown Korea expert, Prof. Rudiger Frank.
Dates: Sat 9 – Tues 19 Sept, 2017
Single Supplement: £500
US citizens are entitled to travel to the DPRK and can take part in our tours.
The tour aims to provide both the latest analysis on the region with pre-tour briefings from leading experts on the region in Beijing, and an inside view of life in the country with visits to areas rarely seen by foreigners.
Most tours to North Korea focus on monuments and the country’s official history. Political Tours is perhaps the only tour company to travel with its own expert who can provide additional briefings during the tour on the country and government as well as the recent transition of power to General Kim Jung Un after his father, Kim Jung Il’s death in 2011.
Our itinerary in the DPRK also encompasses areas that few foreigners have seen. We gain rare access to factories, a university, a farm and several schools. The tour is designed to give the best possible insight into the lives of ordinary Koreans today. We travel to Pyongyang where we look at the structure of the state and government today, with briefings from official Korean guides on recent history, as well as the role of Korea’s Juche philosophy and the continuing importance of the Kim family to North Korea today.
There will be between 8 and 14 participants on this tour. Our prices do not include the cost of flights to Beijing and Pyongyang. The cost of the plane to Pyongyang from Beijing is €305.00 (Jan 2017) and must be purchased before departure in Beijing. We can make a reservation on your behalf. The return trip is by train and is included in the price.
Day One: Arrival in Beijing & Welcome
Dinner with Political Tours staff.
Day Two & Three: Pre-Tour Briefings in Beijing
Talks by leading regional and international experts on the DPRK. Our guests will give talks and join us at lunch and dinner. Korean and Chinese food. We have also arranged optional tours of historic Beijing. Dinner and overnight in Beijing.
Day Four: Pyongyang
Flight to Pyongyang. Tour of key sites: Arch of Triumph, Fountain Park and Mansudae Grand Monument, the largest statue of Kim Il Sung and a place of pilgrimage for North Koreans. Dinner and overnight in Pyongyang.
Day Five: Nampo, Industry & Agriculture
War Museum, the DPRK’s take on the Korean war. Followed by an early lunch in Pyongyang and travel to Nampo, North Korea’s main city and port on the western coast. Upon arrival we visit a co-operative farm and tour three key industrial sites that shed light on the DPRK’s economy; the Chollima Steelworks, the Taeian heavy machine tool complex and a glass factory. Dinner at the Mullet Soup restaurant in Nampo, and overnight at the Ryonggang Hot Spa guesthouse.
Day Six: West Sea Barrage & Sinchon War Crimes Museum
The West Sea Barrage is a colossal structure on Korea’s western coast. View film of how it was made, and cross the barrage. Drive through Kuwol Mountains to Sinchon, site of the “US War Crimes Museum,” which commemorates the alleged massacre of North Koreans by US soldiers during the war. Buddhist temple, picnic lunch in Sinchon area. On to Kaesong, ancient capital of Korea. Tour of town centre park and Kim Il Sung Statue and a walk in the old city. Dinner and overnight in Minsok Hotel, Kaesong.
Day Seven: DMZ and Pyongyang
Panmunjom is the site of the ‘truce village’ in the Demilitarised Zone or DMZ where North and South go toe-to-toe. Visit local park with Kim Il Sung Statue and lunch in the ‘reunification restaurant’. The Concrete Wall; we travel deep into the DMZ to a military observation post where you can view the anti-tank barriers erected in South Korea.
Return to Pyongyang. Grand People’s Study House, home of huge library where students can work. Meeting with students and director. Visit the Party Founding Museum where Russia’s influence on the founding of the DPRK can be seen. Dinner at Pyongyang Pizza Restaurant. Overnight in Pyongyang.
Day Eight: Mangyongdae Native House, Mansudae Art Studio & Three Revolutions Exhibition
Visit to Mangyongdae Native House, the reconstructed house and birthplace of Kim Il Sung in 1912. Mansudae Art Studio, a giant art factory – an opportunity to buy local and official art pieces. Extended ride on the Pyongyang Metro. Lunch in Pyongyang followed by The Three Revolutions Exhibition. This giant museum space displays North Korea’s industrial endeavours, from satellite construction to mining and robotics. Visit to the USS Pueblo, American espionage vessel captured in 1968, and still officially part of the US Navy. Walk along the Taedong River, followed by drinks in a local bar. Dinner in Mangyongdae District. Kaeson Youth Funfair, a modern funfair one of the city’s most popular venues. Overnight in Pyongyang.
Day Nine: Kumsusan Memorial Palace
Kim Il Sung’s giant mausoleum. This is perhaps the most important site for the DPRK where both Kim Il Sung and Kim Jung Il now lie in state. Visit to Kim Il Sung square, the central square where military ceremonies and march passes are held. This is followed by lunch and a trip to Moranbong Park, a meeting place for ordinary Koreans and the Tower of the Juche Idea, a 170m stone monument devoted to the guiding philosophy of the country. Visit to the Pyongyang bowling centre and dinner in the Diplomatic Club. Final night in Pyongyang.
Day Ten: Leave North Korea
Departure from Pyongyang. Return to Beijing by train. We depart at 10.10 and arrive in Beijing 08.23 next day. Transport to airports can be arranged.
Our tour information for travel to the DPRK is quite extensive, and you may wish to print it. Unfortunately we are unable to take journalists on this tour.
How to make your North Korea Tour booking
To reserve a place on a tour please complete the booking form and send it to Political Tours Ltd together with your non-refundable deposit of 15% of the total holiday cost or £250 per person (whichever is the greater) made payable to Political Tours Limited.
If you are booking less than 8 weeks prior to departure the full cost of the tour is payable.
What is included in the North Korean Tour?
The price includes accommodation in 4 star hotels in Beijing and 3 star hotels in the DPRK as well as all meals during the visit. All the accommodation includes private bathrooms.
Please be aware that Political Tours is a land only tour operator. Our clients travel from many countries and the costs of flights to and from the destination are not included in the price.
Documentation Required for Travel to China and the DPRK
You will require a passport valid for at least six months after the date of your trip, a DPRK visa, as well as a double entry visa for entry into China. Visas are not issued at the airport.
You must obtain a double-entry visa for China. It can be obtained through a local Chinese consulate or embassy, or through a visa service company. It is occasionally possible to obtain a re-entry visa at the Chinese Embassy in Pyongyang, however this is closed for weekends and holidays in both DPRK and China so is not to be relied upon as anything but a last resort, please do your very best to obtain a double entry Chinese visa for the trip and inform us if you have not been able to do so.
We ask you to complete application for the tours one month before the departure date, in some cases (if you live in Beijing for example) this can be reduced but one month is the optimum time. The visa can be issued in Beijing just before the tour or in your home country (if you have a DPRK Embassy there), you should let us know when you intend to leave your home country so that we can arrange the best place to have the visa issued.
At no time at all do you need to send us your passport, we do not need it at any point in the applications process.
The visa can be issued to our agents in Beijing on your behalf. We don't require your actual passport for the visa at any time, just the passport copy you will have already sent us along with 2 passport photos. The visas are issued separate to the passports and passports are not stamped at any time. The tour leader and guides retain possession of the visas at all times during the trip. The fee is 50 Euros if issued in Beijing. Fees at other embassies may vary.
We travel to Pyongyang from Beijing by train. This is included in the tour price. The trip takes approximately 24 hours, part of which is spent at the border.
There is only one class of accommodation available for the 24 hour journey and that is soft sleeper class meaning 4 beds to each cabin, 12 cabins to each carriage.
Each carriage has 2 western style toilets and a samovar for boiling water available for the whole trip. The trains are safe and although the 2 international carriages are attached to a very large local train when in China, only the international passengers can get into the international carriages so there is nobody wandering around who shouldn't be.
It is possible to book a flight to Pyongyang although this is not included in our tour price. Flights to and from the DPRK are on the national airline, Air Koryo, or Air China - these are the only 2 airlines flying between Beijing and Pyongyang.
When in DPRK you will travel by bus or minibus depending on the size of the group.
Appropriate and adequate travel insurance is essential and is a condition of travelling with us. Your policy must include comprehensive medical cover i.e. the costs of evacuation and repatriation from the remote destinations included in your tour in the event of illness or accident in addition to other medical requirements.
Please provide us with confirmation of the name of your insurance company, the policy number and the insurers’ emergency contact telephone number for use in a medical emergency no later than 8 weeks prior to the tour departure. If you fail to do so, we are entitled to cancel your booking and apply the cancellation charges shown below.
You must also ensure that the policy will protect you in the event that you travel to an area against the advice of the Foreign Office.
Hazards Inherent in Our Tours
It is in the nature of the itineraries we offer that the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office may have issued advice against all travel or all but essential travel in relation to the country or parts of the country we are intending to visit prior to confirmation of your booking. Where the FCO issues such advice, we may as a result cancel your tour or make changes so as to avoid the area concerned (see clauses 10 and 12 of our Terms and Booking Conditions). Alternatively, we may ask you to sign a form confirming you wish to proceed with the tour notwithstanding the FCO advice.
Currently there are no travel warnings in place for the DPRK but you are advised to check with the FCO Travel Advice website page before you travel:
Our Cancellation Charges
If you feel you need to cancel a tour before departure we reserve the right to make the following charges.
Period before departure within which written notification of cancellation is received by us, and the charge per person cancelling.
Up to 56 days Deposit
55 to 28 days 50%
27 to 15 days 75%
14 days or less 100%
On receipt of your booking form and deposit we will confirm your booking in writing, then approximately 8 weeks before departure we shall send you further information relevant to your tour together with a final invoice.
Please pay the invoice within 10 days of the invoice date otherwise we reserve the right to treat the booking as cancelled and apply the cancellation conditions as set out below. Your travel documents are dispatched about 7/10 days before the tour departs.
Getting to DRPK
Arrival in DPRK
When arriving or leaving by train customs officials board the train and hand out forms that need to be completed and then take these in along with your passports and visas for checking, while this is being done they conduct a hand-search of all baggage, this can be quite thorough so be prepared for it. The customs officers are not out to steal anything or extort anyone, it is just that they don't have an X-Ray machine at the station so have to do it all by hand, this can take more than an hour for each carriage.
After this is done the passports and visas are returned and the train continues its journey. At no point do you have to get off the train, or take your bags off the train, the engines do not need to be changed and the same carriage continues for the rest of the journey. If you enter DPRK by train the Korean guides meet you on arrival at Pyongyang station.
If you fly to Pyongyang the procedure is slightly different. Upon arrival at the airport in Pyongyang, you will go through Immigration and Customs which is a reasonably straightforward, albeit slow, procedure. You will need to fill out a customs declaration and entry form, along with a health declaration on the plane or in the Arrival Hall. Once you have passed through Passport Control you will enter a small baggage claim area to collect your bags. These bags will be X-rayed and may be inspected before you can leave the baggage claim area. A small number of trolleys are available to move your baggage outside to the waiting tour bus. This is where you will be met by the guides.
Baggage and International Flights
For flights between China and the DPRK on Air Koryo your total baggage allowance is 20kg plus one carry-on bag. The airline may charge passengers for overweight luggage. If you have more than 20kg of luggage, or have items you don't wish to carry with you into the DPRK, luggage storage is available at the Beijing Capital International Airport for a small fee. Alternatively, you can store small items and valuables at our office in Beijing; however, we can't take responsibility for any loss/damage.
Please note that Air Koryo operates Ilyushin and Tupolev model planes, these do not have a lot of storage space inside the cabin so only carry on small bags, bags the size of which are regularly carried on flights in US, Europe, etc cannot be accommodated by the overhead bins on these flights.
Security and Crime
Petty crime is exceptionally rare in DPRK. Nonetheless, it always pays to be careful when you are traveling especially in major cities. Do not carry large amounts of money around. Always lock room doors. There is a safe in each room in the Yanggakdo Hotel - please do use this as the hotel will not take any responsibility for lost or stolen items.
Health & Hygiene
As elsewhere in Asia, the most common problem experienced in the DPRK is a stomach upset or perhaps a cold. We recommend you pack your own anti-diarrheal medications and any other personal products you think you might need. There are almost no drugs or any of the usual medicaments to be had in the DPRK, not even Tylenol/acetaminophen.
It is a good idea to bring a broad-spectrum antibiotic in case your diarrhea turns out to be bacterial in nature, or you sustain an infection of some kind. On group tours your tour leader will carry a basic first aid kit, but cannot prescribe, recommend or give you any prescription medicines, so we strongly encourage you to discuss with your doctor what you need to bring.
We also recommend you bring a duplicate supply of any prescription drugs you regularly take, and keep them separately from the main supply, in case of loss.
Medical facilities in the DPRK are basic, with very few drugs and little equipment available. Hospitals and clinics are subject to power cuts. Blood and blood products may not be screened. There is often a DPRK doctor at the hotel but in more serious cases please ask your guide to take you to the compound of the WFP (Munsudong) where there is a UN surgery. If you do become seriously ill you will need to be evacuated to Beijing for treatment.
Rules Specific to Our Tours in DPRK
Please be aware that whilst we do the utmost for our tourists you K are under very strict regulations as to what we can and cannot do. For example; you are not free to wander around on your own, there are photographic restrictions and video cameras are generally prohibited. The main problem is with journalists who have tried to enter the DPRK with us but without informing us of their status. This has led to two serious instances which caused significant trouble for our guides. WE CANNOT TAKE JOURNALISTS INTO THE DPRK. We therefore ask all journalists to notify us of their position so we can suggest other alternatives.
It is therefore only advisable visiting the DPRK if you can tolerate the following points:
1) In the DPRK you will be under close scrutiny from the guides and security. Use of cameras causes the majority of problems. You can only take a photograph of what the guides allow. The public are obliged to report all photography. Taking photos of soldiers, at check points, poverty, sneaked photos and close ups of people without their express permission will cause serious problems. Photography when being driven around is also restricted. Even what we would interpret as 'day-to-day' harmless scenes may cause problems. It is too easy to get carried away and think that it is not causing offence or would not put the guides in danger. This is not the case and therefore we ask our tourists to take a very responsible attitude even though it may mean missing the photographic opportunity. If the group gets the confidence of the guides you will have amazing opportunities for photography and you will miss out on very little. DPRK regulations state that you cannot take a lens over 150 mm into the country.
2) Leaving the hotel without the guides or the guides' express permission is not possible. If you are feeling the need for 'a breath of fresh air' then a casual stroll along the river is possible but only if accompanied by a guide. It is possible to stroll in the grounds of the hotel but please ask the guide and do not take your camera.
3) We are 'invited' to the DPRK and therefore we ask our tourists to respect the Koreans and their vision of the Great Leader - this involves bowing at the 20 metre statue on Mansudae and on various other occasions. Chewing gum, eating sweets and wearing scruffy clothing in places of Korean national importance (such as Mansudae statue to Kim Il Sung, the Friendship Exhibition and Manyongdae birthplace of Kim Il Sung) will offend guides.
In all these instances it is the guides that get into trouble and not you. If you are happy just to be taken around the 'system' with all the diatribe and trimmings, then you will have the most amazing experience. If any of the above poses a problem it is advisable not to visit the DPRK as we have too many experiences of seeing guides put in serious trouble by tourists who are not aware of their actions.
The laws of DPRK prohibit journalists and photographers (full or part-time) from traveling on tourist visas. We do not make the laws in DPRK but our work is subject to them, if a journalist/photographer poses as a tourist and manages to join one of our tours then we will be put out of business (as happened for 9 months in 1997 when an undercover journalist joined a tour) and, more importantly the guides who we work with in DPRK who are responsible for the actions of the tourists while in their country would be endangered.
Since 1993 we have worked on film-making, sports and cultural exchanges, etc as well as tourism and are working to help open North Korea to the outside world and we want to continue in this business. We ask journalists/photographers to please respect our position and DO NOT APPLY for a visa with Political Tours. We are happy to assist journalists/photographers with any information that they may require, with information on getting into the country and we can contact you when the rules are relaxed or opportunities appear.
Writing & Prior Permission
We cannot allow the writing of articles/publishing of photographs from our trips without prior permission and we would be obliged to take proceedings against anyone who breaks our trust. If you plan on writing a blog, article or online journal, about the tour or putting photographs from the trip online please consult us. As much as we support dissemination of information we do have to protect our guides and ourselves.