Question from a reader: DMZ tours

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A reader named A. H. writes in:

I have a question about DMZ tours. I have been trying to book myself and a visitor to Korea for the weekend of March 5-7th. I have contacted the USO and have been informed they are no longer conducting tours due to contractual disputes, and do not know when they will be back up and running.

Would you have any information of a tour agency providing (cheap) tours to the DMZ the first weekend of March? I have only found very expensive tours.

Thanks!! I appreciate your help!

A reader named A. H. writes in:

I have a question about DMZ tours. I have been trying to book myself and a visitor to Korea for the weekend of March 5-7th. I have contacted the USO and have been informed they are no longer conducting tours due to contractual disputes, and do not know when they will be back up and running.

Would you have any information of a tour agency providing (cheap) tours to the DMZ the first weekend of March? I have only found very expensive tours.

Thanks!! I appreciate your help!

It may sound rather ironic that a travel writer focusing on Korea hasn’t been to the DMZ; I also hadn’t heard that the USO had stopped offering tours. To be honest, the DMZ doesn’t hold my interest as a place to visit – and since it’s such a widely visited tourist destination, I wouldn’t have much to add to the myriad of stories or posts already out there. Call me blasé if you like, but it’s so been done.

According to the USO’s own website, the stoppage of tours is a ‘2 to 3 week pause’ – perhaps giving them another try at the beginning of February will yield better results. Since tours with companies are offered daily, they’re highly unlikely to be completely booked a month in advance. Just in case they’re not up and running again, there are plenty of other places offering DMZ tours:

Since I can’t recommend a tour based on personal experience, I’ll trust an excellent website’s information – and their recommendations of two companies:

  • Panmunjom Travel Center (02-399-2180) – 77,000 won; tours leave at 10:00 from the Panmunjom Co-op Center at Lotte Hotel
  • Good Morning Tours (02-774-3226) – 78,000 won; tours leave at Lotte Hotel on weekdays or the Donghwa Duty Free Shop on weekends.

Some other tour companies that offer DMZ Tours:

  • Chung-Ang Express Tour (02-2266-3350)
  • Global Tour (02-776-3153)
  • Star Travel (02-569-8114)
  • Grace Travel (AKA New Grace Tour in some older guidebooks) is listed on Life in Korea’s website, and may be worth contacting.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Your clothes – to make sure you don’t end up in a North Korean propaganda photo, don’t wear jeans, revealing shirts, sandals, t-shirt, sports wear, military clothes, etc. In other words, act like you’re going to your boyfriend / girlfriend’s church for the first time.
  • Your camera – there will be places where you’re allowed to take photos and places where you’re not allowed to take photos. Stick with the program, follow the rules, yadda yadda yadda.
  • Your passport – you’ll need it. Keep it someplace safe while walking around, like a pocket.
  • Your attitude – this is not the place to flout the rules. The rules are there because the guards on the other side have been standing there with a loaded weapon in their hands for waaaaaay too long, and would like nothing better than to shoot someone breaking the rules. You will be told the rules – probably more than once – so follow them. You’ll be told not to talk to or approach the North Korean soldiers. With all the headlines coming out of North Korea, I seriously doubt you want to be that person that starts an international incident. You’re not going to cause any change in your half-day tour, so simply smile, follow the rules, and thank the men and women who serve in such a high-strung area.

Because it’s the most common starting point:
To get to the Lotte Hotel, take line 2 of the Seoul subway system to the Euljiro-1-ga station. Take exit 8 to street level, then look left. If coming from City Hall Station (lines 1 and 2), take exit 6, then turn right. At the fork, bear left, then walk 150 meters and turn right. Lotte Hotel will be on your right.

Anybody made a trip to the DMZ? Advice, ideas, comments?

Creative Commons License © Chris Backe – 2010

This post was originally published on my blog, Chris in South Korea. If you are reading this on another website and there is no linkback or credit given, you are reading an UNAUTHORIZED FEED.



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