Travelling into North Korea : Travel Guide

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Guest Post submitted by Sarah Crompton

Few people from Western nations choose North Korea as their travel destination because they do not know much about this country, and they expect North Koreans to be politically biased.

Guest Post submitted by Sarah Crompton

Few people from Western nations choose North Korea as their travel destination because they do not know much about this country, and they expect North Koreans to be politically biased.

Contrary to popular belief, people in the country look happy, and friendly, though there are restrictions in talking to them. A tourist guide is mandatory in this country so that people do not stray into prohibited territories, and do not lose their way. The country changes its tourism policies quite often, but the private tour operators who are licensed to offer such services are conversant with such policies. In fact, people can visit this nation only through these tour operators. At present, there are not many tour operators. Of these, Uri Tours, Koryo Tours, and Young Pioneer Tours are popular travel companies. These companies offer a complete package, which includes obtaining visas, organizing guided tours, and hotel stay apart from flights and other transportation.

Malaysians have been exempt from visa requirements for touring this country. Even Chinese tourists can travel by road from China into this country, though they do need visa for a visit.

For people from other countries, visa can be an issue in this country. Recently, however, people holding US passports are also being granted special permissions. Journalists from western countries, especially the US, were not allowed to enter this country but the country amended this policy. So from 2010, journalists, and citizens from other countries, including the US can tour the country with special permission from North Korean authorities.

Another positive amendment to the tourism policy is the usage of cell phones. Formerly, people were not allowed to use cell phones. Recently, however, the country amended this policy and allowed tourists to use their cell phones provided the sim card used in their cell phones was a North Korean sim card. Tourists can purchase such simcards at Pyongyang. Other simcards become useless within the country as they cannot be used either for incoming calls or for outgoing calls.

While the tourists are not allowed to freely roam in this country, the fact remains that North Korea, which is the popular name of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or DPRK, is a beautiful country.

The country is endowed with breathtakingly beautiful natural locations such as Mount Kumgang, Baekdu Mountain and Kaesong. Towards its border with China, there is the Heaven Lake as well which offers panoramic view of the lake amidst the colorful mountains and teal blue skies.

Within Pyongyang, there is the Juche Tower, which looks majestic in the day time, and spectacular in the night. The limited illumination around it during the night time, makes the tower seem like tall white laser torch standing tall amidst its dark surroundings. The reflection of this illuminated structure in the water body nearby adds to its charm. At the top of the Juche tower is a bright red colored flame shaped structure, which can also be seen in the night.

The Pyongyang Central Zoo is another place that tourists are taken to by the guide. Attempts were made to keep only the indigenous species in this one square kilometer sized zoo. However, the policies were revised, and some unique species that were received as gifts have also been housed here. Unlike in the Western zoos, different varieties of animals are made to live in one cage, which is unique to this zoo. Another unusual fact about this zoo is that even dogs are kept here. North Koreans are not allowed to own dogs as pets, because of which people become familiar to them from this zoo.

Most of the Western tourists arrive in DPRK for the Arirang Festival. This festival is held from early August to September 10th. Basically, it is a festival of mass games, gymnastics, and other artistic performances. The venue for these displays a stadium within Pyongyang. The capital becomes strikingly beautiful around that time due to illuminations and decorations everywhere.



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