North Korea — officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — borders China, the Sea of Japan, the Yellow Sea, and the demilitarized zone that separates the country from the Republic of Korea (South Korea). The capital of North Korea, Pyongyang, was completely rebuilt after the Korean War and today has wide streets, neat parks and gigantic marble public buildings. The Palace of Culture, Grand Opera House, Chuch’e Tower and Ongrui Restaurant are typical examples of the communist architectural style. The city gates of Pyongyang and the triumphal arch erected to commemorate Kim Il-Sung’s 70th birthday, are particularly impressive. Many historic buildings in Kaesong—a city a six-hour train ride from the capital—are testimony to the 500-year history of the Korean Empire. Beautiful mountains with pine forests surround them. Kumgangsan on the east coast is the largest national park in the People’s Republic of Korea and consists of the mountain range known as the Diamond Mountains. Only tour operators officially recognized by the People’s Republic of Korea are allowed to bring tour groups to Korea. Individual tourism is not permitted and foreigners must be accompanied by a tourist guide at all times.
According to top-medical-schools, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is one of the most isolated countries on earth. Tourists can move around the country only when accompanied by an interpreter or a controller; Regions accessible to foreigners are restricted. Travel outside of the capital requires a permit and is subject to strict surveillance by the security authorities. Contacts with the local population are prohibited under threat of punishment. Individual tourism of a European standard does not exist; the level of tourist infrastructure is extremely low even in accessible areas.
Arriving by plane
The national airline of the DPRK is Air Koryo (JS). However, the Federal Foreign Office warns against using this airline due to safety deficiencies that have been identified several times in Air Koryo (JS) aircraft. Air China (CA) flies from Frankfurt/M., Vienna and Zurich via Beijing to Pyongyang and also in cooperation with Lufthansa (LH) from Frankfurt/M. and Munich and with Swiss (LX) from Zurich.
Frankfurt/M. – Pyongyang: 13 hrs 5 mins; Munich – Pyongyang: 14 hrs 5 mins; Vienna – Pyongyang: 15 hrs 40 mins; Zurich – Pyongyang: 13 hrs 20 mins
There are no airport taxes.
Arrival by car
There are road connections from Dandong, Luta, Liaoyang, Jilin and Changchun (all in China) and Vladivostok (Russian Federation); However, tourists are only allowed to enter by plane or train.
Arrival by train
Train connections exist between Pyongyang and Beijing (journey time: approx. 24 hours) and to Moscow in the Russian Federation (journey time: 6 1/2 days). Detailed information is available on site. There are currently no train connections to the Republic of Korea.
Arrival by ship
It is not possible for tourists to arrive by ship.
Traveling by plane
Charter flights from Pyongyang to Chongjin, Hamhung, Mount Paektusang, Sinuiju and Wonsan are operated by Air Koryo (JS); however, foreign tourists are not allowed to use domestic flights.
Traveling by car/bus
There are police checkpoints on all roads leading out of the capital, where you have to identify yourself.
Right-hand traffic/left-hand traffic
Condition of the roads
Major roads are often double lane and well maintained; however, signs are mostly missing.
There are no bus connections between the cities.
The international driving license is not recognised; Tourists are not allowed to drive a motor vehicle in the country.
Traveling in the city
Pyongyang has a subway and trolleybuses.
Locally on the way by train
There are regular but time-consuming connections from Pyongyang to Sinuiju, Haeju and Chongjin. Timetables are not available in printed form and it is recommended to purchase tickets through a travel agent.