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North Korea Travel: Tips on How to Visit (and Also Catch the Mass Games)

by  J. Thalia Cunningham


In previous installments (see links at bottom), I described visiting North Korea, officially called the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and attending its famous synchronized Mass Games. But here are some specifics on how to visit (and even attend the games, still running through this October). So here are a few tips on visiting the DPRK:

  • As a citizen of the U.S.A., I entered and exited via Beijing, so I needed a double-entry Chinese visa. This is the case for many, although not all, nationals.

  •  The present time limit in-country for U.S. citizens is seven nights, but there are longer limits for nationals from many other countries. Moreover, notes tour operator Simon Cockerell, with whose company (Koryo) I traveled, the seven-night time limit for Americans could change.

  •  In 2010 the restriction that U.S. citizens could only travel during the Mass Games was lifted. Of course, that, too, could change.

  • Kim Il Sung's centenary occurs in 2012, so watch for special programs and tour packages associated with this event.

  • There have been no threats to US citizens visiting the DPRK since the little spat over US participating in the game of battleship between DPRK and South Korea. Or at any time,” says Cockerell. I would add that because it is a police state, the DPRK is, for better or for worse, safer to visit than most countries in the world. By the way, they told us that if we do something we shouldn't, we wouldn't get in trouble, but our guides would.

  • Flights: I flew to China on British Airways' partner Cathay Pacific to Beijing. Highly recommended.

  • Koryo Tours and Bestway Tours & Safaris are experts on North Korea. Don't be put off by the fact that one is located in Beijing and the other in Vancouver. They both know the territory, and they'll respond to your queries faster and more thoroughly than most other tour operators.

  • Prices: Koryo's itineraries range from a two-night Mass Games Mini-Break I package (790€* per person, double occupancy, plus surcharges) to the Summer Exclusive Tour ((2,190€ plus surcharges.) Koryo was offering a 16-night, 3,350€ Ultimate Mega-Tour, but curiously, the very high-end tours are sold out. So far Bestway's itineraries include an 11-day cultural tour featuring the Mass Games for approximately $4,000 per person. 


Previous installments in this series:

Part 3: North Korea Travel: Mass Games in Pyongyang
Part 2: North Korea Travel: Visit to Downtown Pyongyang
Part 1: North Korea Travel: Pyongyang Finally Starting to Open Up?


*For currency conversions visit Tripatini's Currency Desk.

photos: Wikipedia

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Comment by David Paul Appell on August 22, 2011 at 11:07am
Yes, ma'am, we're familiar with Walter Keats; he's a member of Tripatini.  How was your trip a year ago?
Comment by Marian Goldberg on August 21, 2011 at 9:46pm
I visited North Korea in Aug. 2010 with Asia Pacific Travel Ltd out of Chicago. President, Walter Keats, has been to North Korea more than any other American in the travel industry, and his company is the only US-based company with a direct contract with the North Koreans to offer tours to North Korea for Americans (and others). He is also the designated Conde Nast Traveler Specialist for both North and South Korea. Walter actually leaves for China to continue on to North Korea on Monday, Aug. 22nd. This will be his 25 or 26th trip.  He was there last in June of this year, leading a group of university professors specializing in Asian Studies. For more information go to

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