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.