Heads up for all you people lining up for North Korean visas. This guy is in the travel business and he's worried
Golf holidays in a country with only one public golf course?
The Brit leaves angrily because he'd didn't like the close supervision! You couldn't make it up.
Oh yeh, there's also a picture of a 'top secret' map of the U.S.mainland targets. Watch out if you live in New York, L.A. or Austin.
Sayadian - North Korean Missiles probably would miss the entire country (and it's a big country) if they fired at LA. They can't range New York yet. Meanwhile, our retaliation would be swift and utterly ruthless. Love it or hate it, I think the world pretty much understands now the last thing you want to do is really provoke the US. We have, and are willing to use, the military power to kill every Korean in North Korea. Now we don't really want to do that, and the world doesn't want us to do that, and North Korea - they definitely don't want us to do that. So they should behave themselves. Cross the rubicon, and we're going to get fugly. We would have no moral qualms whatsoever about giving Pyongyang the Dresden treatment if they tried to nuke a US city.
Having actually been to North Korea last year, I think it is safe and there is no reason to not go unless the korean government or all tour companies stop the tours. The US is well aware that they almost always have tourists in North Korea. For example the border an Panmunjom is less of a hostile military zone and more of a tourist trap. Also the dailymail is not a good source on anything DPRK.
#3 stefanw has been a member since 10/12/2010. Posts: 50
No reason not to go? Let me give you a list of reasons not to go:
1. The place sucks. It's economy is in a shambles, nobody is about to describe Pyongyang as cosmopolitan, and you can not go anywhere. It's like visting a prison, which most people don't do on their vacation.
2. It has no salsa dancing. Major negative.
3. Food options are limited.
4. You will not be allowed to interact with indigenous persons except ones that your tour provides for you to interact with.
Basically I can't think of any reason to go.
I agree entirely with MADMAC. There's also the ridiculous cost, did I see 1,200e for 5/6 days. For what? To see a few statues of that headbanger who is/was their spiritual leader. I'm also assuming the average man on the street won't get to benefit from the vists of Westerners. That is, to go and visit probably only serves to prop up that deplorable regime.
You could comfortably get a month in SE Asia for that amount.
#5 chinarocks has been a member since 17/6/2011. Posts: 738
Had a friend from college go to the North Korea last year, it was quite an intriguing experience from what he tells me. Definitely unique in the world, probably the last remaining "Stalinist" style of society (with its own Juche features of course).
I thought that I'd posted already but my post hasn't appeared. I'd like to reply to this post about whether North Korea is a dangerous country to visit. I'll be honest and state that I run a budget tour company to North Korea, but I am not writing this with the purpose of advertising, and this is not spam.. just my two cents about safety in North Korea.
I have been travelling to North Korea for a number of years now, and have never known tourists to feel threatened or in danger in anyway. If anything, Pyongyang feels much safer than if you were walking on the streets of London or any other western city. The North Korean guides are friendly, and the small number of Koreans that you'll meet (most North Koreans do not speak English, so communication between the average person on the street and tourists is limited) are also very pleasant. If you went during a holiday, then you'd see Koreans celebrating in a park, dancing and singing... and on a number of occasions I have seen them invite tourists over to dance with them. About a year ago, a customer on one tour could speak Korean, and he was able to spend time chatting to local North Koreans in the street, which really was special for him.
You have to be careful with what you believe about North Korea. Of course, it has its problems... but the Western press is at times guilty of blowing things way out of proportion. An example is that BBC Panorama documentary where John Sweeney went in undercover and claimed that you could feel the tension in Pyongyang. This just simply was not the case. Not one tourist on our tour said that they could feel any tension caused by the political standoff at the time. It was a case of irresponsible journalism.
The DPRK is a fascinating place... obviously it's not going to appeal to everyone, and the odd tourist who has not read up about the country gets a shock when they land. But most who go have a great time, and quite a few make return visits. It has both the communist architecture and monuments that one would expect, but also very beautiful scenery and the people you get to meet are genuinely lovely.
Just my answer to the original question about whether it is a dangerous place, as unfortunately many people think that it is a risk to travel there when in fact it is not at all. We have a good FAQ section and an interesting blog section on our website (Taedong Travel) for those who are interested in any further information about do and don'ts in North Korea etc. I'll not put the links up just in case it flags as spam, which this post isn't.
#8 TaedongTravel has been a member since 5/9/2013. Posts: 5
I've yet to go anywhere new that's been exactly like I thought it would be and I always pay a lot more attention to the opinions of people who've actually been there than those who haven't so thanks for posting a different point of view from what we see on TV and in newspapers TaedongTravel.
I'm sure it's extremely safe for tourists in N.Korea. Myanmar was too before it got deemed "OK to visit" by Mrs Clinton. However N.Korea sounds very expensive compared to other places in SE Asia. Is it a PITA to get a visa too? That's what puts me off going for a look see more than the negative image portrayed in the western media. I hate being told what to think but I haven't got an infinite travel budget either. The other thing that puts me off is that it sounds like you can only visit the country if you're on an organized tour? In Myanmar you could travel independently even when sanctions were still in place. The idea of being forced to join some govt approved tour puts me right off!
I'm sure it's not dangerous for tourists, just the inhabitants. Last week there was a report of Kim Jong Un having executed a number of musicians including his former mistress for making a blue movie. Surreal, isn't it?
I completely see where you are coming from, there have been plenty of places that have not lived up to my expectations too, China (where I moved 12 years ago, and currently reside) being one of the places. Nepal, North Korea and Laos are three places which have probably gone so far to exceed my expectations, and are three places in the world I love going back to. I am planning on heading back to Nepal for a two month climbing trip in Feb 2014 with any luck.
North Korea is expensive. We are one of the cheapest tour companies that go there (still good quality I might add), but if you compare quite rightly with SE Asian countries then it is a lot for the amount of days you are there. That said, it is very different to probably anywhere you would have ever have been. True, you must go on an organised tour, but that kind of adds to the whole surreal nature of the place. When you go to the DPRK it is quite a surreal experience, wonderful and fun (especially if you get a good group of people going a long), but its quite surreal. I love it there myself, just because it is so different... it's almost like going back in time in some ways. As I have been going there for a few years I also have become familiar with the guides, who are lovely people and do their best to accomodate the tourists needs. You'd be surprised at how well the tourists bond with the guides on even a short tour. It can be quite heart warming at times.
In terms of getting a visa, believe it or not it is probably the easiest country in the world to get a visa. I mean, you don't actually get a visa put into your passport, which is a bit of a dissapointment, but it terms of the visa process its completely painless. The tourist doesn't have to go to the embassy, line up in a queue for ages, submit their passport, and then go and collect it. You just need to email a scan of you passport and a recent passport photo scan to whoever you go with, and then the travel company will look after it from there. Very easy, and pretty much anyone can get a visa (even Americans can go in easily these days (though they must fly in and out, which makes it a bit more of an expensive trip for them)). It's a huge misconception that it's a difficult place to visit.
DPRK is really worth a visit imo, one of the 'must' places a person should see as one day it might open up and then things will be quite different.
#11 TaedongTravel has been a member since 5/9/2013. Posts: 5
For me it wasn't the easiest country in the world to get a visa. I was denied for being an American living in South Korea. Looking back I'm glad they denied me. It's not like the exorbitant fees that travelers have to pay go to helping any of the people who are suffering. You won't see the real North Korea..just a few staged areas specifically for these kind of group tours.
Read The Aquariums of Pyongyang....it's a great book about what really goes on in NK.
Want to see one of the last frontiers? Head to Burma instead! You can spend 28 days there for the same price of these overpriced NK tours.
When did you apply for the visa? I guess the key would have been to declare a US address and place of work instead of in ROK.
The DPRK unfortunately is an expensive country to visit. We are trying to reduce the costs to allow more people to go in. I don't think we'll ever get to the same level as traveling around South East Asia, but we can at least try.
It's also true that most of the stuff you see is what the authorities want you to see, but on a tour you can get a piece of the real North Korea. You can often see people going on with their lives in the countryside when you are heading out of Pyongyang to an eastern destination. Wonsan is a good place also to see normal North Koreans doing stuff. You know when you in one of these situations when you get told that you cannot take photos of a certain person who looks interesting. The restrictive stuff is all part of the experience really, and thats what makes it surreal and at the same time interesting. I find the interaction with the Korean guides quite fascinating... they are really nice people. Most people who go really enjoy themselves, but there are always a few who cannot stand it. I'd say it was definitely worth a trip, but I can understand that many people would rather spend less money for more time in Laos or Cambodia.
So, have you been to Burma? I have been thinking about going, but at the moment Nepal is my focus as I want to go and climb a mountain next February... a nice little two month trip in the Himalayas. I was told to go to Burma soon before it really changes.
#14 TaedongTravel has been a member since 5/9/2013. Posts: 5
You've missed Burma's heyday I'm afraid Stuart, used to be a lot more surreal than it is now. They did stuff like changing which side of the road you drive on overnight. Apparently the location of the new capital was chosen by an astrologer who said it was an auspicious location. I remember people in Mandalay and Yangon complaining about constant power cuts because all the electricity in the country was getting diverted to a stupid big building site in the middle of nowhere. They were aware how absurd things were in their country but just had to put up with it. The govt was very very suspicious of foreigners and there were slogans everywhere warning people not to speak to them and very tight restrictions on what you could photograph too. No bridges so if they caught you trying to take a photo of the amazing Gokteik viaduct they'd destroy the film or confiscate your camera.
When I asked ordinary people if they wanted foreign tourists they they all said yes, absolutely, but only independent tourists because the money from people on organized tours went straight into the pockets of the generals and they didn't get any benefit from it at all. One guy said that without foreign tourists nobody knew what was going on in the outside world and nobody would know what went on inside Myanmar either. People were often very surprised that I'd heard of Aung San Suu Kyi. Seems the loud "free burma" campaigns in the west weren't audible inside Burma so people just assumed the outside world had forgotten all about them.
There was definitely less fear about being seen talking to foreigners last time I was there a couple of years ago and there are plenty of pictures and videos of that viaduct online nowadays. Governmental paranoia is far less apparent so it's a lot less surreal than it was, but still worth a look.
In spite of the oppressive regime the education level is surprisingly high. Many Burmese speak not only fluent English but also several other foreign languages. It's probably because everyone wants to be a tourist guide. Doesn't matter what they've studied at university, every time I've asked a student what they want to do when they graduate the answer has always been the same....I want to be a tourist guide. Why? Because I can earn far more money than being a surgeon or a university professor or an architect. I hope this doesn't mean Myanmar's going to turn into a vast Disneyland theme park within a few years but it might so get there soon.
Before the current tourist boom Myanmar was a dirt cheap place to travel and it was very very easy to get a decent room for under $10/night even in Yangon. How come N.Korea is so expensive? I thought most of the population lived in abject poverty there too?
I think it's so expensive because of the extremely low volume of travel, the fact that the government can set all prices, and someone has to pay for all of those personal minders that normally come with drivers/transportation of some sort.
Hi Again SBE,
Apologies for the delay in replying, been a busy old few days here in Beijing... I'll definitely head to Burma sooner or later for sure. Gonna focus on my climbing trip in Nepal in February, and after that think about a new place to visit. Lately have been thinking of a couple of weeks in Bhutan, which is another expensive country... very appealing though, and in reality not mega expensive so very tempted. Have you ever been?
North Korea is still expensive because they don't really have different tier systems for different types of traveller, with prices being stuck at the higher end (with little to no competition). It'll change in time, but for now even the budget tours are expensive when you compare them to travelling in SE Asia. It's still worth a visit though just to see how different it is to the rest of the world... it is also quite heart warming too in terms of connecting well with the guides.
#17 TaedongTravel has been a member since 5/9/2013. Posts: 5