How are North Korean tour guides selected

This is how traveling to North Korea works

From TRAVELBOOK | June 07, 2017, 11:46 am

When you think of North Korea, you think of a lot, but not vacation. But traveling is the isolated country with the crazy dictator are actually possible. But if you want to see North Korea, you have to adhere to strict guidelines - and you are never alone!

There are not many people who want to take a vacation in North Korea, even if the Stalinist regime promotes tourism. Anyone who dares to visit the land of the unpredictable dictator Kim Jong-un must adhere to strict rules - and should still be more careful not to do anything wrong.

Who is even allowed to enter North Korea?

Almost everyone is allowed to travel to North Korea - except for South Koreans. "Journalists can also be banned from visiting," says Jianli Chen from the travel company China Hansa Travel. Tourists need a visa to enter North Korea. The organization is always done by the tour operator who requests the visa through the embassy. “Working with the authorities is easier than in many other countries,” says Reingruber.

How does a trip to North Korea work?

Every trip to North Korea must be booked as a package holiday and is not cheap: Eight days from Beijing cost around 2000 euros. The tours last one to two weeks and always start in China's capital. From there there is one of the few flight connections to North Korea's capital Pyongyang. All hotels, restaurants and excursions are selected in advance.

Tourists can express their wishes, but what they see in the end is determined by the country's authorities. Because you can't be alone in North Korea: Every trip is accompanied by two tour guides and a driver. Excursions on your own are prohibited. The companions are by no means just grumpy watchers: "Many of the tour guides speak fluent German," says Harry Reingruber from the German Travel Network.

What do visitors get to see in North Korea?

“Tourists are allowed to visit around 15 places in North Korea,” says Reingruber. Tourists are kept away from the poverty and structural problems in the country. Most of the time travelers spend in Pyongyang. The organizers also offer tours into the mountains from the capital. Visitors can go hiking or skiing there. Visits to historical buildings are also possible. The Goguryeo Tomb Complex and the historical monuments in Kaesong are World Heritage Sites by Unesco.

What restrictions are there for tourists in North Korea?

Electricity and hot water fail regularly in North Korea. “The hotels correspond to the upper middle class,” says Chen. There is no mobile network, internet only rarely and if so, then under strict conditions. However, tourists can make phone calls in most hotels without any problems. Travelers must bring the money for all planned on-site expenses in cash. Because there are no ATMs either. But you can pay in euros. As a rule, visitors have just as little contact with the North Korean won as they do with what is actually going on in the country.

What should visitors definitely not do in North Korea?

Even critical questions to the tour guides are not well received. "Devaluing or insulting the political system is a no-go," says Eric Ballbach from the Institute for Korean Studies at the Free University of Berlin. The same applies to Western symbols: it is forbidden to take a German newspaper or a Bible with you. How the government reacts depends largely on the home country of the visitors. In the worst case, tourists are expelled or even used as political leverage, says Ballbach.

What health precautions must travelers take?

There is no mandatory vaccination protection for North Korea. However, the Federal Foreign Office recommends vaccinations against tetanus, diphtheria, polio and hepatitis A. "The health system in North Korea is dramatically bad," says Ballbach. You should therefore always bring enough medication with you from Germany. It is advisable to take out health insurance for travel abroad, which also covers the medically sensible return transport.

Also interesting: this gigantic hotel in North Korea has been abandoned for 25 years

Is it Ethical to Travel to North Korea?

"The individual motive for the trip is crucial," says Ballbach. You shouldn't travel to North Korea just for the stamp in your passport or a funny story. According to Reingruber, around 300 Germans travel to the country every year.

Many want to understand what is happening in North Korea better. According to Ballbach, it is wrong for tourists to finance the military directly with a trip. There are different economic cycles in North Korea. The income from tourism would flow into the planned economy. Expenditures for the military and nuclear weapons have an independent economic cycle.

We are also on Instagram: travelbook_de - follow here!

Dream vacation up to 70 percent cheaper - register now for free at TRAVELBOOK Escapes!

Your data security when using the share function