The Hermit Kingdom Opens Up: Traveling to North Korea

Asia, Offbeat, Travel News, Travel Style — By Zain Iqbal on March 30, 2011 at 8:18 am

North Korea has never been the easiest place to visit and most news out of this secretive nation — sandwiched in between its estranged neighbor South Korea and uneasy ally China — is extreme propaganda. However, there are a subset of travelers who really want to find out what goes on inside arguably the most closed-off country in the entire world. While North Korea isn’t exactly territory for backpackers and wanderers (visitors are still subjected to highly organized visits run by the state) they are relaxing travel restrictions somewhat.

But why the change? For one, they know they have a good spectacle such as Arirang Mass Games (see below) to show off, and two they need the cash.

To illustrate this, Good recently created a nifty infographic that gives you the ins-and-outs of the history of tourism in North Korea, as well as the potential for growth. Although the government doesn’t release official statistics, it’s estimated that a mere 1,500 Western tourists visit North Korea each year; compare this with France, which receives almost 79 million each year. In the last 58 years, only 2,500 Americans have managed to visit North Korea. Other fun facts:

  • If you’re a journalist or from South Korea, you probably won’t be granted a tourist visa.
  • A bottle of North Korean beer, Taedonggang, will set you back about two quarters and a dime.
  • Aside from hanging out in your hotel room, you’ll probably never be without an official guide. Ever.
  • Get comfortable with the idea of laying flowers at Kim Il-Sung’s monument — the founder of North Korea’s communist ideology — in honor of him, which is customary for all visitors.

And while it would be cool to check in on Foursquare from the Juche Tower or update your Facebook with an image of you at the DMZ, you’ll have to save those stories for when you get home, as Internet service is tightly restricted and WiFi is nonexistent. Intrigued? Tour packages reportedly start at $1600 for a 5 day trip, so save up your won!

Image: David Stanley/Flickr

Tags: Arirang Mass Games Pyongyang, infographic, Kim Jong-Il, North Korea

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