North Korea Visa

North Korea Visa: Complete Guide to Obtaining a Visa for North Korea

As one of the most secretive and tightly-controlled countries in the world, not many tourists visit North Korea. In fact, the country only gets about 4,000 to 6,000 visitors per year. Many people don’t even know you can get a North Korea visa.

But for those who have thought about visiting, this article will detail some of the most common questions. That is to say, from people who intend to visit North Korea.

Understanding North Korea Visa

A North Korea visa is required for most travelers to enter the country. Visitors holding ordinary passports (except South Korea) must obtain a visa prior to entering North Korea. All visitors traveling to North Korea for tourism purposes require prior authorization from a travel agency registered with the State General Bureau of Tourist Guidance. Visa exemptions are available for nationals of certain countries, such as China, for specific stays in certain areas. Visas are issued in the form of a tourist card for tourists or on a separate paper for other types of visas. No stamps are stamped inside one’s actual passport. Visas are not available on arrival, and travelers must obtain them before entering the country. The visa must be obtained through the North Korean Embassy in Beijing, China, or through other foreign embassies.

Can I Visit North Korea?

Contrary to popular belief, yes, most people can visit North Korea. Tour agencies must arrange trips. You will have a guide accompanying you throughout your stay, but you can still explore.

But something you should know before your trip to North Korea is that you won’t be able to do most of the things you can do in other countries as a tourist. For instance, you must not venture out independently. Authorities will restrict your interactions with locals, as is common in other countries. You are prohibited from leaving your hotel room once the official guided tour concludes in the evenings.

The tour is highly controlled and organized, so you won’t experience the authentic North Korea. The government permits you to see only what they want you to see. Which is why you are prohibited from exploring independently.

But, if you are truly dead-set on visiting, you will still get a glimpse of this country that is so often on the news and surrounded by such negative connotations.

North Korea Visa Requirements

To enter North Korea, most visitors must obtain a visa in advance from a North Korean diplomatic mission. Here are the key requirements and details regarding North Korea visas:

Visa Application: Travellers holding ordinary passports (except South Korea) must apply for a visa before entering North Korea. Tourists visiting for leisure need prior authorization from a registered travel agency.
Visa Issuance: North Korean tourist visas are typically issued as a tourist card or on a separate paper, not stamped inside the passport. Nationals of China visiting specific areas may have visa exemptions for short stays[.

Visa Exemptions: Chinese nationals can visit Tongrim County for up to 2 days without a visa and Sinuiju for a day trip without a visa. However, South Korean nationals cannot use their passports to travel to North Korea.

Visa Process: To obtain a North Korea visa, travellers should contact a travel agency organising state-approved tours. The agency will assist in the visa application process, which involves providing necessary documents like a passport copy and filling out an application form.

Entry Restrictions: Independent travel to North Korea is not permitted. All travellers must book packaged tours through licensed travel agencies, which arrange for visa approval by the North Korean Foreign Ministry.

Additional Information: American citizens are currently not allowed to use their passports to travel to North Korea due to government restrictions. Visitors must adhere to strict rules during their stay, including staying with guides, respecting local customs, and refraining from certain activities like taking unauthorised photos or engaging in political discussions.

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  • South Korean citizens cannot apply for a North Korean visa.
  • American passports are not valid for entry to North Korea.
  • Chinese citizens with an ordinary passport who only intend to visit Tongrim County as tourists can enter with only their Chinese ID card for up to two days.
  • Holders of diplomatic or service passports of certain countries can visit without a visa.

Can Americans Visit North Korea?

As of 2017, the U.S. government does not permit American citizens to utilize their passports for traveling to North Korea.

The US government prohibited entry to North Korea. Stating that, North Korean authorities have arrested and detained US citizens for extended periods for offenses that would not result in imprisonment in the US or other countries. Additionally, they also claim that North Korean authorities have detained US citizens without charges. That is, even when they had a valid entry permit and were part of an organised tour.

In 2016, authorities arrested US college student Otto Warmbier for attempting to take a propaganda poster from his hotel room in North Korea. Despite US efforts to secure his release, the North Korean government sentenced him to 15 years in prison on charges of “Subversion.” Otto, who returned to the US in 2017 in a vegetative state, ultimately succumbed to his condition and passed away only days after his return.

Can I Get Travel Insurance for North Korea?

You can get travel insurance for North Korea, but it won’t be the easiest to find. For one, not all Western insurance companies offer coverage for North Korea. Second, even if an insurance company does offer coverage, if your country’s government has a travel advisory in place against travelling there, the insurers will simply refuse to cover you.

If your usual insurers will not cover your trip, then your best bet in finding an insurance company. One that will cover your trip to North Korea, is by asking your tour agency. They likely already have a partner and even a built-in insurance plan into the tour package.

Although in most cases, we do not advise accepting the travel insurance policy that comes with the tour package. In cases such as these where insurance is otherwise hard to find, you may have no other choice.

Make sure, however, that your travel insurance policy will cover everything necessary, such as:

  • Medical emergencies
  • Travel disruption
  • Evacuation in the case of a medical emergency

Is North Korea Dangerous to Visit?

In terms of major crime and disease, no, North Korea is not dangerous to visit. In fact, your trip will be so monitored that you won’t need to be worried about those things at all. Nevertheless, North Korea enforces strict laws and regulations, which are much harsher than what you are likely accustomed to. If you break these laws, minor as they may seem, you may face imprisonment. This is what has given it a reputation for being unsafe.

Furthermore, authorities have detained Westerners, particularly US citizens, like Otto Warmbier, who faced arrest in 2016 on charges of subversion. He entered a coma state in 2017 and succumbed to his condition a few days later. This incident prompted the United States to impose a travel ban to North Korea.

If you genuinely intend to visit North Korea, your tour agency will provide you with information about the rules to follow once you arrive in the country when you book a tour. This includes:

  • You must not disrespect any of the country’s leaders. In fact, it’s best if you just don’t comment on them at all, regardless of the fact it may be a positive remark. If you take pictures of the leaders’ statues, do not cut off their faces!
  • You will have to show your respect to the North Korean leaders. I.e. you must bow to their statues when you visit them.
  • Do not take pictures or video footage of any government buildings – or anything really, without having the okay from your tour guide.
  • Do not wander anywhere without your guides.
  • Do not engage in any religious practices. You must not bring a religious book inside either.
  • Don’t talk about politics.
  • Do not bring any banned items into the country, such as religious books, guides about North Korea, electronics, drones, etc.
  • Refer to the country as just “Korea,” not “North Korea.” This may not be a punishable offence, but the government still prefers the former name rather than the latter. It is what everyone uses.

Keep in mind that if you violate the rules, you not only put yourself at risk but also endanger your guide, as they could be deemed co-conspirators in “espionage.” Authorities may imprison or even torture them as a consequence.

So, no one can really tell you it is 100% safe to visit North Korea. After all, if a place has a reputation for being unsafe, in most cases, it’s true. However, you can ensure your safety by following the rules and laws of the country, keeping your head down, not attracting attention to yourself, and sticking with your tour guide.

Will I Have Internet in North Korea as a Tourist?

The Internet is not widely available in North Korea, except for government officials and foreigners. The internet is not the same as the one you are accustomed to in your home country. For one, there is no wifi that connects to the World Wide Web. One way of getting access to the World Wide Web is by purchasing a North Korean SIM card, but that is very expensive to set up and does not offer a lot of MB. You can use the SIM card, however, to make international calls.

You may have to accept the fact that you won’t have access to the internet for a few days.

North Korea maintains its own local internet, allowing access only to state-controlled content, including news, educational material, local business sites, weather updates, and more. So while natives do use the internet, they do not have access to global websites.