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North Korea Travel Information

The Basics

Local Customs

Visitors to North Korea should be prepared for an utterly unique travel experience, fraught with absurdity, and with little or no personal freedom. It is impossible to be a tourist in North Korea without signing up for an 'official' (government-run) tour package - this includes two escorts (one male, one female) to pick you up from your hotel, shepherd you from attraction to attraction, and return you to your hotel at the end of the day. Note that it is virtually impossible for tourists to have a spontaneous encounter with locals - the tour packages are minutely orchestrated, so watch what you say at all times, and NEVER criticise the government. Part of the package will almost certainly be a visit to the monument of Kim Il Sung, where you will be expected to bow solemnly and lay flowers on his grave. If you are unprepared to do this, stay at home. North Korea also has draconian laws regarding what foreigners are allowed to bring into the country, and the penalties for breaching these regulations can be extremely harsh, so make sure to receive an updated list of contraband items from your travel agent before packing your bags. In terms of 'regular' social etiquette, bowing is the normal form of greeting (the deeper the bow, the more respect being shown), and you will be expected to remove your shoes when entering certain buildings or places of historical interest.

Duty Free

Travellers to North Korea may import a reasonable amount of tobacco and liquor without paying customs duty. Prohibited items include binoculars, guns and ammunition, explosives, drugs, seeds, and books or literature in Korean. Gifts, cameras, watches, tape recorders and precious metals must be declared on arrival.

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