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Travel to North Korea

North Korean Visa

In order to obtain a visa to travel into the DPRK (North Korea), you must get one from the North Korean embassy.  There are several around the world, but the one most people use is in Beijing, China.  While this may seem like something simple, it can be simpler for some than others.  For instance, if you are a citizen of any country other than the US or South Korea, you have a greater chance of getting in with minimal difficulty.  (Minimal being relative to the difficulties those with American or South Korea passports.)  If you are a U.S. or South Korean citizen, your chances of entry have dropped tremendously.  The reason for this is because there are no diplomatic relations between the DPRK and the US or South Korea. 

There are many agencies in China that promote travel to the DPRK and will arrange for a trip within the country.  These are all typically prepaid  with your lodging, meals, entertainment and travel within the country included.  Some people may thing they are traveling to a resort area with recreation and entertainment any time of day or night.  This is not the  case.  Your travel within the DPRK is usually going to be preplanned, as well as being prepaid.  Your itinerary will be set and chances are, it will not vary.

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Air Koryo


Air Koryo (formerly Chosŏn Minhang (조선민항 | Корё Ханггонг (Koryo Khanggong)), short for Air Koryo) is the state-owned national flag carrier airline of North Korea, headquartered in Sunan-guyŏk, Pyongyang. It operates international services and charter flights to points in Asia and Africa. The carrier is based at Sunan International Airport (IATA: FNJ).

Air Koryo has offices in Beijing, Shenyang, Macau, Bangkok, Toronto, Berlin, Moscow, as well as sales agencies in Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Tokyo, Taipei, Khabarovsk and Vladivostok.

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Inter-Korea flights

The first regular charter flights between North Korea and South Korea began in 2003. The first Air Koryo flight operated by a Tupolev Tu-154 touched down at Seoul's Incheon International Airport. Air Koryo operated 40 return services to Seoul along with flights into Yangyang and Busan in South Korea. Inter-Korean charters from Hamhung Airport to Yangyang International in South Korea began in 2002. Yangyang has since been suspended as Yangyang International Airport was closed in late 2008.


Air Koryo operates 38 aircraft in its passenger fleet and 4+ in its cargo fleet (as of 26 July 2010):

Air Koryo Fleet
Aircraft In Fleet Orders Passengers
Antonov An-24 7 0 52 (0/52) Five An-24RV's and two An-24R's
Ilyushin Il-18D 1 0 120 (0/120) To be retired: 2010
Ilyushin Il-62M 4 0 180 (16/164) Two operated in VIP configuration for the state
Mil Mi-172 17 0 32 (0/32)  
Tupolev Tu-134B-3 2 0 84 (0/84)  
Tupolev Tu-154 4 0 152 (16/136) Three Tu-154B's and One Tu-154B-2
Tupolev Tu-204-300 1 0 166 (16/150) P-632
Tupolev Tu-204-100B 1 1 210 (0/210) P-633
Total 37 1  
Air Koryo Cargo Fleet
Aircraft In Fleet Capacity
Ilyushin Il-18V 1 34.5 Tons cargo  
Ilyushin IL-76TD 3 44 Tons cargo  
Mil Mi-17 17   Unknown numbers operating solely for cargo operations
Total 4  
  • Air Koryo only offers Business class seating on these specific aircraft types

Air Koryo in the Beijing Airport 

More Info on Air Koryo

Koryo Hotel

The Koryo Hotel is the second largest operating hotel in North Korea. The twin-towered building is 143 metres (469 ft) tall and contains 43 stories. Erected in 1985 under the close scrutiny of Kim Il-sung, it was intended to "showcase the glory and strength of the DPRK." The hotel's extravagance is exemplified by its entryway, which consists of a 9-metre (30 ft) wide jade dragon's mouth that leads into an expansive lobby dominated by a mosaic of North Korean cultural symbols. The mosaic tiles make use of a wide variety of precious metals and gemstones underneath low-dispersion glass panes, which are replaced biannually to preserve the mosaic's luster.

The hotel is rated three stars by western standards. North Korea rates it as five stars. The Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs describes it as "Deluxe" and the "best international hotel in Pyongyang".


The hotel offers 500 rooms although only about 50 rooms are occupied at any one time, usually by business people from China, Africa, and the Middle East and UN staff. The Washington Times claims most of the hotel's foreign guests are international arms dealers. The hotel does achieve full or near capacity every April 15 with delegations invited to celebrate Kim Il Sung's birthday.

It would appear the US State Department has been using a guest room in the hotel since 2007 as a de facto office by a single employee to handle administrative affairs.


The hotel is situated along the Taedong river in Chung-kuyok, central Pyongyang 

Rooms and Rates

According to the World Health Organization the rates are as follows:

single, upper story room: $112
double, upper story room: $121
single, lower story room: $102
double, lower story room: $112

Rooms, services, food, and other goods within the hotel appear to be priced in dollars.

In room TVs carry three channels. Guests report power outages and recommend packing your own flashlight. Rooms are equipped with a mini-bar and are checked each day by a team of three people, of which one person inventories, the second recounts and a third supervises the pair.


Amenities include a hard currency gift shop, gym, a swimming pool, a revolving restaurant on the 45th floor, a circular bar on the 44th floor and two movie theaters (one 200 seat cinema and one 70 seat cinema). The hotel also features a billiards room on the second floor and a casino in the basement. The casino offers blackjack, roulette, and slot machines. The casino is staffed by Chinese workers.


Each tower is actually topped by a revolving restaurant, however only one is open. One can order steak ("the best steak in town") at the restaurant. The revolving restaurant apparently had a 9 pm closing time but in recent years the closing time has been extended or relaxed based on the quality of the guests' tipping. Aside from the single open revolving restaurant, the hotel has four other restaurants including a Japanese restaurant and a Korean BBQ restaurant.

The restaurants are run by Japanese expatriates and are run as private businesses but must pay a fee to the state.

Guest liberty

By some reports guests are prevented by guards from leaving the hotel. However, others report the ability to wander off the hotel grounds. If one can wander off the grounds, the hotel is a few blocks from the city's restaurant district and the Pyongyang Railroad Station.

Older Koryo Hotel

The Koryo Hotel replaced an older hotel of the same name, but in a different location. For a time after 1946 the leader of North Korea's Democratic Party Cho Man-sik was kept under house arrest in the older Koryo Hotel. When United Nations forces threatened to overrun Pyongyang in October 1950, it is thought he was executed.

Yanggakdo Hotel


The Yanggakdo International Hotel is one of the largest working hotels and the second tallest building in North Korea, after the unfinished Ryugyong Hotel. The hotel is located on Yanggakdo (Yanggak Island), two kilometers to the south-east of the center of Pyongyang, the nation's capital. It rises to an overall height of 170 meters and sports a slowly revolving restaurant on the 47th floor. The hotel is said to contain 1,000 rooms and a total floor space of 87,870 square meters. The structure was built between 1986 and 1992 by France’s Campenon Bernard Construction Company and opened in 1995.

The North Korean currency can be purchased at official rates at reception, and postcards and letters can be mailed from the desk next to it. Behind the latter, there is a small shop which sells basic commodities at western prices. The ground floor also contains a small bar to the right of the main entrance, and to the left, a small bookshop which stocks a wide range of North Korean reading material including back-issues of the local English-language newspaper, the Pyongyang Times, treatises by the Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, various children's books, and a wide range of material which describes the North Korean understanding of the history of the region.

Yanggakdo Hotel

In addition to the revolving restaurant, the hotel guide issued to all guests indicates that the hotel contains four further restaurants on the second floor -- these include the numbers one and two dining-room, the main banquet hall and the Japanese, Chinese and Korean food dining-rooms.

The hotel's basement contains a bowling alley, a pool room, a swimming pool, a barber shop, a casino and a massage club run by a Chinese company with an exclusively female staff.

The hotel's grounds include a 9,000 square meter nine-hole golf course. Also on Yanggak Island, right next to the hotel's grounds the Pyongyang International Cinema Hall can be found, which hosts the opening and closing ceremonies of the Pyongyang International Film Festival.

The hotel is a standard stop on most tours of North Korea and was featured in the graphic novel Pyongyang.



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