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North Korea’s known for its water-tight controls and relative isolation from the rest of the world. Here’s how to survive North Korea on the off chance you end up in the country.

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How to Survive North Korea | Surviving North Korea

Statue of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il | How to Survive North Korea

1. Get a Chinese and North Korean Visa

Opened passport with visa stamps | Get a Chinese and North Korean Visa | how to survive north korea

Living in North Korea isn’t an easy process, and many foreigners don’t even qualify to live there.

To get to North Korea, you need to have two visas:

  • One to enter North Korea itself
  • and a Chinese key to transit through China to get there.

Because North and South Korea are technically at war, it’s next to impossible to enter through South Korea.

Also, don’t try to enter North Korea through The Demilitarized Zone – border control guards can shoot you on the spot.

2. Book an Official Tour

young female travel agent with customer | Book an Official Tour | how to survive North Korea

Anyone considering traveling to North Korea can only book an official group tour with a designated tour guide. A tour guide allows you to travel to North Korea and safely see the country.

One caveat: being on an official tour doesn’t protect you from the law, but it’s still better than nothing.

3. Get Vaccinated

black man getting vaccine | Get Vaccinated | How to Survive north Korea

While you won’t experience too many health risks, surviving in North Korea means making sure to update your vaccinations. We recommend keeping on top of Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, MMR, and Japanese Encephalitis vaccines and getting boosters.

3. Double-Check Your Belongings Before Leaving

Woman packing a suitcase | Double-Check Your Belongings Before Leaving | How to Survive North Korea

Make sure to remove any religious or political paraphernalia from your luggage and keep the blue jeans at home. Also, expect authorities to inspect everything from your mobile phone to any papers you bring in to check for any banned material before they let you in.

If you’re bringing medication, check first if it’s legal to get them in the country before packing it.


5. Be Mindful of North Korea Rules for Tourists

Korean DMZ | Be Mindful of Local Laws | how to survive North Korea

Once you’ve set foot in North Korea, there are certain things you need to be careful of that you may take for granted at home:

  • Don’t crack jokes about North Korea, its citizens, or its leaders. It’s illegal in North Korea to laugh at the country and its leaders, and it can get you deported or detained.
  • Avoid talking to other North Koreans unless you’re authorized to do so, as authorities can also consider this as spying.
  • Don’t even try to leave the tour group, as this can also get you arrested.

Essentially, don’t do anything that can put you or your tour guide at risk.

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6. Think Before You Click (the Camera Button)

man taking photos with camera on top of mountain | Think Before You Click (the Camera Button) | How to Survive North Korea

Only take photos of places that the North Korean government deems tourist sites.

Taking other kinds of photos can be classified as spying in the eyes of North Korean law.

As always, ask permission from your tour guide before taking a picture to ensure you’re in the clear.

7. Stay Aware of Your Surroundings

Pickpocket Stealing from Backpacker | Stay Aware of Your Surroundings | How to Survive North Korea

Being under constant surveillance means being a victim of significant crimes is slim. Still, petty theft can happen, so make sure to secure your belongings and always keep them close to your body.

It never hurts to be vigilant, especially in any foreign country.

Here’s a story of someone who survived North Korea and lived to tell the tale:

Surviving North Korea requires taking precautions and measures you won’t otherwise have to do in other countries. Keep these guidelines in mind in order to survive North Korea and make your stay in North Korea as safe and uneventful as things can go.

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Have you visited North Korea or know someone who has? Share your experiences in the comments section below!

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