Counting down to ONE day only, till my flight to North Korea. Getting super excited but also slightly nervous about going through their custom. North Korea is known for their strict enforcement on what the tourist can bring into the country.
Here’s a list of Things you think you can’t bring but you can
- Mobile phone (although we won’t get a signal there unless we buy a local SIM Card), Laptop, iPad, iPod (but we were told that we shouldn’t be running with our phones)
- American money (actually American dollars can be used over there to pay taxis, buy souvinirs, drinks etc)
- Long/coloured hair (yes, guys are allowed to have long hair. You don’t need to get a haircut just for the North Korea trip)
- Video Cameras (but you are only allowed to film in certain areas)
- food/snacks/alcohol (we told to bring our own food in case we want to eat snacks between breakfast, lunch and dinner. We even got told that we need to bring our own bananas or apples for the run! Guess we won’t be able to purchase fruits from the shops, if we actually can find one)
- E-readers (eg: Kindle), but strictly no books about North Korea, South Korea, and America
- shorts and t-shirts, BUT we were told that we can’t dress too bogan! need to put on formal attaire when visiting the palace.
- NO BIBLE or any religious books
- NO TRAVEL books like lonely planets about North Korea, South Korea and America
- NO American or South Korean flags or clothes prominently showing these
- NO RADIOS
- NO books/magazines about North Korea, South Korea and America
- NO clothes with political or obscene slogans (they will translate any language)
- NO GPS (phone or sports watches with in-build GPS is permitted)
WHAT DID I PACK
As a tourist, there is no specific dress code and we are free to wear whatever is comfortable, except the ones I mentioned above in the No-No List. There’s a huge temperature difference between the day and night, so I have packed for both winter and summer ( around 2 degree at night and 20 degree by noon).
One Nice Outfit
There are some sites where jeans, shorts, sandals and cut-offs are NOT permitted (namely the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun). Although the Kumsusan Palace is not included on every itinerary, it’s a good rule of thumb to bring 1 nice outfit just in case there is a special occasion. For men, khakis or slacks, a button down shirt, a tie if you’re so inclined. For women, a dress or skirt, blouse, closed toed shoes.
All of our tours include a decent amount of walking, so I’ve packed comfortable walking shoes., other than my running shoes. Can’t wait to run with my customized NikeiD for the marathon. Had my test run on Monday with those and it was super light and sufficient cushion that my legs were not tired at all post the run.
One of the common misconceptions with North Korea travel is that you can’t take pictures. Yes, it’s true that you can’t take pictures everywhere we go, but it’s totally not true that you can’t take pictures. DSLRs are permitted. Telephoto lenses longer than 150mm have historically not been permitted. Furthermore, we can’t take photos of the military people, can’t take photos of the locals without asking for permission, and all photos of the monuments we take have to be captured in full.
Tourists are not permitted to use the local Korean won. But vendors that we visit accept Euros, RMB and USD. The preferred currency is Euros and RMB, and then the USD. It was highly recommended to bring 1 and 2 Euros coins. Coffee at the hotel in breakfast is 1 Euros, so the coins will be very handy. Because there are no ATMs in the country and international credit card is not accepted, So I hope I have packed enough cash to cover souvenirs and of course late night DPRK craft beer!
I have packed many packs of probiotics to drink everyday, the local food doesn’t go down easy.
My friends who went to the Pyongyang Marathon last year told me the food in DPRK is very average and I need to bring extra snack just in case. I guess a few packs of instant noodles won’t hurt.
Extras for the road
I’ve packed very light to avoid checking in my bag. God knows how long would it take for my luggage to come out, if it doesn’t get lost.