Korea, North (DPRK)
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NORTH KOREA - AVOID ALL TRAVEL
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada advises against all travel to North Korea (officially named the Democratic People's Republic of Korea) due to the uncertain security situation caused by North Korea’s nuclear weapons development program and highly repressive regime.
There is no resident Canadian government office in the country. The ability of Canadian officials to provide consular assistance is extremely limited.
The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.
Nuclear weapons development program
Tensions have increased in the region as a result of North Korea’s ongoing nuclear weapons development program. In April and December 2012, North Korea attempted to launch two missiles into orbit, and on February 12, 2013, performed a nuclear weapons test. Additional tests cannot be ruled out.
North Korea and South Korea
Relations between North Korea and South Korea remain tense. On March 11, 2013, North Korea issued a statement declaring that the Korean Armistice Agreement is invalid. While past threats made by the North to nullify this agreement have gone unfulfilled, this statement has raised tension in the region.
Border skirmishes with South Korean armed forces occur occasionally, most recently in August 2015. The security situation could deteriorate suddenly. Due to very limited access to international media broadcasts in North Korea, you may be taken by surprise by events that could affect your security. We strongly recommend that Canadians register with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service to receive latest updates.
The crime rate is low. Petty crime occurs, especially at the airport in Pyongyang and in public markets. Ensure personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times.
Travel within North Korea is severely restricted. Transportation is usually provided by local tour representatives or authorities. Traffic is usually minimal, and major highways are in good condition. Rural roads can be hazardous. Police checkpoints, usually located at the entry to towns, may require that travellers provide documentation before onward travel is permitted.
Do not expect safety standards to be the same as in Canada.
General safety information
There is no resident Canadian government office in the country. Register with the Embassy of Canada in Seoul, South Korea, and with the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang.
Canadian or Swedish authorities may encounter major difficulties and delays in obtaining consular access to you if you are detained, particularly outside of the capital, Pyongyang. The provision of consular access is solely at the discretion of the North Korean government. Knowledge of North Korean police and judicial systems is limited, which may affect our ability to provide assistance to you.
Tourist facilities are minimal and telecommunications are unreliable. Individual tourism can be arranged only through a handful of North Korean government-approved travel agencies. Travel must be authorized in advance by the government. Travellers are closely observed. Hotel rooms, telephones and fax machines are monitored. There are serious shortages of food, electricity and clean water.
It is the sole prerogative of each country or region to determine who is allowed to enter. Canadian consular officials cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet entry requirements. The following information on entry and exit requirements has been obtained from North Korean authorities. However, these requirements are subject to change at any time. It is your responsibility to check with the Permanent Mission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to the United Nations for up-to-date information.
Official (special and diplomatic) passport holders must consult the Official Travel page, as they may be subject to different entry requirements.
Canadians must present a passport to visit North Korea, which must be valid for at least six months beyond the date of expected departure from that country. Prior to travelling, ask your transportation company about its requirements related to passport validity, which may be more stringent than the country's entry rules.
Canadians must also be in possession of a visa. Visas are issued from a North Korean mission in a third country after approval from the government in Pyongyang. The process for obtaining visas (even for accredited diplomats) can be extremely slow and arduous.
Canadians arriving without a valid Canadian passport and visa may be detained, arrested, fined or denied entry. Foreigners must register through their host organization within 24 hours of arrival.
As most travellers must pass through China on their way to and from North Korea, a single- or double-entry Chinese visa may also be required, depending on the length and number of stays in China. For more information, please consult the Travel Advisory for China.
Professional journalists must apply for special permission to visit North Korea and may not enter the country on a tourist visa (regardless of their reason for travel).
Tourist visa: Required
Business visa: Required
Student visa: Required
General entry/exit information
Foreigners can enter North Korea either by air or by train. It is not possible to enter North Korea from South Korea or to enter South Korea from North Korea.
Even if you meet all entry requirements, you may be arbitrarily arrested and/or detained at your point of entry.
Persons with Korean citizenship or family ties with North Korea should carefully consider their decision to visit. Authorities periodically subject dual citizens and children of former Koreans to certain laws and obligations.
Canadians who also have South Korean citizenship must obtain approval for travel to North Korea from South Korean authorities. For more information, consult the Embassy of Canada in Seoul, South Korea.
See Laws & Culture for more information.
Unauthorized points of entry
Foreigners have been detained, and in one instance, shot, for entering the country through unauthorized points of entry. Ensure that you stay within permitted zones and strictly follow North Korean procedures and protocols.
Children and travel
Children need special documentation to visit certain countries. See Children for more information.
See Health to obtain information on this country’s vaccination requirements.
- Measles: Global Update - July 16, 2015 09:48 EDT
Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Vaccines to Consider
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.
Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread through contaminated food and water or contact with an infected person. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.
Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Get the flu shot.
Japanese encephalitis is a viral infection that can cause swelling of the brain. It is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Risk is low for most travellers. Vaccination should be considered for those who may be exposed to mosquito bites (e.g., spending a large amount of time outdoors) while travelling in regions with risk of Japanese encephalitis.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease and is common in most parts of the world. Be sure your measles vaccination is up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Rabies is a deadly illness spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from an infected animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).
Yellow Fever Vaccination
Yellow fever is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito.
Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.
|* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.|
|Country Entry Requirement*|
Food and Water-borne Diseases
Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.
In some areas in East Asia, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in East Asia. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
- Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
- Risk of developing travellers' diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor standards of hygiene and sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
- The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among pediatric travellers, travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives or travelling for a long period of time. Travellers at high risk visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should speak to a health care provider about vaccination.
Insects and Illness
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
- There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
- Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no vaccine against malaria.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in enclosed air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider pre-treating clothing and travel gear with insecticides and sleeping under an insecticide-treated bednet.
- Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.
Animals and Illness
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Some infections found in some areas in Eastern Asia, like avian influenza and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.
Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.
For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.
Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care provider.
High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.
Medical services and facilities
Hospitals often lack heat and medicine, and suffer from frequent power outages. Immediate payment in cash is expected for treatment. A hospital staffed by English-speaking professionals is available to foreigners in the Munsudong district of Pyongyang. Medical evacuations are very difficult to arrange and are not guaranteed. You should take this into account prior to travel if you have an unstable medical condition. If you show symptoms of a serious communicable disease, you may be subject to strict quarantine conditions.
Keep in Mind...
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.
Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.
Laws & culture
Laws & culture
You are subject to local laws. See Arrest and detention for more information.
You must be accompanied by an official guide at all times. Instructions provided by the guide must be adhered to. Tourists are not permitted to drive.
International driving permits are not recognized. Foreigners residing in the country must obtain a licence by passing a local driving test.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict. Convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.
Importation of satellite telephones and shortwave radios is prohibited. Such items are confiscated upon entry and usually returned upon departure. Authorities may seize any material that they deem to be pornographic, political or intended for religious proselytizing. Written material of any kind in the Korean language should not be brought into North Korea.
Involvement in politics and unsanctioned religious activity can result in detention.
Photography of airports, roads, bridges, seaports and rail stations is prohibited and may result in confiscation of equipment or detention. Seek permission from your tour guide before taking photographs.
Dual citizenship is not legally recognized in North Korea. If local authorities consider you a North Korean citizen, they may refuse to grant you access to Canadian consular services, thereby preventing Canadian consular officials from providing you with those services. You should travel using your Canadian passport and present yourself as Canadian to foreign authorities at all times to minimize this risk. Citizenship is determined solely by national laws, and the decision to recognize dual citizenship rests completely with the country in which you are located when seeking consular assistance. See Travelling as a dual citizen for more information.
Ensure that you are not seen to be critical of the country’s political system, current and former leaders Kim Jong Un, Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung, or members of their family.
The currency is North Korean won (KPW). Cash is the most recognized form of payment. The Euro is widely accepted; however, change is often unavailable. U.S. dollars and the Chinese renminbi are also accepted. Banking facilities are limited. Traveller’s cheques are not accepted. There are no automated banking machines. Some credit cards are accepted in some hotels if an advanced notice is given. Credit cards should be used with caution due to the potential for fraud and other criminal activity. Leave copies of your card numbers with a family member at home in case of emergency.
Natural disasters & climate
Natural disasters & climate
The rainy (monsoon) season extends from the end of June until August. Severe rainstorms can cause flooding and landslides. Typhoons occur in August and September, and can result in significant loss of life and extensive damage to infrastructure, as well as hamper the provision of essential services. Keep informed of regional weather forecasts, avoid disaster areas and follow the advice of local authorities.
See our Typhoons and monsoons page for more information.
There is no resident Canadian government office in North Korea. You can obtain consular assistance and further information from the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang.
Pyongyang - Embassy of Sweden
Seoul - Embassy of Canada
For emergency assistance after hours, call the Embassy of Canada in Seoul, South Korea and follow the instructions. You may also make a collect call to the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa at 613-996-8885.
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