Korea, North (DPRK)
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NORTH KOREA - AVOID ALL TRAVEL
Global Affairs 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 in North Korea is extremely limited.
Safety and security
Safety and security
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 Embassy of Sweden in Pyongyang.
Canadian and Swedish authorities may encounter major difficulties and delays in obtaining consular access to you if you are detained, particularly outside of North Korea’s 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 further 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, and their accommodations and telecommunications are monitored.
There are serious shortages of food, electricity and clean water.
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula can escalate with little notice. They may increase before, during and after North Korean nuclear and missile tests, military exercises and incidents such as inter-Korean border skirmishes or other incidents that one or the other side finds offensive. 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.
The crime rate is low. Petty crime occurs, especially at the Pyongyang Sunan International Airport. Ensure your personal belongings and 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. Major highways are in good condition while 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.
The Government of Canada does not assess foreign domestic airlines’ compliance with international aviation safety standards. See Foreign domestic airlines for more information.
It is the sole prerogative of every country or territory to determine who is allowed to enter or exit. Canadian consular officials cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet entry or exit requirements. The following information has been obtained from North Korean authorities and is subject to change at any time. The country- or territory-specific entry/exit requirements are provided on this page for information purposes only. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, information contained here is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, express or implied. The Government of Canada assumes no responsibility, and shall not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided. 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.
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.
Temporary passport holders may be subject to different entry requirements. Check with diplomatic representatives 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 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.
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 from South Korean authorities for travel to North Korea. For more information, consult the Embassy of Canada to the Republic of Korea in Seoul, South Korea.
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 Korea’s 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.
Be sure that your routine vaccines, as per your province or territory, are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Some of these vaccines include: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, varicella (chickenpox), influenza and others.
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).
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 for children, travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives or travelling for a long period of time. Travellers 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
The level of medical services and facilities is poor and does not meet Canadian standards. Hospitals often lack heat and medicine, and suffer from frequent power outages. Immediate payment in cash is expected for treatment. Pyongyang Friendship Hospital, in the Munsu-dong district of Pyongyang, is staffed by English-speaking professionals. If possible, avoid surgery. 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 and culture
Laws & culture
You are subject to local laws. See Arrest and detention for more information.
North Korea is under international and Canadian sanctions. These sanctions could be relevant to your travel.
If you reside in the country, you must obtain a licence by passing a local driving test. Tourists are not permitted to drive.
Foreigners must register through their host organization within 24 hours of arrival in the country.
You must be accompanied by an official guide at all times. Instructions provided by the guide must be adhered to. Unauthorized conversations with locals or currency exchange, as well as making a purchase in a store not designated for foreigners, could lead to fines or arrest.
Foreigners are prohibited from using public buses or the subway.
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.
The import and export of local currency is prohibited.
Authorities may seize any material that they deem to be pornographic, political or intended for religious proselytizing. If you plan to bring material written in the Korean language, ensure that it will not be interpreted by local authorities as being against the interests of the North Korean regime.
Involvement in politics and unsanctioned religious activity can result in detention. You have no right to privacy. Your movements and communications may be under surveillance at any time. Your personal belongings may be searched, and authorities may review the contents stored on your electronic devices.
Photography of airports, roads, bridges, seaports and rail stations is prohibited. Any pictures or video taken outside of tourist areas could 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 always travel using your valid Canadian passport and present yourself as Canadian to foreign authorities at all times to minimize this risk. You may also need to carry and present a North Korean passport for legal reasons, for example to enter and exit the country (see Entry/exit requirements to determine passport requirements). 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 or its current and former leaders Kim Jong-un, Kim Jong-il and Kim il-Sung and their family members.
Although the laws of North Korea do not prohibit sexual acts between individuals of the same sex, homosexuality is not socially tolerated.
Cash is the most recognized form of payment. The currency is North Korean won (KPW). Foreigners are expected to use the Euro or, alternatively, the Chinese renminbi or the U.S. dollar; however, change in foreign currency is often unavailable. 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 advanced notice is given. Credit cards should be used with caution due to the potential for fraud and other criminal activity.
Natural disasters and climate
Natural disasters & climate
The rainy (monsoon) season extends from the end of June until August, and typhoons occur in August and September. See our Typhoons and monsoons page for more information.
Severe rainstorms can cause flooding and landslides, which in turn can result in significant loss of life and extensive damage to infrastructure, as well as hamper the provision of essential services. North Korea is also prone to drought. Keep informed of regional weather forecasts, avoid disaster areas and follow the advice of local authorities.
There is no centralized number to reach emergency services. Research and carry contact information for local police and medical facilities.
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 consular assistance, call the Embassy of Canada in Seoul, South Korea and follow the instructions. At any time, you may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.
The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad. In the event of a large-scale emergency, every effort will be made to provide assistance. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.
See Large-scale emergencies abroad for more information.
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