North Korea travel advice
Latest updates: Removal of COVID-19 information
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- Risk level
- Safety and security
- Entry and exit requirements
- Laws and culture
- Natural disasters and climate
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NORTH KOREA - AVOID ALL TRAVEL
Avoid all travel to North Korea due to the uncertain security situation caused by its 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
Canadian (and Swedish) authorities may encounter major difficulties and delays in obtaining consular access to you if you are detained, particularly outside of 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.
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.
Register with the Embassy of Canada to South Korea in Seoul and with the Embassy of Sweden in Pyongyang.
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 that your personal belongings, including your passport 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.
We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.
Entry and exit requirements
Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Government of Canada cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.
We have obtained the information on this page from the North Korean authorities. It can, however, change at any time.
Verify this information with the Foreign Representatives in Canada.
Entry requirements vary depending on the type of passport you use for travel.
Before you travel, check with your transportation company about passport requirements. Its rules on passport validity may be more stringent than the country’s entry rules.
Regular Canadian passport
Your passport must be valid at least 6 months beyond the date you expect to leave North Korea.
Passport for official travel
Different entry rules may apply.
Passport with “X” gender identifier
While the Government of Canada issues passports with an “X” gender identifier, it cannot guarantee your entry or transit through other countries. You might face entry restrictions in countries that do not recognize the “X” gender identifier. Before you leave, check with the closest foreign representative for your destination.
Other travel documents
Different entry rules may apply when travelling with a temporary passport or an emergency travel document. Before you leave, check with the closest foreign representative for your destination.
Canadians must have a visa to enter North Korea. You can obtain a visa from a North Korean mission in a third country after approval from the government in Pyongyang. The process for obtaining visas 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, even if they are travelling for personal reasons.
Tourist visa: required
Business visa: required
Student visa: required
Other entry 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.
If you are a Korean citizen or have family ties with North Korea, you should carefully consider your 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, contact 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 at unauthorized points. Ensure that you stay within permitted zones and strictly follow North Korea’s procedures and protocols.
Children and travel
Learn about travel with children.
Learn about potential entry requirements related to yellow fever (vaccines section).
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.
Pre-travel vaccines and medications
You may be at risk for preventable diseases while travelling in this destination. Talk to a travel health professional about which medications or vaccines are right for you.
Yellow Fever - Country Entry Requirements
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.
- There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
- Proof of vaccination is required if you are coming from a country where yellow fever occurs.
- Vaccination is not recommended.
- Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care professional.
- Contact a designated Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre well in advance of your trip to arrange for vaccination.
* 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.
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.
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 (e.g., are children, have an occupational risk, or in close contact with animals, including free roaming dogs in communities).
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease. It can spread quickly from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air..
Anyone who is not protected against measles is at risk of being infected with it when travelling internationally.
Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are fully protected against measles.
Japanese encephalitis is a viral infection that can cause swelling of the brain. It is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Risk is very low for most travellers. Travellers at relatively higher risk may want to consider vaccination for JE prior to travelling.
Travellers are at higher risk if they will be:
- travelling long term (e.g. more than 30 days)
- making multiple trips to endemic areas
- staying for extended periods in rural areas
- visiting an area suffering a JE outbreak
- engaging in activities involving high contact with mosquitos (e.g., entomologists)
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.
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious viral disease. It can spread from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air.
It is recommended that all eligible travellers complete a COVID-19 vaccine series along with any additional recommended doses in Canada before travelling. Evidence shows that vaccines are very effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. While vaccination provides better protection against serious illness, you may still be at risk of infection from the virus that causes COVID-19. Anyone who has not completed a vaccine series is at increased risk of being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and is at greater risk for severe disease when travelling internationally.
For destination entry and exit requirements, including for COVID-19 vaccination requirements, please check the Entry/exit requirements section.
Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are adequately protected against COVID-19.
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.
- There is a limited risk of malaria 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.
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 children, travellers going to rural areas, travellers visiting friends and relatives or those travelling for a long period of time.
Travellers visiting regions with a risk of typhoid, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation, should speak to a health care professional about vaccination.
Insects and Illness
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
- In this country, risk of dengue is sporadic. It is a viral disease spread to humans by mosquito bites.
- Dengue can cause flu-like symptoms. In some cases, it can lead to severe dengue, which can be fatal.
- The level of risk of dengue changes seasonally, and varies from year to year. The level of risk also varies between regions in a country and can depend on the elevation in the region.
- Mosquitoes carrying dengue typically bite during the daytime, particularly around sunrise and sunset.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine or medication that protects against dengue fever.
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 professional.
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. 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 undergoing 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.
Make sure you get travel insurance that includes coverage for medical evacuation and hospital stays.
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
You must abide by local laws.
Learn about what you should do and how we can help if you are arrested or detained abroad.
North Korea is under international and Canadian sanctions. These sanctions could be relevant to and affect your travel.
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. Follow all instructions from your guide. 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.
Import and exports
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.
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 citizen of North Korea, they may refuse to grant you access to Canadian consular services. This will prevent us from providing you with those services.
International Child Abduction
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is an international treaty. It can help parents with the return of children who have been removed to or retained in certain countries in violation of custody rights. It does not apply between Canada and North Korea.
If your child was wrongfully taken to, or is being held in North Korea by an abducting parent:
- act as quickly as you can
- consult a lawyer in Canada and in North Korea to explore all the legal options for the return of your child
- report the situation to the nearest Canadian government office abroad or to the Vulnerable Children’s Consular Unit at Global Affairs Canada by calling the Emergency Watch and Response Centre.
If your child was removed from a country other than Canada, consult a lawyer to determine if The Hague Convention applies.
Be aware that Canadian consular officials cannot interfere in private legal matters or in another country’s judicial affairs.
- International Child Abduction: A Guidebook for Left-Behind Parents
- Travelling with children
- Canadian embassies and consulates by destination
- Emergency Watch and Response Centre
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.
North Korean law does not prohibit sexual acts between individuals of the same sex. However, homosexuality is not widely accepted in North Korean society.
2SLGBTQI+ travellers have experienced harassment and verbal abuse.
The currency is North Korean won (KPW). Cash is the most accepted form of payment. Foreigners are expected to use the Euro or, alternatively, the Chinese renminbi or U.S. dollar. Change in foreign currency is often unavailable. Banking facilities are limited. There are no ATMs. Some hotels accept credit cards, if you give them advance notice.
Natural disasters and climate
The rainy (monsoon) season extends from the end of June until August. Typhoons occur in August and September.
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 from the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang.
Pyongyang - Embassy of Sweden
Seoul - Embassy of Canada
For emergency consular assistance, call the Embassy of Canada in 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. We take the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provide credible and timely information in our Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad.
The content on this page is provided for information only. While we make every effort to give you correct information, it is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, expressed or implied. The Government of Canada does not assume responsibility and will not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided.
If you need consular assistance while abroad, we will make every effort to help you. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.
Learn more about consular services.
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