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Is Pyongyang Safe?

Pyongyang is considered a high-risk destination due to political tensions and strict government control. Travelers may face arbitrary arrest, detention, and severe legal consequences for actions deemed hostile by authorities. Violent crime is rare but petty crimes like theft can occur. Medical facilities are inadequate, and travelers should ensure proper vaccinations and travel with sufficient medication. Adhering to cultural norms and respecting local laws is essential for a safe visit.

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Safety & Security

Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, is a destination that raises safety concerns for travelers. While the risk of petty crime is relatively low, the potential for political tensions and civil unrest cannot be ignored. Visitors should exercise extreme caution and avoid any unauthorized interactions or activities that could be perceived as provocative or disrespectful.

  • Strict Regulations: North Korea has stringent laws and regulations that visitors must adhere to. Engaging in unauthorized activities or wandering off without permission can lead to severe consequences, including detention or imprisonment.

  • Political Tensions: The political situation in North Korea is volatile, and tensions with other countries can escalate rapidly. Travelers should stay informed about current events and follow the guidance of their tour guides or local authorities.

  • Limited Freedom of Movement: Visitors are typically restricted to designated areas and must be accompanied by government-approved guides at all times. Independent exploration is generally not permitted.

  • Scams and Disputes: While rare, there have been instances of scams targeting foreigners or disputes arising from misunderstandings or cultural differences. It is advisable to exercise caution and seek assistance from tour guides or embassy officials if needed.

  • Terrorism: The risk of terrorism in Pyongyang is generally low, but travelers should remain vigilant and follow the advice of local authorities and their respective governments.

It is crucial for travelers to thoroughly research and understand the unique risks associated with visiting Pyongyang and to strictly adhere to all regulations and guidelines provided by their tour operators or local authorities.

Health & Medical

Travelers to Pyongyang, North Korea should be aware of potential health risks and take necessary precautions. The healthcare system in the country is underdeveloped, and medical facilities may lack adequate resources and trained personnel, especially for foreigners.

  • Vaccinations: Ensure you are up-to-date with routine vaccinations, including those for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, and influenza. Additional vaccines may be recommended based on your specific travel plans.

  • Infectious Diseases: Waterborne and foodborne illnesses, such as cholera, typhoid fever, and hepatitis A, are prevalent due to poor sanitation conditions. Exercise caution when consuming food and water.

  • Air Pollution: Pyongyang experiences high levels of air pollution, which can exacerbate respiratory conditions. Individuals with asthma or other respiratory issues should take necessary precautions.

  • Medical Facilities: Limited access to quality medical care, especially for foreigners. Travelers should carry adequate supplies of any necessary medications and consider purchasing comprehensive travel health insurance.

  • Insect-Borne Diseases: While the risk is generally low, take precautions against insect-borne diseases like malaria and Japanese encephalitis, depending on your travel plans and activities.

It is crucial to consult a travel health professional before your trip to Pyongyang and take appropriate measures to ensure a safe and healthy journey.

Natural Disasters

Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, is located in a region that experiences various natural disasters, including typhoons, floods, and earthquakes. While the risk of these events cannot be eliminated, travelers should be aware of the potential hazards and take necessary precautions.

  • Typhoons: The Korean Peninsula is prone to typhoons, particularly during the summer and fall months. These powerful storms can bring heavy rains, strong winds, and potential flooding, which can disrupt transportation and damage infrastructure.

  • Floods: Due to its location and topography, Pyongyang is susceptible to flooding, especially during the rainy season. Flash floods can occur suddenly, posing risks to travelers and causing disruptions to daily life.

  • Earthquakes: North Korea lies in a seismically active region, and Pyongyang has experienced several earthquakes in the past. While the frequency and magnitude of these events are relatively low, travelers should be prepared for the possibility of tremors or more significant seismic activity.

It is advisable for travelers to monitor weather forecasts, follow local advisories, and heed any instructions from authorities in case of natural disasters. Additionally, having a contingency plan and being aware of evacuation routes and shelters can help ensure safety during such events.


Public transportation in Pyongyang, North Korea, is limited and not recommended for foreign travelers. The city has a metro system, trams, and buses, but these are primarily used by locals and can be overcrowded and unsafe for tourists.

  • Taxis are the safest and most reliable mode of transportation for foreigners. However, these must be arranged through authorized tour companies or hotels, as independent taxis are not permitted.

  • Driving is generally not allowed for foreign visitors. Only authorized drivers from tour companies can operate vehicles.

  • Road conditions in Pyongyang are generally poor, with potholes and lack of proper signage or lighting. Traffic rules are often disregarded by local drivers.

  • Cycling is not a viable option for tourists due to heavy traffic, lack of dedicated lanes, and restrictions on independent travel.

  • Walking is possible within designated areas for tourists, but caution is advised as pedestrian infrastructure is lacking, and independent exploration is strictly limited.

Overall, transportation options are severely restricted for foreign visitors in Pyongyang. Relying on authorized tour guides and vehicles is essential for safe and permitted travel within the city.

Cultural Norms

Visiting Pyongyang in North Korea requires a deep understanding and respect for the local culture and customs. As a traveler, it's crucial to be mindful of the following:

  • Dress Code: Conservative dress is expected, especially when visiting sites of cultural or political significance. Avoid revealing clothing, and cover up when appropriate.

  • Photography Restrictions: Exercise caution when taking photographs, as there are strict rules and limitations. Obtain permission before photographing individuals, and refrain from capturing military personnel or facilities.

  • Political Sensitivity: Avoid discussing or expressing opinions on sensitive political topics, as this could be perceived as disrespectful or even illegal.

  • Guided Tours: Most foreign visitors are required to be accompanied by government-approved guides at all times. Follow their instructions and respect the itinerary.

  • Gestures and Body Language: Be mindful of your gestures and body language, as certain actions may be considered offensive or disrespectful in North Korean culture.

  • Respect for Leaders: Showing respect for the country's leaders and avoiding any actions that could be interpreted as disrespectful is essential.

  • Cultural Events: If you have the opportunity to attend cultural events or performances, observe proper etiquette and refrain from disruptive behavior.

Remember, cultural sensitivity is paramount when visiting Pyongyang. Respecting local customs and traditions will not only ensure a smoother travel experience but also demonstrate respect for the host country.

Emergency Services

Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, has a limited availability of emergency services for travelers. The country's isolation and strict control over information make it challenging to assess the reliability and quality of these services accurately. Travelers should exercise extreme caution and be prepared for potential difficulties in accessing emergency assistance.

  • Limited Emergency Services: North Korea has a national emergency number, but the responsiveness and capabilities of these services are largely unknown, especially for foreign visitors. Ambulances and fire services may have limited resources and personnel.

  • Restricted Access: As a tightly controlled society, North Korea restricts the movement and activities of foreigners. Access to emergency services may be limited or denied, particularly in sensitive areas or during periods of heightened security.

  • Language Barriers: Most emergency personnel in North Korea are unlikely to speak English or other foreign languages fluently, making communication challenging for non-Korean speakers.

  • Tourist-Specific Services: North Korea does not have dedicated tourist emergency services or hotlines. Travelers must rely on their tour guides or the embassy of their home country for assistance in emergencies.

Travelers are advised to exercise extreme caution, follow all instructions from their tour guides, and avoid situations that may require emergency assistance whenever possible. It is also recommended to have comprehensive travel insurance and emergency contact information readily available.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Is Pyongyang safe for tourists?

Pyongyang is generally safe for tourists, but travel is highly restricted and monitored. Visitors must be part of an approved tour group and follow strict rules. Exercise caution, avoid sensitive topics, and respect local customs.

Is Pyongyang safe for solo female travelers?

Solo female travel to Pyongyang is possible but not recommended due to the conservative culture and lack of freedoms. Women should dress modestly, avoid going out alone at night, and be prepared for gender discrimination.

Is Pyongyang safe for families?

Traveling to Pyongyang with children is possible but challenging due to the lack of family-friendly amenities and strict regulations. Parents should be prepared for limited entertainment options and closely monitor their children's behavior.

Is Pyongyang LGBTQ+ friendly?

North Korea is not LGBTQ+-friendly, and same-sex relationships are illegal and heavily stigmatized. LGBTQ+ travelers should exercise extreme caution and avoid public displays of affection or discussing their identity.

Do you need a visa to go to Pyongyang?

All visitors to North Korea, regardless of nationality, require a visa obtained in advance through an authorized travel agency. The visa process is strict, and independent travel is not permitted.

Can you drink tap water in Pyongyang?

Tap water in Pyongyang is not safe to drink due to potential contamination. Visitors should only consume bottled or purified water and avoid ice cubes made from tap water.

What is the currency in Pyongyang?

The official currency in North Korea is the North Korean won (KPW), but foreign currencies like the Euro, US dollar, and Chinese yuan are also accepted. Cash is preferred, as credit cards are not widely accepted.

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