North Korea's sole airline, Air Koryo (http://korea-dpr.com/airk...), currently has scheduled flights from Beijing, which depart at 11:30AM every Tuesday and Saturday, and return from Pyongyang at 9AM on the same days. Air Koryo also flies to and from Shenyang every Wednesday and Saturday, and to Vladivostok every Tuesday morning.
Air Koryo is the only 1-star worst airline on Skytrax's list (http://airlinequality.com...) and has been banned in the EU due to concerns over safety in the past, though is now allowed to fly in to EU territory again. To date, Air Koryo has only had one incident resulting in death, this was in Africa in 1983. The Air Koryo fleet consists largely of Soviet-made aircraft built between 1965 and 1990, plus the pride of their fleet, a 2008 Tupolev Tu-204, which now usually handles the core BeijingâPyongyang route. Otherwise, you'll most likely end up on one of their four Ilyushin IL-62-Ms 1979-1988 vintage, but Air Koryo also flies Tu-154s dating back to the seventies and Tu-134s from 1983.
The only other airline with scheduled service to North Korea is Air China, which flies three times weekly from Beijing to Pyongyang. Neither Aeroflot nor China Southern continue to fly to North Korea. Air China is recommended above Air Koryo due to its far more modern and safe fleet.
Train K27/K28 connect Pyongyang to Beijing in China via Tianjin, Tangshan, Beidaihe, Shanhaiguan, Jinzhou, Shenyang, Benxi, Fenghuangcheng, Dandong and Shinuiju four times a week. There is only one class on the international train between Beijing and Pyongyang: soft sleeper. It can be booked at the station in Beijing, but reservations must be made several days in advance. Your tour agency will usually do this for you, unless you are travelling on work purposes. It has been increasingly difficult to book space on the BeijingâPyongyang route, so confirm your tickets well in advance.
Once a week train K27/K28 also conveys direct sleeping cars from Moscow via China to Pyongyang and vice versa. The route is Moscow - Novosibirsk - Irkutsk - Chita - Harbin - Shenyang - Dandong - Shinuiju - Pyongyang. Departure from Moscow is every Friday evening, arrival at Pyongyang is one week later on Friday evening. Departure from Pyongyang is Saturday morning, arrival at Moscow is Friday afternoon.
Tourists from Dandong are often arranged to take the train from Dandong to Sinuiju just across the Yalu River from Dandong, or a bus from Dandong to Sinuiju. North Korean officers come into the train to check the passport and give it to the tour guide. North Korean officers also do a manual check of the entire luggage, and will ask to look at some of the photos taken in North Korea. Tourists then change to a domestic train sometimes a special tourist train with a/c to travel from Sinuiju to Pyongyang. Returning from Pyongyang, tourists often take the domestic train or again, the special tourist train back to Sinuiju where they either buses to the border and take the bus back to Dandong or change back to the Dandong-Sinuiju train back to Dandong. Immigration procedures in the North Korean side are taken on the train or before boarding the bus.
There is also a direct rail link into Russia, crossing the North Korean/Russian border at Tumangan/Khasan. This route is served by a direct sleeping car Moscow - Pyongyang and vice versa and runs twice monthly 11th and 25th from Moscow, arriving Pyongyang 9 days later. However, since the mid-nineties this has not been an officially permitted route for tourists, and KITC refuses to organize trips using this route; two Western tourists have been successful in taking this train into North Korea, but report that further trips on this route would probably be unsuccessful.
Some agents Lupine Travel can arrange to cross the border from Dandong to Sinuiju by minibus and then board a domestic North Korean train to Pyongyang. Usually you will be seated in a hard seat carriage with KPA soldiers and party workers travelling with their families. There is access to a restaurant car which stocks imported beers Heineken and soft drinks as well as some local beers and spirits. Taking photographs on this train is strictly forbidden. This train is supposed to take around 4 hours to reach Pyongyang but has been known to take as long as 14. If travelling in winter be prepared that temperatures inside the carriage can be as low as -10Â°C.
North Korea can only be visited by an organized tour, but this can be a large group or a party of one. Prices start from around $1000/€700/Â£580 for a 5-day group tour including accommodation, meals and transport from Beijing, but can go up considerably if you want to travel around the country or "independently" as your own one-person escorted group. Tour operators/travel agencies that organize their own tours to North Korea include:
Adventure Korea (http://adventurekorea.com/) - Seoul
Asia Pacific Travel, Ltd. (http://northkorea1on1.com/) - Chicago
Choson Exchange (http://chosonexchange.org/) - US, UK and Singapore. Not a tour agency, rather they provide training in business and economics in Pyongyang, but they occasionally bring people to visit North Korean universities
DDCTS (http://ddcts.com/english.htm) - Dandong
DDCITS (http://www.ddcits.com) - Dandong
Encounter Korea (http://www.encounterkorea.com-) Hong Kong, Switzerland, UK. Caters exclusively to students and recent graduates with student-prices.
Geographic Expeditions (http://geoex.com/adventur...) - San Francisco
Juche Travel Services (http://juchetravelservice...) - UK, Beijing
Koningaap (http://koningaap.nl/azie/...) - Amsterdam
Korea Konsult (http://koreakonsult.com/) - Stockholm
Korea Reisedienst (http://nordkoreareisen.de/) - Hannover
Koryo Tours and Koryo Group (http://koryogroup.com) - Beijing, Shanghai, Belgium, UK
Lupine Travel (http://lupinetravel.co.uk) - Wigan, UK. Offer travel by local North Korean trains as well as by air.
NoordKorea2GO (http://noordkorea2go.nl) - Amsterdam
North Korea Travel (http://north-korea-travel.com) - Spain, Hong Kong
The Pyongyang Project (http://pyongyangproject.org) - Beijing/Alberta/New Jersey Canadian/American non-profit that organizes academic programs, student delegation trips, exchanges and Korean language study abroad at universities in the DPRK
Viajes Pujol (http://coreanorte.com) - Barcelona, Spain
Regent Holidays (http://regent-holidays.co...) - Bristol
Tiara Tours (http://tiaratours.nl) - Breda
Universal Travel Corporation (http://universaltravel.com.sg) - Singapore
Uri Tours Inc. (http://uritours.com) - NYC, US runs standard and customized tours to the DPRK; also an Air Koryo ticketing agent in the U.S.
VNC Asia Travel (http://vnc.nl/zoeken/reiz...) - Utrecht
Yangpa Tours (http://www.yangpatours.com) - USA, Korea - for all overseas Koreans focusing on food and culture.
Young Pioneer Tours (http://youngpioneertours.com)
Your Planet (http://www.jouwchinareis....) - Hilversum, the Netherlands
No matter which company you decide to book with, all tours are run by the Korean International Travel Company with the exception of a few, such as Choson Exchange and The Pyongyang Project who both work directly with various government ministries and domestic DPRK NGOs and it will be their guides who show you around. The average number of tourists per group each company takes will vary considerably so you may want to ask about this before booking a trip.
Most people travelling to North Korea will travel through Beijing and you will probably pick up your visa from there some agents arrange their visas elsewhere beforehand though. The North Korean consulate building is separate from the main embassy building at Ritan Lu, and can be found round the corner at Fangcaodi Xijie. It is open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9:30AM-11:30AM and 2PM-5:30PM, and on all other days except Sundays from 9:30AM-11:30AM. Bring your travel permission, US$45 and two passport photos.
Your guides will take your passport and keep it during your stay in North Korea, or at least for the first couple of days of your tour, for "security reasons" or simply because your entry and exit dates must be registered - the black stamps on the back of your visa or passport. Make sure your passport looks decent and doesn't differ from the most common passports from your country.
Visa-Free Entry From South Korea
There is one place in North Korea that can be visited without needing any kind of North Korean visa:
Joint Security Area often called by the misnomer Panmunjom, the jointly controlled truce village in the Demilitarized Zone DMZ dividing the two Koreas, has regular one-day bus tours from Seoul.
Until 2009, visa-free or, rather, special group visa tours were possible to two other places in North Korea â however, at time of writing, these have been suspended until further notice.
Kaesong Gaeseong, open to day-long group bus tours from Seoul organized by Hyundai Asan.
Kumgangsan Geumgangsan, accessible by group bus tours from South Korea organized by Hyundai Asan. There are daily buses from Seoul to Hwajinpo, the marshaling area for tourists, who then go by special buses through the DMZ to Kumgang. Tours are normally 2 days-1 night, or more appropriately for foreign travelers, 3 days-2 nights.
All three locations are were accessible to Americans, South Koreans, and most other nationalities, although a different list of restricted nationalities applies for Panmunjom see article.
Hyundai Asan was planning to open up tours to Paektusan Baekdusan, called Changbaishan on the Chinese side of the border, involving a charter flight from Seoul to Samjiyeon near Mt. Paektu, with the rest of the tour by bus and on foot. These never materialized though, so for time being, your options are to visit the Chinese side of the mountain no special permits required or add it as an expensive add-on to a standard North Korea tour.