Important Q&A

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Q: How much is the Arirang Mass Games entry ticket and DPRK visa fee?

A: As Arirang is a big money maker for North Korea, prices have continued to go up, both for entrance to the Mass Games and for the North Korean visa. Because these prices are constantly changing, we do not include them in the tour price – no tour operators do. This year’s prices have just been set, and the Mass Games ticket will be 715 Chinese RMB (approximately $105) and the visa fee for American passports will be 900 Chinese RMB (approximately $131). You will be responsible for paying these two amounts upfront while on the trip. Because you cannot apply for DPRK visas on your own, we will need to apply on your behalf before your trip. This application fee is included in your program.

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Q: I am American. Will I get in trouble once I get back because I went to North Korea?

A: No. The United States government only restricts American citizens’ ability to travel to Cuba. North Korea, although extremely difficult to gain entry to, is not by any means forbidden. Also note that your passport will contain no proof of having visited North Korea as visas for American citizens are not issued in your passport, but are rather issued on a separate sheet of paper and recollected when you leave the country – US passports are not stamped in North Korea. However, for those desperate for some proof of entering the DPRK in their passports, because we will be entering and departing through the land border with China, you will receive a Chinese stamp at the border labeled as such – thus your proof of having visited North Korea.

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Q: Is North Korea a dangerous place to visit?

A: No. North Korea is, if anything, one of the safest places you could possibly visit. There is no crime, not even petty theft. Part of this reason is because movement is very restricted in North Korea, not just for you but also North Koreans, who require permits to even leave their home towns. As long as you are not disrespectful to the North Korean’s way of life or state ideology, you will have a very memorable and successful trip. It is important to note that slandering the government, leaders, Korean Labor Party, and the like is a crime under North Korean law. If you violate this rule, not only will you be putting yourself at risk of being deported from the country, but also you will be putting our North Korean guides at risk as well. Also, always ask when it is ok to take pictures!

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Q: Can I bring my camera, cell phone and Ipod to North Korea?

A: Yes with some restrictions, No and No.  Small digital cameras are no problem, but large SLR cameras are seen with suspicion and although you are allowed to bring them to North Korea, you may not have a zoom lens exceeding 150mm. Video cameras are not allowed (with the exception of the small digital still/video cameras that don’t look like video cameras and small ones for home use only). Cell phones and all mp3 players are NOT allowed in North Korea, don’t bring them!  We will have a place where you can store them in Beijing while we are in North Korea.  Please note, you MUST ask our North Korean guides whenever you would like to take a photo, as some places are highly restricted.

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Q: Will I have access to an international phone or the internet in North Korea?

A: Not really. Although some forms of heavily controlled internet access are now available to P’yongyang’s elite, as a foreigner, you will not have access to it whatsoever. Phone calls can be made internationally from P’yongyang, but cost upwards of $15 a minute! It is best to get all your calling and e-mailing done before departing for North Korea, as contact with the outside world will be very limited.

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Q: If the Games are canceled, will I get my money back?

A: Yes, if the Games are canceled (which is highly unlikely) and we are forced to cancel our program, you will be returned the program fee in full, including your deposit. We are not, however, responsible for any flight change fees or other travel cancellation fees that you may incur. We highly suggest that you purchase travel insurance in case of any emergency cancellation from either our end or yours.

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Q: Will we risk being taken hostage by the North Koreans?

A: No! We are not journalists and we are not entering Korea illegally. Instead we are students, tourists and will be entering Korea on DPRK government issued visas. We will not risk being abducted or taken hostage in any way.

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Q: What does the US Dept of State have to say about travel to North Korea?

A: North Korea is NOT on the US Dept of State travel warning list or travel alert list. As far as safety and crime in the DPRK, the State Department has this to say:
“SAFETY AND SECURITY: DPRK Government security personnel closely monitor the activities and conversations of foreigners in North Korea. Hotel rooms, telephones and fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched. Do not take pictures unless you are told you can; taking unauthorized pictures can be perceived as espionage and may result in confiscation of cameras and film or even detention. DPRK border officials routinely confiscate visitors’ cell phones upon arrival, returning the phone only upon departure. Foreign visitors to North Korea may be arrested, detained or expelled for activities that would not be considered criminal outside the DPRK, including involvement in unsanctioned religious and political activities, engaging in unauthorized travel, or interaction with the local population.”
For the State Department’s full page on North Korea, please visit http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_988.html.

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Q: Will I have a roommate?  Can I have my own room?

A: Yes, you will be assigned a roommate if you are joining the program along.  If joining with a friend, you can choose to room with that friend.  You may also change your roommates while you are on the trip.  Very little time will be spent in your rooms, we have a very busy schedule!  You will not, unless requested, be assigned a roommate of the opposite gender.  In the case of odd numbers, we will arrange for either a triple room or an extra single room.  If you wish to not have a roommate and have your own single room, we can arrange this as well, but there is a single supplement fee we must add on to match the cost.  That fee will be approximately $300 extra, but we need to first confirm this.

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Q: Do I need to know how to speak Chinese or Korean to join?  Do I need any background knowledge of this region?

A: No, you don’t, but language skills and previous knowledge are always welcome!  We will be doing all of the translating and leading in China, as all three of us are fluent Mandarin speakers.  When in Korea, we will have three guides, of which two of them will speak very good English.  The trip will be conducted in English.  We will be having nightly meetings to discuss North Korea, so that everyone has a good feel for its current state and history before we arrive in P’yongyang.  We will also be sending out an electronic welcome packet with necessary information and suggested reading after we receive your deposit and confirmation.  In addition to discussions on North Korea, we will offer optional basic Chinese and Korean language sessions for those interested.


3 Responses to “Important Q&A”

  1. Does one have to speak Korean?

  2. Not at all! No Korean or Chinese language background is necessary. Our other guides and us will take care of all language issues. The trip will be conducted in English and Mandarin/Korean lessons will be made available for those interested.

  3. I am a student at college studying for my master’s in Journalism. I have intent to pursue this career, but have no interest in writing about North Korea. Will I be allowed to attend this trip?

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