North Korea, also known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, is a very secretive country as compared to other countries. Despite being termed as one of the most mysterious countries in the world, tourists continue to visit the nation but, with conditions applied. You will always be accompanied by state escorts who will keep a keen eye on you and ensure you don’t break any of their numerous laws. Here are a list of rules that must be followed in North Korea if you don’t want to end up vacationing in jail. Not even remotely kidding here.
1. Wearing jeans is prohibited
Yes, you read it right! This might sound bizarre to you but, North Korea is strictly against western culture. A pair of jeans is a symbol of western culture which has been “spread” by their eternal enemy; America, and their denim ban sends a clear anti-west message. If you are a tourist you will not be told anything but you will have to change if you visit memorials of Kim II Sung and Kim Jong II.
2. Local currencies can’t be used by tourists
Tourists are only allowed to pay using US dollars, yuans, euros or South Korean wons in local shops. Only cash transactions are accepted in North Korea. Buying anything for local Koreans from local shops is prohibited.
3. Don’t wander off on the streets alone
Walking around freely in North Korea is prohibited for tourists. Foreigners are not allowed to go anywhere without an escort even if it means going across the street from your hotel to buy something. Even sightseeing is only allowed with an escort or a guide at authorized locations only.
4. Don’t speak ill about the country or their leader(s)
Speaking ill about the leader, Kim Jong Un, his ancestors or the country can land you directly in jail because it is considered a serious offence. In fact, visitors are expected to bow down and show respect to the statues of North Korean leaders. Even if you want to refer to a statue of a North Korean leader you are expected to stretch out all five fingers of your hands, don’t point a finger. So, follow the simple rule; if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.
5. No point taking your mobile phone
A local sim card is needed if you wish to make calls since no foreign SIM cards work in North Korea. SIM cards for visitors are different from those used by local residents.
6. Practicing or discussing religious beliefs is prohibited
North Korea is an atheist country and expressing or discussing one’s own religious beliefs is strictly prohibited. Practicing religion is against the law and failing to abide by the rules can land you in jail. Citizens do not have any right to religious freedom and are forced to worship the Kim family.
7. Mind what you click
As I mentioned earlier, North Korea is a secretive country and they like to keep their internal affairs a secret too. Tourists are often instructed by their guides to avoid clicking scenes of construction sites, or poverty. Also, if you wish to click a picture of a Korean leaders statue remember to capture the whole statue but no close-up shots of the head please.
8. Don’t expect privacy
If you are wanting to visit North Korea for some soul searching then think again. Freedom of travel is a big no-no. So, don’t imagine that you can take peaceful walks along the streets of North Korea kyunki government sab dekh rahi hai!
9. Tourists are not allowed to talk to locals without permission
If you wish to talk to locals, first you need to take special permission from the special service representatives. If you try to talk to someone without any permission they are likely to avoid interaction with you.
10. Pack your luggage thoughtfully
North Korea has a rigorous screening process at the border. On arrival, your laptop, camera and even your browsing history will be inspected by customs officials. Items that are absolutely prohibited are satellite phones and GPS trackers. So, pack wisely.
A fun fact; Marijuana is termed legal in North Korea. But for safety’s sake, avoid lighting up there, okay?