Useful country information

Train operator in North Korea:

State Railways

 

 

Ferry operators to North Korea:

-

Time zone:

GMT+9 all year.

Dialling code:

 

+850

Currency:

£1 = approx 206 North Korea won  -   Currency converter

Tourist information:

You may find this useful:  www.tripbase.com/c/northkorea/

Page last updated:

7 November 2013.


Visiting North Korea...

  Pyongyang train station, North Korea
 

Pyongyang railway station.  

Photo courtesy of Jon Ethridge

Visas are not normally granted to foreign independent travellers to North Korea, only to visitors on an organised tour with a guide.  Several companies can arrange visits to North Korea.  Try Regent Holidays (in the UK) at www.regent-holidays.co.uk who can arrange group or individual tours to North Korea, including booking the Beijing-Pyongyang and Moscow-Pyongyang trains.  Also try www.juchetravelservices.com (a new London based agency), Koryo Tours (Beijing-based) at www.koryogroup.com, VNC Travel at www.vnc.nl (in the Netherlands), www.northkorea1on1.com (based in the USA). Each of these companies can book the Beijing-Pyongyang sleeper train and help with visas.  You may also find this webpage useful:  www.tripbase.com/c/northkorea/.  Although talks are progressing, there are no trains (nor any access) across the border between North and South Korea.

Moscow to North Korea

There is a direct sleeping-car between Moscow and Pyongyang in North Korea twice a month provided by the North Korean Railways, and in addition there are two direct Russian sleeping-cars 4 times a month from Moscow to the North Korean border at Tumangan, with an onward connection to Pyongyang.  These sleeping-cars are attached to train 2, the 'Rossiya' from Moscow as far as Ussuriysk, just short of Vladivostok, where they are detached and run onwards along the branch line to Tumangan.  The twice-monthly North Korean sleeping-car is direct to Pyongyang, but the four times monthly Russian sleepers require a change of train at Tumangan onto two North Korean sleeping-cars for the final night's journey to Pyongyang.  All these sleeping-cars have kupé 4-berth compartments and spalny vagon 2-berth compartments.

IMPORTANT:  The Moscow-Tumangan-Pyongyang route has not so far been approved for foreigners to enter North Korea.  It may be approved at some point, indeed one report says it already may be, but please check with your chosen travel agency, feedback would be appreciated.  The only approved route for westerners would be to take one of the two weekly Moscow-Beijing trains (see the Trans-Siberian page), then take the Beijing to Pyongyang train as shown in the next section.

 Moscow & Irkutsk ▶ Pyongyang

 

 Pyongyang ▶ Irkutsk & Moscow

Days of running:

1st, 5th, 15th &

21st of each month

11th & 25th

of each month

Days of running:

7th, 11th, 21st

27th of each month*

2nd or 3rd & 17th

of each month

Moscow (Yaroslavski) depart

 23:45 day 1

 23:45 day 1

Pyongyang depart

 08:00 day 1

 08:00 day 1

Irkutsk depart

 02:55 day 5

 02:55 day 5

Tumangan arrive

 ??:?? day 2

 ??:?? day 2

Tumangan arrive

 10:19 day 8

 10:19 day 8

 

change trains

through car

 

change trains

through car

Tumangan depart

 14:20 day 2

 14 20 day 2

Tumangan depart

 17:05 day 8

 17:05 day 8

Irkutsk arrive

 13:12 day 5

 13:12 day 5

Pyongyang arrive

 20:45 day 9

 20:45 day 9

Moscow (Yaroslavski) arrive

 17:43 day 8

 17:43 day 8

* These are the dates you'd leave Pyongyang.  The departure dates for the Tumangan-Moscow sleepers will obviously be one day later.

Tumangan is the North Korean border point.  This is the 'new' service introduced in 2011.  You can check some if not all of these times at www.poezda.net, but remember that Pyongyang is spelt 'Pjoengjang' and you'll need to look up each train separately.  Westbound train times seem to be absent from the system.  Also try the RZD (Russian Railways) website http://pass.rzd.ru/isvp/public/pass?STRUCTURE_ID=5144.

Fares:  Moscow to Pyongyang through ticket:  Bought through Real Russia, £524 in kupé (4-berth, 2nd class) or £817 in spalny vagon (2-berth, 1st class).  According to the Russian Railways website, the official fare is 410 Swiss Francs (about £285) in 2nd class 4-berth, 645 Swiss Francs (about £460) in 1st class 2-berth.

Visas:  You'll need to have your travel arranged through an agency that handles travel to North Korea, as only passengers on tour arrangements can get visas.  You'll need a Russian visa, obviously.  However, the train passes directly from Russia into North Korea, it does not pass through China, so no need for a Chinese visa. 

However, this route may not currently be approved for foreigners to enter North Korea (this may change, so check with one of the travel agencies mentioned above).  Though at least one intrepid traveller has managed to reach North Korea this way, see Helmut Uttenthaler's account as http://vienna-pyongyang.blogspot.com.

Beijing to North Korea

Beijing ▶ Pyongyang

 

Pyongyang ▶ Beijing

Beijing  depart

 17:25  Mon, Wed, Thur, Sat

Pyongyang depart

 10:10  Mon, Wed, Thur, Sat

Pyongyang arrive

 19:30  next day

Beijing arrive

 08:23  next day

The train has soft class 4-berth sleepers & restaurant car.  A restaurant meal costs around 5 euros.  This train is approved for European & other non-US foreigners but it's reported as not permitted for US citizens, if you're American please check.

Traveller's report...

Traveller David Eerdmans visited North Korea using the Beijing-Pyongyang train:  "...Using the train is very recommendable, because it gives a unique insight in the poor rural areas of North-Korea that are not otherwise shown to tourists (although the villages along the railway are probably still among the best there are in the country). You also pass the site of the large train explosion two years ago, which is still very visible.  The train usually consists of two through cars attached to respectively a Chinese and Korean train on both sides of the border (and on some days also a part from Moscow). The train is pretty comfortable and very comparable to the usual trains in China and Russia, although it's state was somewhat less. Track quality is horrible in North-Korea, with the train travelling very slowly.  Stations are in a very poor state of repair (and of course always spot a portrait of the Great or the Dear Leaders...sigh...). Delays are very frequent due to power outages.  There are, as you state, indeed two classes [subsequent report says only one, 4-berth].  Both are pretty similar and consist of 4-person compartments.  From Pyongyang, western tourists are only allowed on the Soft Sleeper, which is only used by foreigners, mostly Chinese [subsequent reports suggest there is no segregation]. From Beijing, you can also use the Hard Sleeper, which is also used by North-Koreans ...which creates about the only opportunity to speak with 'normal' North-Koreans without having a guide with you. On the way back from Pyongyang I also had an interesting conversation, because I shared the compartment with the Indian ambassador in North-Korea!  The through cars are fenced off from the rest of the train (!), so you can't use the restaurant car [although several other reports confirm that you can do so!].  In Korea, however, a meal can be brought to you by the car attendant [Note:  Regent Holidays report that meals in the restaurant car are included in the fare].  The quality of the food is pretty good considering the food shortages in the country.  Do expect dog meat however, which is actually quite tasty.  The border crossing is very slow, but not the pain I expected it to be.  The border officials are usually not too friendly, but not rude or intimidating.

Scenery from the train from Beijing to North Korea

Scenery from the Beijing to Pyongyang train. Photo courtesy of Jon Ethridge

  Pyongyang station

Pyongyang station concourse. Photo courtesy of Roger Kidley

North Korea - South Korea trains...

Although there have been talks, proposals an test runs, there is currently no service between North & South Korea, and the border remains closed.


Travel insurance & health card...

 

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

Get travel insurance, it's essential...

Never travel overseas without travel insurance from a reliable insurer, with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover.  It should also cover cancellation and loss of cash (up to a limit) and belongings.  An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheaper than several single-trip policies even for just 2 or 3 trips a year (I have an annual policy myself).  Here are some suggested insurers.  Seat61 gets a small commission if you buy through these links.

In the UK, try Columbus Direct or use Confused.com to compare prices & policies from many different insurers.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65 (no age limit), see www.JustTravelCover.com.

        If you're resident in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites.

  If you're resident in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

Get a spare credit card, designed for foreign travel with no currency exchange loading & low or no ATM fees...

It costs nothing to take out an extra credit card.  If you keep it in a different part of your luggage so you're not left stranded if your wallet gets stolen, this is a form of extra travel insurance in itself.  In addition, some credit cards are significantly better for overseas travel than others.  Martin Lewis's www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/cheap-travel-money explains which UK credit cards have the lowest currency exchange commission loadings when you buy something overseas, and the lowest cash withdrawal fees when you use an ATM abroad.  Taking this advice can save you quite a lot on each trip compared to using your normal high-street bank credit card!

You can avoid ATM charges and expensive exchange rates with a Caxton FX euro currency Visa Card, or their multi-currency 'Global Traveller' Visa Card, see www.caxtonfx.com for info.

Get an international SIM card to save on calls & mobile data...

Mobile phones can cost a fortune to use abroad, so consider getting a global pre-paid SIM card for your mobile phone which can cut call & data costs by up to 90%.  At the time of writing, www.roamsure.com claims a definite 25% saving within the EU and up to 90% saving in the rest of the world.  Incoming calls are free in 73 countries, including the USA, Australia, South Africa and EU.  There's no contract or commitment, and at time I write this Roamsure is offering a global SIM card for free when you buy £20 of call credit.  Seat61 gets some commission to support the site if you buy airtime from Roamsure.

 


Back to home page