Official advice for New Zealanders living and travelling overseas

  • Reviewed: 3 October 2023, 15:55 NZDT
  • Still current at: 15 June 2024

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If you are planning international travel at this time, please read our COVID-19 related travel advice here, alongside our destination specific travel advice below.

Do not travel

Do not travel to North Korea due to extensive restrictions placed on foreigners, serious risk of arrest and detention, and an uncertain security situation that could change with very little warning. The security situation on the Korean Peninsula remains volatile – technically North Korea and South Korea are still at war (level 4 of 4).

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North Korea

Local laws and regulations
New Zealanders in North Korea are advised to follow all local laws and regulations and exercise discretion and caution at all times. Foreigners may be arrested, detained or expelled for activities that would not be considered crimes in New Zealand. North Korean authorities have detained a number of foreign visitors in recent years and consequences can be severe.

Independent tourism is not permitted in North Korea and travel within the country is severely restricted – travel must be authorised in advance by the North Korean government. Travel with a guide or as part of a tour does not provide special protection from North Korean laws.

There are strict laws and regulations in North Korea covering the speech, behaviour and movement of foreigners. Foreigners in North Korea are closely monitored by authorities and are expected to be accompanied by a guide at all times. Showing disrespect, including in jest, to the country’s leadership, family, or regime is a crime in North Korea. Unauthorised religious or political activity, photography or filming of anything other than tourist sites, unauthorised travel and unwarranted interaction with local nationals may result in your arrest, long-term detention or expulsion.

We recommend you do not attempt to bring anything into North Korea that could be deemed religious or political in nature. Travellers should assume that authorities will inspect published material and electronic devices and possibly confiscate these items. Possession of prohibited items may itself be considered a crime. Tourist facilities are minimal and telecommunications are unreliable.

Your movement and communications may be under surveillance at all times, even in private spaces, including searching of your belongings in your hotel room and monitoring of your email, internet and phone usage.

New Zealanders considering travel to North Korea should familiarise themselves with the operation of United Nations sanctions and, in particular, with prohibitions on transferring goods to North Korea. The carriage to North Korea of any items on the luxury goods list by any person is prohibited under New Zealand law.

You cannot enter North Korea through the border with South Korea without special permission from the North Korean and South Korean governments.

Political tensions
Tensions between North Korea and the international community were high during 2017, as a result of North Korea’s missile and nuclear testing conducted that year. Following a pause in testing in April 2018, North Korea resumed its ballistic missile testing programme in May 2019. There was an unprecedented amount of missile tests in 2022; the high pace has continued in 2023. There are signs that North Korea may resume nuclear testing for the first time since 2017.

The increase in missile testing has contributed to relations with North Korea remaining tense and the situation could deteriorate again with little warning. Due to very limited access to international media, there may be no advance warning about events that could affect your security. We advise New Zealanders to stay informed of local developments as much as possible.

General travel advice
New Zealanders travelling or living in North Korea should have comprehensive medical and travel insurance policies in place. Travellers are advised to carry enough cash to enable travel out of the country should a medical or other emergency arise, as money transfers or other arrangements may not be possible. Modern medical facilities in North Korea are basic and hygiene is poor.

Always carry some form of identification. We recommend photocopying valuable documents, and having two copies of your passport, tickets and visa.

Any photography or videos taken outside of tourist areas could result in confiscation of equipment or detention. Avoid taking pictures of transport infrastructure, officials, government buildings, or anything that may give a negative impression of North Korea. If in doubt, don’t take a picture. Follow the advice of your tour group or local authorities.

As there is no New Zealand diplomatic presence in North Korea, the ability of the government to assist New Zealand citizens is severely limited. Even then, some foreign nationals have reportedly not been granted access to consular support when detained in North Korea as is at the discretion of their government.

New Zealanders in or considering travel to North Korea are strongly encouraged to register their details with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. If you do choose to travel, stay as short a time as possible, eliminate unnecessary activities and review security arrangements. We offer also advice to New Zealanders about contingency planning.

Foreigners are not permitted to use the local currency (the North Korean Won). Cash is the most acceptable form of payment, with the Euro, USD and Chinese Yuan being the most widely accepted currency. ATM’s are not available, banking facilities are limited and you cannot use your debit or credit card to withdraw currency from the bank.

Travel tips

The New Zealand Embassy Seoul, South Korea covers North Korea

Street Address Jeong-Dong Building, Level 8 (West Tower), 15-5 Jeong-Dong, Jung-Gu, Seoul 110-784, Republic of Korea Postal Address KPO Box 2258, Seoul, 110-110, Republic of Korea Telephone +82 2 3701 7700 Fax +82 2 3701 7701 Email Web Site Hours Mon - Fri 0900 - 1230, 1330 - 1730 hrs

See our regional advice for North Asia

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Covered by New Zealand Embassy South Korea

Street Address
Jeong-Dong Building, Level 8 (West Tower), 15-5 Jeong-Dong, Jung-Gu, Seoul 110-784, Republic of Korea

Telephone: +82 2 3701 7700

Fax: +82 2 3701 7701



Hours: Mon - Fri 0900 - 1230, 1330 - 1730 hrs

Related advice from other countries

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