If you could visit any country in the world, where would you go? Most people would probably pick amazing locales like Paris or a tropical island. But, for more and more western travelers, there's a new must-visit destination out there. And, it's not where you'd think.
In fact, you probably didn't even know Americans could travel to this country. But, it's true. Increasing numbers of Americans and Europeans are taking vacations to North Korea since the country eased travel restrictions in 2010. Now, between 3,000 and 5,000 westerners are visiting each year.
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I'm a travel buff and I like to visit new places, but that sounds crazy to me. Why would people spend their hard-earned money to travel to a country with such a bad reputation? If you're like me, a trip to North Korea doesn't sound fun - it sounds really scary!
It turns out I'm not alone. Plenty of people are scared by the thought of visiting North Korea. That's why there's an entire industry of websites and apps out there trying to ease fears and increase western tourism to North Korea. You'll actually have to use one of these services if you want to make the trip, because it's still difficult to get into the country.
Apps and websites
There are travel services out there that make their money by organizing trips to odd or unique destinations that no one else will take you to. A big part of their job is just convincing people that it's safe.
One of those businesses is called Rebel Tribe. It's based out of California and organizes trips for brave travelers. You've actually got to go through a service like this because the only way to receive a visa to get into North Korea is by traveling with a company that has partnered with a North Korean travel agency. The trips can be relatively cheap, too. Rebel tribe has a package that includes airfare, lodging, food and tours for under $2,000.
They also run HowToGoToNorthKorea.com, a site that answers questions about whether it’s safe to visit, why it’s worth visiting, what kinds of things tourists can expect and more.
There's also a British agency and website called Lupine Travel. It offers group trips to places like North Korea, Chernobyl and Iraq. Each destination includes a detailed FAQ section on the website that answers all of your questions like "Do I have any freedom in North Korea?" There's also an app from another British company to help travelers out.
To capitalize on the increased interest in travel to North Korea, British travel startup Uniquely.Travel launched an app earlier this year to help visitors plan their trips. Called simply “North Korea Travel,” the app features an extensive guidebook including must-see destinations, plus information on how to book a tour. It’s available for free in the iTunes app store but costs $6.50 in the Android Play store.
I'd still recommend against visiting North Korea. There's been a lot of scary news coming out of the country about its secretive and oppressive government, and I'd rather stay safe and spend my money elsewhere.