How does the internet in North Korea work?
Contrary to popular belief, the internet does exist in North Korea but active users rank only in the hundreds in a country of 25 million. Those with access to the internet in North Korea tend to be government officials or businesses who require access to work with international companies.
For example, we arrange tours to North Korea via email with our travel partners in Pyongyang.
There are basically two types of internet in North Korea – The Kwangmyong “Intranet” system and another system to connect to the world wide web. We’ll take a look at the latter here.
Internet in North Korea for foreigners
Foreigners working in North Korea and tourists can access the web in a couple of ways.
There are a few WiFi spots in Pyongyang and around the country.
- The casino in the basement of the Yanggakdo Hotel
- The lobby/coffee shop in the Pothonggang Hotel
- Pyongyang Airport departures
- Hyangsan Hotel in Mt. Myohyang
- Masik Ryong Ski resort near Wonsan
Access is not the easiest and the speeds are not great but it’s possible to post a photo or check yourself in. It costs about €1 for 10 minutes.
North Korean SIM Card
Another method of getting online is by purchasing a North Korean Sim card. Available at Pyongyang airport or the Koryolink office in the Pothonggang hotel, the sim does not come cheap. It costs $200 to purchase it and that’s before you even top it up. Data costs €20 for 50 megabytes so you best keep it on airplane mode for 95% of your stay.
The Sim is for foreigners only and you can only call other foreigners on the same network. Reception is quite good in Pyongyang but once you leave the capital it loses quality dramatically.
You can access most sites except some social media and south Korean websites. A VPN works to override this.
Due to the cost and time it takes to get the Sim we would not recommend you getting one unless it’s absolutely necessary. All Rocky Road Travel tour leaders carry a phone with an international Sim so if there were any emergencies then we always have access to the outside world.
Internet in North Korea for locals
Mobile phone usage in North Korea has soared in recent years and it’s not uncommon to see Koreans glued to their smart phones on the Pyongyang metro.
They can only access an internal system which provides educational material, news, weather, games and messaging services. The world wide web cannot be accessed.
How can I contact friends & family?
The best way is to phone from the hotel reception. It will cost up to €5 per minute so keep it short! You can phone anywhere in the world except South Korea.
Some hotels have international communication centers which also allow you to send an email or a postcard (allow up to 6 weeks for that to arrive..)
You can also ask your Rocky Road Travel tour leader to send a quick message on their phone.
It’s probably best just to let your friends and family know that you’re going to be off the radar for a few days. In many ways a trip to North Korea is a dream getaway because you are totally off the grid and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s a great excuse to ignore those work emails. It also makes for great meal times and drinks with your fellow travelers as no one can possibly be buried in their phones!
Travel to North Korea on one of our group tours and experience a world without internet! (almost…)