Friday, August 19, 2022

Money & Shopping in North Korea

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Foreign Exchange Certificates (FEC) were phased out in 2002, along with all the other colored currencies. There is now just the North Korean won, which is officially valued at about 130 per US dollar or 1315 per euro (Dec 2015). Although black market prices may easily be 20 times the official rate (particularly in far northern Korea near the Chinese border), importing or exporting Korean won is absolutely prohibited. In contrast, if you smuggle any won out of the nation, they are virtually useless outside of the country, but they make interesting keepsakes.

In fact, foreigners are urged to utilize euros, Chinese renminbi, US dollars, or Japanese yen as alternatives. It is feasible to get local currency, however it is difficult to utilize since many businesses need international currency. Currency handling is often odd, with a shortage of change and a slew of rule-of-thumb conversions resulting in very unusual transactions. As a result, be sure to carry a lot of tiny change. Your only expenditures will be bottled water, souvenirs, snacks, beverages at the bars, hotel laundry, and tips for your guides, since you will have already paid for your accommodation, transportation, and meals in advance.

In any event, the only stores you’ll probably be able to visit are the state-run souvenir shops near your hotel and at different tourist sites. You won’t be able to visit a genuine local store that serves the locals, but you may get fortunate if you ask your guide if he or she trusts you sufficiently.


If you want to go to South Korea directly or indirectly after visiting North Korea, you should be aware that the South has severe regulations against the import and possession of North Korean propaganda, including the National Security Act. You should avoid bringing anything into South Korea that might be interpreted as North Korean propaganda, such as stamps or postcards with pictures of North Korean officials. Biographies and literature on North Korea are also prohibited.

At tourist attractions, there are many souvenir stores that exclusively accept hard money. Propaganda literature and films, postcards, and postal stamps are all interesting mementos. You may buy freshly completed paintings with your name and the artist’s name at the bottom of certain tourist attractions (such as King Kongmin’s tomb).

You may purchase postcards and mail them to anybody in the world except South Korea, which does not seem to accept them.

In Kaesong, several outstanding silk or linen paintings were offered straight from the artist. It is not allowed to haggle for lower rates, although the prices are very cheap.


The majority of your expenses will be paid in advance as part of your trip. Most attractions include a store where you may purchase bottled water, souvenirs, and refreshments. These are cost-effective. Large bottles of local beer cost USD2 at Pyongyang hotel bars in August 2007. If you aren’t planning on gambling at Yanggakdo Hotel’s casino, €200 for one week should be plenty to cover your water, bar beverages, souvenirs, and guide tips.

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