North Korea Welcomes US Citizens!

Since 2002 FarRail Tours has been able to offer a series of highly rated North Korea itineraries, all tailor made and dedicated to railway enthusiasts around the globe. Getting authentic steam trains into action in what is arguably the world's most challenging destination for tourists and tour operators alike, represents no mean feat.

As such we have taken considerable pride in the fact that we have been able to offer consistently reliable itineraries and train operations, which typically offered much more than advertised, and, according to our clients, certainly more than any other tour operator.

It is therefore with utmost regret that we now have to acknowledge the fact that the most recent behavior of the North Korean authorities has once again become, diplomatically speaking, rather 'idiosyncratic'. This has led to the situation of FarRail Tours being unable to guarantee the delivery of the announced itinerary. This does not only include the scrapping of booked steam engines and the dismantling of whole railway lines (such issues we have managed to work around with our onshore partners), but most recently, the cancellation of the Arirang Festival (one point from our itinerary) and uncertainties regarding the visa situation for US citizens.

These circumstances have therefore forced us to cancel the proposed itinerary.

While we wish to apologize for this unfortunate development, which, of course is beyond our scope of influence, FarRail Tours remains, beyond doubt, committed to providing our American friends with first-hand insights into North Korea, hopefully in the not too distant future.

More details are given in the upcoming newsletter (free of charge, online subscription necessary).

Bernd Seiler

Berlin metro cars in Pyongyang

This could have been your tour:

On several successful trips to the People's Democratic Republic of Korea, better know as North Korea, we often discussed the possibility of bringing people on the tours from nations which have not had the best relations with this country. North Korea has a unique political system. After years of "No - not possible," we finally managed to get the ok for US citizens to come!

Our partners in Pyongyang are reliable. If there is no political earthquake we will be able to bring US citizens to North Korea for the first time after decades of no visits being allowed. Of course, we have to fulfil a few hard restrictions. However, we can offer you a most interesting program that goes well beyond the required visits to national and revolutionary monuments. Initially, the maximum possible stay for US citizens was limited to four days and three nights, but in March 2006 we managed to get the permit for 6 days! Three charter trains are included in the itinerary, the maximum possible for the first tour on which Americans are allowed to come.

view from the international train

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) was for many years almost off limits to foreign visitors. During earlier stays we met with North Korean officials to discuss a number of tour proposals for railway enthusiasts, which ultimately led to the successful trips FarRail Tours has offered over the last four years. While the very fact that the authorities agreed to foreign visitors exploring parts of the national railways, which are perceived as an installation of military significance, is remarkable, we even managed to include one of the numerous, and hitherto totally unknown, industrial narrow gauge railways in our itinerary as well as lines in areas which have been closed to westerners for more than three decades.

Please be assured that you can expect absolutely first class pictures with professionally managed authentic trains. The Koreans know what we want and they will do their very best to make this extraordinary event come true. Our unique tour will give you outstanding value for money.


Date Itinerary
20.09. Morning meeting in Beijing, hotel for having a shower for those who arrive in the morning, visit to the railway museum, at 17.30 hrs we'll board the overnight train K27 to Pyongyang
21.09. Morning arrival at the border to North Korea, 09.35 hrs continue by international train K 27 to Pyongyang, arrival 19.30 hrs. Reception in Pyongyang and dinner in the five star Yanggakdo hotel
22.09. We start the unique experience with one of the most holy places of the country: the mausoleum of Kim Il Sung (Kumsusan Memorial Palace). Hereafter we'll ride with the Swiss trams (metre gauge) and take pictures of it. This visit depends on the opening days of the mausoleum. Just in case we have planned another activity. After lunch we continue by charter bus to Kujang. Charter train Kujang - Muksi with a Russian M62 locomotive on a very scenic, not electrified line. Evening return to Pyongyang. Here we'll meet the American group.
23.09. Morning charter train with one of the Russian class M62 diesels to Nampho, including some photo stops along the line, early afternoon return to Pyongyang by charter bus, afternoon visit to the East European Tramways on Kwangbok Street (standard gauge), evening visit to the Arirang Festival, the famous and spectacular mass pageants, hotel Pyongyang
24.09. In the morning visit to the Mansu Hill (with a huge statue of the "Great Leader", Kim Il Sung), visit to the Pyongyang Metro, including a ride on a public Metro train (to some stations, entire line is not permitted), later visit to the birth place of Kim Il Sung in Mansudae (very close to Pyongyang), in the early afternoon we'll go by charter bus to Cholgwang to take a charter steam freight train on the narrow gauge railway (Japanese-built steam loco), evening return to Pyongyang, hotel Pyongyang
25.09. Morning visit to the square in front of the railway station with several trolleybus and tram lines. 10.10 am departure by daylight international express across North Korea to the Chinese border at Sunujiu/Dandong, and onward to Shenyang (for China steam extension) or back to Beijing
26.09. 09.35 am arrival in Beijing, visit to the Great Wall, four star hotel Beijing
27.09. Return flight to the United States or China steam extension

Cholgwang narrow gauge

Description of trains and routes

The narrow gauge line near Cholgwang was always out of bounds until April 2005. After several long nights with the authorities we now can go over at least four kilometres of the railway. The line runs through a spectacular countryside and after some four kilometres you can get the sea in the background. Light for this position is best in the late afternoon. The line to the ore mine is about 2.5 km long, and a Hu Kishi 2-8-0 locomotive once provided the power for shipments of minerals from the nearby mines to the port, which unfortunately cannot be visited. Our charter train consists out of three or four rusty wagons. The line is out of use, our travel my be restricted by track condition.

Cholgwang narrow gauge

The line between Pyongyang and Nampho is electrified. Nampho is the harbour city for Pyongyang, connected by railway and a ten lane wide motorway, which is almost empty. We'll make at least two stops on the line for taking pictures and filming. There are more opportunities available for records of our train in the stations.

Kujang to Muksi are only a few kilometres. Anyhow, the line is very beautiful and offers plenty of possibilities. Five line shots are permitted, including a long, flat bridge over a river. The line is not electrified. As it is a branch line which hardly sees any traffic we’ll have all the time we need for our photo stops. The line heads to the west, so we arranged the visit in the afternoon for perfect light conditions. This line was never visited before by westerners as it is in a restricted area.

Our visit to the capital city of Pyongyang includes a tour on the world-famous metro system. The Pyongyang Metro is reportedly the deepest in the world, more than 150 m below the surface, and as such part of a huge underground system into which the two million people of the capital could be evacuated in case of an attack on the DPRK. The design of some of the stations is breathtaking, thanks to the lavish use of marble, chandeliers, impressive sculptures, carvings, mosaics and other murals. Many of the latter depict the founder of the country, president Kim Il Sung. The names of the stations like "Torch," "Glory" or "Liberation" surely sound exotic to western ears.

Russian diesel loco class M62

Another important part of the mass transit system are the Pyongyang tramways. The cars originate from formerly befriended countries of the European socialist block. A special ride through the grand city of Pyongyang with its monumental socialist architecture and beautiful parks will be a part of our itinerary.

Our trip to Beijing will be by international train, surely an opportunity for priceless observations of this rarely visited country. In Sinuiju, North Korea, steam locomotives were spotted during trips in the last two years. These are used for branch line and shunting services. Other than that, various types of the locally-built electric "Red Banner"-class as well as several diesels of the Chinese DF4-types or Soviet-made M62 "Taiga Drums" can be seen.


The North Korean authorities will check your identity very careful. For obtaining the visa we have to give several personal dates and details including employer and profession. Please expect that they'll call your employer and ask whether you have given the correct information about your position. Journalists are not allowed to join us on this trip. Government officials are off limits as well. North Korea is very sensitive regarding information that is published. So please note that all film and video records are for private use only. If you wish to publish reports about this trip, please contact us in advance. We'll find a solution that will not harm our partners in Pyongyang (you would risk that our partners who arrange the trip will at least loose their job – and this would be the least harmful punishment for them). Please be honest when you state your occupation. They will find out and may cancel the full trip in case of untrue statements. Consider that this is the first ever railway trip for US citizens, and with good results they may open more of the country and its railways step by step.

The North Koreans will not stamp your passport, so you can avoid any possible trouble with officials in the U.S. Visas will be issued in Beijing. Note that there are no US government restrictions on US citizens visiting North Korea.

New Years Eve postcard   Worker's Party Memorial and East European tram
New Years Eve postcard Juche 89 (= year 2000)   ... and the reality: Worker's Party Memorial in Pyongyang

The North Koreans will monitor us during the trip. If you want to make a photograph or a video outside the permitted places, please ask in advance. This is simply to avoid trouble. On train rides we'll try to maximise the results (photo & video). Sometimes it is somewhat difficult to go beyond the agreed and permitted arrangements.

Charter buses and trains represent the standard of our host countries, which may deviate from American and European expectations. While we will try to avoid long walks, some photo positions may require a bit of an extra effort. The itinerary is designed especially for photographers and video filmmakers.

Temperatures are expected to be in the range of plus 5 to plus 20 degrees Centigrade (40 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit). The autumn season is often dry and sunny and a beautiful time of year for travel.

The hotel in Pyongyang is a five star hotel. Please be prepared however, that food isn't available in unlimited quantities like it is in China. Full board is included, but lunches will sometimes be simple, not to say "basic," especially during special train rides, while dinners are usually very good. Alcoholic beverages are not included in the tour price, but are usually available including good beer.

Please note, mobile phones are not allowed in North Korea. You have to hand over your mobile phone to officials and will get it back on the last day of our tour. Laptops are allowed. Voltage is 220 V, 50 Hz in both countries, North Korea and China. An adapter for the outlet is necessary. In the DPR Korea it is not guaranteed that the voltage will be sufficient to recharge batteries in the time normally needed. Please be prepared and consider taking extra batteries.

Further information about special conditions in North Korea are supplied on request.

Registration period ends July 30th, 2006.

Metro in Pyongyang


"In 1988, a friend & I were booked on a group trip to North Korea. Everything was fine with the Korean authorities until 2 weeks before the trip, when our visas were cancelled without explanation."

This was in 1988 as North Korea just opened their iron curtain a tiny bit. We made already several railfan tours to North Korea. We are familiar with the situation there. Our partners know what they are going to do. No need to fear about cancellation without a really big reason (SARS has been one).

"Will my passport get stamped?"

Definitely not. You'll get a lose paper with the visa which will be removed on the return trip. In addition: we'll neither publish a list of participants nor a photo of the group anywhere.


North Korea Welcomes US Citizens 10 to 40 participants 2.760 US-$
20.09. - 27.09.2006 Single room surcharge 597 US-$

(Single rooms are not available on the overnight trains)

Minimum number of participants is 10. The maximum number of participants is capped at 40.

The price includes:

Not included are:

This tour is arranged by FarRail Tours.

Always illuminated: The Great Leader, Kim Il Sung

Children playing on the Kim Il Sung square


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