ABOUT Tourists can normally only travel to North Korea as part of an organised tour. Solo travellers need a sponsor and permission from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. This is normally only possible for business travellers. Travel within the DPRK is severely restricted. Whether you are visiting on business or as a tourist, you will almost always be accompanied by a guide and will only be allowed to go where your guide is content for you to go. For travel outside Pyongyang, it is your guide's responsibility to obtain the necessary permissions. Military checkpoints at the entry and exit to all towns usually require sight of identity documents before allowing travel onward. Organized by the state-owned Korea International Travel Company (KITC), tourism in North Korea is highly controlled by the government, and as such it is not a frequently visited destination — roughly 1,500 Western tourists visit North Korea each year, along with thousands of Asians. Tourists must go on guided tours and must have their tour guides with them at all times. As of June 2011, the northern border to China has been opened and Chinese citizens are free to drive their own vehicles to Luo, a small North Korean northeast border region where they are free to explore, mingle and photograph. This is seen as a first step towards expanded tourism and development in that region. Photography is strictly controlled, as is interaction with the local population. Koryo Tours (who have been running North Korea tourism and cultural exchanges since 1993.

CLIMATE Long winters bring very cold and clear weather with sometimes snow storms as a result of northern winds that blow from Siberia. The daily average high and low temperatures for P'yongyang (Capital of North Korea) in January are -3 degrees Celsius and -13 degrees Celsius. Average snowfall is approximately thirty-seven days during the winter. Summer tends to be short, hot, humid, and rainy because of the southern monsoon winds that bring moist air from the Pacific Ocean. The monthly average high and low temperatures for P'yongyang in August are 29 degrees Celsius and 20 degrees Celsius. On average, approximately 60 percent of all precipitation (rainfall) occurs from June to September. Spring and autumn are transitional seasons marked by mild temperatures and variable winds and bring the most pleasant weather to visit North Korea.

BEWARE Visas are required to enter North Korea. Contact the Embassy of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, in London. You must register with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs if your visit is for more than twenty-four hours. Most hotels will automatically complete this process on your behalf. You must hold a valid passport to enter North Korea. Your passport must be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. No additional period of validity beyond this is required. However, it is always sensible to have a short period of extra validity on your passport in case of any unforeseen delays to your departure. You do not have to wait until your old passport expires to apply to renew it. Any time left on your old passport when you apply will be added to your new passport, up to a maximum of nine months. You should take out comprehensive medical and travel insurance before travelling to North Korea. Ensure that your insurance covers you for unexpected losses such as cancelled flights, theft of passport or luggage. Check for any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake.