A trip to the DMZ (border of North Korea) is an experience not to miss whilst you are in Seoul. With this tour, you will be able to take a glimpse into life in North Korea and soak up the tragic history of how a nation became divided. Just ensure you book through a reputable company. Read on to find out which company NOT to book with and about the day’s events.
Preparing for the DMZ Trip
The day had arrived and myself and Jake were very excited about our trip to North Korea. Stupidly, the first time we were in Seoul we didn’t realise that to go into North Korea we could need to book the DMZ tour a few days in advance. So when we called a tour agency 2-days before we were due to leave for Japan, we were more than gutted to be told that it’s not possible for us to book on a tour at such short notice. As the tour was something we really wanted to do, we decided to head back to Seoul after going to Japan.
DMZ Tour Options
There are two types of tours; the Demilitarized Zone tour (DMZ) and the Demilitarized Zone Tour with Joint Security Area (JSA). The difference? Not much, other than that the JSA is where you actually step foot into North Korean territory and can see North Korean Soldiers. For us, we certainly thought the double pricing was worth it. After all, we may never get chance to step into North Korean again.
Costs can vary massively, depending on which company you choose to take your tour with. We chose to do our tour with Koridoor tours, MASSIVE MISTAKE, but will speak more on that later. At the time we took the tour the prices were as follows:
DMZ Tour: $42
DMZ with JSA Tour: $92
Departure and Tunnels
The day started with a gathering at Koridoor tour office for ID and clothing check (must be dressed well). After everyone had arrived and signed in, a coach and a guide took us to the third tunnel (DMZ zone). Here we could walk through the tunnel and learn the history of the war between South and North Korea. The tunnel its self is not much to write home about, but it’s worth checking out.
After the third tunnel, we made a quick stop for bite to eat at a restaurant. Myself and Jake opted to munch on our sandwiches that we bought before the tour began. However, the restaurant has plenty of local Korean food to choose from (not included in the tour price).
After Lunch it was onto Dora Observatory
Here we could peek through the binoculars into a creepy fake North Korean Town. Yes FAKE. No-one actually lives there. We were told by our guide that the North Koreans had built this colorful town and play loud music every day to show South Koreans and visitors that they are prosperous and are doing well. This was a pretty cool part of the tour and the guide provided us with some very interesting information.
Next Stop was Dorasan Train Station
This part of the tour was an emotional part of the trip. We could really sense the desperation of South Korea to reunite with their Northern counterparts; so much so, a train station heading to Pyonyang has already been built and the train is sat waiting to go. Another interesting item at the train station, is the small piece of the Berlin Wall that has been donated to South Korea to show hopes of reunification.
Joint Security Area
Next up was the part of the day that everyone on the tour had waited for; the part where, technically, we would step foot into North Korea. As we approached the joint security area, our bus pulled over and an American solider got on to give us what supposed to be a briefing. Instead he told us that the border was now closed to tourists due to an incident that had happened earlier in the day. At this point we weren’t quite sure if this was a joke or not. But NOPE unluckily for us it was not a joke at all.
Instead of going to the joint security area, our guide opted to take us all to a nearby park. This was just to kill some time so we fulfilled the tour length. In all honesty though, I don’t think anyone wanted to do this as everyone was quite pissed off at this point. When we arrived back at Koridoor’s tour office, surprise surprise!… Everyone had left the office, so there was no one there to talk to about getting back a refund.
Extremely Disappointed Tourists
The next day, we went back to the office to speak to the manager about receiving a refund for the part of the tour we did not do. Unfortunately, the staff were rude and no longer wanted to know us. After asking where $50 per person had been spent and how it was justifiable for them to keep it, we got nowhere and left without a refund.
The first half the DMZ tour was great and we enjoyed learning the history of the war and the divide of a nation. However, if this tour is high a priority for you, avoid going with cheap skate companies like Koridoor. We completely understand that at such a high-tension border zone, incidents can occur; resulting in border closures at short notice. But to not receive a refund for this was totally gutting, particularly after later being told by other travelers that other companies were giving refunds. On top of that, the customer service after the tour was totally unacceptable and the manager refused to answer some of our questions. All in all though, the tour is a must do for anyone visiting Seoul.
Are you staying in Seoul for a few days? Check out our top 5 things to do in Seoul.