Heading around the world can be an exciting time for many. Why be tied down by someone else’s plans when you could enjoy it all on your own? There are many reasons to get out there and explore the planet, but here are some top tips for female solo travelers to make sure it all goes to plan, too.
If you’re worried about getting out there, or you want to learn about a new place without the worry of getting lost, then guided tours could be your best friend. Just because you’re a solo traveler doesn’t mean you can’t make new friends, too.
Dress Like A Local
One of the best ways to make sure you don’t draw any unwanted attention is to dress like a local. This means you’ll have more time to enjoy the surroundings without getting bothered.
Keep In Touch
Being halfway around the world might mean that your friends and family want to talk every now and then. Sending daily updates or messages every now and then keeps their minds at rest – and gives you someone to talk to!
Keep Details Personal
Perhaps you’ve met a new friend along your way? While travel buddies can be great, it’s important to make sure that you keep personal details – including your hotel name – to yourself just to be safe.
Do Your Research
The more you know about your travels, the better prepared you should be to go it alone. There are so many travel books and guides out there that it shouldn’t be long before you have more than enough information.
Traveling around the world on your own doesn’t have to be as scary as it first seems. In fact, following these top tips for female solo travelers is sure to help you have the most memorable experience of your life.
35+ Strange Stories About North Korea That Are Absolutely Genuine
The isolation of this country makes it an intriguing and mysterious place. Within its borders, there are unknown and fascinating stories and occurrences that most of us probably would think of as strange and made up. However, we would be wrong about those strange stories, because some of them are absolutely true. We have gathered together 35+ strange stories that you will struggle to believe are definitely real!
North Korea has been testing hydrogen bombs for years, but in 2016, their salvo of tests stirred up some serious worry for their neighbors to the south. Thus, the South Koreans sent balloons over the DMZ and into North Korea with anti-testing propaganda in them.
Not to be outdone, the North Koreans sent back some balloons of their own. Their propaganda though was a lot more personal. In fact, when the South Koreans popped them they were greeted by garbage.
The area surrounding the DMZ has been prime for propaganda for years, so in order to have their ideas heard, the North Korean government built a small town near it. It certainly looked nice and was also intended to beckon South Koreans into defecting.
In truth, though, it was primarily created so that the North could blast their rhetoric over the loudspeakers. However, in 2004, both sides decided to stop broadcasting their propaganda, and now the city sits empty.
Propaganda is everywhere, and those who have visited the country talk nonstop about it. There is no place that propaganda can not be found, even in schools.
In the halls of the schools, you will find mural upon mural that shows the happy life and supreme ruler in all his benevolence. These murals span a wide array of subjects. Some show war, and some simply show their leader smiling and interacting with all his very happy people.
Removing a Tree
In 1976, a tree almost brought the war back to life. That seems like a strange thing to say, but it is the truth. Line of sight in any situation is important. In 1976, there was a tree blocking the US view at one of the DMZ checkpoints.
After a serious incident and skirmish, the soldiers on duty decided to remove the tree. The stump was left as a reminder of the conflict.
There are a lot of rules when it comes to entering and exiting North Korea. However, at the World Cup match between their team and Brazil, the stands were full of North Korean fans. How could this be? Did their leader ease up on travel restrictions?
There is not much chance of that. In fact, there were actually rumors that the leader himself had chosen Chinese actors and sent them to play the role of North Korean fans.
A very well-known South Korean director was actually kidnapped and smuggled to North Korea in 1976. There, he was held captive in a nice home and fed propaganda. Eventually, the leader of the country at the time sent for him.
At this meeting, he was reunited with his ex-wife who had also been taken. They remarried, and he went on to direct the North Korean version of Godzilla, known as Pulgasari. Eventually, he and his wife escaped and made their way to Hollywood.
Keeping Up With the Tourists
It is hard to get permission to travel to North Korea as a tourist. If you do get approval, there are several stipulations. The first is that you will be assigned two government “guides”.
These two guides will tell you where you can go and what you can do, as well as who you are allowed to talk to. There are two so that they can watch each other and make sure that each is doing their job properly.
Like with everything else, the rules for what you can bring into the country as a tourist are very specific. If you fly into the capital‘s airport, you will have to fill out a very detailed customs form.
It asks you to log any electrical devices, books, or publications you have, as well as many other items. Anything deemed inappropriate or controversial will be confiscated. These can be books that are on the banned list, other artistic works, or GPS devices.
There is a lot of focus put on the outward appearance in North Korea. The government and its leader hope to make their country seem more prosperous than it actually is. One of the ways to do that is to build!
They have built things like a huge, beautiful luxury hotel in the middle of the capital city. The Ryugyong Hotel is in the top 100 tallest buildings category and has thousands of rooms. However, with all its grandeur, it has never had one single guest.
The Whole Body of Work
There are a lot of detailed guidelines in North Korea. This is especially true when it comes to the image of its leaders. These guidelines translate over to tourism, as well, so if you’re a visitor, make sure that you follow these rules.
One of these is that when you take a picture of any of the leaders, you must take it of the whole body. There is absolutely no cropping allowed. You also should not fold printed materials with the leaders on them.
As a tourist, you are given an itinerary, and if you are a US tourist, there are a few museums that will be added to that itinerary. One of those is the “Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum”.
This museum celebrates the North Korean victory in 1953 and depicts wartime scenes and weapons confiscated during the battles. It may seem like a strange destination for US tourists, but the government wants to maintain an image of superiority.
Special Museum #2
Another museum that has been built to show the atrocities committed against the North Korean people may also be on that itinerary if the tourist is planning on leaving the capital.
In the south is the “Sinchon Museum of American War Atrocities”. This museum is filled with remnants from the Sinchon incident and is full of very graphic and questionable historical exhibits. Once again, the government wants to control the narrative.
Though many of us probably don’t think that North Korea has elections, they actually do. Once every five years, there is an election for the parliament. However, these elections are a little rigged.
Each district is permitted one candidate, and that candidate is chosen by the leader himself. There are other controls put in place, like mandatory voting, and those who wish to vote for another candidate must do so publicly.
Another facet of keeping up the appearance that the leader wants to show the rest of the world is having a country website. This website contains no Korean whatsoever and has tabs for everything from tourism to business.
The site is clearly designed for outsiders, as there is no Korean to be found. There is also the fact that there is no internet per se, just a controlled and censored intranet.
Kim Jong-Un has made a lot of rules to limit western influence in the country. This includes banning a lot of things, including western clothing. There are also some rules in regards to haircuts (we will talk about that later).
Among the clothes that the leader dictated would be monitored were things like t-shirts, jeans, and skirts, along with piercings and long hair. These rules go for the entire country, but more particularly, in places along the Chinese border.
The rest of the world is living in the 21st century, but in Korea, the years and days go a little differently, as their calendar is designed around their founder’s birth. That means that their calendar actually started in April of 1912.
In North Korea, they are in the 108th Juche year. It seems odd to those of us from the outside, but the people of North Korea are used to it.
Just like with the dress code and other forms of expression, TV is controlled by the state, as well. This is done so that the government can maintain control of the information and narratives that are being relayed to their people.
In North Korea, there are only three channels to choose from. Each of these channels broadcasts government-sanctioned news and programs. This makes choosing what to watch a lot easier!
How would you feel if your power was cut off every night? That is what North Koreans have to deal with, as their country goes through a bit of an energy crisis. The state decided that, in order to conserve its limited resources, everything but the most important buildings would have the power cut off at night.
This fact was only revealed recently when a satellite image from space was taken at night, showing utter darkness over the country.
Desks and Chairs
Education is not mandatory in North Korea. For the parents who opt to send their children to school, there are some very unique things added to the typical school supply list that we are all used to.
Sure, they need paper and pencils, but they also need to bring their own desk and chair. The student can also be asked to do labor for the state like picking up trash. School is very different in this country, that’s for sure!
The criminal justice system in North Korea, like everything else in the country, is strict and absolute. Among the harsh punishments that can be delivered to the individuals who commit a crime is the three-generation rule.
This says that if you commit a crime, your entire family can be sent to prison. That includes your children and parents. In essence, this rule is meant to deter individuals from committing crimes, as no one wants to see their family take the fall for something they did.
We already mentioned the South Korean director who was kidnapped, but there are many other stories of creatives being held or imprisoned. The control of the arts and the media by the state is very strict.
There are stories of writers who have been imprisoned for writing things that were outside the acceptable tone. Just like the director, artists have been held and made to create art in the name of the state.
We all spend hours browsing the millions of websites that are at our fingertips every day. It seems like there is no end to the knowledge we can gain, but in North Korea, this just can’t happen.
Their internet only has 28 websites available to those who have access to a computer. Of course, that number is very low in comparison to the rest of the world. The internet is free, though, so that is good!
Preserving the Body
Like many countries, the North Korean government wants to remember their leaders and show that they are the ones in control. In order to do that, most countries create a tomb, a shrine, or monuments to these iconic figures.
In North Korea, this meant preserving the previous Kim in a glass tomb. This class tomb is visited by tourists all the time. When you do visit, though, make sure to bow at both the leader’s feet and arms.
We hinted at this interesting story when we talked about Western clothing. Along with controlling the western influence on style, the leader and his government have chosen haircuts that they feel are appropriate, as well.
Men have the option to choose from 28 different cuts. If you go rogue, you could end up in jail. Oh yeah, and the selection restrictions don’t only go for men. Unmarried women have to keep their hair short.
Through these stories we have been sharing, there is one common thread – control. This control doesn’t only stop at the fashion or arts, it also encompasses religion. The government has deemed North Korea an atheist state.
This means that anyone seen or found to be practicing any religion can be arrested and sentenced to jail time. This allows the government to control the people even further and prevents any diversity that they feel could lead to problems.
Human Waste Fertilization
Sanctions and discontinuation of trade with other countries have led to some interesting workarounds. In 2008, South Korea stopped shipping fertilizers to the country, and this left the North Korean agricultural industry in a bit of a bind.
When this happened, the government enacted a new law. Citizens were required to save their number twos and give them to the authorities. They would then process the stuff and use it as fertilizer for their fields.
Living In the Capital
As we have said, control is the word of the day every day in North Korea, so the fact that the government also controls who lives in the capital city of Pyongyang is not that far-fetched.
In order to live in the city, you must apply for government permission. Once that permission is given, you then have to abide by the rules within it. Things like a dirty car can get you fined. Also, in order to leave, you will need a travel certificate.
One of the most popular sports in North Korea is basketball. However, as with everything else, the leadership needed to make a few corrections to the rules of the game, so that is what their supreme leader did.
When playing basketball in North Korea, remember that a slam dunk is worth three points. A shot made within the final minutes of the game is also worth eight points. This could make the game very interesting.
In history, music and literature have always been used to drive rebellions and revolutions. That is why it makes sense that a country so controlling of the knowledge and information its citizens ingest would see both of these art forms as a threat.
Thus, in 2015, leader Kim Jong-Un made a decree and confiscated all CDs and tapes of music that contained lyrics that could incite dissension amongst his people.
Like with any military state, the military is one of the cornerstones of maintaining control. That is why, despite the North Korean economy being so bad, the government still finds the money to put into the military complex.
When you look at the division of funds within the country, 20% of the gross domestic product goes to the military. This keeps their image in the eyes of the world as being mighty, but it also leaves its people struggling to be able to afford food.
For a country that likes to stay far away from the western world, there is one area that there are no restrictions, and that is sports. Not only are the North Koreans into basketball, they love rollerblading, too!
The capital city is actually full of rollerblading sites that are typically filled with children and young adults spending their downtime enjoying the activity. That is, when they are not at work or gathering for inspirational speeches.
Another building that was constructed to show the solvency of the government and the economy was the Rungrado 1st of May Stadium. This is the largest stadium in the world, and it is able to seat 150,000 people.
This stadium, unlike the luxury hotel, does get used. There is the odd sporting event held in it, but mostly it is used for the Arirang Festival, which is a fall festival to celebrate Korean culture and history.
If you ever visit North Korea, make sure to change your watches, even if you just came from South Korea. In 2015, the North Korean leadership decided to create their own time zone. The new time zone is called Pyongyang time after the capital city.
This new time zone is half an hour apart from the rest of the world. It is +8:30 from Greenwich Mean Time. Oh yeah, don’t worry about daylight savings, either.
Triplets Belong to State
Triplets in any country are rare, but in North Korea, they are looked at as very special, and the government takes a concerted interest in them. If you have triplets, the government will come in and remove them from the parents.
These children are then raised by the state for their first four years. The parents are given gifts in compensation for the removal of their children. There is no clear reason, but many think it has something to do with the low birth rate of the country.
Only Certain People Can Use the Internet
The fact that the country doesn’t have access to the worldwide internet is not wholly true. There are a select handful of individuals who have access to the internet from global sources.
This list includes the leadership and their families at the top. After them, comes students at select schools and the military division of cyber warfare. Anyone else has to deal with only 28 websites.
Reverence for past leaders is an important aspect of North Korean culture. This means the day of the passing of Kim Il-Sung is observed as a national day of mourning. On this day, you are expected to openly grieve the leader’s loss.
This translates into no smiling and no loud conversation. If you don’t follow these guidelines or do it to the level the state feels is appropriate, you may find yourself locked up in a labor camp.
For most of the world, Sunday is spent relaxing or spending time with the family. However, that is not the way the North Koreans spend their Sundays. In fact, it is a day for labor in this country.
The only difference is on this day of the week, you are not permitted to use tools to get your chores done. For instance, if you are gardening, you will need to use your hands to dig the holes or water the plants.
Weddings are very different in North Korea, and so is the honeymoon. In fact, newlywed couples don’t get a honeymoon, as they are state-mandated to return to work the day after the blessed event.
They also can’t hold the wedding on the day of the previous or current leaders’ birthdays. Once the ceremony is done, the couple must pay their respects to Kim Il-Sung’s statue, too! There are so many rules!
What would you do without your cell phone? One of the stories that most of us just can’t believe is that there is limited cell phone ownership in North Korea. This is, in part, due to the economic crisis, which leaves cell phones too expensive to own.
This is also because of the control exercised upon technology in the entire country. Only one in five people in North Korea owns a cell phone.
Shorter In Stature
There are a lot of differences between the North and South Koreans, from government to fashion and everything in between. Perhaps one of the saddest differences is the fact that the North Koreans are shorter on average than their brothers and sisters to the south.
This may not seem like something to be sad about, but the reason behind this is why it is so upsetting. Due to the malnutrition of the country’s youth, there has been some impact on physical attributes like height.
Permission To Own a Computer
If they control what you look at on a computer, it just seems logical that the state would also control who has a computer. That is why, in order to purchase a computer, you must first get permission.
Like the constraints on the internet and all other technology, this is to protect their citizens from outside propaganda. It is just another level of security the administration feels is necessary. Most people would struggle to afford it anyway.
If you look at the capital city of Pyongyang, you would imagine that the country is very modern. With its beautifully paved roads and modern buildings, Pyongyang looks that way, but the country itself is still very rural.
When it comes to the highway system, most modes of transportation will have to ride on roads that are not paved at all. That is because just about 3% of the country’s roads actually have good asphalt laid down on them.
It’s good to be a leader it seems. Not only do you have access to outside communication, but you can also indulge in some pricey hobbies. One of these was Kim Jong-Il’s cognac habit.
At one time, it was said that he spent just a little under a million dollars a year on the high priced liquor. That is a lot of money, especially when you consider that the average yearly income of a person in the country is just $1,000. It seems a bit indulgent to us, but he was the leader.
Kim Jong-Il Operas
As much as the state monitors art and has its hand in it, they also understand its power. During the time that Kim Jong-Il ran the country, he reportedly penned six different operas. The amazing part is he did it in just a two-year span of time.
That’s good time management. These operas, of course, are focused on history and North Korean culture, perhaps with a bit of propaganda mixed in. But at least there were some beautiful colors and they gave people something different to do.