all stores: Buy your Propaganda and learn the truth
In all the tourist shops and/or hotel gift stores that you will be able to stop at, there are very few things that you can take as souvenirs.
North Korea is famous for their ginseng. You can buy that as either natural root form, or as a tea.
However, if you want something that lasts the testament of time, look no further than the books of propaganda. You can learn first hand how the US is The Empire of Terrorism. This fine publication by the Foreign Languages Publishing House, printed in Juche 92 (2003), sheds light on how even to this day, women fear for their lives on the streets of America due to sexual predators and kidnappers. Black people are afraid to use public transportation and are routinely the victims of hate crimes. Americans violently and routinely seek to oppress and intimidate all people, even their own.
Another fine book, The Korean Question And US Forces in South Korea, depicts how the US sought to use the Korean peninsula due to its strategic location as a point to conquer all of Asia. The Americans moved in to South Korea, who were not strong like their Northern brothers, and were easily overcome and enslaved. The US then brutally attacked the North in our attempts to secure a foothold on the peninsula as stage one of Asian domination.
What to buy: The propaganda will come in paperback book form, between 15 and 100 pages.
There may also be some small poster size wall mount artistic impressions.
Also, collector's stamps are readily available.
What to pay: The books range from $3~$8USD
The posters are $2~$4USD
The stamps range greatly on the quantity and bindings of the books.
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Department Store: TV's, lap-tops, beds & furniture - want more?!
You'll get the chance to do some shopping whilst in Pyongyang and we stopped by this small department store which had selections of food items on the ground floor that included some western chocolate products. The next floor up had some electrical and furniture items that you average North Korean could never afford in a million years such as Panasonic LCD widescreen TV's for US$2450 or 343,000 Won! Other items included air conditioning units, washing machines, wardrobe cabinets, beds, hi-fi's and laptop computers.
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Korea Stamp shop: Stamps and more souvenirs
This shop is right beside the Koryo Hotel which is where you could be staying as it's one of the few hotels where foreigners can stay. The stamp shop displays every single stamp that has ever been issued in North Korea and many of them are available for purchase. Other items to buy here include postcards, A3 reproductions of propaganda posters you see on the streets, T-shirts and other souvenirs.
Foreign Language Bookshop: Souvenirs
This small bookshop lies very near to Kim Il Sung Square - just a stone's throw away, in fact. As the title for this tip suggests, this bookshop is full of books in English, Spanish, French and German so it should suit most visitors. The bookshop also sells pin badges (but not the ones that every adult North Korean wears of Kim Il Sung) and flags. I bought a small DPRK one that you can see in the photo to take to a football match that we were going to see later in the tour (DPRK Vs Turkmenistan is a 2010 World Cup qualifier).
Souvenir shops: Communist capitalism
Even though North Korea is the last bastion of Communism, they know how to make money out of you. Virtually every place you visit will have a souvenir shop selling books, leaflets, postcards, pin badges and such like. To me it was a really big surprise and something I wasn't expecting to see. I'm glad they were there actually as you just can't buy this kind of stuff anywhere else (well apart from eBay, of course!). For me I bought a lot of leaflets on the places that we visited and a guidebook with some lovely photos and even maps. Most of this stuff is very old - publication dates shown from the late 1980's to the early 1990's and they have a kind of amateurish, old school, staged fashion catalogue photo kind of feel to them that I liked. One thing that you won't be able to buy are the Kim Il Sung pins that every adult in North Korea wears. I believe they actually get given them on their 17th birthday.
Stamp shop in Pyongyang: Stamps
Welcome to world of stamps. If you are fan, you'll cry there. And probably spend a fortune. DPRK has serious production of stamps each year so you'll really have excellent choice for present or for collection.
What to buy: Stamps
What to pay: A lot :-)
International Book Store: Shopping is not a THING in DPRK
All shops look the same and sell the same.
1. Books with Great Leader ideas.
4. Ginseng products
7. T-shirt's (I saw only 2 different kind)
That's all folks.
What to buy: Hm, choice is not big so you'll probably end up with propaganda posters, some Ginseng (because is really great there), send some postcards (they arrived really quick to Europe)...
What to pay: You must have EUR, USD or RMB !
NO credit cards.
No negotiation...if you think that price is hilarious and your eyes can't believe, be aware that you purchase some pretty rare things.
• international telephone calls (it is very expensive to call overseas from North Korea). It is not possible to use Internet and/or mobile phones in the country.
• laundry at the hotel. If you have some washing to do it is not cheap either.
• different leisure activities at the hotel such as bowling (not that expensive)
• swimming pool, casino, and drinks at the bar, etc.
• souvenirs (they are expensive)
• ascending to the tower of Juche idea. You can take the elevator to the top and enjoy a fantastic view on Pyongyang (cost - 5 Euro. Definitely worth it).
• Please note that Pyongyang airport departure tax (11 Euro per person) is NEVER included in the tour price, it has to be paid in cash in Pyongyang.
not your best shopping destination: Shopping in no-shop-country
The basic rule is that there aren't any shops in North Korea.
Goods (the little there is) are distributed to the population through local distribution centres which might be located in the apartment block, factory or farm where people are working.
These distribution centres are off limits for foreigners as the regime doesn't want to show outsiders the state of their country.
There are however, a few shops for foreigners in the hotels, tourist spots and in downtown Pyongyang. There is not much to buy here eigher and the prices are high and set in Euro.
Bookshops: Korea's Tourist Map
You should have the chance to get some English books at the hotels or shops that the guides bring you too.
What to buy: One of the useful buy would be the Korea's Tourist Map by the Korea International Travel Company, well is not a map actually ... it's a travel guide with decent information on the north korean attractions
What to pay: Should cost about 2 euros
Yalu River Park Gift Shop, Dandong: North Korean money
In Dandong (Liaoning province, China) it is possible to purchase North Korean currency and coins as well as stamps.
It is possible to actually step on North Korean soil at one tourist destination in China's Liaoning province.
You can read more about North Korea at my Dandong and Hushan pages.
What to buy: If you want to buy something in North Korea, you might surprise them with a wallet full of these instead of using your Euros.
What to pay: They cost around 10 RMB at the antique market near the Post and Telecommunications Hotel in DandongRelated to:
- Business Travel
Hotel shop in any hotel: Hotel Shops
In practically all hotels you will find shops that sell the most important items for tourists, in particular, drinks, water, souvenirs, CDs, videos, books etc.
These shops usually also do sell other articles for Koreans, such as fruit, clothes, household articles, computers etc.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
Pyongyang Department Store Nr.1: A local department store
Ask to go to the Pyongyang Department Store Nr. 1. You will get a feeling for local products, we bought a traditional Korean women´s dress there. You can also get local beer and cider.
What to buy: Traditional Korean dress for women, local beer and cider.
What to pay: 18 EUR for the dress, 0.5 EUR for the bottle of beer, even less for the cider.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
Not a lot of Shopping possibilities over here...
Well, you don't find a lot of shops over here in the DPRK. There are a few and the once you will have access are mostly located in your hotel anyway. They are not cheap and they don't have a lot of different things so bring everything you need with you!
Beside the hotel shops you will be able to find a few other possibilities to shop for souveniers, books and other stuff in a few shops located near or in Museums ...
Tea purchase: Shopping in no-shop-country
One of few interesting items in the tourist shop was "Hangover Chaser Tea" made in North Korea. With "liver booster"! Who can live without it?
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