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Yanggakdo International Hotel

The are only a small number of hotels in Pyongyang at which tourists are permitted to stay. One of those, and the one at which the vast majority of tourists stay, is the Yanggakdo International Hotel situated on an island in the Teodong River. Our group stayed here while in Pyongyang.

The hotel is graded as a four star but, while pleasant enough, it is tired and jaded.

The hotel has 47 floors. Tourists stay on the upper floors which have access to the BBC World television. Lower floors are used by guides and other locals without the requisite clearance to watch foreign television, as these floors do not have access to the BBC.

A question everyone asks is “Are the rooms bugged?”. In answer, I don’t know, and certainly didn’t go searching for devices. I suspect they are not – what has the common tourist got to say that would interest the authorities? If you were in North Korea with ulterior motives authorities could reasonably assume you would not reveal these in your room anyway so why bother bugging the rooms?

The Yanggakdo has its own power generators so continuity of electricity supply is not a problem here. Hot water was available 24/7.

While hot water, for drinking, is available, tea and coffee is not provided in the room and there is no minibar.

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Yanggakdo International Hotel – Our Room

The hotel has a number of restaurants. We ate breakfast here daily while in the city. Food choice was basic and identical every day – ample but certainly not a highlight of our trip. While we were there (over Kim Il-sungs birthday celebrations) the hotel was quite busy and they constantly ran out of things on the breakfast buffet. We had lunch in the hotel on two days – once in a downstairs restaurant and once in the revolving restaurant on the 47th floor. Food was good and naturally the views from the revolving restaurant were also good – though our room also had excellent views towards the centre of the city and the Juche Tower.

Other facilities in the hotel include:

• A three lane ten pin bowling alley (we went to the Pyongyang Gold Lane bowling alley in the city for our bowling fix)
• A Chinese casino in the basement (locals not admitted)
• A couple of bars – Karaoke in the downstairs one
• Swimming pool and table tennis room
• A few well stocked and reasonably priced shops (good for water/snacks and North Korean reading material)
• Gift shops
• A tailors where you can order your Kim Jong-il suit, etc and it will be ready in a few days.

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Yanggakdo International Hotel Reception – Lobby

Beware of the vicious lift doors – they bite!

Back to the title of this review.

In North Korea you are not permitted to leave your accommodation unless accompanied by your guide. People suggest that the Yanggakdo was deliberately placed on an island to ensure that you cannot escape unnoticed and wander into the city on your own (hence its nickname the Pyongyang Alcatraz). If you had time, and unless you are a very early riser you won’t, you are permitted to walk around on the island without a guide. You are not permitted to bring you camera while walking around outside.

While not of a four star standard the hotel is certainly one of the best in North Korea and is a very pleasant place to stay. Would I stay here again? Yes.


This blog entry is one of a group (loop) of entries on The Rambling Wombat’s trip to Pyongyang, North Korea which I recommend you read in a particular order.  I suggest you continue with my next entry – Pyongyang Metro – The Metro.     If necessary, go to my Pyongyang introduction entry – Pyongyang – A Capital City Unlike any Other – to start this loop at the beginning.


8 thoughts on “Pyongyang’s Alcatraz

    1. I actually like the hotel though we only got to stay there one night in 2018 when the BBC was no longer available and we had access to Al Jazeera and Deutsche Welle instead. NK and the UK ( one of the few countries to maintain an Embassy in Pyongyang) has an oft time good, oft times bad relationship with NK and this may impact on if and when visitors can assess the BBC. It is admirable that the UK maintains diplomatic relations with the country … I am a major believer in engagement, which does not mean you have to agree with them on everything or even very much.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I actually quite like Al Jazeera even though it is not popular in UK. Yes, it is slanted but show me a media operation that isn’t, even the supposedly sacred BBC. They do some brilliant documentary pieces about places Western agencies never seem to bother about. DW is OK but I’d take Al Jazeera for preference.

        I wonder why they fell out with Auntie Beeb.

        I am surprised we have an embassy there, I had never thought about it, I suppose I just presumed we didn’t. Ambassador to Pyongyang must be some posting.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Yes I quite like Al Jazeera too but remain a big fan of the BBC (acknowledging that it is not what it used to be), probably for sentimental reasons – especially the world service (radio). Sarah mentioned that the Beeb where back in 2019 so I think its a case of what they can pickup and re-broadcast from time to time. I am talking out of my ass now but I suspect stations like these scramble their broadcasts so that all and sundry can’t pick them up for free so it takes unscrambles in NK a while to unscramble when they change codes etc. You can reasonably assume that NK does not have a paid subscriptions to any of these stations! They only thing that you can be guaranteed of is that you will not wake up to CNN or any other American stations! It is worth mentioning that the BBC etc even when relayed for foreigners is lightly censored in that clips on NK would be removed.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Britain is one of the few countries in the world that, to a large degree, still separates diplomacy from politics – though cost cutting has seen its footprint diminish in more recent times. Leaving aside current and former communist countries only a handful of countries have embassies there with the Sweden and the UK being the most prominent. I think Germany has some small presence there. Diplomatic life in NK is somewhat different from elsewhere. A case in point being the current movement of diplomats … under diplomatic rules their movement within a country must be unrestricted and they cannot be detained (they can, of course be expelled). As a result of this in Australia for example they are exempt hotel quarantine for Covid as that would be seen as detention ( they do isolate in their residences). In NK, while most (incl UK) diplomats left when borders were closed Russian ones remained and still come and go – well only two have come in since late Jan and they were locked in a hotel for a month ….. no diplomatic niceties in NK!

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          1. I must confess I had not even thought of the effects of the virus on diplomatic immunity, it just never entered my mind.

            I am somewhat at a loss to understand why the UK is so keen to maintain a presence there, it is not as if we do massive trade with DPRK or anything like that and our only meaningful historical engagement with them was trying to slaughter troops representing what is now DPRK back in the 50’s..

            I can understand the Swedes being htere as they are traditionally a neutral, peace-loving nation (post Viking anyway) and friends with everybody. I read an article once that stated that, apart from a UN passport which is as rare as hobby horse dung, the three “best” passports in the world to travel on were Irish, Swiss and Swedish because of this historical neutrality.

            What is the Aussie position, do they have any sort of representation there? I know Aus. is increasingly looking towards the Pacific region rather than to the “Old World”. Let’s be honest, Pyongyang is a damn sight closer to Canberra than London is.

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