North Korean public transport: the Metro of Pyongyang

Dear reader,

Experts say that you never really know a country until you go on the public transport. And it’s true, I mean, what is Rome without a picturesque metro ride? Those who know it are probably nodding along with this sentence ūüôā
So Stanito, as faithful as she is with properly going around, joined the pack and went to explore the Soviet-inspired metro of Pyongyang in North Korea.¬†Whichever you name it, doesn’t matter, because it will still be like nothing you have seen before. It’s important to notice that in North Korea commuting and public transportation play a major role in public life, even though there are very few restaurants, far fewer cars than anywhere else and probably even less public gatherings. So the public movement caught my attention as the purpose for such movement remains unclear‚Ķ

Our guide said “Guys, we get to ride the metro for 5 stations!” I was thrilled ūüôā just the entrance to the station was austere enough: this is PuhŇ≠ng station, and to be honest I didn’t expect to see this many people in the afternoon.
Rumor has it it was all staged in the station we got in to impress the outside observers plus the speculation of the existence of concealed Government-only trains and tunnels manufactured by a Chinese company, but then again, you keep hearing the same story through out the entire country and every single place you visit.
The one detail I kept hearing is that the metro receives an average of 400,000 and 700,000 riders everyday and that foreign visitors are only allowed to visit a very small fraction of a much larger underground system which resembles the soviet style as in a very functional system, deep underground serving as shelters in case of bombings

North Korea Underground Stanito entrance©Stanito, 2013

North Korea Underground Stanito Police and kid©Stanito, 2013

Open in 1973, inaugurated in 1978, finished in 1985, this is one of the deepest metro systems in the world, goes down for about 110 meters.¬†We started our journey at PuhŇ≠ng (Ž∂ÄŪĚ•), which means “Revitalization” and here is where we started our metro tour.

North Korea Underground deep stairs©Stanito, 2013

North Korea Underground deep stairs 1 Stanito©Stanito, 2013

I asked our guide for a one-way ticket price, and a ride costs less than a cent of Euro. I can’t remember seeing any money nor ticket now that I think about it…

The station is absolutely beautiful, old 1940’s style, dim lights, beautiful glowing ornaments. Walls decorated everywhere with beautiful landscapes and socialist art depicting glorious moments of the North Korean fighters, industrial workers, women.

North Korea Puhoon Metro Station Stanito©Stanito, 2013

North Korea Puhung Metro Station©Stanito, 2013

North Korea Metro Trains©Stanito, 2013

PuhŇ≠n station is filled with socialist art, paintings and mosaics telling the North Korean fighters and the landscapes that glorify their victories. All accompanied by patriotic music and newspapers

North Korea Metro Socialist Art©Stanito, 2013

North Korea Metro Socialist Art 3©Stanito, 2013

North Korea Metro Socialist Art 2©Stanito, 2013

North Korea Metro Police officer©Stanito, 2013

Unlike many other metro systems around the world, the metro stations in Pyongyang are not named according to the location of each station but instead they’re named after themes of the North Korean revolutions, like Arch of Triumph Station or Reunification.

Pyongyang Metro logo, North Korea

Here is a map of the metro, depicting its two line system by a light-up follow-up in red and green like the metro in Beijing and Shanghai.

North Korea Metro Map Stanito©Stanito, 2013

Or a more legible version of it:

Pyongyang Metro Map – Puhung

Like most people we encountered in Pyongyang, the commuters didn’t exchange words with us or barely a look (reason why people believe it is all staged)

North Korea Metro Passengers 5©Stanito, 2013

The train cars are green and reds themselves are green and red. They are relics coming directly from Berlin, in fact you can notice the graffiti on the glass that re-evoke their past origins

North Korea Metro Wagons from Germany©Stanito, 2013

Passengers normally ignored us…

North Korea Metro Passengers 2©Stanito, 2013


North Korea Metro Passengers 3©Stanito, 2013

North Korea Metro Passengers Stanito©Stanito, 2013

Except for this friendly man…

North Korea Friendly Metro passenger©Stanito, 2013

… And this cheerful little girl

North Korea Metro Passengers 6©Stanito, 2013

For more “Official” information on the metro, please click on the official website of DPRK:¬†


15 thoughts on “North Korean public transport: the Metro of Pyongyang

        1. Not at all, all you need to do is filling out a form and submit it to the DPRK tourism office, all through the tour company that will take you there.
          In fact, this was the easy part. The hard part is going through China as that’s the only place you can reach North Korea from, precisely from Beijing. Getting the Chinese visa was an absolute nightmare, I’m telling you, they request EVERYTHING you can imagine, all of your nights properly booked, tickets and as soon as they find out you’re flying to DPRK they will immediately discharge any responsibility over you. Prepare to sign at least 6 declarations where you exonerate them from anything that might happen to you ūüėČ even though DPRK is super safe.

  1. Wow, what a trip. I VERY envious. Was the tour expensive? So, I take it that it was not forbidden to take photos in the metro. I was just in Minsk (Belarus), and the metro there is super cool in a retro Soviet way. But photos are forbidden because it’s also a military installation. I managed to sneak a couple, though.

    1. Hello Vagabonde,
      Terrific, you’re in Misk! I’m dying to go there ūüôā please do share your photos, I’m very curious.
      The tour in North Korea was not expensive actually, it was affordable and rather complete.
      I’m writing right now about the beach and DMZ. Stay tuned and thanks for visiting my site ūüôā

        1. Hi Vagabonde,
          sorry for my delay ūüôā
          Thank you so much for sharing Minsk posts, very into them!
          The company we used to go to DPRK is Young Pioneers Tours, YPT, very good one, not too strict and fun, I recommend them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s