North Korea specialist Uri Tours in April began offering a one-day Pyongyang Express tour from Shanghai on a limited basis. The popularity of those first departures has prompted the company to offer the tour again next month as well as next April.
The Pyongyang Express tour departs from Shanghai at 12:30 a.m. and arrives in the North Korean capital at 3:50 a.m. After breakfast and a few hours' rest at the Koryo Hotel, guests visit the Mansudae Grand Monument (site of bronze statues of Kim Il Sung and Kong Il), Kim Il Sung Square, the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum and other essential sights before returning to Shanghai at 11:30 p.m.
Departure dates take advantage of increased service by airline partner Air Koryo around holidays and other times of high demand, according to Andrea Lee, co-founder and CEO. For example, Oct. 1 is celebrated as National Day in China and kicks off a weeklong observance.
"There are a lot of expats in China, from all over the world, and they're always looking for things to do during the holiday," Lee said.
Given the tour's pace, "We had no idea if people were going to be interested," she said. "It is a bit demanding; you get there very early, and the tour starts at 10 and basically goes until you leave [for Shanghai]."
But due to its low price — $499 per person for double occupancy, $549 for single occupancy — "we got a lot of students who wanted to go and experience North Korea but couldn't afford our multiday tours," Lee said, adding that it also appealed to time-strapped working professionals and tourists in Shanghai with a day to spare.
For its departures last April, "we had over 50 people sign up in two days," Lee said. "That was a really good indication to us that people liked the concept."
The Pyongyang Express tour includes roundtrip air from Shanghai, accommodations, meals, transportation within North Korea, admission fees and the services of local guides.
For information on Pyongyang Express or Uri Tours' other offerings, visit www.uritours.com.