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North Korea – Level 4: Do Not Travel

Do Not Travel is part of Punxsutawney TPOL Trip Report.

Travel Advisory
April 20, 2021

Do not travel to North Korea due to COVID-19 and the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention of U.S. nationals.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not issued a Travel Health Notice for North Korea due to COVID-19, indicating an unknown level of COVID-19 in the country.

The U.S. State Department has declared that 80% of the world is not safe for travel. The explanation for this drastic increase is the level of COVID in each country. Right now, the only place with “Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions” is Bhutan, my happy place (see Guns & Butter: Bhutan Travel Guide). “Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution” includes the following:

If I were heeding the State Department’s advice, the good news is that I can still increase my country count (see Where I’ve Been) since I have not been to nine countries on the list including St. Kitts. The bad news is that the Park Hyatt St. Kitts is 30,000 points a night. Besides St. Kitts, the only place on the list that doesn’t run completely afoul to the 11 Reasons Why I Still Don’t Want to Travel is Belize.

Adding Belize won’t get me closer to hitting 2020’s goal of 100 UN countries. That’s why I will follow the State Department’s advice and look to the 40 countries in “Level 3: Reconsider Travel.” For me, reconsider travel now means maybe I should go there since, per the State Department’s guidelines, those countries aren’t on the “Level 4: Do Not Travel list.” That list used to be reserved for the ‘dangerous’ countries that everyone should avoid e.g., North Korea. Now it is compromised of 137 countries or 80% of the world including careful Canada and inoculated Israel.

In case you have not picked up on my sarcasm, let me be clear: I am lost when it comes to assessing where is ‘safe’ to go and where is not. Prior to the pandemic, if you said, “TPOL would you go to Afghanistan?” I would say, “No, it’s not safe.” Prior to the pandemic, had you asked, “TPOL would you go to Baghdad?” I would say, “It’s not safe but I would like to go to my parent’s homeland.”

Today, if I used the State Department’s guidelines for making a determination as to whether a country is safe, I would not travel to the United States which has the highest number of COVID-related deaths. However, that same State Department’s directive says that people who have been vaccinated can travel domestically.

I may be tired of being in my basement, but I’m more exhausted by the helter skelter messaging of what I should and should not do. Tomorrow there’s going to be an announcement of a variant that attacks golfers. The next day there’s going to be a variant that kills bloggers and on and on.

As a result of this schizophrenic approach to issuing travel advisories, I’m going back to the days of Alexander in 2009. While on my New Year’s trip in Bali to ring in 2010 (see Where to Party? New Year’s Eve), the State Department issued a terrorist attack warning which said, “There is an indication of an attack to Bali tonight.” In reaction to this imminent threat, I did what was sensible: I jumped on the back of a stranger’s motorbike and went bar hopping through Kuta.

a man standing in front of a car

What will I do this time?




  1. China is a level 3. Antarctica is a 4. GTFO. We are being led by clueless people. Nothing makes sense. Everything is contradictory.

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