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“Worlds best prison” 4 of 5 stars
Review of Yanggakdo Hotel

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Yanggakdo Hotel
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| Yanggakdo Island, Pyongyang, North Korea   |  
Hotel amenities
Ranked #2 of 8 Hotels in Pyongyang
London, United Kingdom
Top Contributor
64 reviews 64 reviews
36 hotel reviews
Reviews in 40 cities Reviews in 40 cities
42 helpful votes 42 helpful votes
“Worlds best prison”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed June 20, 2013

You may read a lot in the tabloid newspapers about prisoners having the life of luxury. Well a stay at this hotel is certainly like staying in a luxurious prison for real. When booking a trip to North Korea you don't usually get much say in the accommodation. Certainly if you stay in Pyongyang then this hotel is where 90% of tourists end up. The hotel is on and island, which you cannot leave without your guides. Once on the island though you are free to walk around the grounds of the hotel at your leisure, in fact our guides had no problems with us leaving the hotel without even telling them, although once we were at the hotel we really hardly saw our guides anyway. You will literally only be here to sleep at night and eat breakfast, almost all of your time in North Korea will be spent on excursions or on the bus. The hotel itself has a lot to offer guests but is rather dated. There is bowling, a swimming pool, several shops selling imported and Korean goods, a few bars, a barber, a karaoke bar and a revolving restaurant at the top (which DOES revolve). The food is all paid for, so all you need to buy are drinks if you wish to do something in the evenings. The prices are very cheap. I don't know why but everything is priced in Won, yet foreigners cannot spend the local currency. The staff will ask for the money in Euro anyway. You may request some Won from the currency exchange desk but the staff may be hesitant to hand it out (took me 3 attempts and the rate will be extremely poor and in their favour but you won't get real North Korean Won anywhere else bar maybe some markets back in China). The shops close around 9-10pm so get some supplies before that time. Bottled water, for example, is €1 for 5 bottles...a must as the tap water is by all accounts undrinkable!

The staff, on the whole, are friendly enough and seem keen to interact with foreigners. There are one or two older staff members who perhaps aren't as welcoming, but they are probably tasked with keeping the others in check, so perhaps they have to come across as being strict. The table tennis room downstairs had some very nice girls working in there who seemed to love talking to us in their broken English, we talked with them until quite late on one of our nights.

The rooms themselves are spacious and like something you'd find in a fairly good hotel in the West, but they are dated and dusty smelling. The lights are dim, but that is probably due to power shortages. We had an unbroken supply of electricity though during our stay. The fridge was unplugged in our room, but we didn't need to use it anyway. There are some plugs to use too.The bathrooms were always clean and the TV had several international channels as well as the local stations. We were on the 30th floor. There didn't seem to be many other guests around and our group had floor 30 to ourselves anyway. The Chinese tourists were a few floors below us and the guides seemed to be on floor 15. The hotel seems far too big for the number of people it really handles, but that seems to be the North Korean way!

The communications centre worked fine when I stayed, a phone call is about €8 for 2 minutes, but worth it to say you called someone from Pyongyang. There is a laundry service which I think officially charges €1 per item but I only paid €10 for most of my suitcase, so I'm not sure how they work it out. It's quick anyway. Put it out in the morning and you come back in the evening to nicely folded and clean clothes on the bed. The restaurants are nice, but again, seem too numerous (I think there were 6 in total) and big for the number of people. We had breakfast in the same room, at the same table, every morning. The staff look after you and will bring fresh tea and coffee, water and any other drinks when you ask. The buffet selection seems more aimed at Chinese tourists, but they do offer toast and eggs. The one night time meal we had here was a good introduction to North Korea, it was warm (not hot) and consisted of a lot of Fish and vegetables and some noodle soup. The food was fairly standard, but I think they put out the best spread they can. The hotel seems to have large vegetable gardens outside the main entrance so I think most of the produce is fresh.

The elevators seem to take forever to arrive, but I would not recommend using the staircase. For starters you are likely to be on a high up floor and the stairwell was in total darkness when I tried to use it one morning, so I gave up and wait for the lift. There seems to be some floors missing from the floor selection in the elevators . Various reports exist as to what's on floor 5, the lift doesn't stop there and I didn't venture down 25 floors to find out, so I'll never know. I wouldn't recommend snooping around as the staff are probably already told to keep a close eye on us when our guides go to bed and you never know what may happen if you're caught somewhere "off limits". It's pretty clear where they want you to be and where they don't want you to go. They close off some areas at night with bike locks and turn off the lights, so if it's in darkness I personally wouldn't venture to that area.

All in all the hotel is pretty much the perfect place to stay in Pyongyang...it offers great views of the city and plenty to keep you entertained during the short time you actually spend there.

Room Tip: You get what you're given.
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  • Stayed June 2013, traveled solo
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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256 reviews from our community

Traveler rating
    19
    96
    127
    11
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Rating summary
  • Location
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    3 of 5 stars
  • Service
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    3.5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (57)
Date | Rating
  • Chinese (Simplified) first
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
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  • Japanese first
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English first
Nanjing, China
Top Contributor
69 reviews 69 reviews
16 hotel reviews
Reviews in 18 cities Reviews in 18 cities
16 helpful votes 16 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed June 17, 2013 via mobile

As another reviewer said, it's all relative, and anyone who has decided to travel to the DPRK will probably be open minded and up for an adventure. With this in mind, the hotel is a pleasant surprise. Clean, basic rooms, with tv (including BBC world at time of writing), clean washroom (with bath and shower) and food views of Pyongyang.
This hotel is on an island, and it's one if the few places in the city where you can openly wander around the grounds without a local shadowing you.
The restaurants are pretty basic, but again great views from the revolving restaurant.
Given its location and size I'd expect this to be converted into a pretty cool hotel when (and if) reunification happens.

  • Stayed June 2013
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 2 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Brussels, Belgium
Top Contributor
204 reviews 204 reviews
108 hotel reviews
Reviews in 107 cities Reviews in 107 cities
163 helpful votes 163 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed June 15, 2013

Having read Guy Delisle's comic strip story 'Pyongyang' just before leaving for North Korea, I had expected the worst from this hotel as it was really slated in the book. So I was pleasantly surprised when the Yanggakdo Hotel turned out to be just fine. Ok, it's not the sort of hotel one would describe as luxurious, but it was the equivalent of a fairly decent three star place. The 32nd floor room was comfortable with good views (astonishingly, one could actually open the windows!). Bathroom was basic but ok and clean. There was a kettle but no coffee or tea, but it was possible to buy supplies in town. Breakfast was acceptable. I ate twice in the hotel (there are several restaurants); the food was not the best we had whilst in North Korea, but was fine. There is a bar near reception which serves good local beer. The hotel also has a fairly well - and rather eclectically - stocked grocery store. There is a little communications centre downstairs; the phones worked, but the internet was off-line when I wanted to use it. The staff were all very friendly and smiling. Note: although there are 8 elevators, they can take a long time to arrive so add in a few extra minutes to your journey time!

  • Stayed May 2013, traveled with friends
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Brisbane, Australia
Contributor
15 reviews 15 reviews
9 hotel reviews
Reviews in 11 cities Reviews in 11 cities
9 helpful votes 9 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed June 15, 2013

You're going to spend most of your time out of the room so don't expect a resort to come home to.

The hotel is very basic but has most things you'll need by the time you get home each night, a bed, shower and power points.

Each room seems to have two single beds, an lcd tv (3 or 4 local channels and a Japan based English news channel) and a basic bathroom. The shower is hot and the beds are comfortable enough.

There is a small casino in the basement which seemed to be fairly quiet during my stay and is apparently more busy during the key Chinese travel dates. The bar next to the lobby is also decent and stocks a small range of beer and spirits.

Breakfast is average, some parts decent, some parts not, I'd recommend bringing some morning snacks just in case it doesn't take your fancy. The dining room is quite large but during my visit I never saw more guests than staff.

I tried to access the 5th floor however the staff stairs have removed the doorknob and the public stairs have at least one night vision camera covering the landing on that level. I'm not sure how closely it's watched, especially since all but one or security guards on the ground floor seem to leave before midnight but I wasn't willing to risk it.

All in all it's a very basic hotel but you shouldn't get home very early most nights anyway, the beds do the job and you'll be up and ready to go for your lonely breakfast in the morning.

Room Tip: You don't have a choice, however, if you have any issues with the room your guide will ensure yo...
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  • Stayed May 2013, traveled solo
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Haz-Zebbug, Malta
Contributor
12 reviews 12 reviews
5 hotel reviews
Reviews in 9 cities Reviews in 9 cities
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed June 2, 2013

Staying at the Yanggakdo is part of the N.K experience! You can wander through the corridors to the bowling alleys, ponder where all the guests are or sing karaoke till 4am with fellow travellers!
The rooms themselves were fine and provided fantastic views over the centre of Pyongyang!
The hotel shop will let you stock up on supplies for your day trips, I would recommend staying away from Kim Jung Un's apple crisps..

  • Stayed September 2012, traveled solo
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Senior Contributor
33 reviews 33 reviews
16 hotel reviews
Reviews in 18 cities Reviews in 18 cities
19 helpful votes 19 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed May 15, 2013

we stayed here for 3 nights and had a good and very clean room with a good view on the 39th floor, we enjoyed the bar with the home brewed beer, but did n't think much of the faciliteit in the basement

  • Stayed April 2013, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Lidingö, Stockholms Län, Sweden
Top Contributor
52 reviews 52 reviews
42 hotel reviews
Reviews in 31 cities Reviews in 31 cities
33 helpful votes 33 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed May 4, 2013

OK so you are not going to Pyonyang for a luxury holiday. If you stay here your needs will be met...just. First make sure you ask for a no smoking room ( assuming you don't smoke). Everyone here does. Second, if you need a double bed, ask for one or they will assume you want a twin single. Third, once you get a double bed you will find it is rock hard and so un-sleepable, that we moved back to a twin singe. How romantic! The hotel will likely be empty but the staff try hard to accommodate and are nice. Breakfast is...well... served. Its edible but don't expect a choice unless there are more than an handful of travellers about. The rooms are a bit grim but perfectly clean and frankly, your days will be so packed with sightseeing and being chaperoned around you will likely only sleep in them. Would I return? Probably try something else but if you just want to survive this is a perfectly acceptable alternative.

Room Tip: High up on the side of the Juche Tower. Has great views over the city.
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  • Stayed April 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 2 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 2 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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Additional Information about Yanggakdo Hotel

Address: | Yanggakdo Island, Pyongyang, North Korea
Location: North Korea > Pyongyang
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Business Center with Internet Access Casino and Gambling Restaurant
Hotel Style:
Ranked #2 of 8 Hotels in Pyongyang
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $
Number of rooms: 168
Also Known As:
Yanggakdo Hotel Pyongyang

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