My review will be long and detail. Since we went on the tour package from Dragon Hill Lodge (DHL) 6D5N package, this review talks more of this package. But I am sure everyone can still find some useful information.
First the important thing:
DMZ tour is NOT available on Mondays. Also noted by our tour guide, Tuesday is usually very crowded because it is "first" day of business. So, avoid Tuesday.
Ok, there are 2 different tours for Demilitarized Zone in Korea - DMZ tour and JSA tour. Please bring passports for both tours. Water and snack or even pack lunch is VERY recommended.
JSA tour is the one with lots of restrictions. Children below 12 are NOT allow to join. Was told that South Koreans are not allow to take this tour either. It takes you to the very boarder of the 2 "countries".
DMZ tour is less restricted, young children (below 12 year old) can join the tour. It does NOT take you to the very boarder between North and South Korea.
We are a family with young children. Thus, we joined the DMZ tour from Dragon Hill Lodge special room package. This is a 6 hour morning tour. First, we waited for tour bus at Gate 1 at 7:45am. Then, we were transferred to a big tour bus (one that can take more than 40 ppl) before driving almost 45 min to the DMZ ticket area.
According to our tour guide, Oppa Richard, only tour bus with 40 or more people on board can go into the DMZ. Our tour group is just a little short of 40 people, so we went to the ticket area and picked up another group from another tour company. So, if your tour bus only has a small group, just be prepared that you will probably join other group in other tour bus.
Here is a little "advise" for people who will continue their journey on the SAME tour bus. If you have young family members, please do leave some non-valuable items (water bottles, snacks etc) on your seats. Yes, other people from the other tour bus will come and take the seats. Please do understand that they aren't from your tour bus, thus, they DO NOT know which seat has been taken. So, to keep your seat with your family member, please leave some items to "show" that the seats have been taken.
We were blessed that our seats were not taken at all. Our tour mates kept our seats since they saw us with 3 very young children. Of course, some didn't want to end up sitting with our can-be talkative kids too ^_^. But we are grateful that even thought their seats were taken by another group member, they leave us alone. Thank you, tour mates!
Anyway, at the ticket area, we were given 15 min to tour the place. We can see Freedom Bridge, Peace Bell and beautiful scenery. If you need snack or drink, please purchase from the stall here. Other stops we had, doesn't have lots of choice. Used the toilet is recommended here, especially for young children.
From here, we traveled to the main DMZ area. Passport information needed to be provided to the Guard at the entrance. We filled up the form on the bus. So, bring your passport or at least a copy of it. We didn't need to show passport but the details is needed to fill the form.
In the main area, there is a theater where you can view the documentary of Korean War. Different time showing for different languages. I think English is available at 10am.
Below the theater is a small gallery. The gallery is air-conditioned. There is an area where miniatures are displayed below ground. Kids will love to stand on the glass floor and tried to find all the little miniatures under them.
Opposite the theater is the entrance to the tunnel. This is where the North Korean soldiers dug a tunnel to the South during Korean War. Probably will take about 40 min to tour this place. Helmets are needed, provided for FREE. First, a steep walk down. Then, a crowded and humid environment. Not suitable for people who have heart or some health problem.
A gift shop in the waiting area. Seats are available for people who do not want to go down the tunnel. Lockers are there for FREE as you cannot bring things down the tunnel. Toilets are available outside this building. No changing table but there is a long counter where you can change diaper.
After this tunnel tour, we continues journey to the small viewing platform. There we could see the North Korea. Note, there is a yellow box on the ground. NO photo taking allow outside the yellow box, which is closer to the platform edge. Soldiers are there to watch the people. I saw a lady's camera taken away by a soldier. He went thru her camera right on the spot. There is a small snack/gift shop there too.
Next, our tour took us to Dorasan Station. This train station serve the rail line between North and South Korea. It is used only once in a blue moon. The station is spacious and clean. Bring a special items from Korea or a piece of paper. You can get a stamp (to "prove" you have been to this train station) there for FREE. It is actually shelf serve on the counter. Great for a bring-home memory.
Good to use the toilet here before continue on your journey. There is also a gift/snack shop there.
Remember, under DHL's package, there is NO lunch break. So, grab something to eat before the long ride back to Seoul.
Last stop - Gem Center. Didn't care much about it. But just around the corner is a convenience shop where you can purchase some box lunch - if you are hungry by then.
Under DHL's package, this tour ends at Itaewon district. However, our tour guide allows us to drop off at Gate 1 because it is on the way.
Our tour guide has an advise for us. For those who already join the DMZ tour and if we are interested to go for the JSA tour (to the restricted area), join the HALF Day JSA tour, instead of the full tour since we already gone to most of the places in JSA.
Enjoy your tour!
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