CONTRIBUTED BY AMY HICKERSON
You simply cannot come to Korea and NOT go to the DMZ, right?! Right! Unfortunately, if you have children under 10 who also desperately want to go, they cannot go on the USO Tour that goes onto the American base. Enter the Korean version…..the DMZ Train! No age limits and no dress codes! In my infinite researching of fun family activities to do, I ran across this and knew we had to do it since my son falls into that category of being desperate to see the DMZ but being just shy of age 10. So I invited another friend & her kids (one of which I knew was under 10 as well and wanted to see the DMZ) and off we went!
Well, it wasn’t *quite* that easy. First step was booking the tickets. I’m not sure if I was trying to book on Korail on an exponentially busy day, or if it always a headache, but I will say, this almost ended the trip before it began. I finally decided to go to Seoul Station in person to try to book the tickets if I could not get the online to work….when it worked! To book online, visit http://www.letskorail.com/ . *** See detailed booking instructions at bottom of this post***
Once you have all the tickets booked (by the way, adult train ticket price is 8,700W one way, and child train ticket price under 13 price is 4,400W one way), head to Seoul Station the day of your trip, pick up your tickets at the ticket counter, and head to the platform! The DMZ train is small, only 3 cars, but wow, is it colorful! Outside and inside!
Inside the train, there is a lot going on! Vivid decorations, music, and TV screens running information/views from the front of the train/things going on inside the train intermittently. In addition, all of the bench seats have backs that can shift easily. So, if you get stuck facing backwards, you can switch it to ride facing forwards…and vice versa.
The train makes a few stops along the way, and at the 2nd to last stop on the line, at Imjingang station, everyone has to get off, show passports and an immigration style form that you are given on the train, and then get back on the train. From this point, the train slows down significantly as you pass points of interest. There is a narrative read over the speakers, in Korean and in English. My friend & I very much appreciated this so we could know what we were seeing too!
Dorasan station is the last stop on the line, and at this point everyone gets off and goes inside a building to get in line for bus/tour tickets. These cost 8,700W for adults, 6,600W for children (*I think! I know it was 6something, I can’t remember the hundred part!). This gets you to the observation deck and the 3rd tunnel.
** Important note: This tour DOES NOT go to the JSA. You DO NOT get to step into North Korea on this tour. **
The first stop is the Observation deck. Here, you can pay 500won to look through binoculars and see into North Korea. You can see the propaganda village here, which is pretty cool. There are signs saying “No Pictures,” but Koreans were snapping pics right and left. I took a few myself before noticing the sign. Oops! I did stop taking them once I saw that. Inside the building beside the observation deck is a very cool map depicting the areas in North and South Korea around the DMZ. There are several points of interest marked. I really enjoyed this map, as did my son. It was a great visual to help him understand exactly how things were laid out, and what exactly he was seeing when he looked out at the observation deck.
From there we went to the 3rd Tunnel. At this stop, there are free lockers where you are required to leave all belongings. No bags or cameras allowed (bummer….I *really* wanted a picture in the tunnel!). You also have to wear a hardhat. When you enter the tunnel area, there is a walkway to get to it that is a pretty significant slope. It’s nice and easy to go down, but a hike back up. It is strenuous, but doable. I don’t want to say that to talk anyone out of it, but it is good to be prepared! Also at this stop is a theater which runs an 8 minute show. We did not go in and watch, so, while I can pretty much guarantee it is about the DMZ, I do not know if it is all in Korean or if there are any English subtitles or explanations.
After this portion of the tour, we were loaded back on the buses and taken back to Dorasan. From there we got back on the train, and headed back to Seoul. One other note about the stops; at each one there was a small convenience market with drinks & snacks, as well as gift/souvenir shops. Prices were very reasonable.
So, there you have it! We had a great time, and I would definitely recommend this tour to people who want a unique DMZ tour, especially people with children who aren’t old enough for the US tour. I couldn’t really tell if my son was enjoying himself (sometimes it’s so hard to tell with boys!), but at the end of the day when I asked him his favorite part, he said “all of it!”
Here are a few websites for additional information and other package deals. There is also information on other ways to do the tour… e.g. visiting the “Peace Park,” or other points of interest in the area.
Train Tour Booking Instructions:
From the homepage, click on the grey box with the picture of the train. In the menu at the top of the next page, you can select “English” as the language. From there, hover over “Rail Tickets” then click “Booking Online.” At this point, fill in the required information boxes. For this trip….just name, date (don’t worry about the hour box), then your start and stop location. **You MUST book the trip to and back separately and you must book both! There is no round trip option!** Choose Seoul to Dorasan to get there, Dorasan to Seoul to get home. There are only 2 options for this trip, a morning (8:00ish) and an afternoon (1:30). If you have difficulty with this, call 1599-7777 (just like that from a cell phone). That is the English speaking help hotline. I had to call quite a few times, and they were very helpful with the booking information as well as information about the trip itself! You can check your ticket bookings in the “My Reservation” section.
Other DMZ Tour Options: