Once upon a time the only commercial connection the world had with South Korea was through owning a Samsung phone. But how times have changed! This once lowly country has over time evolved into a favourite travel destination in East Asia specially its capital city – Seoul. The city offers everything from adventure, nature, culture, entertainment (Can’t miss out on the K-pop), food and a blitz of shopping arcades, malls, traditional markets and flea markets.
Shopping in Seoul is almost equivalent to Aladdin walking through the cave of hidden treasures. While you are going to find tons of blogs writing about where to shop in Seoul; it is absolutely necessary to know about “how to shop in Seoul.” Here’s a little guide of tips and tricks that you should know to shop like a local and also saving up on some bucks while you do so.
And always remember; the more you save, the more you can shop😉
P.S. Remember to download our HHWT Travel Planner App available on Google Play for Android and Apple App Store for iOS, to plan your next holiday to Seoul! It’ll make your planning go so much smoother🙆
1. Visit Korea 2016-18 discount coupons
If you are planning a holiday to Seoul anytime soon and if shopping is one of your agendas, the very first thing you should be doing is printing the Visit Korea 2016-18 discount coupons.
Offered by the Visit Korea official website, these discount coupons are a great way to brag in some good deal on cosmetics including Missha, Tony Moly, Banila Co., coffee shops, museums, spas and much more.
2. Top Seoul Sales
The best ever sales period in Korea generally take place in the beginning of summer and autumn. The Korea Grand Sale and the Seoul Summer Sale are rated as two of the most popular shopping festivals involving over a hundred plus brands and department outlets.
You can now buy all those awesome cosmetics, workout wear, trendy jackets and leather bags you dreamed of at super discounted rates. Mark your calendar ladies and be ready to shop till you drop, literally.
3. Checkout the Underground Shopping malls
Located conveniently in co-junction with the subways, Seoul’s underground shopping destinations include everything from clothes, cosmetics, accessories, bags, shoes, k-pop merchandise and telecommunication shops with reasonable price tags.
If you are craving to indulge in some chic outfits but the prices of Apjujeong Rodeo Street are making you cry, then the underground shopping complexes are the places to be. Head to Express Bus Terminal Mall (Goto Mall), Jamsil Underground Mall, Gangnam Terminal Underground Shopping Center and COEX Mall to satisfy the fashionista hidden within you.
4. Don’t flee away from a Flea Market
Whether you are heading to the Gwangjak market or Hwanghak-dong vintage market, Seoul’s flea markets are definitely worth a visit. You will be pleasantly surprised with what you find amongst the piles of wares crowding from the stalls, open trucks and carts.
From ancient crafts, souvenirs, household items, books, metal artefacts, hiking and fishing gear; these flea markets offer a conundrum of things you will want to take back home. The best part of course is that they come without a hefty price tag. So do stop by at a flea market for your precious Seoul take away memento.
5. It’s all about the cash!
While we are used to making payments with our little plastic miracles aka credit/ debit cards, it is a good idea to keep some cash handy especially when you are shopping at a wholesale market like Namdemun or Dongdaemun.
Although many shops will be ready to accept your cards, chances are you are likely to get a better discount if you are ready to shell out some notes. Generally, it is a guaranteed 10% off! So ditch those cards and agree to hand in ‘cashie’ if you are keen on some good deals.
6. Check for Made in Korea labels
Imagine returning back home and hovering over your prized Korean goodies only to realize it came from China. To avoid such incidents, do check for a ‘Made in Korea’ label before you make your purchase.
This rule applies specifically when shopping for accessories, bags, shoes, clothing and household items like carpets, pillow covers, stainless steel kitchenware and so on. You might get duped with fake products during crowded market hours when you’re making hasty purchases. So slow down a little and do check for authenticity.
7. Don’t fall for the ‘ipuda’ trap
For a fashion capital like Seoul where most of the shops cater to the young and trendy; you will be surprised to see that many of the places are manned by ajjumas. They are likely to lure you into buying their merchandise by showering you with compliments – the most common being ‘ipuda’ which is the Korean equivalent of beautiful.
Though you might blush on being declared the most ‘prrity’ customer of the day, do bear in mind that they are hard core business women. Don’t go for the sugar coating and if something doesn’t interest you, be polite and carry forward.
8. Bargain ladies bargain!
Although many stall owners nowadays prefer a ‘fixed price’ board but that doesn’t mean that you cannot bargain over something you really like and are not ready to shell out the big bucks! Look at the price tag before you begin and start with the lowest possible amount you can think of and increase a bit by bit. You might get “I have hungry children to feed. You are taking away my profit.” But hey, remember this where K-drama came from right?
Be firm on your price (leeway of 1000- 2000 won is allowed) and if you don’t see much happening try the best walking away act. You know you have won when the shopkeeper pulls you aside and whispers “Ok, how much you want for? Only for you.”
9. Ask for ‘free’ stuff
Whether you are cosmetic shopping at Myeongdong or looking for souvenirs in Insadong, once you are done with your purchases; do not hesitate to put on your sweetest smile and ask for ‘service.’
You might bag in some sample creams, travelling serum, a makeup pouch, a free magnet, bunch of socks, phone case and I <3 Korea tee and more depending on where you are shopping. It might not always be what you expected but free stuff is not hurting anyone!
#HHWT Tip: Rule applicable in restaurants as well. That’s how we get our after meal coffee and desserts😉
10. A little effort always helps
The golden rule of shopping – Never buy anything from the first shop you step in. It may be very tiresome to walk through the maze of shops in Seoul’s many markets but you will not regret it. The best deals are always found in narrow alleys hidden away from public eye. From a personal experience, I once bought a classic bag from Namdemun Market at 25000 won which was on display at another ‘entrance’ store and came along with a price tag of 85000 won! The perseverance definitely helped.
There is nothing that cheers anyone up than a day of some retail therapy. Add to that shopping in Seoul’s beloved markets and you can see the clouds of weariness already flying away. Now imagine shopping and saving some extra bucks while doing that. That’s when you achieve Nirvana.
So now that you know how to shop like a local; grab your wallets, put on most comfortable walking shoes (you will be doing a lot of walking) and your favourite pair of aviators and go ahead, the hit the streets. The shops are waiting for you!😜