5 Tips to Get the Most out of Duty-Free Shopping in Seoul

Winter weather has gripped Korea, and so has the holiday shopping craze. With Lunar New Year just around the corner, airports are bustling with duty-free holiday deals. Whether you’re looking to buy some cologne for a partner, some fine scotch for Dad, or treat yourself to the latest cosmetics and fashion accessories, there’s no better place to do it than Korea. With $13.6 billion USD in sales for 2017 alone, the country is the world capital of duty-free shopping.

All you need to do is bring your passport and plane ticket and you can shop until your heart is content. To help you get the most out of your duty-free shopping experience this new year, we’ve got five great tips to get you the hottest deals.

1. Online-to-Offline

While the city might be packed with stores, the best place to start shopping is online. Discounts, deals, and exclusive offers can often be found on the websites of popular duty-free outlets and are a good resource for finding holiday specials. Shilla Duty Free, for example, showcases their Online-to-Offline deals under the “Events” tab on their homepage.

The websites also offer a good overview of the items the stores are stocking, so, if you’re chasing after the latest Tory Burch bags, you can browse your options before heading to the store to make your final decision.

Whether shopping online or offline, it’s better to stick with one brand build membership loyalty, which comes with its own set of benefits. Simply for registering your passport information with Shilla Duty Free, for example, earns you in-store discounts. Paying with a Samsung card at any of Shilla’s locations will earn additional discounts.

2.Get Connected: Duty Free Apps

Getting the best deals will mean downloading the store apps, which offer a wide range of great deals that can’t be found elsewhere and allow shoppers to price compare. If you’re looking for some of the latest accessories from Korean brands such as Bean Pole, for example, simply fire up the app while perusing the store to do some price comparing.

In the Shilla Duty Free Store app, not only are some products offered at discounts that you won’t find in stores, the “Daily Deals” section features time-limited specials on a wide selection of cosmetics, perfume, clothing, and electronics.

The app also has its own membership program with each tier offering access to a wide range of benefits such as coupons and affiliate discounts. Membership starts at “Friends”, a status earned just for registering, and goes all the way up to Prestige status for bigger spenders.  

Shopping in the apps has the added benefit of being hands free. Simply order what you want, then pick it up at the airport after you have passed through customs and use the rest of your time to relax before the flight.

3.Tax Free Heaven

Korea also has a tax refund system for making purchases outside of designated duty-free stores. Unlike duty-free stores where no tax is applied to your purchase, the Tax Refund refers to shops that apply a tax and, after purchasing at the full price, tourists can apply for a refund of the taxes before leaving the country.

While not every branch of a given brand will offer the tax refunds, certain shopping districts within the city, such as the Coex Starfield Mall, and the Myeong-dong shopping district, readily offer customers the refund. Both areas offer a wide selection of Korean fashion brands including Bean Pole and 8Seconds, so investing a little extra time to find deals in the tax-free shopping areas is well worth it.

4.Sometimes the airport has the best deals

While shopping in the city can be great for deal hunting, sometimes the airport just has better prices. For staples in a brands line up, particularly with cosmetics, you’re more likely to find a better deal shopping at the airport. You’re also more likely to get bulk or volume packaging, making it much easier to transport your holiday shopping haul. Airport shops also tend to offer more free samples depending on how much you spend, so make sure you buy everything from one brand at the same time to capitalize on those offers.

It’s also a good idea to check out offers from the airline you’re flying, as they sometimes offer special transit vouchers for duty-free shopping that can only be used at the airport shops – a great way to save $20 on your next shopping spree.

5.Get to know the exclusives and shop smart

It’s not all about saving money. Sometimes it’s about shopping smart, and Korea is full of little conveniences to help make your shopping experience easier.

The Hands Free Service, for example, provides luggage lockers at many locations across the city, so you don’t have to carry heavy bags with you while site seeing and shopping. You can also use it to send your luggage directly to the airport.

The Korea Tour Card is also worth considering. The program runs until the end of 2018 and offers tourists access to some of the city’s hottest tourist sites as well as special discounts on shopping. Shoppers using the cards at the Shilla Duty Free Store will get tiered discounts depending on how much they spend, and will also receive a gift. If used at the Shilla I-Park Duty Free, shoppers will get a 10% discount on all items.

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