Words by Grace Sun
Don’t have time for heavy duty shopping at the airport, but still want all your duty free products at their discounted tax-free price? Seoul is packed with duty free stores that house all the luxury boutiques, as well as stocking a large array of cosmetics, gifts and accessories.
All you have to do is bring your passport and plane ticket with you (or remember your flight number), buy what you want, and pick it up on the day of your departure at the airport gates. Further discounts abound with certain credit cards and VIP benefits. Read on for more details.
There are multiple locations for this chain, but the best and biggest by far is the Lotte Duty Free located on two massive floors in the main Lotte Department Store in Myeongdong, hosting a killer range of luxury retailers, cosmetics and accessories. This is the only place where you will find a Miu Miu store, as well as a nice range of boutique ladies shoes in La Collection, which houses brands like Marc by Marc Jacobs, Emilio Pucci, Givenchy, Kenzo, Donna Karan and Pedro Garcia. Other heavy hitters include Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Chanel, Dior, Fendi, Tiffany & Co, and Bottega Veneta. The mantra is that if you can find it in Lotte, don’t bother going anywhere else. This is your one-stop shop for all the favorite brands and then some. Don’t forget that you also have the rest of Lotte Department Store, Avenuel, Lotte Young Plaza and Myeongdong shopping at your fingertips.
VIP cards are available for Korean locals and foreigners. US $2,000 worth of purchases within two years gets you a Silver Card, providing 5-10% discount on most items, and US $10,000 in purchases over five years gets you a Gold Card and 5-15% discount on most items.
Making a purchase with a Visa card will get you a further 5-15% off items.
Directions: Euljiro 1-ga Stn. (line 2, Exit 7)
Just down the hill from the Shilla Hotel is the Shilla Duty Free. You’ll find all the usual suspects and more, the Shilla being the next biggest duty free after Lotte.
There are 3 types of VIP cards available. The basic card offers 5% discount with no requirements. The Silver Card offers 5-10% and is for customers who have Asiana mileage cards, or who have totaled US $400 worth of purchases in two years. The simplest way is to just sign up online with no restrictions. The Gold Card, however, is only offered to travelers who have totaled US $3,000 in three years, and gives you 5-15% off.
If you use a Samsung card when purchasing items, you will receive a discount of W10,000 when you purchase over $200, and W20,000 when you purchase over $400.
Directions: about 200m from Dongguk Univ. Stn. (line 3, Exit 5). Seoul
Dongwha Duty Free
This establishment, located on levels 1 and B1 of the Gwanghwamun Building downtown, is usually packed with Japanese and Chinese tourists who come in droves in their tour buses. It is a popular choice for these groups, but a bit smaller compared to Lotte and Shilla Duty Free. You won’t be disappointed though, with Louis Vuitton, Celine, Bottega Veneta, Dior, Gucci and all the rest. A plus is that the line to pick up purchases at the airport is substantially shorter for the Dongwha Duty Free – vital when you’re running late for a flight!
Be advised that Korean cosmetics purchased by foreigners at Dongwha cannot be picked up from the airport, but must be taken with you at the time of purchase and then shown to customs upon departure. The VIP system includes a Silver Card that offers 5-15% for all and a Gold Card that offers further discounts for foreigners with an address in Korea that spend over US $2,000 over an unlimited period of time. Those with a platinum credit card will also receive a 5-15% discount.
Directions: Level 1 of Gwanghwamun (Dongwha) Building
outside exit 6 of Gwanghwamun Station (line 5). Seoul
Walkerhill Duty Free
Located in the Sheraton Walkerhill Hotel, this duty free may be a little out of the way for most Seoul tourists, but for those who are visiting the Walkerhill Casino and W Hotels, this would be the perfect shopping break in between blackjack and roulette games.
Although some big shot brands are missing here, style is most certainly not – with it brands like Manolo Blahnik, Chloe, and Tod’s all making an appearance.
A Silver VIP Card gives up to 10% discount, and all you need for this is your passport. For a Gold Card, purchases must be made up to US $10,000 over 5 years, and discounts are offered up to 15%.
Directions: Take the free hotel shuttle from Gangbyeon Stn. (line 2, ex. 1) or Gwangnaru Stn. (line 5, ex. 2)
For those that run out of time and miss out on duty free shopping, do not fear. Incheon International Airport is one of the largest and busiest in the world, with shopping spots to rival Hong Kong International Airport and Narita in Tokyo. In fact, many travelers choose to stop over at Incheon just so they can shop inside the airport! You can also use your VIP cards in the AK, Lotte and Shilla duty free stores here, although the product range is limited to cosmetics and gifts. International retailers include the usuals – Chanel, Hermes, Burberry and Gucci to name a few. airport.kr/eng/enjoy
Other Duty Free Shops
Aquascutum Duty Free pgworld.co.kr 02-755-0105
Busan Lotte Duty Free busanlottedfs.com
JDC Duty Free jdcdutyfree.com 064-740-9997
Jeju Tourism Organization Duty Free jtodutyfree.com 064-780-7700
Lotte World Duty Free kr.lottedfs.com 02-411-7565
Paradise Duty Free paradisemall.co.kr 051-749-1300
Claiming Tax Back in Cash
Guess what? Even if you don’t shop in these duty free outlets, you can still save 7% on all your purchases and get your money back at the airport! Just take your receipts to the tax free lounge in all department stores, and you will be asked to fill in a form which you must then show to customs along with your products at the airport. You will then get the equivalent of 7% back on all your purchases in cash at the booth located near the departure gates at the airport. The staff at Incheon airport will give you cash back on the spot in either Korean won or US dollars, but Gimpo will make you wait up to 3 months for a deposit into your bank account. Unfortunately, this is only available for non-residents of Korea, which means those with an alien ID are not eligible. Doota Department Store in Dongdaemun also offers a similar benefit to foreigners and will return your cash back on the spot. Inquire at the information desk on level 1.
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