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.
Where to do your duty free shopping in Korea
Lotte Duty Free
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, Gucci, Prada, Tiffany, 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 $1,000 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.
Directions: Euljiro 1-ga Stn. (line 2, Exit 7) For more information, visit kr.lottedfs.com or call 1688-3000
Shilla Duty Free
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 several types of VIP cards available. The Bronze card is the most basic card granted upon signing up and customers who have accumulated less than 2,000 points for the last 3 years and the Silver card offers 5-10% and is for customers who have accumulated more than 2,000 points for the last 3 years. The simplest way is to just sign up online with no restrictions. The Gold Card, however, is only offered to travelers who have accumulated more than 15,000 points for the last 3 years, and gives you 5-15% off.
Directions: about 200m from Dongguk Univ. Stn. (line 3, Exit 5). Seoul For more information, visit Shilla Duty Free or call 1688-1110
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 Loreal Paris, 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 for online members with a purchase record of more than $200 USD and a Gold Card for customers with a purchase record of more than $5,000 USD after membership.
Directions: Level 1 of Gwanghwamun (Dongwha) Building outside exit 6 of Gwanghwamun Station (line 5). Seoul For more information, visit dutyfree24.com or call 02-399-3000
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
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