Now I got the inspiration to include this tip over here after Teacher_at_Loss asked me where to buy cheese in Seoul. Here's the weblink for a place where expats can buy all kinds of Western stuff and what do you know, they open everyday since they stated rather bluntly that they "don't have a holiday" in their website! Do they have cheese? Yes, they do, mascoporne from italy and even fresh mozarella for you to drizzle on your pizza.
The East Gate Market is a traditional market that caters to a wide variety of shopping needs from food to clothing, household items to beads. We had the honor of spending a day shopping with fellow VTer JCKim who traveled two hours into Seoul to meet us. He guided us to the East Gate Market and took us to some of the cities famous sites.
What to buy: The major objective of this shopping trip was to purcahse a Hanbok for my wife. We wanted a traditional outfit that was not a tourist trap, off the shelve item. Mr. Kim helped us find a booth among the hundreds at the market. My wife picked the material for her outfit, was measured and was treated with the respect of royalty. We picked up the finished product a week later and it is a beautiful reminder of our trip to Korea.
What to pay: We paid $370.00 (USA) for a hand-made silk Hanbok. I'm not sure if it was the best price but I do believe it was a fair price.
There are many areas where you can get knock-offs in Seoul. Most notable for fashion articles are Dongdaemun Dongdaemun Stadium Station, Line 2,4,5) and Namdaemun (Heohyeong Station, Line 4) as well as Myoungdong (Myoungdong Station, Line 4).
Tech items can be found at Technomart (in Guui-Dong at Gangbyeon Station, Line 2) and Yongsan Electronics Mart (Yongsan Station, Line 1).
Of course, there are also travelling sellers who operate out of trucks, cars or road-side 'shops'. This is where some real bargains are...but buyer beware, there is little chance of finding them again, let alone a refund.
What to buy: One of the most blatent examples I saw was right in Yongsan Electronics Mart. The movie Troy had just come out in North America and had not even come to Korea. I enquired about it and the seller said, "it'll be here next week...same price, 7,000 won" (USD 6) for the DVD.
What to pay: Prices vary, a lot. I looked at the new LV ladies wallets in Myoung-Dong and got 3 prices from 3 vendors within 3 blocks of each other: 45,000 won (USD 40), 50,000 and 65,000. It pays to shop around, buy multiples to get a discount, note any real or imagined flaws and, above all else, wait, wait, wait for the seller to lower their price. Use the pregnant pause to your advantage, it's usually good for a 2% - 10% extra discount.
From my shopping experience in Seoul, the duty free shops (DFS) in Seoul city are selling at a much much cheaper price than the shops in Myeongdong. They are not only cheaper by the 10% tax but the cost price are often much cheaper than the same shops selling in the city. Let me quote you an example. I bought a BB cream from the famous BB cream shop (Hansxxx) at $38,000 won at Myeongdong. Next day when I went to the Lotte Duty Free shop, that exact tube of BB cream was selling at $28,000 won. Sigh! :D
Now I know why I saw hugh number of tourist flocking into the DFS the moment it opened at 9.30am. We even have to queue at the lifts to go up to the DFS level.
There are various DFS in different parts of Seoul. Hence, you do not need to wait till going to the airport on your last day to shop at a DFS.
My conclusion is: If you're interested in say, korean skincare products, when you next visit Seoul, make visiting one of those DFS as your very first shopping stop! Buy whatever you want at DFS. As these DFS do not carry as much variety range as those shops in the city, buy in the city shops only those not found in DFS.
What to buy: Skincare products, luxury goods etc
What to pay: At Lotte DFS, there is further discount if you use VISA card when paying. Products are usually priced in USD but you can also pay in WON.
So when I was visiting my girlfriend in Seoul, she loved traveling the Seoul Metro and on occasion she would get lost. I decided to search for a store where I could buy apparel that had the Metro map of Seoul on a t-shirt, hoodie, mug or other item and I found this online site where you can go and make and purchase your Seoul Metro on any apparel or gift item you want. I gave my girlfriend a few of these gifts and she loved them. This is a cool online shop that allows you to have a keepsake of the Seoul Metro station. The shop is an online shop and you can only by the Seoul Metro Map apparel on www.zazzle.com/stepasideapparel.
What to buy: This memory of Seoul Metro station on apparel is quite cool and it is one massive subway system.
What to pay: You can spend anywere between a $2.00 for postcards up to $25 for a t-shirt with the Seoul Metro Map on the t-shirt.
A collection of greenhouses near the AT Center, south of Yangjae.
Individual sellers are located in booth areas inside the greenhouses, each specializing in one or many different species of flower.
Prices are good, and there is room to bargain.
Located beside (south of) AT Center, in Yangjae, near the Hyundae/Kia headquarters.
It is now a short taxi ride south of Yangjae station on orange line subway, but there will be a subway stop located at AT Center when the new Bundang/Gangnam subway line opens shortly.
Im A Sucker for Airport Duty Free Souvenirs!
Lotte Duty Free Shop carries over 200 brands of perfumes, cosmetics, watches, accessories, clothing, bags, chocolate, coffee, royal jelly such as BVLGARI, CARTIER, CHOPARD, FERRAGAMO, BURBERRY, SWAROVSKI.
Required Documents: Passport, Airplane Ticket.
What to buy: Korean Souvenirs like Colombin Strawberry Chocolates, Amethyst, Hallyu (Korean Drama) Souvenirs and all the Luxury Brands above!
What to pay: Payment: Korean Won, US Dollar, Japanese Yen, Credit Card((JCB ,VISA, MASTER, AMEX, DINERS, LOTTE Card) and definitely no haggling here!
In case you ever get a need for a new book during your stay in Seoul, check out one of the following stores:
2. YP Bookstore
The main branches for both of them are located in Central Seoul and offer a huge variety of Korean as well as English and Japanese books. Kyobo also offers a limited selection of French and German books.
What to pay: -
Tip 1: You can't always count on it but from my experience YP turned out to be slightly cheaper than Kyobo for English books.
Tip 2: Look through the stack of books and check out the prices on the back cover. Depending on the import date and respective exchange rate, books do NOT always carry the same price tag. It's well possible that you find a cheaper tag on the very same book just down below.
The Hoehyeon Underground Shopping Centre is conveniently located at the sub-way station area between Myeongdong and Namdaemun areas. You can drop by at this shopping area to have a look when you are at Myeongdong or Namdaemun, but personally I find this shopping area to be quite small and inadequate as compared to Namdaemun and Myeongdong (which are much more exciting, with lots more shops).
If you are looking for cheap stuff in Seoul, you can check out the 1000 Won shops whereby all items in the shop are only at 1000 Korean won each (but don't expect luxurous items here). There is one 1000 Won shop located at the Myeongdong area along Choongmuro-2-ga street near to the famous Sejong Hotel.
The Shinsegae Department Store is a famous department store chain in South Korea. As far as I know, one outlet is located at Namdaemun area (next to the Namdaemun flee market) and another one is at the Seoul Express Bus Terminal (south of the Hangang River). Being a huge department store, it sells almost everything from clothings, cosmetics, shoes, toys etc to food and supermarket at the basement area.
What to buy: Shopping in Seoul is expensive, no doubt about it. Many items, especially those on the streets are overpriced. Also, not many items are native unless you'll buying kim-chi, artwork gingseng or a plastic surgeon;p Even in terms of fashion, they have a long way to go compared to Tokyo or Hong Kong. Nonetheless, if you insist on shopping, you're better off going to local shopping areas like MyeongDong than going to a touristy district like Itaewon. Aim for stores where you'll see lots of locals and where items are price-tagged to avoid getting fleeced. See my section on night markets.
I went on a DMZ tour while in Seoul and the tour guide took us to an amethyst jewelry shop and a ginseng shop at the end of our day. She was wearing a pretty amethyst bracelet during the tour, so when she took us to the shop, I bought a similar bracelet for $415. I subsequently saw the same bracelet for $100 in shops all over Seoul. I also puchased $400 worth of ginseng in the shop she took us to and found out the there was a higher grade of ginseng available in the government shops which sells for far less than I paid. I have since been informed that the tour guides get kickbacks from the shops for depositing the unwitting customer. I have many guidebooks, and was not warned of this scam. I am very trusting generally, but I wanted to warn people of this practice.
Kyobo Bookstore is Seoul's largest bookstore, perhaps the largest in the nation. It features a great section of English language books of all kinds. Business hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, up to 8 p.m. on most Sundays, closed every second Sunday
Other bookstores in Seoul include Youngpoong Bookstore (Jongno), Jongno Bookstore (Jongno), and the Jinsol Bookstore (Gangnam).
What to pay: Kyobo is more expensive than Amazon.com
Lotte World is a fun mall to hang out. Great atmosphere and tons of shopping can be done. You won't find bargain prices like Dongdaemun, so its a good place to do some window shopping.
Went to the swimming pool that they have. That was a lot of fun. Cute swimming teacher. weot weow. hahahah in their speedo. In Korea when you do any sports they always wanna dress up the part. Back home you can just go and swim, wearing your bathing suit. In Korea you have to wear a swim cap. That was funny when we were about to jump in and the life guard said "Hat! Hat!" lol.
Skating is the same thing. You need skating glove. Cost 1 000 Won. But seriously skating gloves? hahhaha. That skating rink is really big and its a famous spot for shootings of drama series. I saw famous Korean celebs doing a taping there. If anyone ever watch the Korean Drama Series "Full House' then you would know the skating rink @ Lotte World.
What to buy: Good to do some window shopping. They have great gift items here.
What to pay: No bargaining done here! Pay the price that you see.