10 Tips for Shopping in Seoul, According to Frequent Travellers

10 Tips for Shopping in Seoul, According to Frequent Travellers

There’s a reason why it’s one of the world’s top shopping destinations.

Fact: Seoul is an absolute shopping mecca. This dazzling capital will entice you with its endless selection of amazing stuff that are hard (or impossible) to find elsewhere! It doesn’t matter if you’re the shopaholic type of traveller, or one who prefers to spend on other things during their trip. Indeed, shopping in Seoul is a different experience — and I say this as someone who falls under the latter category. (Clearly, I was convinced otherwise once I was there.) 

Aside from knowing where to shop in Seoul, it’s good to know the basic tips and tricks in order to have the best shopping experience! Read on for everything you should keep in mind, especially if it’s your first time. 

Also read: South Korea Travel Restrictions: What to Know Before Visiting

Best shopping tips for those travelling in Seoul

1. Make a list, check it twice

shopping in Seoul

Image credit: Matt Kieffer

When shopping in Seoul, you can definitely expect options — lots and lots of these! It’s easy for most travellers to get caught up in these, and end up buying more random stuff than they intended to. So, before your trip, you might want to prepare a list of things you want to get.

This would help you plan your expenses and figure out which items to prioritise looking for. Aside from that, having a list would also likely save you a lot of time and energy. Of course, you shouldn’t necessarily stick to this; you never know when you might stumble upon a rare find that captures your interest!

2. Try going earlier in the day to avoid crowds

Image credit: Christian Bolz

This is especially true if you’re checking out Seoul shops in busier areas like Myeongdong and Dongdaemun. Surely, you’d prefer to have enough peace and quiet during your shopping experience. Most stores open at around 10a.m., meaning you can get a headstart right after breakfast. Granted, the scene at nighttime also has its own charm, but it could also get overwhelming for the “serious” shopper. 

3. Don’t buy the first thing that catches your eye

shopping in Seoul

Image credit (L-R): NicolasMcComber via Canva Pro; Ori Song

As mentioned earlier, it’s easy to get lost in all the many options — whether it’s for beauty products, clothes and accessories, snacks, keychains, and so on. We recommend window shopping and exploring the area first, if your schedule permits. Don’t spend all your money at the first store you go to! Chances are, you might find better (and cheaper) alternatives elsewhere.

4. Best to wear comfortable shoes

Image credit: Markus Winkler

Unless you’re one of those gifted beings who can walk around in heels all day without a fuss, you should definitely wear the right shoes if you’re doing a lot of shopping in Seoul. You wouldn’t want to be cranky halfway through because your feet hurt, would you? After all, it’s a universally accepted fact that making decisions when you’re in a bad mood is never a good idea. 

Also read: Beyond Myeongdong & Hongdae: 7 of Seoul’s Hippest Neighbourhoods You’ve Yet to Discover

5. Know your Korean clothing size

shopping in Seoul

Image credit: DraconianRain

FYI — some Seoul clothing stores (especially small boutiques in areas like Hongdae) don’t allow fitting! Also, most local brands tend to use Korean size charts, instead of the usual US/UK/Europe sizes. That said, you might want to save this clothing and shoe size chart for your next trip, whether you’re buying clothes for yourself or for family and friends back home. 

6. Some shopping spots have lockers you can rent

Don’t wanna carry all your purchases the entire day? Or do you need someplace to store your luggage while you shop because you haven’t checked in at your hotel yet? Fortunately, most malls and shopping districts have lockers for you to keep heavier items and valuables.

7. Don’t forget to check out the underground shopping malls, too!

Image credit: Vincent_St_Thomas via Canva Pro

While glitzy big-brand stores and cool indie boutiques are exciting, did you know that underground shopping in Seoul is also a thing? Most of these are conveniently adjacent to the subway stations, which you’ll likely spot while commuting around the city. The items sold here are often significantly cheaper; some even allow customers to bargain! Just make sure to bring enough cash, since not all stores accept credit cards and e-payment. 

8. Tax refunds are a godsend to foreign travellers

shopping in Seoul

Image credit: Brit in Seoul

Aside from duty-free stores like Lotte Mart, it’s also an open secret that South Korea has a tax refund system for foreigners. So, remember to keep your receipts from Seoul shops that are certified as tax-free. You’ll easily know if a store falls under this category, since they’ll have a sign indicating it.

Just keep in mind that you’ll need to spend a minimum total of ₩30,000, and must leave the country within three months upon purchasing the items! Most travellers get their refund at Incheon Airport, but you can also opt to go to a nearby refund booth. For full details, click on this guide.  

9. Make sure you have enough space for your new stuff

If you’re going to do a lot of shopping in Seoul, you might want to consider bringing a piece of extra luggage or hand-carry. Either that, or at least save some space in your bags when packing before your trip! This especially applies if you’re travelling solo, since you won’t have a travel buddy to ask for help from.

Trust us, you’ll definitely need it. Even if you’re not planning to go all-out, most stores hand out so many free samples that it’s easy to lose track of everything you’ve accumulated. Better safe than sorry, folks!

Also read: A Guide to the Best Luggage and Backpack Brands for Every Traveller

10. Don’t make decisions on an empty stomach

Image credit: Marco_Piunti via Canva Pro

Seriously, just don’t. Nothing good comes out of deciding hastily because you’re already hangry. Plus, this gives you the perfect excuse to embark on a food trip in between shopping sprees! 

That said, keep in mind that dining options are usually more expensive in popular shopping districts. So, if you’d rather save your moolah for other items, it’s best to venture beyond the main area for less pricey food. 

Also read: 30 Fun Things to Do in Seoul on Your Very First Visit

Aside from cheap shopping in Seoul, here are some tips on how to budget your trip overall. While you’re at it, keep in mind these do’s and don’ts in South Korea, as well as the basic phrases that’ll come in handy


Featured image credit: Starcevic via Canva Pro

About Author

Marcy Miniano
Marcy Miniano

A fast-talking caffeine-dependent wordsmith, Marcy has never been one to shy away from sharing a good story or two. If she’s not in a quiet coffee shop somewhere, she enjoys spending afternoons in a museum or art gallery — whether it’s around Metro Manila or a foreign city she’s visiting. She wishes to retire in a winter village someday, so she can fulfil her lifelong dream of wearing turtlenecks all year round and owning a pet penguin.

CLICK TO SEE MORE ARTICLES BY Marcy Miniano