Sunday, October 13, 2013

Money changer & shopping coupons in Seoul

Money Changer

Most money changer in Seoul accept only major currencies like USD and JPY (maybe because there's a lot of Japanese tourists there) and a lot of changes not do exchange for SGD so we had to walked quite a bit to find one that does SGD while we were shopping at Myeongdong (what an urgent time!). One of them is the small money changer (it's really small because the width of the shop is just the same as the width of the door) located near Myeongdong Gyoza. I've included location to Myeongdong Gyoza here because I cannot find the money changer in the map, they are in the same small road.



So before going to Seoul, make sure you change some monies to USD to bring to Seoul just in case you suddenly need to buy something that you didn't plan on buying before or simply cannot resist the shopping there :)

Most money changer have the Yen & dollar signs - not sure why, they should have the won sign instead! :D

I also found that the exchange rate is actually better in Seoul compared to Singapore. Before going to Seoul, I got the rate of SGD 1 to KR₩ 848 but when I changed at Seoul station, it was SGD 1 to KR₩ 852. I changed quite a bit because I had planned on buying a lot of cosmetics while I'm there so I made quite a "loss".

Shopping Coupons

Another money saving move was actually to print these coupons before going to Seoul:
http://english.visitkoreayear.com/english/benefit/benefit_06_01_01.asp

They are valid until end of this year so be sure to print them if you're planning a trip there this year. I hope they have new ones next year! Also note that not all outlets are participating in the coupon service, so you have to take note on which outlets are participating before using the coupons. They are mostly located in Myeongdong, except for Etude House which is located in Insadong. I definitely got a huge discount at Innisfree Myeongdong because of this coupon. Innisfree is not currently available in Singapore and the only way that I got my hands on them before this trip was via Qoo10 but the price difference sometimes can be quite a lot and it made more sense to buy a lot in Seoul (just make sure you can finish them up before the expiry dates!). My total purchase ended up around KR₩ 800,000 and with the 10% discount, I saved KR₩ 80,000 (that's around SGD 93!!) so definitely print these coupons before you go (in multiple copies if you are the fickle minded kind because each coupon is only good for one time usage).

Some places also have their own coupons for foreigners for e.g. Everland now have coupon for foreigners, so be sure to try to search for their websites and find out if they are running a promotion.

Sales

There are also sales that are only applicable to people who has the Korean ID card so if you have a Korean friend or even non-Korean friends who are staying there on longer term, you can ask them to tag along with you and share the ID card to get discounts :)

Get More Samples

In general, the more you buy, the more samples that you get. However, I find that some brands give more samples than others for e.g. Skinfood give lots of samples. And also even for the same brands, different outlets can be more generous than other outlets, for e.g. I bought Skinfood at 2 different Myeongdong stores. The first outlet which is just opposite Aritaum was quite stingy with the samples, whereas the other Skinfood outlets gave me so much samples when I was just buying 1 bottle of their best-selling serum.

Also note that they have different "sets". The Skinfood outlet opposite Aritaum refused to let me get the sets if I only buy 1 bottle of the serum, which means that I couldn't get the free masks, etc, but the other outlets already have the sets on display. Anyone can buy any number of serums there. So be kiasu about this! :)

Other Shopping Tips

Do your big shopping as the last part of your day because you don't want to be carrying heavy bags with you while you're visiting the palaces. For me, I purposely didn't bring much of my own toiletries and skincare because I know that I'll be buying them in Seoul. In fact, there's a Skinfood shop just outside the arrival gates and I bought most of my Skinfood stuff there because I knew that we'd just be going to the service apartment after that. Got a Skinfood membership card within hour of arriving in Seoul :p




I made a mistake of planning Myeondong shopping together with N-Tower just because they are near each other. N-Tower needed to be planned at night because the scenary probably look better at night but we ended up cancelling it because I couldn't walk anymore with all my cosmetics haul from Innisfree! So try to plan your heavy shopping at the end of the day instead of starting of the day unless you stay really near to the shopping area and don't mind going back and forth to the hotel. These shopping areas open until late anyways...

Tax Refunds

If you shop a lot, you should definitely get tax refund. The process is quite simple. Every time you purchase something and the total is over KR₩ 30,000, just ask the cashier if they have tax refund. If the shop is participating, they'll either give you a Global Blue form (blue color) or Global Tax Free (orange color). You need to collect them all and show them to the tax refund counter at the airport. If you forget to ask after purchasing, you can go back to the same shop and ask for the form again. I managed to get the form even when I went back to a different outlet of the same brand.

When checking-in at the airline, you have to tell them that you are going to claim tax refund so that they don't take your luggage. This is also the same reason why you cannot check-in your luggage if you're taking CALT or KARST from Seoul city to Incheon airport. The tax refund counter can be easily spotted so I'm not sure why the Korean Airlines girl told me to wait for a staff to bring me there.

Anyway, the process was quite simple - just pass the counter person all the forms and if you're lucky, they don't even ask you to open your luggage to show them the items. They probably also do not want to attempt matching a zillion receipt lines to a zillion items in your luggage :)

Once they stamp on the form, you can check-in the luggage near the counter as well. Next, you can just go in to the departure gate. Or if you're like me, go to the ticketing counter to pay for overweight luggage (damnit..)

After you clear immigration, go near gate 28 and the place where you get back your cash are near there. There are 2 lines, one for Global Blue and another one for Global Tax Free. You need to separate the 2 forms and show them to the correct counters. They also need your passport. The tax refund is not the entire 10% but around 5-7% of the whole purchase, still quite a good amount. Now you can go to duty free shopping!! :D

More information about tax refund can be found in the Incheon airport website itself.

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