During my first trip to South-Korea I was totally overwhelmed by the beautiful and cool things I saw. On one hand, I would love to take them all with me as souvenirs or gift for family and friends. But on the other hand, there were too many choices, that I felt a little bit overburdened.
Based on all my experiences, I’ve written this post with a list of authentic “Made in Korea” items that I would recommend to you as souvenirs. It includes not only cool and very useful things, but also with reasonable price. Don’t forget to check it before you go 😉.
1. Korean cosmetics – No. 1 of all souvenirs
If you’re interested in South-Korea, you surely know that the Korean beauty products are one of the best in the world. Because of many positive reviews of bloggers and influencers online, now a days you can easily buy them from everywhere. However, the variety as well as price abroad are not comparable with the one in South-Korea. Once you pass by Myeongdong or Gangnam in Seoul, you will get what I mean. Therefore, don’t miss the real steal 😆.
Where to go shopping? Actually everywhere.
For how much? Start from 500₩ (~0,30€) for a face mask. Shops usually give you more discount or gifts if you purchase many items at once.
Well-known brands? Innisfree, Laneige, Natural Republic, Mamonde, Skinfood und viele viele mehr.
Another useful but cheap souvenirs from Korea are Socks. You will find them indeed at almost every corner of the shopping areas such as Myeongdong, Itaewon, Insadong in Seoul. The cute looking socks are suitable not only for kids, but also for adults. They have quite high quality but only one size for adults (EU size from 35 to 45). All stores usually also sell ballerina socks, invisible socks, pantyhose, etc.
Where to go shopping? In Seoul, the most convenient place to buy socks is the underground market at Myeongdong metro station.
For how much? From 1.000₩ (~0,80€) for a pair, but only 10.000₩ (~8€) for 11 pairs if you pay cash.
3. Metal chopsticks and spoons
During a meal, Korean people use a spoon to eat rice and soup, meanwhile chopsticks are used for other dishes. Have you already noticed that the chopsticks in Korea are quite different than in the other East-Asian countries? While the chopsticks in Vietnam, Japan, China, etc. are round and made from wood or bamboo, Korean chopsticks are flat and made from metal.
When you first use them, you may think they’re heavy and slippery, hence hard to use. Once you already get used to them, you will see many advantages, nevertheless. For instance, metal chopsticks are quite robust, hard to be damaged, suitable for dishwasher, that’s why very hygienic to use. Hence, they’re very useful souvenirs for family and friends.
Where to go shopping? In many souvenir shops and supermarkets.
For how much? Start from 5.000₩ (~4€)
4. Korean Snacks
Korea is a Paradies for food and snacks. Don’t forget to try as many as you like here, for example:
Where to go shopping? Everywhere.
For how much? Start from less than 1.000₩ (~0,80€)
5. Korean tea and tea set
Even though Korean tea is not as popular in the world as tea from other places, they have their own traditional tea ceremony as well as various kinds. Besides, depending on which kind of tea you drink, it will be served in different kind of tea set. You can experience this in many little tea houses in Insadong. Lately I ran into the blog of Ryukoch, that also have a nice introduction about Korean tea.
Where to go shopping? In tea houses and stores i.e. Osulloc Tea House (Insadong, Myeongdong in Seoul), Beautiful Tea Museum (Insadong in Seoul), supermarkets or duty-free stores.
For how much? Start from about 10.000₩ (~8€) for a good loose green tea.
6. Ginseng and its products
Did you know, that Ginseng is supposed to strengthen the body’s resistance against stress and chronic illnesses? Believe it or not, Ginseng is indeed a quite popular remedy in the traditional asian medicine. Even now a days in Korea, Ginseng are still daily used in many ways. For example, raw ginseng is the must-have ingredient for Samgyetang, the famous chicken soup; Ginseng tea, bonbon and energy drinks can be found everywhere; Ginseng extract in various form are sold in wide range as well. If you’re a fan of Ginseng, you’re in the paradise of Ginseng now 😄.
Where to go shopping? Raw Ginseng – 인삼 (insam) are growth mostly in Geumsan. Every October you can visit the biggest Ginseng market in the world here and buy raw Ginseng directly from the farmers. If it’s not feasible, the traditional medical market in Sinseol-Dong, Seoul is a good address to visit.
Meanwhile you can find other processed products of Ginseng – 홍삼 (hongsam) almost everywhere.
Well-known brands? 정관장 (CheongKwanJang), 정원삼 (JeongWonSam).
7. Seal with your own name
Korea is the only country I know in the world, where people still carry their seals and use it in the daily life. That’s the reason why a seal from Korea is a unique souvenir, especially for expats who will leave the country soon.
Where to go shopping? Actually everywhere, but in Insadong, Seoul you will find pretty one, which are suitable as a gift or souvenir.
For how much? From 15.000₩ (~12€), depending on the material.
8. Cloth pafume to go
Korean BBQ is so yummy, but some people might hesitate to join because of the strong smell after eating. But don’t worry, in Korea the issue is well known and there is a solution for it: cloth perfume.
Before leaving the BBQ restaurant, don’t forget to check at the entrance, whether you can find a cloth perfume bottle there. The owners usually put one at the entrance, so that visiting guests can refresh their clothes after enjoying the food. And no lie, it works surprisingly well! In additionally, Daiso and other shops sell small size bottles, so that people always have it when they need. Quite convenient, isn’t it?
Where to go shopping? At Daiso or other markets.
For how much? From 1.000₩ (~0,80€) for a 50ml bottle at Daiso
9. Futher cool souvenirs
There are still so many cool things “made in Korea” that you can buy from your trip. However, even when I can list all of them, you may not need them or don’t have enough luggage space. Therefore, here are some more ideas, but by far not all.
10. Some shopping tips you need to know
Go shopping in Korea is indeed a little bit different than in other places, in particularly as a tourist. Following are some personal tips for you:
10.1 Before heading to your shopping tour
- Since some countries may be very strict in customs, you might want to check their customs regulations first, before buying stuff from Korea to bring there.
- And of course, be aware of your luggage limitation 😆.
- When you plan to go to buy many souvenirs, take your empty luggage with you instead of shopping bags.
- Don’t forget to take a picture or hard copy of your passport with you. In many stores, you will get immediately tax refund if your total shopping expense is more than 30.000₩ but less than 200.000-300.000₩.
10.2 While you shop
- Usually you can taste food, snacks and try cosmetic samples before buying. It’s different for clothes. In many local clothing stores, except the international brands, the clothes have one size only. Besides, you’re not allowed to try on the clothes because they’re afraid that your make up can damage their items. You can however buy the item, try it on at home and return or exchange with the bill. But it’s not valid for sale items. Hence, be careful if you want to buy clothes here.
- Bargain is allowed in Korea, not only in small shops, but also in Duty free mall. All you need to do is to ask the staff kindly, whether they have any special discount. Even when there is no big discount, they may give you free gifts, samples, etc.
- Some snacks and eatable items last only for a short time. Don’t forget to check the expiry date of the products in format YY/MM/DD before buying.
- As in all other countries in the world, goods in Korea can come from anywhere. If you want to make sure that your products are really “made in Korea”, choose the brand stores or big shopping malls and check the product labels for „Made in Korea“ or „대한민국“ as well as „한국“.
I would love to have known all of these before coming here 😓…