whee! my packages arrived. feel like my birthday came early lol http://twitpic.com/5jckst
— David Wang (@blogjunkie) July 1, 2011
I mentioned the above online and as a result I got a few questions about the process of buying and getting stuff delivered to addresses here in Malaysia.
It’s actually not that difficult and I’ve bought a whole bunch of stuff from international online stores. In the past few years, I’ve bought USB microphones, SSD hard drives and even Teva sandals for Zack. This post explains how.
Buy Directly from Online Stores
The first and simplest method to buy stuff online is directly from the stores. All you need to do is to check out with your credit card and Malaysian mailing address. Visa and MasterCard credit cards are accepted worldwide, and many online retailers deliver internationally (it is the 20th century after all). Shipping is expensive due to the long distance, but in under 2 weeks you’ll be the proud owner of rare items that can’t be found / are too expensive in our local stores.
Online stores I’ve bought from with good experience:
Buy Through Middleman
Most stores including Amazon.com will ship items internationally. Sometimes though certain items can’t be shipped overseas because they are sold through Amazon but shipped from the merchant. For example, this super-cool geek tshirt is sold through Amazon but is shipped by ThinkGeek, and ThinkGeek won’t ship to Malaysia. (Yes I bought that online too).
in response to Winnie: Amazon will also state on some pages if it is not able to ship outside of the US. You will also need to provide your address when you create an Amazon account. With your address, Amazon will also tell you when you try to buy something that cannot be shipped to your country.
In situations like this, you’ll need a middleman in the US to receive the packages and then ship it to you. There are quite a few options here like HopShopGo / ComGateway, vsHUB and vPOST Asia. Many online merchants offer free shipping domestically within the US, so you only have to pay for the shipping to Malaysia through one of the options above.
HopShopGo a.k.a. ComGateway
I’ve only used HopShopGo before because they partner with PayPal and give PayPal customers a 10% discount. Unfortunately this means that HopShopGo only accepts PayPal as a method of payment. However, I’ve found their rates to be reasonable. As a rule of thumb, the shipping fees are about 40-50% the value of the product. Looking at their shipping rates, I think vsHUB is more expensive. Also, I usually buy a few products together to save on the shipping fees.
The biggest drawback for using these middleman is that you don’t know what the final cost for shipping to Malaysia will be. They all provide shipping rate calculators but you won’t know what kind of box the retailer will pack your items in, and the shipping cost depends on that box. Don’t buy if you’re on a tight budget :P
Import and Custom Duties
Some items will incur import and custom duties. If that’s the case, the DHL/UPS/FedEx guy will collect money from you when he delivers your packages. Out of 7 shipments I’ve made with HopShopGo, I have only been charged for duties twice. The 2 times I’ve been charged for duties were because:
- The total shipment value was over RM1,000
- The shipment was mainly electronics
If I’m not mistaken the duties cost about 10-15% of the shipment value. So if your shipment value is about RM1,000 expect to pay up to RM150 in duties. The last time I had to pay duties (Sept 2012), the DHL guy said to me that I can try splitting my shipments so that the total value is under the RM1,000 mark.
Please don’t ask me how much custom duties you will incur for your item. I don’t work with the customs department and I have no way of knowing.
At the end of the day, shopping online may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But for those who want to, where there’s a will there’s a way. Happy shopping!