If you love to shop online you’re going to love Taobao. Home to everything from fashion and furniture to health products, electronics and cosplay costumes, you’ll find great bargains available. Use this guide as a good place to start your Taobao journey, and happy shopping!
We'll also introduce Wise account and card, a 3x cheaper way to send and spend money internationally.
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One of the biggest challenges faced by international Taobao shoppers is that the entire site is in Chinese with only very limited options to switch to English or any other language. To make Taobao English-friendly, use Google Translate to automatically translate the page content. It’s not a perfect solution, but it does make it far easier to navigate if your Chinese isn’t up to scratch.
- Open the Taobao website¹ using Google Chrome
- Hover over the Google Translate button - it’s on the right of the search bar
- Select the language you’d like to read the site in
- Click, and Chrome will automatically translate Taobao for you, making it far easier to navigate
If you don’t see the Translate button in your browser, you can change your options by clicking the 3 dots on the top right of the Chrome page. This will take you into your account settings where you can manage your language preferences.
- Click sign up for free (or 免费注册 if you are reading the page without Google translation). You’ll find on the top left of the Taobao webpage
- Enter your phone number to receive a verification code by SMS
- Read through the terms and conditions before clicking to agree and create your account
- You’ll now be able to enter your shipping address so you can receive goods
- Choose Malaysia (马来西亚) as your country on the top left of the Taobao website
- Use the search bar on the Taobao website to search for specific items - or navigate using the menu on the left of the page
- Add items to your shopping cart as you go
It’s good to know you can search in both Chinese and English, although English language searches may not pull up as many results as Chinese. Most often though, the problem is too much choice rather than not enough - Taobao has filters available to narrow down your search.
- Check seller details which you can find on the product page
- You’ll be able to see how long the seller has been in business, and the score they’ve been given by other Taobao buyers
- You can message the seller if you have specific questions
Taobao is a treasure trove of cheap goods. Inevitably this means that alongside great bargains and honest sellers, you’ll find products and stores which are not so good. This may mean poor service, low grade goods, or issues with delivery - so it’s well worth checking the sellers you’re considering have good reputations before you spend any of your hard earned money there.
- Check and confirm the items in your shopping cart
- You’ll then need to confirm your shipping address and the shipping method
- The costs of shipping depend on where in Malaysia you are, and your preferred shipping method²
- Follow the onscreen prompts to make payment via Alipay. If you’ve opted for a consolidated shipping delivery, you may pay for the goods first and the shipping later
- If you’ve only ordered one or two items and are having them shipped to you directly, you’ll probably be able to sit tight now and wait
- If you’ve opted for consolidated shipping you’ll need to wait for your items to arrive in the shipper’s warehouse before they are released
- You may need to make a separate payment to your shipper at this stage based on the total combined weight of your purchases
- Check how your order is doing using the Cross-border logistics management tab on the top of the Taobao website
Taobao payments are made through the Alipay payment gateway, and always in CNY. If you’ve never used Alipay you’ll be asked to enter a password and create an Alipay account before you get started. However, paying is then fairly simple and can be done using your preferred credit or debit card.
Taobao adds a 3% fee for use of an international card³ - your card issuer may also add a fee which you’ll want to be aware of.
To make sure you get the best exchange rate available when you spend on Taobao, you may consider a provider like Wise.
Here’s how to pay with Wise card on Taobao:
- Order your Wise card online
- Add money to your Wise account in MYR
- Fill your Taobao basket - and opt to pay in CNY when you check out
- Wise will automatically convert your funds to CNY when you shop on Taobao
- Get your goodies with low, transparent conversion fees and save money
With Wise, you don't need to worry about high foreign transaction fees like your regular banks charge. You'll only pay low, transparent conversion fees with the real exchange rate.
You’ve selected your bargains. Here’s how to get them.
The length of time it takes to get your goods to Malaysia depends on the shipping method you choose, the specific sellers you buy from, and the type of products you’re buying. An air shipment of a piece of jewelry will arrive quicker than a container full of furniture sent by sea. It’s safe to assume you’ll be waiting a couple of weeks at least - use the tracking tools available on the Taobao website to keep up with your goods as they travel.
Use the Cross-border logistics option on the Taobao website to track your shipment. Simply log into your account, and click to see where your goods are and when they’re likely to be in Malaysia.
You have a few different options when it comes to shipping. Items can be sent direct or in a consolidated shipment. Consolidated shipments involve collecting all the goods you order in a warehouse in China before sending them together in a single shipment by air or sea. This method is typically slower, but cheaper. There are limits on the size and weight of parcels that can be shipped, which may also vary according to your location within Malaysia, with additional costs for some outlying areas of the country.
Costs are calculated according to the final weight of the shipment. For shipments by air the first 500g of weight has a fixed price, and then you’ll pay an additional fee for each half kilo on top of that. Sea shipments are cheaper, but the charging is worked out using both weight and volume, with complex rules dictating what can be included in a single shipment. You’ll want to check the full details online to make sure your Taobao bargains don’t end up breaking the bank in shipping costs. Here are the key details.
|Shipping method||Taobao cost|
|Consolidated air freight|
|Consolidated sea freight - small parcels|
|Consolidated sea freight - large parcels|
If you want to buy from Taobao but you have reservations about using the site directly, you can also use a Malaysian based agent to make the process more straightforward. Using a local agent has a few advantages. You’ll often be able to access an English language website to browse and select products, with support offered in English if you need it. Additional services are also available such as package checking to inspect the goods before they are shipped internationally from China. This can ultimately save time and make sure your items are correct before you pay for them to be shipped to Malaysia.
Shopping Taobao using an agent will typically cost you more than using the Taobao site directly - but can offer some peace of mind and cut down the hassle. Here are a few agents to consider if that’s the way you decide to go:
- Lazada⁴ - shop the Lazada Taobao collection for convenient shopping with a familiar interface
- Buy Mall⁵ - 45 days free storage while items consolidate. Then 18 day average shipping time
- Boxku⁶ - Parcel inspection service, insurance and shipping of sensitive items available
- Buy 2⁷ - shop Taobao using the Buy 2 app, with simple to use shipping calculator to work out the costs
Depending on your personal preferences and what you want to buy, you might even choose to use a Taobao store in Malaysia to get your goods. Stores are beginning to appear which offer a hybrid shopping model, letting you click and collect your Taobao purchases for example. This can cut the costs of delivery and give you more options to have items delivered to home, or for self pick up at one of a variety of locations throughout the country.
You can visit a Taobao physical store at the MyTOWN shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur to check out the services on offer⁸.
Taobao has a handy help centre on their website which can help with common problems⁹. You can also log into your account to access 24 hour online support directly from Taobao.
If the issue you’re experiencing is with the payment rather than the Taobao site itself, get in touch with the Alipay contact for payment problems: Malaysia Service Hotline ( 60 ) 392125564.
If you’re shopping on Taobao you’ll need to pay in CNY. That means you need a smart and simple way to spend in a foreign currency without high fees. Meet Wise.
If you have a credit card with a traditional bank like Maybank, you’ll be charged 2%-2.5% every time you spend in any currency other than MYR¹º - and you may not get the best exchange rate out there, either.
Wise multi-currency accounts let you hold, send and spend dozens of currencies, and switch between them using the mid-market exchange rate. With Wise, you just pay a low 1.08% fee to convert your MYR to CNY, get the best available exchange rate, and avoid the 2%+ charge your bank will impose for spending with a foreign retailer.
Make sure your Taobao bargains really are bargains, by using Wise to cut the costs of international payments.
Taobao is a great site to find deals on anything you want to buy. You’ll need to put in a bit of effort to search and check out the sellers and the quality of the items on offer, but you can net yourself some great gear for way less than you’ll pay in a store.
- 帮助中心 - 马来西亚官方物流价格及材积限制
- 帮助中心 - 海外及其他地区付款方式
- Shop at Taobao Collection | lazada.com.my
- Taobao Malaysia Agent
- BOXKU: Trusted 1688 Taobao Malaysia Agent
- Taobao Shopping Agent in Malaysia and Singapore , buy2taobao
- KL MyTOWN Shopping Mall Taobao Store
- Credit Card - Banking Fees | Maybank Malaysia
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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