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Taobao is famous as China’s Amazon - home to cheap and abundant goods from beauty tools to backpacks, and cosplay outfits to commercial refrigeration units.
Use this guide to navigate the Taobao Chinese site rather than shopping through an intermediary - to save money and get a better product choice.
We’ll also help you save even more when shopping internationally online, with the Wise multi-currency account and card. Don’t see your Taobao savings burned up in foreign transaction fees - choose Wise to spend in CNY at the mid-market exchange rate with transparent, low conversion fees.
Here’s a simple step by step to get you started on Taobao.
- Click 免费注册 (Miǎnfèi zhùcè: register for free) on the top left of the webpage
- You’ll be taken to a registration page,
- Switch the language to English
- Enter your phone number and check the box
- Follow the onscreen prompts to complete your details and verify your account
- Click on 累计评论 (Lěijì pínglùn: total comments) to see customer reviews of the products in question
- Once you’ve found the product for you, hit 立即购买 (Lìjí gòumǎi: buy now) - or look out for 加入购物车 (Jiārù gòuwù chē: add to shopping cart) if you want to keep on browsing.
- Find the button 购物车 (Gòuwù chē: shopping cart) - on the top right of the screen
- Once you’ve reviewed everything, click on 提交订单 (Tíjiāo dìngdān: submit order) to confirm
- You’ll be taken to the payment page
- You’ll need an Alipay account to complete your purchase, so you can either log into your existing account, or sign up with your credit card details.
Costs are calculated in CNY so you’ll need to use an online currency converter to check out the full price in SGD.
4. How to pay on Taobao without Alipay - use the Wise card
Open a Wise international account and use your linked debit card to shop on TaoBao without foreign transaction fees. Simply add funds to your account in SGD and convert to CNY, or let Wise’s smart technology do it for you when you shop. You’ll always get the mid-market exchange rate, and you’ll only ever pay a low, transparent fee.
Order your Wise card online and you’ll even get a Wise virtual card immediately so you can start shopping right away.
Here’s what to do:
- Order your physical Wise card online
- Add money to your Wise account in SGD
- Click Get a digital card to activate your virtual Wise card
- 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 no foreign transaction fees and save money
Don’t fancy navigating the Taobao website? Here are some of the alternative ways you can shop on Taobao from Singapore:
If you already shop online, the chances are that you have a Lazada account. Check out the Lazada X Taobao collection² which features Taobao products sold through Lazada.
Prices are in Singapore dollars, categories and product information are in English, and the site is navigated just like the main Lazada page. The products featured are selected because they will ship to Singapore, so you won’t be wasting time looking at great items, only to discover that international shipping is a no-no.
Of course there are downsides. You can’t buy the full Taobao range here, and you may pay a higher price for your items compared to shopping directly on the Chinese Taobao webpages. However, Lazada does offer a 7 day return option, which will cover you if the item turns up damaged, not fitting the description, or a counterfeit³.
Like Lazada, Ezbuy has a website in English, with prices expressed in SGD for ease⁴. You’ll probably not find everything you might on the Taobao main site, but the range is still pretty staggering.
There are a few benefits to using Ezbuy aside from the English language website. Ezbuy also offers a shipping service which can allow you to send your Chinese goods to their warehouse instead of your home⁵.
They’ll then consolidate your order and ship it all in one package if you want. Use the online calculators to see the overall costs of shipping this way - which may be lower than using a Taobao seller, and may also mean you can access items which don’t usually ship internationally⁶.
The other smart option with Ezbuy is the Ezbuy Prime service. You’ll need to pay a fee - a year is SGD99, or you can opt for a shorter subscription - but then you can have items shipped for SGD2.99 flat rate. That could be a real money saver.
An agent will be able to help you check out the product and seller options available to you on Taobao, and offer add-on services like checking goods before they’re shipped internationally, or consolidating orders. Using an agent can be a good way to make sure you’re interacting with a genuine seller on Taobao - agents should be able to help you avoid scammers and check high value goods are what they should be, before they arrive in Singapore.
It’s worth checking out a few different agents - a quick Google search will show you which are trending - as services and costs can vary. SgShop⁷ and Peeka⁸ are a couple of popular places to start.
When you get to the checkout on the Taobao website you’ll see the options available for delivery. Some costs and delivery choices will vary depending on the type of item you’re buying. Smaller items may be sent by airmail directly to you, or you might choose a consolidated delivery option to have several items sent at once either by air or sea. Some sellers also offer the option to get in touch and discuss options and costs - in this case you’d need to negotiate the available delivery routes and choose the one which works best for you.
Here are some example Taobao shipping options and costs to Singapore.⁹
|Taobao shipping option||Example costs||Delivery time|
|官方直送 Guānfāng zhísòng||CNY22 to 500g, then CNY15/500g||5 days+|
|官方集运 － 空运 Guānfāng jíyùn - kōngyùn||CNY19 to 500g, then CNY15/500g||5 days+|
|官方集运 － 海运 Guānfāng jíyùn - hǎiyùn||Depends on the size, weight and volume||15 - 30 days|
|自行联系卖家发货 Zìxíng liánxì màijiā fā huò||By negotiation||Variable|
Taobao has an impressive range of home furniture and accessories, which can make it an appealing place to turn when it’s time to give your place a new look. It’s worth checking in advance which sellers will support shipping to Singapore, as not all items are easily delivered. If you’re struggling you might want to shop through a third party agent - using Ezbuy Prime may make it easier to shop, and also cut your delivery fees thanks to their flat rate shipping option.
If you’re buying direct from the Taobao website the delivery will typically be billed based on the volume of the items you buy, with an additional charge made for bulky or overweight products. GST will also be payable on most items being imported. Check out the full details and make sure you’re still getting a bargain after adding in all the extra fees.
GST can be charged on goods you buy online and have delivered into Singapore. That means you’ll need to check out the potential GST costs of your Taobao delivery to avoid surprises. The basic rules at present depend on the shipping method. GST is payable on all items being brought into Singapore by post or courier services. If your item is being imported by air and is valued at under SGD400 you may not need to pay GST. GST always applies to alcohol and tobacco.
It’s worth noting that there are proposed changes on the books which will mean that from 2023 GST is payable on all online purchases regardless of shipping method. At this stage Taobao may choose to add GST to all prices automatically to make it easier to charge and collect the tax.
Taobao is a wonderland for cheap goods, from everyday essentials to fashion accessories, technology and homewares. Using the site wisely can mean you bag a great bargain. Use this guide as a starting point to explore Taobao - and don’t forget to choose Wise to save on currency conversion to CNY, too.
Ditch your bank’s foreign transaction fees, by simply switching your balance to CNY within your Wise account - or letting the autoconvert technology do it for you - for a low fee. You’ll then be able to spend in person or online using your card, with no extra costs to worry about.
- 淘宝网美国站 - Taobao main page
- Lazada - Taobao Collection
- Lazada - Help Center | Returns
- Ezbuy - Main page
- Ezbuy - ezShip international shipping service
- Ezbuy - New user guide
- SGshop: Taobao Singapore - Taobao Agent Singapore | 新加坡淘宝代购
- Peeka! - One-stop China sourcing and shipping platform. Sea/Air Freight from Shenzhen to Singapore.
- 帮助中心 - Taobao shipping fees
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 Wise Payments 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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