It’s hard to believe, but it’s true – some online shopping sites don’t ship to Singapore. Most of us have encountered that dreadful moment when we couldn’t find “Singapore” in the drop-down list of countries they ship to.
Maybe they don’t know that Singapore exists, just like the US administration when they were organising the Trump-Kim summit here recently.
Well, US State Department still thinks Singapore is in Malaysia.
— BrioS (@BrioS_BRxV) 12 June 2018
But with the help of forwarding agents like VPost, Borderlinx and Comgateway, Singaporeans get to buy from them anyway. Here’s how these services work:
- The forwarder gives you an overseas (e.g. US) address – one that the online shopping site will ship to.
- When you check out, you ship your goods to the overseas address.
- The forwarder receives your loot and then ships it to you in Singapore for a fee.
Here’s a price comparison of 7 popular shipping services that Singaporeans use.
They can roughly be divided into 3 types: the most established “old guard” (VPost, Comgateway, Borderlinx), the ones that started out as Taobao forwarders (EZbuy, SGshop) and the new startups that are trying to offer something new (Shippin, Parcl). We’ll go into their services in detail later on.
|Forwarder||Countries they ship from||Sample shipping charges (500g parcel from USA)|
|VPost||USA, Europe, Japan, China||S$17.95|
|EZbuy||USA, Korea, China, Taiwan||N/A (shipping fee on product page)|
|Shippn||Australia, Canada, Germany, Turkey, UK, USA||US$19.65|
VPost, which is owned by SingPost, is one of the oldest forwarding agents in Singapore. The site is easy to use when you order from online merchants. They will inform you via email when your package has arrived and you can then declare the contents on their website.
They’re fairly reliable most of the time and ship quickly. Sea freight (much slower but cost-effective) is also available for bulky items of at least 10kg. But their biggest strength is the fact that they’ve got addresses not just in the US but also Europe, Japan and China.
VPost sometimes has coupons and promo codes – find the latest one on the VPost promotions page. If you have a Standard Chartered Spree credit card, you can also get a 3% rebate on VPost.
Shipping available from: USA, Europe, Japan, China
Rates (by air):
- USA: Base charge $13.40 + $0.91 per 100g
- Europe: Base charge $23 + $1.25 per 100g
- Japan: Base charge $16 + $1.45 per 100g
- China: Base charge $12 + $1 per 100g
Comgateway is another of the big players for US shopping sites. They’re an established name, have been operating for a long time and are generally known to be reliable and fast. They also have a BuyForMe service that helps you place orders at an extra cost if your credit card is not accepted by a site.
For urgent orders, Comgateway has an express shipping option that is only a little more expensive. It cuts down the lead time from 6 to 8 working days to 3 to 5 days, so you can receive your goods in about a week.
Another service they provide is consolidation. Let’s say you’re redecorating and have ordered homewares from several Etsy sellers and some items from Anthropologie. You can direct them all to Comgateway’s warehouse (storage is free for 30 days), wait for everything to arrive, and have them repackaged into one big parcel to send to your home address to save on costs.
Shipping available from: USA
- Standard: US$11.80 for first 500g, US$3.25 per additional 500g
- Express: US$13.57 for first 500g, US$3.74 per additional 500g
Borderlinx is yet another very well-known shipping service that Singaporeans have been using for years to ship stuff from the US, Europe and Hong Kong. However, Borderlinx’s services have been suspended as of 5 Jun 2018.
Shipping available from: USA, UK, Germany, Hong Kong Sample rates: US$16.30 for first 500g Approx. US$16 per subsequent 500g
EZbuy started off as a Taobao forwarder, and specialises in China, Taiwan and Korea, though it also has US items on the list. Unlike other third party forwarder, EZbuy works a bit differently. You browse products and place orders directly on their website, which has been designed to look like an online store.
Last year, EZbuy made the news for getting their China Buy-For-Me accounts blocked by Taobao, leaving many Taobao addicts in a lurch. But despite complaints about items not arriving as promised, they’re still one of the more popular forwarders in Singapore.
You can also get EZbuy Prime membership which costs S$99 a year (also available: S$9.90/5 days and S$69/6 months). It lets you pay a maximum of $2.99 for shipping each time, no matter how bulky the item. This is really really good value if you’re thinking of shipping bulky stuff like furniture.
For more about Taobao shipping and forwarding options, read our article for an in-depth cost and service comparison.
Shipping available from: USA, Korea, China, Taiwan
Rates: International shipping fees are indicated on each product’s dedicated page and vary according to item and location. They tend to be very low. For instance, clothing items from Korea usually cost about $1.70 to ship, and small items from the US cost only $3.99 to ship.
What you might not know is that SGshop is trying to get a slice of the US online shopping pie too. Its promotional USA rates are extremely competitive, probably because it’s trying to fight EZbuy Prime. This is a winner if you’re looking to ship regular, non-bulky items.
Shipping available from: USA, China
- USA: S$3.99 per 500g
- China: $1.25 per 500g up to 20kg (Economy Sea) + clearance fee $0.98 + agent fee 8% surcharge
With so many established forwarding options, who needs yet another shipping service?
Shippn thinks it has something different to offer. They don’t actually do the shipping themselves. Instead, the site matches shoppers with package forwarders who can deliver to Singapore. Think of it as the Airbnb of forwarding agents. Of course, that means that you’ve got to go through the forwarders’ reviews, because the site cannot guarantee their quality.
Shippn provides standardised prices on the site, so you can check shipping fees before contacting shippers.
Shipping available from: Australia, Canada, Germany, Turkey, UK, USA
- US$19.65 for up to 500g parcel
- About US$26 for a 1kg parcel
Like Shippn, Parcl is an Airbnb-type service that hooks you up with people who can ship your stuff for you to Singapore.
They have a much wider range of hosts and locations compared to Shippn. That means that they can deliver from just about anywhere. So go ahead and order that Iron Throne replica from Poland or whatever (though you should always make sure it can clear customs!).
Shipping available from: Everywhere
Sample rates: Shipping cost from the US ranges from about US$25 to US$65.
So, which is the most cost-effective forwarding agent?
Among the big 3 established companies, the most competitive one for US orders is Comgateway. Shipping for light packages tends to be cheaper than what the other big boys are charging.
If you don’t mind going with someone who’s not as established, definitely go for SGshop and take advantage of their promotional rates for US shipping. For bulky orders from the US, consider signing up for EZbuy Prime.
You can also save money by consolidating your shipments (or combining with family and friends) and shipping everything over in one shot.
Finally, don’t forget to pay your forwarder using a good credit card to get cash rebates or air miles.
What is your favourite shipping service? Share your recommendations in the comments.