Shopping on Taobao Singapore—The Ultimate Guide to Shipping Methods, Key Phrases, GST, and More You Need to Know

Shopping on Taobao Singapore—The Ultimate Guide to Shipping Methods, Key Phrases, GST, and More You Need to Know

Many of us have probably used the Chinese shopping site Taobao at some time or another. But there are also a good number who probably haven’t used it before, or given up, perhaps because of the language barrier. 

Yup, Taobao is completely in Chinese but fear not, because it’s user-friendly and can be navigated even by those with limited Chinese language abilities. The cheap deals are too good to ignore and almost everything is made in China anyway, so if you can get something for cheaper on Taobao, why not be money smart about it? 

So that’s why we’ve put together this guide for you to take you through the ins and outs of buying made-in-China goods on Taobao.

How to shop on Taobao 2024 guide

  1. Taobao overview on how to buy and ship 
  2. How to shop on Taobao in 4 easy steps
  3. Which Taobao shipping method should you choose?
  4. Buying Taobao products on Ezbuy
  5. What about buying furniture on Taobao?
  6. Buying Taobao products on Lazada
  7. Will you get charged GST on Taobao purchases?
  8. Best credit cards for shopping on Taobao

Taobao overview on how to buy and ship

There are a few ways you can buy products from Taobao—directly on Taobao.com, a third-party platform like Ezbuy, or looking for the items you want on Lazada’s Taobao collection.

Option 1: Direct from Taobao

There’s a whole lot of foreign language here when you’re shopping directly on Taobao’s website or app. While you get the whole range of products that are on the site, you do have to navigate everything in Chinese. 

If Mandarin is no problem for you, this is the most efficient way for you to shop and you can get what you need as you would shopping on any other website. 

But note that some items do not qualify for international shipping, such as overly large or heavy items, food, cosmetics, and electronic devices. The only way to get your hands on these would be to use a third-party agent or forwarder. 

Option 2: Going through a Taobao agent or third-party forwarder

If you’re feeling lost in translation on Taobao, here’s where third-party agents can come in handy. They act as middlemen between you and Taobao to forward the products to you. 

Should you need to ask a seller something about a specific item, the third-party agent can be the liaison between you and the seller in China. Some agents can even do quality checks on pricier purchases before they get shipped out. Plus, they can combine your Taobao hauls into one shipment, saving you money on shipping costs.

Now, let’s talk about freight forwarders. These guys are shipping specialists, but unlike agents, they don’t handle the communication or payment aspects of your Taobao adventure.

Here’s the catch though—while Singapore has plenty of Taobao agents such as Ezbuy, Oops, SGShop, and Peeka!, their fees and markups may sometimes add a significant chunk to your final purchase price depending on what you buy. This can come from agent commissions, inflated shipping costs, and currency conversion charges.

Option 3: Taobao via Lazada

There’s also another option if you don’t want to deal with third-party agents. 

Lazada offers a Taobao Collection, a selection of products directly from Taobao sellers, on its platform. This means you can browse and buy directly from these sellers but in English and without having to rely on agents. 

However, the selection on Lazada is much more limited—mainly fashion and homeware items—compared to the mass of products you’ll find on Taobao. But if you can’t or don’t want to navigate about in Chinese, using Lazada would probably work best. And if you can find what you’re looking for, why not? 

However, the trade-off is that Lazada’s Taobao Collection is only a curated selection, not the full array of options you’ll find on the original Taobao website. 

Buying and Shipping fromTAOBAOLazadaEnglish / SGD /Free Shipping*Third Party AgentsEnglish / SGD /Shipping + Agent feeTaobao (direct)Chinese / RMB /Shipping fee only* With minimum spend

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How to shop on Taobao in 4 easy steps

But if you think you want to give Taobao a try and brave the pages of Chinese text, here’s how you can do so: 

Step 1: Create an account

Create-account-on-TaobaoCreate-a-Taobao-account-and-sign-up

Click on 我的淘宝 (My Taobao) at the bottom right corner tab and you’ll be prompted to enter your phone number to sign up. You’ll need to enter a working mobile number to get the verification code by text. 

You’ll then be prompted to use face recognition (for iPhone users) or thumbprint (for Android users), so just click the bold orange button to agree. It’s quite intuitive. 

Step 2: Browse products

Once you’re all signed up, it’s time to browse the millions of products. 

Browse products on Taobao

You can navigate using the Category button (it’s in English), which then takes you to a page with all the different categories of items. Thankfully there are pictures, so even if you can’t read, you know you’ll be browsing clothes or snacks. 

Browse products on Taobao 1

You can also search for the products you want in the search bar—e.g. I searched for “iPhone charger” in English and still got accurate results.

Browse products on Taobao 1

Use the filters to further limit your selection and sort according to the brand (bearing in mind that there are more fakes than authentic items), size, material and so on.

Step 3: Access the product page

When you find a product you’re interested in, click on the name and you’ll be taken to the product page, which looks quite similar to what you’d find on Qoo10 or eBay. You’ll see the price displayed in RMB, followed by options such as size and quantity.

Scroll down further and you’ll see further information about the product, user reviews and pictures. You’ll probably want to Google Translate these unless you’re a whiz at Mandarin. 

It’s also useful to check the user reviews as there are lots of scammers on Taobao. Also, be aware that lots of sellers have fake reviews, so avoid sellers who sound TOO perfect.

If you want to buy it now, click the bottom right bold orange button labelled “立即购买” (translation: buy now) to buy immediately, or “加入购物车” (translation: add to cart) to add it to your cart and continue shopping.

Step 4: Complete your purchase

On the product page, if you click “立即购买” (buy now), you’ll be taken directly to checkout.

If you click on “加入购物车” (add to cart) instead, the item will be added to your shopping cart. You’ll then have to click “购物车” (shopping cart) at the top right of the screen to access your shopping cart and check out.

The shopping cart is quite intuitive. You’ll see a summary of your items and the total amount of RMB you need to pay. Click on the 结算 (settle bill) button to make payment.

Fill in your shipping and contact details, select a shipping method and confirm by clicking on “提交订单” (submit order).

You will then be directed to an Alipay website to complete payment. If you don’t have an Alipay account yet, you’ll need to create one. Once logged in, you’ll see a form for your credit card details. Enter them, click “Continue” and then your card will be charged.

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Which Taobao shipping options should you choose?

At the checkout page, you’ll have several options to choose from. Here’s a quick and dirty translation of the shipping options:

Taobao shipping option Translation
官方直邮  – 海运 Direct delivery by sea
官方直邮 – 空运 Direct delivery by air
官方集运 – 经济海运 Consolidated shopping by sea
官方集运 - 标准空运 Consolidated shopping by air
联系卖家发货 Contact the seller to arrange for shipping on your own

 

Taobao – Chinese Words Translation
免费注册 free registration
宝贝详情 product details
累计评论 user reviews
立即购买 buy now
加入购物车 add to cart
购物车 shopping cart
结算 settle bill
提交订单 submit order

Fastest and most convenient shipping method from Taobao

The easiest and fastest option is 官方直邮 – 空运 (direct delivery by air). It’s best if you are only buying one or just a handful of items, and want each seller to ship directly to your doorstep.

For direct shipping, shipping costs will be calculated for you upon checkout.

The cheapest shipping method from Taobao

If you’re buying several items, it will be cheaper to combine shipping (官方集运) so that your various parcels can be consolidated before being sent to you all at once by a Taobao forwarder. Shipping by air is faster than sea, but if you’re buying bulky items like furniture, you might want to opt for the latter to cut costs.

For consolidated shipping, you need to pay in two stages. At the first stage, you pay when you purchase so that each seller can send the item to the warehouse in China. Once all your items have arrived at the warehouse, you pay to ship the consolidated package to Singapore.

Shipping through a Taobao agent

Choose the final option (联系卖家发货) if you are using a Taobao agent. The agent will handle negotiations with the seller on your behalf.

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Buying Taobao products on Ezbuy

There are two options when buying Taobao items via Ezbuy. 

Option 1: Use its freight service called ezShip where you get an address in China that your items get shipped to. It’s like vPost or Comgateway, for those of us who are familiar with shipping products from the US in the past. 

Option 2: Buy on the Ezbuy website itself which has items from Taobao, just that they’re a bit pricier. 

Pros of buying Taobao stuff using Ezbuy

It’s in English! So if you don’t mind paying the higher price, it’s easier to navigate and buy items, saving you some time. 

Cons of buying Taobao stuff using Ezbuy

It’s more expensive because there’s an agent fee and shipping costs more. It may also take longer to ship your items. 

There was also a case in 2017 where there were some unfulfilled orders as Taobao made life difficult for third-party agents. Ezbuy still works but just bear in mind that there’s some risk. 

Also, not every single product from Taobao is on Ezbuy but the selection is still pretty wide, and more so than Lazada.

However, some users have complained that you also pay higher prices on your products and higher shipping fees than when buying direct from Taobao, with the total mark-up (including agents’ fees and shipping) raising prices by 30% to 50% (still cheap though).

Verdict: should you use Ezbuy?

If you’re an Ezbuy Prime member, you get an unlimited flat rate shipping of $2.99 regardless of weight, size and quantity, so this could be more worth it for you. 

Taobao’s main draw is the low price so if you want to save your money, buying directly on Taobao is probably better for you. Otherwise, you can just buy an Ezbuy Prime membership to save on shipping, especially if you have many things to buy. 

By the way, if you’re buying on Taobao directly, you can use Ezbuy’s freight forwarding service ezShip to reduce your shipping costs. When you sign up for ezShip, you’ll be given an address in China that you can get sellers to ship to. Consolidate your packages at the ezShip address and then send them to Singapore. You can store packages for free for up to 20 days (below 20kg) or 7 days (above 20kg) before shipping them to Singapore.

What about buying furniture on Taobao?

Every so often, some influencer parades around their newly-decorated HDB flat and proclaims that everything was purchased on Taobao, from the sofas to the giant wall decals.

There are more furniture and homeware shops on Taobao than you’ll ever find in Singapore, which makes it so much easier to find items to match your gothic boudoir or jungle-themed interior.

Shipping furniture from China to Singapore can still be cheaper than getting it at Courts if you use consolidated delivery by sea. 

You’ve probably seen influencers flaunting their nicely decorated HDB flats, claiming that they bought everything from Taobao, from the furniture to the photo frames. Well, that’s because Taobao boasts a mind-boggling selection of furniture and homeware stores, more than anything you’d find in Singapore. 

And to top it off, getting furniture delivered from China via consolidated sea freight can still be cheaper than hitting up Courts. So, if you’re looking to save on your home items, there’s no harm in buying from Taobao. However, we’d advise you to read reviews thoroughly to ensure you’re getting quality items. You don’t want your sofa to be collapsing when you’re watching Netflix. 

Tips for buying furniture on Taobao

Furniture can cost a lot in shipping fees because of the weight. One way is to get an Ezbuy Prime membership for a flat shipping rate of $2.99 on each order. 

Just note that not everything is available on Ezbuy’s platform.

Alternatively, you can use Taobao’s Cainiao sea shipping service, subject to size and weight limits, or a freight forwarder like ezShip. However, you should be aware that you will only know the exact shipping costs when all your items are at the warehouse or freight forwarder’s address and are ready to be sent to you.

Is it worth it to buy furniture on Taobao?

Here’s the lowdown:

Cainiao: If you choose Cainiao, their shipping fees typically range from RMB 230 (around S$48) to RMB 460 (around S$95) per cubic meter (the size of the shipping crate). Remember, this doesn’t include GST, which can add up to quite a bit.

Third-Party Freight Forwarders: For large items, you might need to consider third-party freight forwarders like ezShip, Oops, or EKLINK. However, keep in mind their services come with additional fees.

And thanks to the introduction of GST on imported goods, those super-cheap Taobao deals might not be quite as attractive as they used to be. Factor in shipping costs and GST before you hit “buy” to ensure you’re still getting a good deal.

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Buying Taobao products on Lazada

If you need something in a hurry and have no time to comb through hundreds of product listings, and of course, don’t want to navigate the Chinese jungle of Taobao, Lazada is the way to go. 

Pros of buying Taobao stuff on Lazada

The familiarity of the Lazada platform makes buying a breeze. There’s also its pro-shopper return policy which makes it easy if you need to return stuff to China sellers. 

Cons of buying Taobao stuff on Lazada

The product range is smaller than the full Taobao site and prices are usually higher. 

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Will you get charged GST on Taobao purchases?

As of 1 Jan 2023, the government has started charging GST on all items purchased online, regardless of cost or shipping method. Previously only items shipped by sea or worth at least S$400 would attract GST.

GST will be calculated and collected by Taobao when calculating your shipping fees, meaning it will be automatically added to your total bill upon checkout.

Best credit cards for shopping on Taobao

Even though Taobao is already cheap if you can get more savings on your shopping by using the right credit card, why not right? 

Here are our top picks for small Taobao purchases. These are good for up to about $400 a month of online spending:

DBS logo
Online Promo
Shopping and Transportation
on Shopping & Transport Spend
Up to 6% cashback
Cashback Cap
Up to S$70
Min. Spend per month
S$800
OCBC logo
Earn up to 10% cashback
Cash Back
Up to 10%
Cash Back Cap per month
S$100
Min. Total Spend per month
S$800

If you’re buying way more, you may want to opt for an unlimited cashback credit card like these:

Citibank logo
MoneySmart Exclusive
Faster Gift Redemption | Unlimited 1.6% Cashback
Cash Back on Eligible Spend
1.6%
Min. Spend per month
S$0
Cash Back Cap per month
Unlimited
MoneySmart Exclusive:

[FASTER GIFT FULFILMENT | FLASH DEAL]
Get an Apple iPad (9th Gen), 64GB (worth S$508.30) or a Sony WH-1000XM5 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones (worth S$589) or S$420 Lendlease E-Vouchers (can be used at 313@somerset, Jem, Parkway Parade, PLQ) or S$300 Cash via PayNow, in as fast as 6 weeks from meeting the S$500 spend criteria!
 
PLUS for a limited time only, get an additional S$50 Shopee E-Voucher on top of your baseline gift when you are the first 15 customers to submit the claim form at 2PM & 9PM daily! T&Cs apply.

Valid until 31 May 2024
American Express logo
MoneySmart Exclusive
Unlimited Cashback
on up to $5,000 spend in the first 6 months for new Card Members.
3.0% Cashback
all subsequent eligible purchases
1.5% Cashback
Cash Back Cap
Unlimited
MoneySmart Exclusive:

Get S$130 Cash via PayNow when you apply for an American Express True Cashback Card and spend a min. of S$500 in Qualifying Spends within the first month of card approval! T&Cs apply.

Valid until 31 May 2024

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