January 7, 2012

Ordering from Amazon in South Africa

*** Amended 5-2-2016: Please view the more up-to-date blog post Ordering From Amazon in South Africa, Take Two ***


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Too bad we don't live in Brazil. I would have loved to title a post Amazon in the Amazon. But nevertheless the question beckons: How do you order from Amazon when you live in South Africa, which might as well be some piranha-infested creek up the Amazon, as far as the ease of online ordering is concerned?

Okay, I'm exaggerating again, lest a South African reader might be offended. But the big, big problem about living here is that there is no Amazon.co.za. There are other companies that claim to deliver the same services, like Kalahari.com, but that one is a far cry from the real deal. I've given up looking for stuff there. Then there are other websites advertising their competence in sourcing any actual Amazon.com product for you, like wantitall.co.za or have2have.co.za. I have to admit I haven't tried any of them, but I have my doubts.

The best course of action, in my mind, is to go ahead and order directly from Amazon, if you can stomach the suspense of whether your package will make it all the way here through the vagaries of the South African Postal Service. You might want to make sure SAPO is not on strike before you order. Or bypass the postal service altogether by using express shipping such as offered by Stackry (see above). To order from Amazon, you have two options: Amazon.com, and Amazon.co.uk. [Update: I've been told by readers in South Africa that Amazon.com delivers to South Africa via courier now, meaning it is speedy and safe.]

The latter, in the past, has offered free "Super Saver Delivery on Selected Items to Selected International Destinations," so keep your eyes open for any similar recurring deals, especially around holiday time.

The one Amazon product you should absolutely invest in while living in South Africa is a Kindle, because books are really expensive here. Our kids, as of this Christmas, now all have their own Kindles, and the amount of reading being done has at least tripled (okay, not really an argument for saving money, but when it comes to reading, I am being irrational, as Noisette will affirm).

I'm not sure whether the UK or the USA makes more sense in terms of Amazon deliveries and Kindle book purchases. Check out their international shipping pages at Amazon.co.uk International Deliveries and Amazon.com Shipping Rates to Africa. You'll just have to look at both of them and decide. The one thing that speaks for the UK is that in case you buy any electronics, they will have the right voltage and maybe a plug that fits. I'm saying maybe because it seems like no matter what, we have about fifteen plug adapters coming out of any single outlet in our house.

The best path to salvation, of course, is this: Shortly after moving to South Africa, you start a blog. You give plenty of good advice about expat life in Joburg, so that pretty soon all Americans moving to South Africa follow your blog. They will be very grateful, and they will gladly offer you any shipping space they have available in their containers when moving here. This will enable you to take advantage of FREE Super Saver Shipping within the U.S. just like you're used to. It will lag behind the speed of 2-day shipping just a tad (about two months and 28 days, to be precise), but who cares when you live on African Time?


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20 comments :

julia said...

Hello, I am the American soon-to-be expat who had the choice of Durban or Joburg back in July! We chose Joburg, and have been educating ourselves on The Ways of Joburg via your blog ever since. Now we are on the eve of departure (yikes!) and I am sure we can spare some FREE Super Saver Shipping room in our container for you - am sure you have enough Starbucks coffee but just let me know!

Sine said...

Haha! I'm drowning in Starbucks beans:-). I'll check with the hubby to see if we need anything else to be shipped, thanks for offering. Oh, and i'm really glad you chose Joburg (even though I felt we gave you a balanced view on that question:-) Let me know if you have any more questions and if we can be of any help!

Lara Kilfoil said...

I too am heading to South Africa on our first expat assignment at the end of July! My husband is actually South African, which should help somewhat, but he hasn't lived there in about 15 years so we may be in for some serious culture shock! I have been pouring over your blog and have been learning so much! We are heading out on our house hunting trip next week and will be looking in the Dainfern area so maybe we will be neighbors soon! That being said, I have learned so much I feel indebted to you! Please let me know if you need anything brought over in our suitcase next week, or in our containers that will be packing in a few weeks!

Sine said...

HI Lara, that is so exciting! I'm sure much has changed in 15 years. I would hope mostly for the better but I've only seen two of those:-) Good luck on your first trip, I hope you find a nice house. And thanks for the offer to bring stuff but I'm good for the moment, just got some things today in fact from someone who had moved here. Happy to have been of help.

Terrylin Backpackers said...

Amazon is absolutely useless. I received a voucher from Booking.Com and Amazon in the UK is unable to deliver effectively to South Africa. I will not use them again.

Sine said...

Hm, I don't know about Amazon UK but I do know that many expats living in SA seem to be very happy with Amazon US delivering safely, relatively fast, and at a decent price to South Africa. Maybe worth a try going the U.S. route before you give up on Amazon.

Mark John Courtney Kilham said...

Hi,

Is this still the case in SA at the moment, ie no amazon.co.za?

Thanks

Terrylin Backpackers said...

Hi Mark,

I am now aware that Amazon UK orders the products from the suppliers. Isobel was extremely helpful and re-ordered the posters which have since arrived.

I sincerely apologise for my rant against Amazon UK. This was not their fault.

Joy McLaren

Sine said...

Mark - that is correct, there is no amazon.co.za. However, most expats I've spoken with are happy with ordering from amazon.com, see the other blog post I've linked to at the top.

Joy - thank you for clarifying!

Thabang Senyolo said...

Hi I'm in South Africa Mpumalanga I need to know before trying to shop at Amazon that can my products be delivered here since I want to buy an Apple Watch ? And how much will I be taxed?

Sneha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Likemoneysa said...

Hopefully one day you'll be able to write about Amazon in South Africa :-)

Sine said...

Thabang - I have no idea how much you'll be taxed, but I suggest you just visit amazon.com and put your watch in a shopping cart, like this one: https://www.amazon.com/Apple-Watch-Sport-Aluminum-42mm/dp/B00WUKULAC?imprToken=ITnv9f5LcAMZ00DrwaT4qA&slotNum=0&tag=jobur-20&linkCode=w13&linkId=GIM4XUH2FPANJD2M&ref_=assoc_res_sw_us_dka_crp_c_result_1&ref-refURL=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.joburgexpat.com%2F2016%2F08%2Fwhats-in-your-expat-suitcase.html. Then enter your address at checkout and see how much the estimated taxes are when they calculate your shipping. From what I've heard, it's not too high these days. And I don't see why Amazon wouldn't deliver to Mpumalanga, since they deliver to South Africa in general.

Sine said...

Likemoneysa - ha! Maybe I should lobby them to let me run the SA franchise:)

Sine said...

Thabang, one more thing: Also read this newer article I wrote about ordering from Amazon: http://www.joburgexpat.com/2016/05/ordering-from-amazon-in-south-africa.html

Chrome said...

Two questions is it safe and trustworthy and is it cheaper to buy on Amazon than localy

Sine said...

Hi there - as for safe and trustworthy, I'd say yes it is. Because Amazon basically insures your shipment. If you don't get it, you can claim it with them, and they will send it again or give you a refund. As far as cheaper than locally, I don't know. You'll have to research prices and compare. You'll also have to factor in shipping expense, which is quite a bit, but from what friends tell me, not nearly as bad as it used to be. You might want to read my other newer blog post about Amazon that's linked at the top, as it has a bit more info.

Andre Pienaar said...

I have an issue with a defective item bought via Canadian Amazon. Do you have any experience in returning items?

Sine said...

Andre, I'm sorry, but I have no experience with Amazon Canada. But I would assume it's like any other Amazon. You go to your order online and click on "return" and go through the steps. I am not sure how international shipping will be handled as it's expensive, but if it's defective I would assume they pay for it? If you can't get it figured out online by clicking on your order, I suggest you click your way through the help menu until you get to the place where you can email them (it does exist, you just have to sort of find it). I find that Amazon is very responsive with questions and complaints. Good luck!

Natasha Lindsay said...


Postbox-Courier had a single experience of returning an item to amazon USA.



We shipped it back for the customer based in Cape Town and amazon refunded them for our shipping fee.



Best to check with amazon Canada to see if they will do the same, but we can certainly courier the item back if you need us to