Who doesn't know Amazon? The biggest online reseller serves more than 50% of the world's population in their own contry. However, the 15 local Amazon stores are open to almost everyone else as well, giving the world easy access to a huge product range. In this article we share some tips and tricks how to make use of such gigantic selection, and the best ways to save some money.
The Big Question — Why would I purchase from another country's Amazon site?
- Some item I want might be out of stock with my own Amazon store. Chances are quite good that it's still available in one of the other stores worldwide in one of Amazon's dozens of warehouses.
- Some items are considerably cheaper when buying them from overseas. Even after adding shipping cost and import taxes, sometimes it's worth ordering a single product from abroad.
- About 50% of the world's population have no Amazon store in their country. For me, in Cambodia, ordering a bunch of books and blu-rays from Amazon is much cheaper than going to the local overpriced book store.
Finding the best Price
For finding the best price, HeiDoc.net is happy to offer you a little tool to help you — the Amazon Global Product Price Check. It makes use of the fact that the Amazon Product Number (ASIN) is globally unique. When a product has the same ASIN in several Amazon stores, it is in fact the identical product. That way, price comparison becomes very easy.
We also give you the option to set up an email price alert that informs you once the product you're looking for drops below your price limit in any of the major 12 Amazon stores.
Media items (such as games, books, blu-rays) usually ship worldwide without restrictions. Other items (electronics, clothes, watches, jewellery, software etc.) can be a bit tricky. No worries — Amazon has made it very easy to find products that ship to your location. The link to make that available is just extremely well hidden, however, it's present on every search result page on the left hand navigation.
The wording on the various Amazon sites might be a bit different. Sometimes the filter is called "AmazonGlobal Eligible" or similar.
Understanding other Language Sites' Navigation and Registration
Registration is actually not very difficult at all. If you've registered with any Amazon or associated site, in most cases, you've already got a user account for all other sites as well. Just log in with your email address and your password. Delivery addresses and payment methods will be transferred to the account, and kept synchronized automatically.
When it comes to reading and understanding Amazon sites in another language, Bing Bar is a very helpful tool. It can translate any website into about 40 different languages on the fly. So you can understand the Amazon websites during every step of your purchase process easily.
You can access all of the following Amazon and associated sites with a single user account. The following links all point to the English language version, which for most of the international stores exist besides their localized version.
Amazon Main Sites
The Amazon main websites offer a wide product range from many departments. There is an emphasis on media products and electronics, but other areas are growing constantly and fast.
- Amazon.com (USA)
- Amazon.ca (Canada)
- Amazon.co.uk (UK)
- Amazon.de (Germany)
- Amazon.at (Austria)
- Amazon.fr (France)
- Amazon.it (Italy)
- Amazon.es (Spain)
- Amazon.co.jp (Japan)
- Amazon.cn (China)
- Amazon.in (India)
- Amazon.com.br (Brazil)
- Amazon.com.mx (Mexico)
- Amazon.com.au (Australia)
- Amazon.nl (Netherlands)
Souq.com (Middle East)
Amazon's stores in the Middle East are called Souq, and deliver to a range of countries in the area.
Sales and Import Tax: Make it work in your favour
Now this may sound like a dry and boring topic, and you might feel like skipping it. Don't! I'll try to make it as quick and informative as possible.
In different countries, taxes are handled in very different ways. In case you've never left your country, some practices might really catch you by surprise. A simple example: in the US, prices are always displayed excluding tax; in the UK, pricesa re always displayed including tax (usually 20% VAT). Aaaah — so that's why prices on Amazon.com always seem to be way cheaper than on Amazon.co.uk!
So what happens when a UK resident orders an item from the US? Of course the US tax authorities receive zero sales tax on the item. However, depending on the value of the item, it becomes taxable in the UK. As long as Amazon ships the product, and not a third party seller, the customer does not have to worry about tax declaration in the UK. Amazon takes care of all of it, and adds any UK import taxes to the bill at the time of the initial checkout and payment.
And what happens when a US resident orders an item from the UK? The price of the item already includes VAT. The good news is, the customer can claim that 20% back! When the item is sold by Amazon, and not by a marketplace seller, that claim is processed at the time of checkout, and the customer receives an instant 20% "discount". When bought from the marketplace though, the customer can try to claim the tax from the seller (good luck with that...!)
Of course, US import tax might become due. Just as before, as long as Amazon ships, the customer does not have to worry. Amazon manages the entire process.
As a general rule, the Amazons in North America display prices without sales tax, and the Amazons in the EU and Japan display prices including tax. As for the other stores, I don't know, but what's the worst case that can happen? Sales tax is not included, and will therefore not be deducted. No loss for the international buyer.
So in what cases does Amazon handle all the customs formalities? In short, for any item sold and dispatched by Amazon, that goes to any of the 75 countries listed here, Amazon handles all customs and tax procedures. Your Amazon invoice will include all these positions, and you'll know the exact net price once you place any articles into your shopping basket.
International Mail Forwarding
To make global shopping easier, there is a number of service companies, who can receive your shipments in the same country as the Amazon branch you order from, and forward them to any destination worldwide. These companies exist for all major Amazon markets (United States, European Union, Japan and China), and will gladly help you to get hold of your shipments. I have no personal experience with any of these companies, except for Tenso, therefore I am not giving any other particular recommendation here. But for all mail forwarders, you can find some reviews in Google. Some of them even ship for less than Amazon's own international delivery rates.
- Mail Forwarders for the United States
- Mail Forwarders for the European Union
- Mail Forwarders for China
- Tenso.com: Mail forwarding from Japan
DVD and blu-ray Region Codes
Buying DVD and blu-ray movies bears a special challenge: the region codes. To keep shoppers from buying cheap movies from other countries, the movie labels introduced the region code standard to the DVD and blu-ray formats.
This essentially means that not every disk will play on every player. There is however a recent tendency to release new titles on region free disks. Especially blu-ray disks for the European market usually have no region code any longer. If in doubt about a certain disk, please check the Amazon product detail pages.
More information on region codes can be found on the Amazon UK site
Electric Devices, Voltage and Plug Types
When buying any electric appliances, make sure you only purchase devices that are compatible with your country's voltage. North America and Japan use 100-120 V, whereas China and the European Union use 220-240 V. Do not risk buying a device that is in danger of blowing up when you plug it into a socket in your home. Some devices are compatible with both systems. Check the description on the Amazon product pages to find this out.
The plug types may also vary between countries. This is no real problem and can easily be resolved if you order an adapter together with your device. In the European Union (excluding the UK) and China most devices are equipped with a two pin Euro plug. However, all countries also have their national plug type. If the same item (same ASIN) is being sold in at least any two of these countries, you can therefore be sure that it comes with a Euro plug.
In North America and Japan, the same plug types are used. Since voltage is also equal in these countries, you don't have to worry about any incompatibilities whatsoever when ordering stuff within that group of countries.