Buying Guide

General Overview

How to use the Guide

So you’re looking to buy from abroad. What do we all need to look out for? Check out the rest of this guide

Our site will help you identify the simplest way to make a purchase from abroad. These are in addition to the usual considerations when choosing an e-commerce store, such as cancellation policies, is the site trustworthy and secure.

Be aware that the information in the guide should be used a guidance on whether or not to make a purchase, and should not be relied upon in individual circumstances

Our site will help you identify the simplest way to make a purchase from abroad. These are in addition to the usual considerations when choosing an e-commerce store, such as cancellation policies, is the site trustworthy and secure.


Be aware that the information in the guide should be used a guidance on whether or not to make a purchase, and should not be relied upon in individual circumstances.


Be aware that the information in the guide should be used a guidance on whether or not to make a purchase, and should not be relied upon in individual circumstances


How to use the Guide
Store Difficulty

Store Difficulty

Rating Scale

We've bought from these stores and created a rating system based on how easy they are to deal with

We have a 4 level ranking system:

The smart choice.The stores with this rating are the easiest to purchase from with the minimum of hassle 

 The dependable choice. An overall good shopping experience with typically just one of the considerations in this buying guide causing a slight hiccup in the purchasing process.

Think. These stores will take international orders, but you may need to be a little creative to get the best deal or to take an extra few steps to complete an order.

Newbies Beware. The stores here are not geared up for a good international experience, but will take your business. You must be prepared to use all the tricks you know to make it a successful transaction. You also need to be sure of what you purchasing as typically dealing with these stores will be a one-way transaction (no returns or warranty) especially for international orders.

Check out individual store profiles to see why we've rated stores a certain rating




Unfortunately not everybody can speak more than one language and buying abroad may mean restricting yourself to the sites that you are comfortable with.

Some sites that offer international shipping will offer alternative languages than that of its home country, but these are relatively rare. You should not trust an online translator especially when reading through the small print.

On the sites we feature, we will show you the home language of the site and also any additional languages supported (that do not use an online translation tool)

Delivery Options

Delivery Options

Just like ordering online at home, there are many different delivery options when ordering from abroad

Direct Delivery Direct Delivery

Shipping to your door is the most convenient

The simplest method and often the fastest. Good for one off purchases.  Some sites will offer free shipping for a minimum transaction. Things to consider here are cost, timing, quantity of goods. In some cases, the cost of shipping may negate any benefit over buying in your home country

Freight Forwarding

Not all sites will offer to ship direct to you. 

Many stores offer free local shipping (often with a minimum spend) including to freight forwarders. This is very good for when you need to buy a large number of items from different stores in a country.

Freight forwarding services can be confusing with many optional features. Ideally find one that offers free package consolidation when you are making more than one order.

We will mark stores that you will either need to ship to a freight forwarder or can ship to them. 


In some cases, certain stores will not ship to freight forwarders (see the Restrictions section)

Use a Friend or Relative Use a Friend or Relative

If you know someone living in or visiting the home country of an e-commerce store you wish to purchase from, you're very lucky

As with freight forwarding, you could benefit from free local shipping. You should look at the rest of this guide to understand the advantages and dsiadvantages of doing this. Do bear in mind that your friend or relative may then see what you're buying!


If you're shipping to your hotel when visiting the country, the hotel may charge for handling parcels for you

Returns Policy

Returns Policy

Before you check out at a store, be sure to read their returns policy. There are many variations and limitations and international orders do pose some extra hurdles.

Additional things to consider include:

  • Amount of time available to you to return the product – bear in mind the amount of time it takes to ship the item to you and then for you send it back again
  • Who pays for the return shipping – you or the store
    . If it's you, you should check the cost of shipping against the value of the item. Sometimes it can work out cheaper to keep the item / sell it locally than to return it. We will help you to identify who pays in each store's profile page
  • If you are seeking a refund, you may not get the exact same amount of money back as it depends on fluctuating exchange rates and your card issuer / bank may charge an additional foreign currency transaction

Having identified a satisfactory returns policy, you could be thwarted by the delivery service used for returns. For example, DHL do not accept faulty / non-functional electronic items for carriage.

You should also be wary that in many cases products sold that are exported automatically void any warranties

Returns Policy
Source Tax

Source Tax

Tax in the Store's Home Country

Many countries have some form of sales tax that is applied to items sold for local consumption. This can be referred to as VAT, TVA, GST, sales tax, or MwSt etc. and can be as high as 27%. When shipping outside of the country, such sales tax is generally not applicable.

This can make certain countries have a significant price advantage. In principle, these should not apply to items shipped directly outside of the country. However, this is dependent on the configuration of the e-commerce site whether it is applied. Look for thе  icon for stores that automatically deduct the sales tax where applicable

Do remember though, tax deduction is only applicable to shipments directly out of the country, and in the case of the EU, when shipping outside of the EU. It will not be reclaimable if you are freight forwarding or shipping to a friend / hotel in the same country. Additionally in the US, differents states have different laws regarding internet sales tax which may affect any purchase shipping within the US

Destination Tax

Import duties

You are lucky in Hong Kong with very little imports duties applicable

In general, importing items to Hong Kong are free from import duty with the exception of:
• Tobacco
• liquour/ alcohol

Some sites will automatically estimate the import duty. These are typically estimates as the amount charged is dependent on the handling fee charged by the local shipping agent and the declared value. In the event the estimate is too high, the difference is typically returned to you.

Import duties


General Restrictions

Not everything can be bought or transported internationally. Even common household items may not be shipped internationally like household cleaners, spray deodorant, it is worthwhile quickly checking whether your items are restricted before you order. 

In general, sites will not offer restricted items for international sale. We will try our best to not feature commonly restricted items on our site, we cannot guarantee this once you follow a link to a 3rd party site.

Certain retailers may have entered into relationships with distributors / brands that prevent them from shipping certain items or brands directly to you in Hong Kong. In most cases, the site will tell you up-front the items that cannot ship (or not display them for sale).
Additionally, there are some retailers that will also refuse to ship to known freight forwarders. These will be marked with [ICON Freight Forwarder (NO) ]

Permanent Restrictions

Certain items are permanently restricted under international law

Endangered species animals and their products
Nuclear Material
Firearms and Ammunition

Local Import Restrictions

Many items are subject to import licenses in Hong Kong when imported for commercial purposes. It is important to check if your item falls into one of the below categories whether you need a license or permit to import. In some cases, personal use items may be exempted. 

Importing large quantities of a license restricted item for personal use may cause problems.

Below is a list of items with a local import restriction:
Live Animals and Plants
Controlled Chemicals
Infectious Goods
Vehicles, vehicle parts, outboard engines exceeding 111.9 kilowatts (150 horsepower)
Optical Disc Mastering and Replication Equipment
Ozone Depleting Substances
Chinese Herbal Medicines and Proprietary Chinese Medicines
Pharmaceutical Products and Medicines
Radio Transmitting Equipment (including all mobile phones, wifi equipment, Bluetooth devices)
Rice, Frozen or Chilled Meat and Poultry
Game, Meat, Poultry and Eggs
Smokeless Tobacco Products
Strategic Commodities (including supercomputers, hi speed electronics)
Rough Diamonds
Hazardous Chemicals

Air Freight Restrictions

We're all subject to the same restrictions when we fly in terms of what we can and cannot carry in either our hand-carry or check-in luggage. The same restrictions apply to air freight (used by major couriers)

Many delivery services will use aircraft en-route to Hong Kong. It is important to remember that many items are restricted from being carried on aircraft (the same restrictions apply to items as for your check-in luggage).
Some delivery services may refuse to carry lithium-ion rechargeable batteries which are typically found in consumer electronics such as mobile phones, laptop computers, and tablets. It is worth checking whether the delivery method desired can transport lithium-ion batteries. Some carriers may charge extra for handling lithium-ion batteries

In general, for sites that ship direct to you, they will either indicate or not display altogether those items that cannot be shipped to you due to restrictions



The e-commerce sites displayed with us are all able to process international transactions to a varying degree of simplicity.

Payment Methods

With a wide variety of payment methods on offer today, we will show you what is accepted by each of the stores we show

These include card issuers like Visa, Mastercard, American Express, UnionPay, 3rd party payment processors like Paypal, Alipay, Google wallet. In some cases, offline payment (direct bank transfer) is also accepted

Card Authorisation

Card transactions aren't always simple. Authorisation may cause problems

As with the different shipping methods above, a different billing address and shipping address may cause a headache for authorisation of a transaction. Some e-commerce sites may resort to offline (typically phone) means to verify a transaction where it cannot be directly authorised.  Others may reject an order outright is extra authorisation steps are required.

3rd party payment processors goes some way to solve this issue. If offered as a payment means, it may be the most convenient way to check out especially when the shipping and billing addresses are different (for example when you're using a freight forwarder).




Not all $s are the same. It is important to know what the base currency is for a store and what currency a store can charge you in

Many sites can show prices in your home currency. Some sites can offer to charge you in your home currency (they handle the foreign exchange). In these cases, it is worthwhile familiarising yourself with your card issuer’s / bank’s foreign currency charges beforehand so you can determine whether it is worthwhile alternative.

Some stores cannot bill in your home currency, the quoted prices may not be the same as on your card bill.

Finally and confusingly, many countries use dollar denominations with stores just showing the $ sign. It is worth checking what dollar it is so as not to get a surprise on your card bill. In some cases, it is not obvious. We will show you home country of the store and the base currency the store charges in

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