My 2012 blog post Ordering from Amazon in South Africa is in 3rd place among most read stories on Joburg Expat. Because so many people seem to rely on it, and because it’s already four years old, it needs a makeover to reflect changes since then.
The thing that’s not changed, just to get that out of the way: There is still no Amazon.co.za.
However, ordering from Amazon.com (or Amazon.co.uk, for that matter, but for reasons of simplicity I will stick to Amazon USA) is now easier than ever before, even in such far-flung and postal-service-challenged places as South Africa.
How to order from Amazon in South Africa
The way it works is through a service called AmazonGlobal, and here is what Amazon says about it on its own website: “Amazon.com ships products internationally with AmazonGlobal. Available product lines, shipping rates and fees vary depending on the delivery address for your order.”
To see a listing of countries under the AmazonGlobal umbrella, click here. As stated, not all items are eligible, but many of them are.
To place your Amazon order from South Africa, simply go to Amazon.com and add the desired items to your shopping cart, then go to checkout and enter your address. At this point you should see if any items in your cart don’t qualify. Once you proceed, Amazon adds in all your fees and import duties up front and delivers your package via courier (Aramex), bypassing the slow and wildly unreliable South African Postal Service (SAPO).
How long will it take for my Amazon order to be shipped to South Africa?
I’ve interviewed several South African readers and they’ve all confirmed that the average delivery time with AmazonGlobal is 8 days.
8 days, people! This is mind-boggling to anyone who’s ever used SAPO for any mail going to South Africa. The standards are so low that you’d be happy to know it arrived there AT ALL. Some of you might remember my experiment with Christmas cards – nothing valuable in them – which confirmed that South Africa is dead last when it comes to international mail delivery.
The fast delivery time is possible because sending the goods via courier and paying the fees and duties upfront ensures that your package will not be held up in customs. Neither will it be held up in one of SAPO’s holding centers. I’ve seen pictures of one of those and it’s not a pretty sight, especially at Christmastime. It reminded me of our school’s lost-and-found bins, only a few thousand times as big (although, I’ll grant them that, perhaps a bit less smelly).
How much does it cost to ship Amazon orders to South Africa?
Given that there was a time when Amazon refused to deliver any packages to South Africa at all, due to the fact that a large number just disappeared, this is a HUGE betterment for South African Amazon customers. The only downside is that of course it isn’t free*. If you’ve been spoiled by years of Amazon Prime will living in the U.S. or Europe and are now moving to South Africa and expecting the same, you better undergo a reality check. It won’t be cheap. However, it will be vastly better than having no Amazon at all and having to source all your hard-to-find items from Johannesburg street vendors. And AmazonGlobal prices are actually lower than what I would be willing to pay, given the alternative. For instance, an acquaintance recently ordered a household good for $25 and paid shipping of $14 on it. That’s a pretty good bargain for secure and fast delivery.
The other piece of good news about ordering from Amazon in South Africa is that you can use your South African credit card for payment, which wasn’t possible in the past. Even if you choose to have your goods delivered to a U.S. address with a friend bringing it over when they visit, you can still use your SA-based credit card instead of having to use dollar-based funds.
All in all, placing your Amazon orders from South Africa is as easy and convenient as it’s never been before. If you’re moving to South Africa, this is one item not to worry about.