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