Ordering TaoBao to New Zealand

Previously I wrote about my excitement finding out I can order Amazon.com to New Zealand customs free, so imagine my excitement finding out I can do the same with TaoBao, China’s ridiculously good Amazon-clone! All thought it requires a little more know-how, and I have limited time to explain, I’ll try to give you the gist of it…

Update: After over 20 very successful items arrived, I’ve finally hit an obstacle of an item which is vanished. Had this been amazon there would have been customers services I could call, but with TaoBao they are next to impossible to contact. Therefore I cannot recommend anyone use it.

TaoBao is basically like Amazon except with Chinese prices, considering that everything is made in China it doesn’t make much geographical sense that our goods goes from China to American then back east to NZ, why not buy straight from the horses mouth?

More importantly, TaoBao has the wonderful Chinese size system for their clothing. Wanna know what is your pants size, your jacket size, your underwear size? Simple, it’s measured by height. If you’re average wide 180 cm height you pick the 180 size, if you’re bulkier or skinnier than average you pick a size that’s slightly above or below your height. I recently received a box of 10 clothing, 9 out of which fit me perfectly! In our messed up western measurement system god only knows who the fudge decides what is the definition of ‘medium’.

Since TaoBao is oriented towards the Chinese market, they also offer sizes to men under 180 cm. Before discovering TaoBao I was trying to find hiking pants on Amazon.com, although I could find many waste measurements, I could not find a single hiking pants (in stock) that didn’t have smaller than “82 inch inseam” (meaning you’d have to be at least 182cm tall or else Amazon doesn’t want your money).

How to order from TaoBao to New Zealand

  1. Find whatever you want on Taobao.com, using Chromes automatic translation if you don’t speak Chinese.
  2. Order it, they will charge you an around 3% non-Chinese card fee, as well as your card will probably charge another hidden 3% in the currency exchange rate from CNY. Sometimes they will charge a small delivery fee to their international warehouse.
  3. Once it arrives to their international warehouse, every item will be unpacked, weighted and listed in a spreadsheet. Here you get to pick and choose which products to bundle together into a package to be sent internationally. This is where you want to be cleaver with how you divide your order to avoid NZ customs. Unfortunately (unlike Amazon.com) you are responsible yourself for the customs calculations, so you may need to spend a lot of time researching it properly.
  4. Pay for international shipping. When I ordered it was 106 CNY for the 1st kg, then 36 CNY for each remaining kg. So you’d want to combine as many items as possible in 1 package without going over NZ’s customs limit. If you mess up and have to pay customs the bill will be WAY higher than the little extra money for that “1st kg”, so I would much recommend to be on the safer lower side. A 3% non-Chinese card fee will be charged on this international shipping fee as well.
  5. Wait about 2 weeks, delivered to your door.

How to Order from Amazon.com to NZ Custom/Duty Free!

One of the many misconceptions and lies about NZ is that it’s an expensive country to live in. Not only can many items be found cheaply at stores like The Warehouse and Kmart, but for some of the things that cannot, you can order from Amazon.com WITHOUT PAYING CUSTOMS! It requires a bit of know-how tho, so here goes!

The premise of this post cannot be understated, being able to order from Amazon.com duty-free is HUGE! Even when I was living in China I noticed that even Chinese-made products were many times significantly cheaper on america’s Amazon than China’s Amazon clones Taobao & JingDong. Although it might be tempting to order from Amazon.com, doing so would result in outrageously huge customs fees in nearly all countries of the world, making any savings in product price redundant.

The NZ government on the other hand allows for a very generous duty-free allowance, allowing packages under certain value to slip through customs free of charge.

Normally such an opportunity would still be off-putting due to the confusing writing that tends to plague government websites, but this is where Amazon in particular has a solution. They will calculate any customs fees upon check-out, and if their calculation of 0$ turned out to be wrong, THEY will pay for it. So you shouldn’t have to worry that a huge bill will smack you in the face at a later date.*

*Or at least that’s what Amazon claims, and has been the case for all my orders.

Also despite free customs you might expect the delivery fees themselves to be rather hefty considering NZ is at the edge of the world. Although I can’t explain the logic behind it, the shipping is surprisingly low. I paid 10$ delivery for my headphones, which is less than what shipping many times cost from a NZ shop.

It does however come with a much longer delivery time, so it’s obviously not worth it for urgent matters.

How to Guide to Order from Amazon.com to NZ

Log-in and make sure your default address is set to your NZ address. Now when you browse for products there will be a checkbox to filter out only the items that are eligible for NZ delivery. Sometimes this checkbox mysteriously vanishes, and sometimes items turns out to not be eligible after all, but in most cases it tends to work.

Next up put things in your cart for less than around 400 NZD. The exact amount seems a bit mysterious, and depends on the type of product, but whether it will be dutied or not is up to the final checkout to decide. Before you click on the final purchase button, look to see if there’s any customs fee applied, if there is, simply remove things from your cart until the number magically turns to 0. Now you’re ready to order!

You might think you could order many small items for more than 400, and let Amazon be clever enough to divide your order into pieces that each falls under the allowance, but at the time of writing that is not possible. If you have many items, you simply need to manually break it up into several orders.

Of course the items are charged in USD, so by paying with a NZD card you are most likely paying an inflated currency rate. Personally I get around that by getting a free USD card from GoldMoney Personal. But that is way outside of the scope of this article! Happy shopping!

Guide to New Zealand: Renting a Home

Upon moving to my new life in New Zealand I was surprised how little & outdated information was availible online. Despite being far from an expert, I decided to write a shortfire guide of what I learnt from living in NZ. Today I’m taking a look at the trickiest and most expensive part, finding a place to live.

1. Types of Homes in NZ

Before even looking at the details, you need to decide what type of accommodation you’re looking for. I’ve narrowed down the choices to the following.

Renting your own apartment living by Yourself

-Expensive.
-Surprisingly often unfurnished.
-You have to pay electricity, bills and internet yourself.
-Long wait. Apartments are advertised sometimes months before the current tenant moves out, this means even after signing the contract you could be homeless for a few months before moving in. If you see an apartment with a nearby “move in”-date it’s most likely such terrible place that no one has signed it yet despite being on the market for months.
-Requires a large bond (deposit), that you may never see again. Mine was 1 month of rent.
-Signing fees.
-Surprisingly little privacy despite renting your own place. As someone who’s rented apartments in 4 different countries I thought I knew what to expect, I was very surprised to find that NZ was a special case. Landlords will routinely come barging into your house, go through all your stuff, take pictures of all your belongings and all the while treat you like an unwanted visitor insisting it’s better if you go outside while they go through your stuff. When my friend’s landlord was about to drop something off by the apartment at her first week, she specifically told them to leave it outside, not to come in. She was surprised to find not only did they barge right in, they left doors and drawers wide open with zero attempt to hide the evidence that they had illegally searched her apartment.

Renting your own apartment and find a roommate to share

-Legally more difficult than you’d think. While I was signing my contract my landlord assured me I could later invite a roommate for the 2nd bedroom for no extra cost. Stupidly I did not ask to have that in writing however, next time I raised that question I was told my 2nd bedroom must be empty at all times, should I want a roommate I will have to ask for a new contract where they would significantly raise the weekly rent.
-Surprisingly difficult to find a good roommate. Out of curiosity I looked at a facebook group for people looking for a room, I was quickly turned off to the idea. Literally everyone had written terribly undescriptive posts.

Regular Rooms in Shared Homes

+Although shared, you often get a chance to meet your roommates to see if they’re a match.
+In a country where a taxi to the airport can cost you a hundred NZD, it’s not a bad idea to network with roommates (who may have connections, cars, equipment you can borrow).

-At the mercy of your roommates. A good friend thought she found the perfect shared home only to get a new roommate who just wouldn’t stop inviting his partying friends over at night, what started well turned into a nightmare binded with a 12 month contract.

Private (ensuite, studio-like) Rooms

Something I hadn’t seen before coming to NZ are these private rooms in shared homes designed specifically to feel like a studio apartment.

+Commonly modern. Perhaps because of the huge profit margin, these types of rooms has been the only ones I’ve seen that’s actually modern.
+Commonly furnished.
+Lease lenght can commonly be bartered down. One of my less demanding friend was told he must sign a minimum of 12 months lease, only to find out on his first day that all of his roommates where there on 1 to 3 months leases.

-Can sometimes be similarly priced to an actual studio apartment, despite being far from it for reasons stated below.
-Nowhere near as private as a studio apartment, you’ll still be sharing a kitchen, laundry & living room with your other tenant.
-Extremely overbearing house rules. Due to commonly sharing the house with 4-5 rooms, the house rules has been written to extreme details to avoid conflicts, some of these rules will shock you. A good friend of mine was devistated to find out that not only is her boyfriend not allowed to stay the night, he’s not even allowed to take a step into the home at daytime, her 1 year contract clearly stating that male visitors are strictly forbidden. Unlike the terrible contracts for renting your own apartments, these house sharing contracts can actually be strictly enforced, as your roommates can easily spy on who’s coming in and out of the house. Similarly I was myself toying with the idea of renting a similar room, but was putt off when I realized that my dad was on his way to visit me and wouldn’t be allowed to even stay one night on a floor airmattress. Somewhat understandible, but just not suitible for me.
-Living with strangers. Unlike a regular home share, where you might have a talk with the current tenants to check if you’re a good match for eachother, these rooms pretends to be so private that you don’t need (or even get the oppertunity) to speak with the other tenants at the time of signing. Even if you could, these tenants come and go as I’ve seen some able to barter their lease down to as low as one month long.

2. Where to find apartments

Trademe

TradeMe is NZ’s craigslist and ebay combined. Allows you to search for apartment in map-view, very useful if you have a good feel for where you want to live.

Property Management Agencies

The larger property management agencies have their own map-view search functions, however it appears they are posting all of their listings on trademe, making it pointless to visit them directly.

Facebook Groups

Although I didn’t know about these ones myself, in hindsight I’m definitely seeing more bargains on these groups. Perhaps a bigger chance to directly rent from an honest home owner instead of through these Machiavellian property management agencies.

Guide to New Zealand: Money & Banking

Upon moving to my new life in New Zealand I was surprised how little & outdated information was availible online. Despite being far from an expert, I decided to write a shortfire guide of what I learnt from living in NZ. Today I’m taking a look at the financial aspects.

Banking

I asked around if there was any bank that gave out credit cards (not debit cards) to people who aren’t permanent residents. I was told ANZ does, so I went with them without further investigation into the banking choices.

Credit cards

IMO If you have the option to get a credit card it’s borderline irresponsible not to take advantage of it. Not only are you collecting great point-rewards, but since you’re paying off your purchases on your next months salary it means you can put more into your rate-earning savings account. (assuming of course that you’re financially savvy enough to pay back your credit in full every month, if not they you’re inviting yourself into a world of trouble, but that’s beyond the scope of this article)

Store credit cards (such as Countdowns Onecard Visa, or The Warehouse’s Visa) have amazing loyalty schemes for purchasing in their store (such as The Warehouse’s 5-7.5% discount), but requires permanent residency.

ANZ (and possibly other banks) gave me a credit card even on my temporary work permit, but only after I passed my probation period stated in my work contract.

Things to Bring into New Zealand

During my 6 months wait before I could get my visa, I did an enormous amount of research what I should bring into the country. Unfortunately it turned out it was all wrong!

It is commonly said that all items are expensive in NZ, with terrible customer service and opening hours so narrow you have to take a holiday for the most ridiculous of essentials. Although all of this is partially true, it seems these naysayers are forgetting the one store that changes it all, The Warehouse.

What can be described as the closest thing NZ has to Wallmart, The Warehouse actually has really good prices, especially if you have the patience to wait around for promotions. When my dad came to visit, he even brought back to Sweden a suitcase full of promotional stuff that he swears would cost double in Sweden.

Before you buy anything used, I strongly recommend taking a quick peak at what the warehouse offers it for, a few times I discovered warehouse selling new for a cheaper price than a trademe seller is selling used.

 

Guide to New Zealand: Buying a Car

Upon moving to my new life in New Zealand I was surprised how little & outdated information was availible online. Despite being far from an expert, I decided to write a shortfire guide of what I learnt from living in NZ. Today I’m taking a look at cars.

Do you need car for hiking/tramping in New Zealand?

My original intentions for buying a car in NZ was as a means of getting out to the hiking trails, this turned out to be a huge miscalculation. Unlike previous countries I’ve lived in, and insanely large procentage of people in NZ have their own car. If you meet 5 friends during your first week, don’t be surprised if 4 of them have their own car, regularly asking you if you want to come along on their next hike.

Even if you’re not that outgoing, a hiking club might solve your transportation problems. When I went on a dayhike with a local tramping club I found on facebook, I brought my car to the clubhouse with the intention of giving other members a lift to our destination. I was surprised to find that nearly all members had brought there own car, so not only did I not have anyone asking me for a lift, I even asked if I could get a lift with someone else as I considered it a colossal waste of gas to drive my own just for 1 person. With splitting the cost of the gas, everyone was more than happy to give me a lift.

Renting out your car on apps like YourDrive & MyCarYourRental

As I quickly found myself never using my car, I considered it being a good idea to rent out my car on such app services. However after a lengthy sign-up it turned out there was a huge catch involved. Before completing the last step of the registration process it turned out my car would need a certificate to prove that it is in suitible shape for rentals. Such certificate would have cost me 80 NZD, and I fear upon reselling the vehicle the buyer might find out that it had been registered as a rental car, and thus been able to barter down the price significally, a risk I did not want to take.

Car insurance

Upon visiting my bank for car insurance I was surprised to find that the costs were astronomical as my drivers license wasn’t issued in NZ. When I asked to cover additional drivers (such as lending out the car to my dad) the qoute rose even higher. For a moment I was deeply regretting buying a car I wouldn’t afford to insure, but then the nice banking staff leaned over and whispered something in my ear…

It turned out his foreign girlfriend had the same issue, and had found out that AA offers a MUCH better deal. It turned out AA didn’t penalize me at all for my foreign license. They even allowed me unlimited extra drivers, enabling me to tell all my Swedish friends that they can borrow my car when they come to visit.

Renting Car

Renting a car in New Zealand is very expensive. Technically the day-rate isn’t much worse than the rest of the world, but unlike your average holiday destination, New Zealand isn’t a country you come for a 1 week visit. If you truely want to experience the amazing south island you may find yourself renting for MONTHS not days.

When my dad rented a car for 3 weeks we were originally a bit shocked at the high price, but then calculated that the day-rate was technically quite reasonable. Regardless of the reasonable day-rate however, when we added together all the sums we came to a grim realization. It would have been cheaper to just buy a used car then re-sell it after 3 weeks. He might even have made a nice profitif he bought the car in Auckland (where his flight arrived, where cars are cheaper) and sold it at his destination in south island (where cars are significally more expensive).

Beware of Parking Tickets

New Zealand is insane when it comes to tickets, if you park for 3 minutes on the wrong spot in the middle of nowhere you can return to a huge fine. I honestly don’t even know the logistics how it can go that fast. If you park at a store like Countdown for shopping, then quickly run over to another nearby store, you can return to a big fine. New residents may not be used to this level of strictness.

Buying Car

I don’t have the time to go into this subject deep enough, I just want to mention a couple of things.

At the dealer they might try to make you buy some sort of cover from you. Basically this is not insurance for accidents, but rather if something breaks down due to wear and tear. I have read and heard that these covers are a complete scam! NZ laws says that when you have bought a car from a dealer (as opposed to a private seller) that dealer is somewhat responsible if the car were to be faulty (within 6 months I believe).

For both the cars I bought in NZ, the battery was dead the first time I tried starting it and I was able to get the dealer to pay for it. 2CheapCars was a nightmare of bearocracy (but was eventually pressured to respect the law), Mike Cars immediately came over to replace it for free.

It should however be noted that the extent to these rules seem quite vague. So if you do have a problem with the car it’s probably best to communicate that to them as very quick as possible. Even tho the law seems to say 6 months, I think it is greatly evaluated on a case by case basis.

Drivers License

Keep in mind that your home country’s drivers license may not be legal in NZ, you may need an international drivers license, official translation or get a local NZ license.

I would recommend getting a NZ license because you will be needing it for things like credit card applications anyway. It was extremely easy to get mine converted, no test was necessary.

 

My Reluctant Video Interview

When I saw how nice my friends hotel room was I saw an interesting photo oppertunity, finally I could have sophisticated pics of myself. Unfortunately my friend wasn’t convinced of my sophistication so she recorded a video with pressing questions in an attempt to reveal me. Luckily I narrowly dodged the investigation so smooth that no one will ever question me again, check it out!

OpenTTD Adds Amazing Functionality!

As a kid I played what must have been more than thousands of hours of the game Transport Tycoon. So a few years ago when OpenTTD attempted to recreate the game with modern functionality I was anxious to try it out, but as amazing as huge maps & multiplayer games was the REALLY exciting part has just been added recently: “Cargo Destinations”!

An evil manager pouring up drinks at a Skyscraper looking over in Bangkok

I made my first “demotivational poster” to visualize the strange logic of  Transport Tycoon.

As a kid I used to think that Transport Tycoon was a highly sophisticated game. I had to figure out how an inhabitant of a small village could travel to the other side of the world using a network of flights, railways, boats and buses. It was only when I replayed the game years ago that I discovered Transport Tycoon’s great flaw…

It turned out, unlike a passenger in the real world who has a specific destination in mind (such as visiting his grandma) the passengers in Transport Tycoon will simply go off at the next station. There is SOME realism to this, I’ve sometimes traveled to Thailand simply because it was one of my only direct flights, but more often than not most real-world travelers have a destination in mind.

Not only did this mean my huge transportation networks were pointless, it actually meant I was losing money! When a passenger is paying by the distance and intends to go off at the next station, the winning strategy is actually to trap him from any nearby stations, forcing him to travel all the way to the other side of the map.

Discovering this was a huge disappointment for me so for the last couple of years I’ve been paying close attention to the progress of the ‘cargodist’ mod. A dedicated fans attempt to change all of this. My hopes weren’t high, but I was happily surprised at the results. Check it out!

My Choice for the Perfect Blogging Camera!

Having lived so long in China I have earned stories to last me a lifetime, but without pictures to back them up my  friends wouldn’t believe the half of it! It was time to start photo-blogging, but how could I find a camera with blog-worthy quality, yet small enough that I’ll have it on me when the situation calls for it? Read on to find out!

A mysterious camera perfect for photo blogging is about to be unveiled

What mystery camera will be worthy of capturing all my crazy Chinese adventures? Read on to find out!

Too many times have I cried out “I wish I had a camera” upon leaving something awesome go un-captured. It was time to get a camera! Problem is, I’m notoriously picky. I come with the following demands:

  • Price: It has to be expensive enough to produce professional quality, yet cheap enough that I don’t have to protect my camera bag like a mother bear protects her cubs.
  • Form & Size: It must be large enough to produce top notch quality, yet small enough that I can carry it in my bag at all times.
  • Quality: It would be hard to justify carrying a dedicated camera if the resulting pictures were only marginally better than a smartphone. The quality difference must be so vast that it’s like comparing the amazing Photoshop CC 14.2 with the godforsaken Photoshop CC 14.0!

At this point any reasonable man would smack me in the face while shaking me back and forth. “You have to be realistic, man! Such camera does not exist and never will!”. Don’t be so sure, for you see, the Messiah of cameras has arrive. Low and behold… …the ultimate blogging camera! But which one is it? Click to find out!