Buying and shipping overseas – a retired budget traveler’s experience

Last Updated on June 3, 2023 by Ellen

I was asked recently about buying/shipping internationally using online merchants. And I do have a recent eBay experience to relate — read on.

First, the gorilla: Amazon has separate retail websites for about 15 countries – many offer a version of Amazon Prime.  And Amazonglobal says they ship to over 100 countries.  But ALL Amazon marketplace merchants do not, shipping rates vary, and customs/import duties are also an issue.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure how an Amazon purchase, needed quickly in Italy, might go – so here’s what I did.

When my 35mm camera battery charger shorted out and burned up I was bummed.  It’s basically all I do now; take photos of our exotic wanderings.  We have a back-up pocket camera and an iPhone, but I need that old charger!

While in Lerici, Italy, for 10 days, I went on eBay, just like I would at home, and found a bunch of replacement chargers.  But first, in the eBay settings, I changed my eBay home/shipping address to my Italian location near Cinque Terre.  That way any shipping charge would be calculated correctly to Italy.

Sure enough, the price for a $20 replacement charger from America went up to $40-$50+ due to shipping (if a seller even offered international shipping).  And none could guarantee delivery by our checkout date unless I paid about double for express or overnight service.  Ouch!

So I limited my eBay search to European Union sellers… and found several vendors offering the charger I needed (close geographically & no tax, duty, import issues).  Using PayPal, I made a ‘buy it now’ purchase on eBay from a German seller — and paid an extra 3-4 euros for tracking (total shipping about $12 US & no extra PayPal costs).  Then I waited and watched the days slip by.  And worried – when Italians said their Poste Italiane service was ‘questionable’.

Fortunately, with 3 days left in our stay, the package was delivered to our Italian Airbnb address.  Total EU shipping time – 6 days.  Total spent for the charger – $31.  The many more photos now possible – priceless!

Bottom line, it worked… and there were options like Amazon and high cost shipping… and these systems are undoubtedly constantly improving worldwide as E-commerce expands.  There’s Mercado Libre and Alibaba and Flipkart and others.  And there’s no reason I’m aware of that even a visitor to a foreign land can’t join and use these services – except, of course, the language difficulties… and that will likely get solved too.  All good news for vagabonds & expats.

(Editor’s note: This post was first published in our Facebook group ‘Retired Budget Travelers’. Do you have any experience with international shopping and shipping? Our community would love it if you could share what you’ve learned. A link to the group is here.)



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