Christmas Tips

Five Top Tips for Ordering Online from Abroad this Christmas

Sometimes, when you’ve searched and searched online to try and find that perfect Christmas gift, you think you’ve struck gold and finally found a site that has it in stock, only to realise that the store is based overseas.

Usually, buyers give up at this point, not wanting to deal with the hassle of long delivery times, expensive postage, and the potential for things to go wrong.

However, ordering from abroad may not be as bad as you’d think, so here are five of our top tips for this Christmas.


Give Yourself Plenty of Time

It goes without saying that ordering from overseas is going to take a lot longer than ordering from a seller domestically.

Depending on the courier used, lots of goods can actually arrive relatively quickly, especially if they’re coming from within the EU, but do make sure that you’re aware of the maximum estimated shipping time.

Especially when you’re ordering for Christmas, the last thing that you want is to order something and find out that it’s not going to arrive for weeks.

You might also want to consider whether you’re going to have time to return the item if there’s anything wrong with it when it arrives.

Watch Out for Hidden Fees

While a seller should always be upfront about any fees that you might incur, it’s important to know sort of costs you could be hit with when buying from overseas.

When your item comes through customs, you may have to pay VAT, Customs Duty or Excise duty.

Generally, you’ll have to pay VAT on goods which have been sent from outside of the EU, usually ones which are either alcohol, tobacco, fragrances or gifts worth more than £39.

Customs duty is charged on gifts from outside the EU which are worth over £135, with varying rates and you can also be charged excise duty on alcohol and tobacco from outside the EU. Find out more about these fees and charges at

Will It Work?

It might sound silly, but make sure that whatever you’re buying is actually going to work in your region.

For example, if it’s an electrical good, make sure that it’s compatible with your mains supply.

You should also check the item’s warranty because lots of goods are only covered by warranty in the country which you purchased them from.

Use a Mail Forwarding Service

If the item you want to buy can only be delivered within its own country, and can’t be sent overseas to you, consider using a mail forwarding service, such as Forward2Me.

Mail forwarding services essentially give you a physical address within the country that you’re ordering in, which will receive your goods and then send them on to you.

It’s a good solution when you find something with a seller who doesn’t ship overseas, and they’ll handle everything such as making sure that the goods can be legally and safely shipped to you.


It’s worth considering how easy it’s going to be to communicate with the seller of your item.

While it’s easy enough to exchange money for your goods, what if there are any problems, such as the item not arriving on time or turning up faulty?

If your seller doesn’t speak English this could lead to some real communication problems.

As always, you should ensure that you take steps to be as safe as possible when shopping online, whether from your own country or elsewhere and follow these online shopping safety tips from the Money Advice Service.