Black Friday is this week and it'll be followed right away by Cyber Monday - two of the biggest sales in the United States, that are a great chance to pick up good deals from international e-commerce websites. In our previous piece, we listed the best ways to ship products to India and that's a fairly reliable and cost effective solution. Aside from these shipping services, there are also sellers who will send their products to India directly, but there are still times when shipping costs are more than the price of the product itself. That's obviously not the merchants' fault because international shipping is expensive, but it sometimes does make international shopping less of a deal than you'd hope.
If shipping cost is the only thing stopping you from shopping on international websites, then there are still a few sellers that offer free shipping worldwide. The catch is that you won't be able to track these shipments and if the package is lost or stolen in transit, there isn't much you can do. Some of these websites are run by nice people who will send the product again - taking a loss - but if you are heading down the free shipping road, don't expect the merchants to take responsibility for the courier's fault. Of course, this isn't a common problem, and while it's important to know the risks involved,many people have shared good experiences with these sites.
We haven't bought anything from the websites ourselves yet, but all of these are well-known sellers, and we spoke to some people who have ordered the sites. Here are the ones that were most highly recommended, for everything from books to gadgets to clothes:
1. Book Depository
Book Depository is an Amazon-owned website that sells - you guessed it - books. Even before it was acquired by Amazon, this website was known for offering free shipping worldwide. Books are duty free in India, which means that you can import books without paying any Customs fee. Thanks to Flipkart, and also Amazon India, you should be able to get most popular books here but when you want a special edition or a hard to find title, try Book Depository. We have often found editions of books on Book Depository that were much nicer than the basic paperbacks that are commonly sold online in India. (Update: It seems Book Depository no longer offers shipping to India)
China's Alibaba group owns AliExpress, which sells just about anything, from automobile accessories to jewellery. This website is a good option if you want to order goods from China and many of its sellers offer free shipping (via China Post) to India. If you order anything from AliExpress, don't forget to check if the item has Customs duty in India. Add that to the cost to decide if a product is worth ordering. The site is also running a special Black Friday and Cyber Monday sale so there will be plenty to choose from.
Since AliExpress functions as a marketplace, you'll want to be a little more careful when ordering from the site as well. Some people talked to us about good experiences, while plenty of online reviews warn you about fraud. AliExpress has a great section on its website with tips to avoid being cheated and it gives some advice that we will repeat here: if it sounds too good to be true, it almost always is. The page also suggests that you should avoid buying branded products, saying - "name brand products sold at far lower prices are mostly fakes." If you look for deals, instead of steals, then AliExpress is worth checking out.
Dealextreme is probably the best and best known site for buying gadgets. From desktop computer components like RAM to 3D printers, Dealextreme stocks pretty much any gadget you'll need. This website is a good hunting ground for people looking for cheap accessories such as headphones and battery packs. Most products are shipped free to India, but once again, a big question mark hovers over the reliability of the shipping method.
Most of the complaints we found online were from people who were waiting for products over a month after placing the order, but there were a large number of positive comments as well. Of course, if you're trying to get the best deal on a Black Friday or Cyber Monday discount, then be prepared for delays as well, because there would be a lot of orders taking place at the same time.
Asos is a UK-based website that deals in fashion-related items. You can buy items such as clothes, bags, belts, etc. on this website and they ship free to India. They sell products from their own label and from other brands such as American Apparel, Oasis and Vero Moda. Buying clothes online is a bit risky as there's always the chance of something not fitting you properly. If you're buying from a brand that you're familiar with, and possibly own the same item in another colour, it might be a safe enough option. Other than that, some people also warn about issues with hugely delayed deliveries.
Which are your favourite international shopping destinations on the Web? Let us know via the comments.