Taobao Trendy: Online Bargains in China

When I’m not traveling, crafting or telling other people to eat insects even though I don’t anymore, I’m trying not to shop because I have way too many clothes. How did I go from moving to China with five suitcases between Isaac and myself to having piles of clothes over the apartment and bursting out of my closet? Taobao.

I’ve never been much of a shopper because going to shopping malls is exhausting and sometimes unproductive. The clothes are either too expensive, too long for my short limbs or not available in the one color or size that I actually want. Taobao fixes all of these problems and adds the excitement of finding the best price and waiting for the package to arrive.

Most of the clothes that I buy on Taobao fall into one of two categories:

  • Cheap, mass produced clothes made in China that I buy one of every color in (plain cotton T-shirts that are 56 cm long, a.k.a the only t-shirts that aren’t too long for me and dresses with fun prints that I can’t get enough of)
  • Overstocked/second hand items from nice brands that were either stolen from/donated by/I have no idea how they get them from Western companies.

The first is the risky kind. “Made in China” can sometimes mean bad quality, although that is quickly changing and China makes literally everything even if it’s not clearly labelled. So many Chinese products, even knockoffs, are great items and sometimes, like in the case of the Yi Action camera, they are even better than the original!

Scrolling through all the provided info and reading (or in my case, Google translating) can give you a lot of information like the material, the exact sizes and sometimes even pictures of a model wearing the clothes with the details of her height and weight. However, all of this information could be completely untrue! So head down to the comments.

In the comment section you will see people complimenting the packaging, saying if the sizes fit, and sometimes there will be photos of the people wearing the item which can help you gage the size. People will say whether or not the item arrived as expected (Chinese people do NOT hold back) and whether the seller was easy to communicate with.

If there are no comments and no one ever bought the item, you’re going in blind. Even if you find the same item in a different shop, it could be completely different and not at all what the photos show! If you still want to buy it, check out other items in the store and their reputability. Zero buys and reviews doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t be authentic… it just means that you might be disappointed! Or not.

I’ve received many items that didn’t fit, that I didn’t like or simply changed my mind about. The great thing about Taobao is that you can return anything that’s not a food or an animal within seven days without explanation! If the seller doesn’t reimburse you within a week, Taobao will do it. Sending it back via door-to-door delivery has never cost me more than 15 RMB ($2) even when it was a lot of stuff going to traveling to the farthest most remote corner of China.

When it comes to my second category of bought items, the rules for buying are pretty much the same. But to be honest, I don’t have a trick for finding these magical shops that sell items like $60 Mango dresses with the original price tag still on for 10 RMB ($1.50). It also isn’t always obvious that the close are from these brands… that could be for copyright issues. The Chinese government has been cracking down on Taobao and getting rid of shops with copyrighted items, like re-printed books.

One of my more recent orders was what I assumed was second-hand clothing. It turned out to be all brand new items with all their original tags from a variety of stores ranging from Walmart to Reserved. Strangely enough, my $40 Reserved denim jacket cost 13 RMB ($2) which was half the price of the $5 Walmart shirt… apparently the original cost or brand plays no role the pricing. This is what makes all this online shopping in China thing so crazy and addictive!

I’ve actually had to uninstall my Taobao account (again) to avoid buying even more amazing and cheap clothes. After all, I won’t be living in China forever and I’ve already taken four suitcases jam-packed with new clothes to store with family. Chinese apartments weren’t made from Taobao shopaholics like me!

Enjoy your shopping and share your most exciting purchases/bargains in the comments below 🙂




Where to Buy the Best Canned Tuna in China for Cheap

If you follow my blog, you know I love sushi. Sadly, I can’t eat it every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Whenever I’m not eating raw fish, I’m stuffing my face with fish fillet, baked salmon and canned tuna! Yesterday I received a special delivery of 15 large cans of tuna for just 117 RMB ($18).

Don’t panic. I am not buying low quality tuna… I just spent several hours searching for the best deal online. Finally, I came across an online shop on Taobao that specializes in selling bulk supplies for Japanese restaurants. This means fresh fish that can be eaten raw right out of the box, kilos of tiny wasabi packages and *drum roll* canned tuna.

These 185 gram cans are filled with large, high quality pieces of tuna (not tuna shreds) in vegetable oil. For 39 RMB ($6) you get a package of five of these cans. Most canned tuna in China is only sold in foreign stores and prices can be as high as 38 RMB for just one generally 90 gram can. Any time I’ve bought cheap tuna, it was shredded and contained more oil than meat.

If you don’t believe me, just try it out for yourself. I’m almost 100% sure that this is the best, cheapest and most delicious canned tuna in China. This is not a sponsored post by the way, it’s just not fair to keep such deliciousness to myself! By the way… the shipping is free!

Here’s the magical link:

Anything Sold Anywhere is Cheaper on Taobao – How to Find the Best Price!

Did you know that anything sold anywhere, even if it claims to be one-of-a-kind, is available for much cheaper in China? You know those cute $1 world map necklaces that pop up in Facebook advertisements? I bought one for $0.36 with free delivery on Taobao…

I didn’t fully realize Taobao’s potentual until I decided to buy two beautiful dresses on a random US website. They were being sold for $17 each and were so unique. One of them was peacock feather themed and the other was covered in strawberries. Cute, right?

Although $17 was a completely reasonable price to pay for them, I knew that they must have been made in China so they had to be cheaper here. First, I decided to search for them on Aliexpress and there they were. My dream dresses being sold by dozens of different sellers for just $8 each with even more cute choices!

Aliexpress might not officially deliver to China, but as I mention in a different blog post, it’s possible. You just message the vendor and ask if they’d let you order to an address abroad but send them to China anyway.

Before I ordered some of these dresses on Aliexpress, I spent several hours desperately trying to find them on Taobao (I’m unemployed until August so I have a lot of free time to find great deals online). Once I finally found one of them, I just added it to my cart which let me search for similar products. The very same $17 dresses were now available to me for $3-$5. Needless to say, I shamelessly ordered 20 *blush*.

I still ended up ordering a few dresses on Aliexpress because I simply couldn’t find them on Taobao… but this was before I discovered the photo search function. This is only available in the Chinese Taobao, not Tmall or World Taobao which it automatically switches to sometimes.

To get to it, you need to be logged in and change location in the top left corner, which will take you to the Chinese Taobao home screen with the URL

Once you’re on there, you just need to click inside the search bar and hover over the right side it until a little camera symbol shows up. When you click on it, you’ll be able to upload a photo and Taobao will show you all of the results for “similar” products.

When we were drone shopping, for example, we used this function to find specific models. You can also use it to find a style of clothing, a food product or literally anything!

This part is probably obvious, but before you buy something it’s always a good idea to check out several sellers to compare delivery prices and discounts. Keep in mind that some of the cheapest products might have hidden notes explaining that you need to order at least 3, a minimum of 2 kilos, etc. If you don’t notice this, they’ll end up messaging you and you’ll have to refund your order or change it which is a pain.

Other than fresh fruits and vegetables, anything you could possible think of is sold on Taobao and it’s likely cheaper than anywhere else. So far, the only product that I discovered wasn’t cheaper on Taobao was large amounts of diet Sprite cans. The actual cost per can is great but they all have high delivery fees that only make the purchase worth it if you’re stocking up for a zombie apocalypse.

Basically, if you have the time and motivation, you can save lots of money on Taobao. Just remember to check reviews and be careful when buying medication. Enjoy your shopping!

Online Shopping in China: JD vs Taobao

The cheapest way to get anything in China is to buy it online, but is not the best way to go. The two most popular alternative websites to Amazon are JD and Taobao. While the two websites offer similar, each has it’s pros and cons.

Most foreigners who live in Huaqiao prefer to use JD over Taobao. JD happens to have a warehouse right in our town so the delivery speeds for certain products are unbeatable and shipping costs are low. The fastest we’ve ever seen anything delivered was a microwave that arrived just two hours after clicking “buy”.

A lot of teachers at Kang Chiao get things delivered to the school because they don’t have someone at home to receive deliveries. It is possible to leave notes when you purchase something on JD, but you need the help of a Chinese-speaking friend – we’ve never tried this but I’m guessing you can try to ask for a specific time frame.

Although most JD deliveries come around noon, I’ve had items delivered as early as 8:30 AM and as late as 9 PM. If you’re not at home when the courier arrives they will usually call you angrily in Chinese or just leave the package in a closet near the fire extinguisher if your complex has one.

We actually have a text message saying “leave in closet” saved on our phones in case this happens. If there is no Chinese speaker around, we just hang up the phone and text them. Although there is no guarantee that someone else won’t take it, I’ve had things left in our public closet for almost a week without anyone touching it.

For the first 6 months, Isaac and I only used JD. We avoided Taobao because it was a bit more complicated to use, it was harder to find reviews and different sellers sold the same products for very different prices. Recently we’ve used it more because we discovered that it can be a lot cheaper!

Being a lot cheaper is not always a good thing. Anything ordered through JD is distributed by JD and has a guarantee. You can take a photo of any problem, get easily re-reimbursed and return anything for no reason within a certain number of days. We made a mistake ordering a drone on Taobao because it had no warranty, so we lost $300 when it fell out of the sky.

The best way to explain the difference between the two e-shops is to compare JD to Amazon and Taobao to eBay. Before you buy anything on Taobao you need to read up on the seller and see if someone else sells that item for a cheaper price. This can take hours but due to competition among sellers, prices on Taobao can be a lot lower than on JD.

You can order almost anything you can think of on JD from fresh sushi grade salmon to speed boats and live stingrays (as pets, not food). On the other hand certain Western goods such as fruit roll ups can only be found on Taobao. These goods are imported directly from abroad which makes delivery costs higher.

It’s impossible to say which eshop is better. If you want fresh food or items with a guarantee of quality and warranty, go with If you want the lowest price and a wider variety of choice you should go with Taobao. Personally, I look up whatever I need on both websites and then decide.

Shopping for Western Food in China

Shopping for Western food in China can be a challenge. However you can find just about anything, as long as you know where to look!

Everyone knows that Chinese food is delicious and there are so many traditional dishes to sample! There’s sweet and sour pork, wontons, Beijing roast duck, chow main and spring rolls just to mention some crowd favorites. Oh, and then there’s dumplings that come in literally every size, style and flavor that you can imagine.

I spent my first few weeks in China stuffing my face with dumplings and trying as much Chinese food as I could! Despite all the amazing food that China had to offer, it didn’t take long for me to crave some basic European groceries.

It was quite a shock to discover that the huge Chinese supermarket that sells live turtles, pig snouts, salted soda and at least 20 different egg variations has never heard of un-sweetened bread, salami, salted popcorn or real cheese.

While the food selection is much better in Shanghai’s city center (90 minutes from where we live), China is known for its lack of milk-products and other Western products. This is where Metro and Fields come to the rescue.

Metro is a large supermarket that sells a variety of global foods at a great price. The Metro in Shanghai offers huge blocks of cheese, tender organic meats, pickles, baguettes and so much more that you can’t get in a regular Chinese grocery store.

An alternative to Metro is Marks & Spencer, however it is more expensive, has a much smaller selection but does offer some unique British products.

For fans of online shopping there’s Fields. Moderately priced and offering free delivery for orders over 200 RMB ($30), Fields always has exciting sales and 2 for 1 deals. It boasts a great selection of organic meats, cheeses,“zero-footprint” fruit and vegetables as well as fair trade products.

Fields also sells desserts including cheesecake, eclairs, macaroons, gourmet melting chocolate cakes and even pumpkin pie which are hard to come by anywhere else. So far, Fields has been the only place in China where I found crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside dark bread buns. They even sell ready-made foods on certain holidays, like stuffed turkey for Thanksgiving!