Remember the Star Trek series on TV? Discovering new worlds and new civilizations. Seeking for new life and to boldly go where no one has gone before?

For me directly shopping in China is something like that. I do not speak the language, but fortunately we have the universal translator, called Google Translate 😉

Let me introduce you the Undiscovered Country of Taobao.

Buying in China can give you great bargains.
There are currently so many Chinese stores who aim for the English speaking rest of the world. These shops are cheaper than western shops. That’s for sure. If you don’t know where to start, this list will give you 80 different Chinese stores from bags to consumer electronics, from shoes to Chinese tea.

But can you pay even less? Yes, you can!

The listed companies have prices based on the non-Chinese market. What I would like to tell you, is how you can buy directly on the Chinese market (as for consumers!) for even less.

Taobao – The Chinese eBay market

You probably have heard of the Chinese company Alibaba, unless you have been living under a rock for some months without the Internet and this is the first site you visit ;-).

Alibaba has a western orientated shop called AliExpress. At this English written site you can find many Chinese manufactories directly selling lost of cool stuff for very affordable prices.

Did you know Alibaba has even a larger online store called: Taobao?


Taobao is an online market built for the Chinese market. The prices on Taobao can even be lower than AliExpress. But…..

Taobao has just a few little inconviences…… It’s written in Chinese. And if you cannot read this great language (like me), it’s a bit hard to navigate, to order or to buy from Taobao. Another little problem: most manufactories only ship in China and not to the rest of the world.

Hmmmmm, what is a solution?

Agents for Taobao

Where there is demand, there will be offers (Check out Keynes).

To help you to buy on Taobao I can suggest 6 agents. These agents take care of the order process, the shipping in China, packaging and shipping to the rest of the world. Some agents also have a search option to search on Taobao. They all calculate a fee for handling the process.

Step 1: How to search on Taobao

The first thing that comes in mind is: what to buy on Taobao.

Let’s say, what to buy is no issue. The market is enormous and you can find everything.

Better to ask: how to find. Now it comes to your creativity.

Don’t get nervous about all the Chinese language. Just think of a site with only images. Some images you like, some you don’t. You navigate by the images. It is possible, but a little difficult to browse.

A second possibility is to search on Taoboa. Fortunately a lot of merchants have added English keywords. So searching for ‘Nike’ or ‘Steampunk iphone ‘do give results like here below.

steampunk nike taobao

The third option is to use Google Translate.
Type in you keyword and copy-paste the Chinese translation to Taoboa.

Once you have found your product, click on the product for product details.

Copy the url and leave this page open!

Step 2: Check the price

100 RMB (Chinese Yuan, currency RMB) is around 16.3 USD. An easy way to calculate the price is to divide the Chinese price through 6. This gives a good estimation of the product price.

You can also type in Google: ‘the price’ RMB in USD. And Google will give you the USD price based on the current values.

Note: this price is not the price you are gonna pay! That price will be higher due to handling & shipping etc.

Step 3: Checking the agent

Choose your agent:

Most agents have a search option to fill in the url you copied in Step 1. After you pasted the url, the agent will display the product. Now you must be alert.

  • When you paste in the url in Mistertao, it often tells the keyword ‘ck’ is banned to sell. With Mistertao it is better to browse through the products.
  • Zarmark doesn’t copy the extra options like color or model. Be sure you add this in the comments section on Zarmark
  • TaobaoRing: use the Quick order option. This site works pretty well! With a translated description and all the options.
  • Cssbuy has all the options, but no translated description.
  • CheapAgency accepts paypal and is very easy to use.

All agents have their own checkout system. For this article it will be too detailed to explain these systems in depth. They are all written in English and I think that if you can manage finding products on Taobao, you can do this step too.

Step 4: How much to pay?

These agents calculate fees from 3% (Cssbuy when you are a Diamond member) up to 10%.

Second these companies calculate domestic fees (for shipping within China) and for international shipping. Some agents like Zarmark call this ‘second payment’.

Sometimes there is a discount on Taoboa and the agents do not display this discount. In most cases they will deduct the discount from your actual payment.

Now comes the moment to check is the price is interesting. I leave this step up to you. If you can buy the product in your country, or you can buy it on AliExpress. What will the price be?

And if you are happy with it? Go for it and hit it!

Note: don’t forget your customs can calculate declaration and VAT cost. If you are troubled what this is or how to calculate this, please read our ebook Chapter about this subject. You can get this chapter for free by writing a comment!

Answer this question & get a gift

What would you like to know before you would buy from Taobao?
Please leave the answer in the comment box below.

>>> Anyone who adds a comment will get a free article about Declation Costs and VAT for free <<<

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Happy shopping,



Founder of StartBuyingInChina. It all started as an hobby. I liked to categorize the few Chinese stores I knew. After 6 years over 150 blogs were published. I created a wonderful online course about Safe buying online in China, and served over 1.000.000 people. Thank you for being here!

    11 replies to "Taobao, The Undiscovered Country"

    • Mike

      Thanks for the info Boris. Are you a you a reseller? If so I was wondering what products you buy and sell. I myself resell products and have bought directly from Chinese manufacturers but never from a site like taoboa. But I am very interested in learning more about it. Thanks again Boris

    • uddy

      Apart from using an agent is there no other way one can checkout directly from , also if you translate the web page into English you can actually understand or be able to know the product description of what you are looking for, but how to register your shipping address and then proceed. another thing you have to consider is the quality of what you are looking for.

    • Ibiso

      Thank God i came across your site. What i want to know is how to locate these agents on taobao. Thanks

      • Boris

        You’re welcome Ibiso!

    • Lorlortz

      What would you like to know before you would buy from Taobao?
      Well, if you didn’t get an agent, how would you get a Chinese address?

    • Tina

      Thank you for your wrote words. It is is very helpful.
      I like use Taobao agent Zarmark and Cheapagency, maybe it is the same site.
      Cheapagency accept paypal payment, but Zarmark not.
      Anyway, I like their service.

    • B. Luve

      Would you recommend buying a certain cell phone from this website?

    • chuckp

      Hi Boris, I heard about Taobao but I thought it was impossible to buy from this site. Your blog is very helpful. Thank you so much. I like to know if you can get a refund if the products are wrong or broken?

    • Kyle

      Is it possible to dropship and can you negotiate on the price

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