Buying from overseas—from the United States to Malaysia

Black Friday is a tradition in the United States where retailers offer deep discounts for the whole day, making it the busiest shopping day of the year. Cyber Monday is actually the online equivalent, but ecommerce have been embracing Black Friday as well because, well, more sales is better 🙃.

During Black Friday last month, we bought some items from Google Store and Amazon. It was not as straightforward as we initially thought, so we’re writing this post to detail our experience. Grab popcorn 🍿.

Decisions, decisions…

Shipping goods from overseas can be expensive (except from China, because they use magic portals): A pack of needles from Amazon US can cost a hundred times more than its listed price to ship to Malaysia—assuming the seller ships internationally.

To justify the shipping cost, buy several items and have them delivered as one package, as the first 0.5kg is the priciest. What if you want to buy from several different ecommerce? This is where package/parcel forwarding services come to play. They give you local address (e.g. US address to buy from US retailers) so you can have all of your purchases sent there, and have them delivered to you as one.

When you open Google Store, the “Country availability” defaults to your country. We initially thought of using a proxy or VPN to spoof our location, but apparently you just need to click the flag icon to change the country.

It does warn you that to place an order, your delivery address must be in that country, and if your payment is not in this country’s currency, your bank may charge you a conversion fee. The latter is obvious, while the former is what forwarding services are for.

You can change the country in Google Store.

You can change the country in Google Store.

Domestic shipping is usually free (but will still take days) and forwarders don’t charge you for using their warehouse for up to a month, so you have the convenience to shop from different sources at different times.


There are many forwarding services available, but we used Borderlinx because it’s the name that keeps popping up in online forums, and it looks legit. The power of branding (also, we’re lazy 🤣 ). For Malaysia, Borderlinx partners with Citibank, offering 20% off for your first shipping fee. Nice.

Anyway, we created an account there and got a “local” address, basically their warehouse address but with our name and special code (e.g. “Sarah Shopper (ZX-1234)”). This name+code combo is what you put in the “Name” section of shipping address when checking out from online stores.

To cut the story short, after all of our packages arrived in our “local” address, we initiated the shipping to our Malaysian address. There was something we wanted to ask, so we contacted their support. This is where Borderlinx needs improvement. We were put in a waiting list (“There are 14 people in front of you, you should connect in 67 minutes”), but when we got disconnected (our Internet was patchy), we had to wait from the start again.

(To save you from hours of waiting: Yes, the items will be consolidated in one package if you select them all in the “Shipping” page—it’s not clear from their FAQ nor the page).

In the Borderlinx checkout page, the final fee is the “all-in” fee, including Customs. We paid using a credit card and then sat nicely, waiting for DHL (in case you’re wondering, there was no option for a different courier) to deliver the package to our doorstep.

All-in fees we paid in Borderlinx, just to give you a ballpark.

All-in fees we paid in Borderlinx, just to give you a ballpark.


A few days after, a rep from DHL emailed us, “Custom said that item X and Y require SIRIM permit, and please confirm if item Z is pharmaceutical.” Apparently, some items (we assume it’s anything with radio feature, such as WiFi and Bluetooth) require some sort of permit from SIRIM.

From googling, we found out that we need a Special Approval (Personal) permit, and it can be requested over email, attaching these documents:

  1. SIRIM permit application form. Print, fill out, and scan as PDF. You need this for each product type (e.g. if you buy 2 iPhones and 5 Google Chromecasts, that’s 2 product types).
  2. Technical specification. Google for “(product name) tech specs”, e.g. “Google Chromecast tech specs”—get from official website if possible— and save the page as PDF. Obviously, one for each product type.
  3. Copy of invoice. Check your “order history” page in the online shop, or the email they send after you’ve made the purchase. Save the page as PDF.
  4. Copy of I/C or passport.
  5. Supporting document from forwarding agent (Pos Laju, Fedex, DHL, etc). You definitely will have this, as this is the reason you apply the permit 😆.

We were not patient, so the next day after emailing SIRIM, we printed all the PDFs and went to SIRIM building 25 in Shah Alam. We passed the form from DHL, and the guy behind the counter told us that some other items use wrong tariff code and are subject to permit as well, and told us to tell DHL to tell Customs to update the form 😧.

After few days, we received the updated form (it’s literally the same form with the new code scribbled over the old one 🙄 ) from DHL, printed it and brought it over to SIRIM again. We paid a few hundred Ringgit (around a hundred for each product type). This is why it’s better to buy few items of the same item, the cost is the same.

After we had received the permit on the next working day, we forwarded the email (with PDF attachments) to DHL, which in turn forwarded to Customs. This process can take 2-3 days. After that, it’s just another 1-2 days before the package arrive.

By coincidence, the next day after we received the permit, we received reply from SIRIM (remember we initially applied over email?). Good thing we walked in 😅.

Total damage

Here’s what you’ll end up paying when you buy things from overseas using a forwarding service:

  • The product itself, tax (~7% for the US, depending on the state your “local” address is in), and shipping cost (which is usually free, since it’s domestic).
  • The all-in fee imposed by the forwarder.
  • Potentially, SIRIM permit @ ~RM100 for Special Approval (Personal), plus any transportation going back and forth their office in Shah Alam.
  • Your patience.


What an experience! We did this because we’re cheap of Black Friday. Was it worth the effort? All in all we saved more than RM800 (compared to buying from Lazada), but that’s because we bought a dozen items with steep discounts during Black Friday. Also, even though the actual shipping from the US to Malaysia only took a few days, it took us a month in total to receive the package 😩.