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How To Shop Online Whilst Abroad


It’s hard to imagine something more exciting than living abroad or embarking on a long-term journey. But the difference between a dream vacation and an extended stay in another country (or countries) is that real life still has to happen when you’re gone for more than a few weeks. And part of real life (at least for me) is online shopping.

With the prominence of online shopping, it’s just not possible to consider living abroad long-term without figuring out how to make it work. According to the USC Annenberg Center for the Digital Future’s 2014 Digital Future Report, 79 percent of Internet users said they made online purchases in 2013. And that’s not limited to purchases made on U.S. soil. A recent report by RKH On-Train Media in the UK, showed that a full quarter of train passengers are shopping during their daily commute.

To make sure you don’t have to give up your love for online shopping, or the convenience it offers, here are some pro tips that are sure to satisfy every “add to cart” urge you have.

Shop Safely

pixabay / FirmBeeEven though the hazards of shopping online in a foreign country weren’t featured in any of the “Taken” movies, it can be almost as dangerous as sharing that cab with a stranger. The main threat while shopping online is identity theft. Nothing will cut your international adventure short faster than losing all your funds to a cyber-attack. But there are ways you can order what you want online and still be safe – as long as you follow these cardinal rules.

•    Never use a public Wi-Fi network or hotspot for shopping. When you’re entering personal financial information, you want to be on a secure network. Use a network that requires a network key and only use websites that start with “https.” The “S” stands for security. The same goes when checking out your bank balance or your email.

•    Password protect everything. That means your laptop, phone, tablet, and anything else in your bag that can be password protected. Go even further by protecting all of your accounts online. Use different usernames and passwords for everything, and make sure you’re using strong passwords. That means they should be at least eight characters long and include a combination of numbers, letters, and special characters.

•    Lock down your shopping apps. It’s super-convenient to shop from your phone, but many apps require automatic access to your personal information, contacts, etc. To protect your identity and bank accounts, forgo shopping apps during your travels. Also, make sure you turn off all access to your information and never leave apps running in the background.

•    Use third-parties to pay whenever possible. Third-party payment options like PayPal are a safer way to make online purchases that keep your credit card numbers and bank account info out of the transaction. But make sure your PayPal account is protected with a high-level password and not attached to your primary bank account.

Get Your Stuff

pixabay / wlejfl24After figuring out how to safely make online purchases, the next step is learning how to receive packages while you’re overseas. There are a few different options and, depending on how long you’ll be in one place, it can be easier than you think.

These tips on receiving packages while traveling will keep you in goods no matter how long you’re gone.

•    Pick a post office. If you’re staying in one place for a while, then the good news is you can set up at a local post office or mail delivery store like Mailboxes, ETC. Local post offices aren’t recommended if you’re staying for a month or less. But if you’ll be in town for an extended amount of time, go in and meet the workers, ask them to show you exactly how mail needs to be addressed, and let them know you’ll be getting mail delivered there.

•    Consider using a hotel. If your itinerary is fixed, you can have packages forwarded to an upcoming hotel. Be sure to let the hotel know you’re expecting a package and make sure they’re willing to hold it until you get there. If you’re staying at a hostel, be careful. Unless you’ve been there before and know the operators, you could risk never seeing your precious purchase.

•    Try CouchSurfing.com. Many of the cool people who are part of the CouchSurfing community are willing to hold a package for you. This works best, of course, if you’re an active member of the group and have enough good reviews to assure people they won’t be inadvertently receiving drugs or other dangerous stuff for you.

•    Use in-store pickup. One of the best options is having your items shipped directly to a local store. This is possible if you’re in a major city and buying from a large, international retailer. Check for this option when deciding where to make your online purchases and take advantage whenever you can.

Now you’ve got one less thing to cross of your list before hitting the road, it’s time to get packing. But don’t worry if you forget something because now you know the secrets to successfully shopping online anywhere in the world. Bon Voyage!

Author bio:

Sarah Pike is a freelancer, college writing instructor, and wanderlust sufferer. When she's not writing, teaching, or traveling, she's probably binge-watching RomComs and dreaming up her next trip. She also enjoys following far too many celebrities than she should on Instagram. You can find Sarah on Twitter at @sarahzpike.

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