>  lifestyle   >  Navigating Import Duties When It Comes To Shopping Online and Shipping To Canada


One of the many things I have still not gotten quite used to in settling in Canada is navigating import duties when it comes to shopping online and shipping to Canada. A lot of brands I love such as Asos, Pretty little thing, Missguided will require you paying import duties before your parcel can be delivered. Depending on what the purchase is, the import duty could be really high that you are better off not purchasing from foreign brands.

It is already iffy that when shopping online, for the most part, you have to use an alternative means of payment like the credit card or PayPal when shopping online.  The use of the debit card online is highly discouraged in Canada. I remember asking for a virtual debit card and the bank manager kept encouraging me to settle for a credit card, albeit because Canada is a credit-based system. Where you are from plays a part as to how you perceive online shopping. It is hard to explain to someone who lives in Canada that the route of shopping online is completely different in places like the UK or Nigeria where the online sphere embraces the use of debit cards. Anyways, I won’t delve too much into that aspect of online shopping, I am more interested in import duty.

Import Duty

I personally struggle to find a variety of affordable brands here in Canada especially as a student. You might think shopping online is the next best thing to do to bypass a limited variety of choices? No, it’s not. You will be slapped with import duties that could be way more expensive than what you purchased. The above brands are not the best when it comes to shopping online and shipping to Canada.

The import duty fees include – Admin fees, Goods and Services Tax (GST)/ Harmonised service Tax (HST) on Admin Fees, Duties, Custom Tax and Disbursement fees. I will like to think it is a way to discourage people from shopping from brands outside of Canada. Ezclear is the platform to pay for import duties charges. For More information on paying for import duties, read Ezclear FAQ

For me personally, free shipping is the easiest way to get me to purchase an item but having to deal with import duty is something a first-time online shopper in Canada may not see coming. If you choose to return the item and you may not receive the exact amount used to purchase the item because the company may incur charges if you choose to return and not pay for import duties.

Here are 4 international brands that will not leave you with import duty charges:

  1. Aliexpress – I have bought all sorts from Aliexpress. From weaves to scarfs, phone cases, you name it. I will like to think it is the value of the item that makes it easy to bypass import duty. 
  2. Romwe – I used the .ca domain to shop for items and I was not charged import duty. A lot of websites like Romwe will automatically redirect you to a domain-specific website based on your location. 
  3. Amazon – Amazon is a global store so you have to be sure it is .ca domain you are ordering from. It is another store you can buy anything to everything. 
  4. Shein – I used to be very reluctant to shop here until recently. Shein is very affordable and they usually have tonnes of discounts available.

There are other ways to navigate import duties, which are:

  •  Splitting bulk others into small units. However, if one has to pay for shipping for each order then that does not make any financial sense.
  • Staying away from foreign brands and shop on .ca domains. Some .ca domains will still charge you import duties, be sure you read through their shipping & delivery FAQ. If a business does not have operations in Canada even with .ca domain, chances are you will be charged import duty.
  • Shopping in-store. I find myself doing this more often because it has proven to be the most efficient way to bypass import duty.

Halifax Shopping Centre

If you are not interested in shopping online because of the uncertainty when it comes to import duties. Here are 5 stores that are affordable :

  1. Old navy – This has to be one of my go-to store for affordable clothes that fit my student budget. At Oldnavy, I have bought a pair of jeans on sale for less than $4 and they are of good and durable quality. You can also place an order online without attracting import duties.
  2. H&M – I love  H&M because it is a brand I am very familiar with and they have really affordable items. It is definitely one of the most affordable brands here in Canada where you can find anything and everything. In comparison to the UK prices, H&M is slightly higher here in Canada but it is very affordable compared to other Canadian brands.
  3. Aldo – It’s interesting how these brand prices change drastically in different countries. Aldo is one of the most affordable bags and shoe line carriers. Aldo usually has great deals online and I order to the store for pickups.
  4. Zara –  Zara is one store that when they decide to have sales customers get to enjoy the benefit from it. The summer sales were really great. I got a lot of things at good prices. Folaliving put together a Zara haul to see her steals from Zara.
  5. TJx Canada – The TJx Canada includes the brands of Marshalls, HomeSense & Winners. If you love TK Max & TJ Max, then you will definitely love this brand for their affordable steals. The most popular outlet of the TJx Canada is Winners especially here in Halifax. I find that Marshalls and Winners offer the same range of products. They sell designer products at a discount and you have a 10 days return policy and if you decide to get a membership card you get a 30-day return policy. They do not have the option for customers to shop online.


Every student wants the best deal possible so be sure to grab a Student Price Card (SPC) card – a student saving card that gives you discounts in store. Most of the brands I mentioned above will not accept an SPC card but other brands like Ardene, Bath & Bodyworks, will accept it. I would love if some UK stores find their home in North America especially Canada.

What other affordable brands do you purchase from?


  • Temidayo Olaniyi

    September 5, 2019

    I’ve had it hard with import duties so many times, but you’ve given me ideas now. Love this post! 😉

  • Firewall01

    September 5, 2019

    Great write up! This topic is certainly one I think every online “shoppaholic” would be interested in reading! I think you touched on the key ways to navigate import duties (splitting bulk orders, patronizing local brands, shopping in-store). Oh, how I miss my SPC card days 🙂 I did a quick google search and found the below link.

    Disclaimer: The information provided at the below link wasn’t validated and is provided as is, any action taken upon such information is strictly at your own risk.

  • September 6, 2019

    What if an agent can do the importing, what difference will that make? Because I do import from foreign countries through an agent though.

  • Leigh

    December 1, 2020

    Romwe does hit you at the door with duties in canada

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