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How do I manage to get all my gear in Kenya?

If y’all have noticed all of my gear is from abroad. My helmet, slide gloves, wheels, trucks etc, all of it. I managed to come with the bulk of it when I finished my Uni degree when I studying in the UK. Since then, I’ve been updating my gear piece by piece, a helmet here and set of wheels there etc. etc.
Fortunately, I haven’t had to buy/replace any heavy items like boards (just yet) and the process has been smooth though annoying once in a while if an item gets lost or takes longer to arrive. Find out more below.

How to get your gear and other stuff from abroad here

The are two methods I use, the first and easiest method for me is using my friends and families. Whenever someone goes abroad, if I happen to have money and gear in that country happens to be affordable, I’ll try to buy a lil’ something. It’s low cost, you trust the person (obvs) and you don’t have to pay any tax or customs or anything like that, maybe buy them some food or a cup of coffee or a hug but really that’s it.
But what if nobody you know is going abroad or coming to visit? Well … TOUGH LUCK FREN.

Alternative shipping methods

The obvious alternative would be to simply ship through the local post to my door right? Wrong.
In Kenya, often a lot of services that should be straightforward and headache free have none of those qualities.  I should simply be able to go to the post office, pay the small cost in tax and VAT, collect my item and then go home.  But often, because they know they can and they know they can get away with it, some of the staff at the post office will charge you exuberantly for something you have ordered, trying to get a cut of that money for themselves. It sucks I know, and I don’t even know what I can do about it. Everywhere you go, someone is looking for a little something for themselves (and that can happen if you let it happen to you. If you visit don’t give anyone anything you don’t owe unless you do it out of the kindness of your heart and for genuine reasons; like they really helped you, and I mean REALLY helped you lol). If they think you got money, they’ll try to extort you, it’s kind of disgusting. But I digress.
Nonetheless, even the shipping costs alone will be expensive, but fortunately, there are some freight forwarding companies that have come through and saved the day.

The second method is using freight forwarding companies to bring your stuff here. There is a cost and a waiting period involved but fortunately, they are (kinda) reasonable. There are two main companies I use, vitumob and mysomethingrandom, find out how they work, their pricing and me experiences with them below.

The freight forwarding companies I use

Vitumob

These guys are the easiest to use. They have a really nifty web browser extension for Amazon that lets your order through them once you’ve added your items on to your cart. They also deal with other websites and you can send them a link for them to buy for you if you buy from an unsupported website.
If you buy through their web extension, they charge you tax,  vat and flat shipping cost of $15. A set of $44 can get upto $60-$65, so it is not too bad but still costly.
You can pay through Paypal or Mpesa, card etc. so it is super convenient. Finally, that money you paid is all you have to pay and they will deliver your item to your door.
However, they did say that if you buy it yourself and ship to their website, they charge only for weight. I’ve yet to try this though so we shall see with time, so yeah they making a bit of extra moooney through that (I think). Bought my Abec 11 wheels through them.
Their charges are as follows for US items:

  • Up to 2kg’s- $25 dollars total.
  • 2kg to 20kg’s-$11.50 dollar per kg.
  • 20kg’s or more- $10 dollar per kg.

They are better and cost-effective when it comes to US to Kenya shipping for heavier items, especially if they only charge for weight. However, they have a shipping time of about a month which I’m not too stoked about but still.

Mysomethingrandom

These guys are far more cost-effective when it comes to smaller, lighter items. So if I order a set of wheels, gloves or anything, I usually go through them.
They also only charge for shipping so you could pay very little for something you ordered.
They charge 750 Ksh per pound (16 ounces) for goods from the US and 850 Ksh per Kg for goods from the UK, which translates to $7.5 and $8.5 respectively which is super cheap for something halfway across the world. Ridiculously cheap shipping from the UK if you ask me.
They also only take two weeks to deliver! Which is sooo worth the time imo. However, they did lose an item and deliver it a month later for me and their customer service was terrible to deal with. Haven’t ordered with them recently so I hope they have improved.
They also don’t deliver but fortunately, I don’t live too far from their offices.
Bought my Paris trucks and Randal 35 degree baseplate through them.
With heavier items, it can get expensive and it builds up to a lot. I plan to use Vitumob with big heavy things like multiple wheels, boards etc.

Both these companies have their shipping addresses in Delaware, which according to them doesn’t charge tax or vat so you can ship things from there without having to pay for those things. Can I confirm this? No, but their invoices have not included them (except when I paid through vitumobs extension).
Funny enough their shipping addresses are on the same street hehe.

What are the challenges then?

Basically, it’s not too difficult to get gear, I just need to have money, be patient and sometimes get lucky. It could be worse tbh! Some people in countries don’t have services like this. The companies above have really come in clutch when it comes to shipping things to Kenya.
The real challenge is the exchange rate and general pricing. Things made abroad were designed for people living there and as such prices are reflective of that. Someone living and making minimum wage in the West or most MEDCs (more economically developed countries) would be able to comfortably (debatable) afford those things, someone living and making minimum wage in an LEDCs (less economically developed countries) would not.
Fortunately, I still live in my Mums house and all bills are paid for, so until I am kicked out, whatever little I make/save can go towards my skateboarding addiction. (Thanks Mum).

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