how to // shopping on aliexpress

shopping on aliexpress

I am the ultimate budget shopper, I love a good bargain! This personality trait and my love for things is how I ended up finding out about AliExpress and shopping on the site a number of times. I usually get questions from readers of my blog and people who follow me on social media about the ins and outs of shopping on AliExpress, so I thought to write this post to let you guys know my experience and some tips. I am not saying that I’m the expert on AliExpress shopping, but I have been doing it for over 3 years now – so I have some insight.

What I buy and won’t buy on AliExpress
You can literally buy anything on AliExpress; the items that I have bought on the site include: makeup brushes, cellphone covers, t-shirts, hair (wigs & weaves), wig caps. The items I will not buy from the site are items like makeup and everything else that I haven’t mentioned in my to-buy list. I am 99% sure that the makeup sold on AliExpress is not real and that is the main reason why I don’t buy makeup from them.

Fake or nah?
First things first, AliExpress sells mostly dupes – you need to be okay with that when you shop on the site. So if a bag says it’s Chanel, trust me, it is not the original Chanel from Miss Coco herself. Thus, it is up to you to decide which types of items you don’t mind having dupes of and shop for those.

Which shop to choose
Now this is where it becomes a bit hard because there are thousands of shops to choose from – if you are a first time buyer, there is no way to know where to buy. This is the process I go through:

  1. figure out what I want to buy e.g. makeup brushes,
  2. search for a more specific descriptor of what I want e.g. rose gold makeup brushes,
  3. filter the results by those shops that only offer free shipping,
  4. from those results, find a few that look good
  5. choose the one I want based on number of orders and reviews

I usually only buy items that have had more than 1000 orders and have mostly good reviews, no item will ever have 100% good reviews, so it is up to you to discern which is the best item to choose.

There are a number of shipping options on AliExpress ranging from the very expensive to the very cheap. You can use courier companies like FedEx, DHL etc. this asures you that you will have your items delivered in minimum time and have the advantage of getting a tracking number and being able to track your parcel from China to South Africa. Using a courier company is the most expensive way to ship on AliExpress. Alternatively, you can use the free shipping option, you will receive your parcel via the South African Post Office, your parcel will arrive in 6-8 weeks (this is based on my experience). The disadvantage of this shipping method is that you cannot track your parcel, you just have to pray that it will get to you. However, AliExpress has buyer protection where if you do not receive your parcel after a number of days, you get a 100% refund.

That is basically my 2 cents on shopping on AliExpress, I think I have covered most things, if you have anything else that you want to find out, you can ask in the comments 🙂

Update 10 November 2017

Here are some of the items that I bought and the stores that I bought them from:


Little girl’s clothes

Cellphone covers

Makeup brushes

Update 18 June 2018 … Since writing this article a lot of people have had further questions about shopping on AliExpress. I’ve filmed a video that answers all further questions that aren’t captured above. Please watch the video – it might have the answers that you have. If you still have more questions, you can ask in the comments below.

If this article helped you in any way, please show your support by subscribing to my YouTube channel and following me on my social media platforms… thank you! 

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  • Reply Diapeng

    Hi Lungi,

    Great to have you back, dear. Anyway, you read my mind on this one as I was about to ask you this very question myself. Other than Aliexpress, do you have other favourite online shopping sites? I’m considering Amazon.

    July 12, 2017 at 10:08
    • Reply Lungi

      Thank you Diapeng . I usually buy from US stores: colourpop, morphe & elf. Amazon is also a good option

      July 13, 2017 at 17:19
  • Reply SSS

    Thank you for the informative post. I’m slowly starting to warm up to the idea of on-line shopping, I know, I’m late. But I must admit, waiting for my items to get delivered is the worst for me.

    July 13, 2017 at 13:40
    • Reply Lungi

      You’re welcome . Oh yeah, delivery times are the worst! The advantages of living at the southern tip of Africa

      July 13, 2017 at 17:22
  • Reply Mvumikazi

    Thanks for this babes. Theres nothing I’m more scared of than saving monry for months only to lose it to a parcel the never arrives. Eeek! Looking to buy bundles for some wigs. I need about 6 months to mentally prepare

    Mvumikazi | Urban Mnguni

    July 13, 2017 at 19:12
    • Reply Lungi

      That’s the worst part, I’ve also had one parcel never arriving and I couldn’t claim a refund – I hadn’t bought it from AliExpress though. Please opt for courier delivery if you are buying bundles.

      July 17, 2017 at 12:37
  • Reply Nomsa

    Thanks for the review. The only reason I have tried the site is because they don’t accept PayPal for payment.
    How are you paying for your purchases?

    July 14, 2017 at 14:35
    • Reply Lungi

      Hi Nomsa, I use my credit card directly to pay.

      July 17, 2017 at 12:38
  • Reply Nomsa

    Lol, meant I haven’t tried Aliexpress

    July 14, 2017 at 14:36
  • Reply Nwabisa

    Thank you for your reveiw, how much customs & duties fee did you pay when you bought shirts (clothes) ? I’m really keen on shopping a few small clothing items there.

    August 2, 2017 at 17:30
    • Reply Lungi

      Hi Nwabisa, nope – I didn’t pay any custom fees. As a general rule of thumb, you don’t pay customs for items worth less than R500

      August 2, 2017 at 19:50
      • Reply Evelyn

        Hey LungiHad you chosen free shipping or paid shipping for your shirts on AliExpress?

        May 8, 2018 at 04:05
        • Reply Lungi

          I chose free shipping. The only items I ship via courier are wigs, everything else is standard shipping

          May 8, 2018 at 07:15
  • Reply Isabel

    Okay great thank you Lungi I will stay clear of makeup great post very helpful

    November 9, 2017 at 15:21
    • Reply Lungi

      You’re welcome, Isabel

      November 10, 2017 at 09:00
  • Reply Thabang

    HI Lungi.

    Do you mind posting a link or the name of the stores you bought from?


    November 9, 2017 at 15:49
    • Reply Lungi

      Hi Thabang, I’ve updated the post 🙂

      November 10, 2017 at 08:59
  • Reply Kamohelo

    I LOVE aliexpress!! And unlike you I’ve always been able to track my orders from start to end, even after getting them from the post office the tracking will show that it was fetched by me at which post office. I always ship with China post small packets. My next buy will be gel nail polishes and a uv lamp on 11.11 they having a massive sale. And about customs, it depends on what’s been ordered I think because I’ve only bought under 500 and I always have to pay customs. The sunglasses waiting for me at my local post office need 24 bucks for customs. Oh and there’s this bob lace wig I’m eyeing but I’m scared. The reviews are great though and there’s actually quite a lot from South Africans even so I don’t know why I’m hesitant. Maybe it has to do with being natural for so long and being scared of going bone straight (even if it’s just s wig)

    November 9, 2017 at 19:23
    • Reply Lungi

      Hey Kamohelo, you seem to be a seasoned aliExpress shopper! It’s great that you’ve been able to track your parcels, it gives you such peace of mind.
      Buying hair on there can be such a daunting process, I’ve bought 2 wigs recently and I’ve been happy with my purchases 🙂

      November 10, 2017 at 08:50
      • Reply Thandiwe

        Which wig brands did you buy?

        February 15, 2018 at 21:01
        • Reply Lungi

          I bought from a shop called JK Hair, unfortunately they don’t ship to SA anymore.

          February 26, 2018 at 14:39
  • Reply Vee

    Great info but can you please tell me why we have to pay R24 to collect a small packaging at the post office we already pay shipping fee but then we have to pay at the post office too? Thanks.

    November 27, 2017 at 07:52
    • Reply Lungi

      Hi Vee, that’s the negative thing about shopping internationally: all the hidden fees that pop up. I don’t know what the post office fee is for, I’ve never had to pay it.

      November 27, 2017 at 21:29
  • Reply Bhavna

    Do they deliver to your door ? What is customs charges like ? I really want to order shoes but afraid of customs on top of delivery etc.

    April 7, 2018 at 09:52
    • Reply Lungi

      If you ship via courier, they’ll deliver to your door. I haven’t had to pay customs. If I’m shipping via China Post Mail, I have to pick up the parcel at the post office and they usually charge R24 per parcel.

      April 7, 2018 at 22:26
      • Reply Evelyn

        Hey Lungi, so I live in Pretoria. How will I know which post office I’ll have to collect my stuff from? I bought hair (3 bundles and closure) and used AliExpress Standard Shipping method.

        May 8, 2018 at 04:08
        • Reply Lungi

          Hi Evelyn, they’ll deliver a collection slip to the street address that you used and that slip will have the details of the post office that you need to go to fetch your stuff

          May 8, 2018 at 07:14
          • Evelyn

            Hi Lungi, Thank you so much! I came across your blog by chance and I’m so glad that I did. You have been great help <3 I’ll be sure to follow you on all platforms and Thank you again for your kind assistance <3

            May 9, 2018 at 17:56
          • Lungi

            You’re welcome girl, happy shopping!

            May 9, 2018 at 20:44
  • Reply Sanele

    Hi Lungi thank you for the post, I’ve just checked out AliExpress but I saw nice shoes that I wouldLike to buy from them but my concern is the shoe sizes, tried googling shoe size chart but hayi I don’t get it, Help!

    June 6, 2018 at 15:49
    • Reply Lungi

      Hi Sanele, I haven’t bought any clothes items on AliExpress as yet. Maybe you can measure the length of your foot and compare that to the international shoe sizes. Hope it helps.

      June 7, 2018 at 11:28
  • Reply Lerato Moloto

    Hi lungi thanks for this useful posp I’ve been wanting to purchase on ALIEXPRESS but I’ve been scared and looking for information from people who have purchased before…Thanks a lot

    June 6, 2018 at 20:53
    • Reply Lungi

      You’re welcome Lerato, I’m glad that this post has helped you. Happy shopping!

      June 7, 2018 at 11:30
  • Reply Natassha

    Lungi this is so helpfull, also want to make a buy but, was abit scared. Would like to know how do payment works?

    June 9, 2018 at 20:40
    • Reply Lungi

      Hi Natassha,

      I pay using a credit card.

      June 10, 2018 at 20:44
  • Reply Tamara

    Hey Lungi, hope you good. When you use the free shipping method (the China post method, please correct me if I’m wrong) you said you receive it after 6-8 weeks. Does it not get stuck at south african customs and you have to pay tax? For clothing in particular. Or does it arrive at your door stop?

    June 11, 2018 at 19:48
    • Reply Lungi

      Hi Tamara, I’ve never had a parcel stuck at customs from AliExpress. If I ship via China post I collect the parcel from the post office and usually I have to pay R24. If you ship via China post you will have to collect it at the post office

      June 11, 2018 at 20:28
      • Reply Tamara

        Are China Post and Ali Express Standard shipping the same? I recently placed 3 separate orders and they are sent via Ali Express standard shipping. According to your experience how long did your parcel take to reach you?

        June 23, 2018 at 19:55
        • Reply Lungi

          Hi Tamara, I think they’re the same thing. I usually wait 2-3 months for a parcel

          June 24, 2018 at 21:20
  • Reply Thokozani

    Hai Lungi. Wen u ordered hair being its more dan R500, didn’t dey charge customs?

    June 16, 2018 at 23:17
    • Reply Lungi

      Hi Thokozani, I haven’t been charged a custom fee when I ordered hair, no matter the value

      June 18, 2018 at 12:40
  • Reply Roxzanne

    Hi,I have a quick question. I recently bought an item on Aliexpress and chose the free shipping method. I put in my personal address for the item to be delivered to. Will the item be delivered to my door or will I have to fetch it at the post office?

    July 1, 2018 at 22:46
    • Reply Lungi

      Hi Roxzanne, you will have to fetch it from the post office. They’ll either deliver a collection slip to your door or send a SMS.

      July 2, 2018 at 15:32
      • Reply Roxzanne


        July 3, 2018 at 17:19
  • Reply Marcus

    Hi LungiMy name is Marcus ..I have visiting the site but the thing is my cards are declining when am trying to payWhich card are you using to pay your orders??Which account must I open or which bank can help me pay my orders

    July 3, 2018 at 16:39
    • Reply Lungi

      Hi Marcus, I use my credit card to shop. Any credit card from an bank should work. Maybe you can contact your bank to find out if you don’t have limitations on online shopping on your card.

      July 4, 2018 at 08:54
  • Reply Gee

    Hey, Lungi!Have you shopped from wish and did you get your items?

    July 6, 2018 at 08:38
    • Reply Lungi

      Hi Gee, I’ve never shopped from Wish before

      July 10, 2018 at 06:00
  • Reply Augustine

    Hi i ordered three drones and my courrier is DHL total of drones and courrier is R3200 will i be charged customs fees or what? And how much can it be? I am using dhl and where will i collect my stuff??

    July 6, 2018 at 11:51
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