how to // 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.


June 2018 update … 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 Instagram and Twitter… thank you

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:

    • figure out what I want to buy e.g. makeup brushes,
    • search for a more specific descriptor of what I want e.g. rose gold makeup brushes,
    • filter the results by those shops that only offer free shipping,
    • from those results, find a few that look good
    • 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 🙂

November 2017 update

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

This Post Has 101 Comments

  1. 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.

    1. Lungi

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

  2. 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.

    1. Lungi

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

      1. Busisiwe

        Hey Lungi, thanks for the info it is really helpful. But may I quickly ask… So I ordered on aliexpress and they keep saying my order is about to finish when I track it it says it has been accepted by last mile carriers and all of my orders were free shipping. Must I wait for a call or message that’ll tell me to go to the nearest post office? Or will they deliver to my door since I have my address on there?

        1. Lungi

          Hi Busisiwe, the Post Office will likely send you an sms or a deliver a collection slip to your home address

  3. 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

    1. 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.

  4. 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?

    1. Lungi

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

  5. Nomsa

    Lol, meant I haven’t tried Aliexpress

  6. 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.

    1. 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

      1. Evelyn

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

        1. Lungi

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

  7. Isabel

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

  8. Thabang

    HI Lungi.

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


    1. Lungi

      Hi Thabang, I’ve updated the post 🙂

  9. 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)

    1. 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 🙂

      1. Thandiwe

        Which wig brands did you buy?

        1. Lungi

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

    2. Nompumelelo Ndlela

      Hello,Please help, how do I choose a shopping service because I only have an option of an address for delivery but it’s not specified if it’s courier or post office.

      1. Lungi

        Hi Nompumelelo, I covered the shipping options in the FAQ video

  10. 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.

    1. 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.

  11. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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

          1. 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

            1. Lungi

              You’re welcome girl, happy shopping!

  12. 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!

    1. 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.

    2. Marianne

      Sorry for responding here but I think I can help out a little bit. International sizes do not work either. You need to know the cut of the shoe to understand the size that you will be buying. Open toes are the easiest, almost works for both flat and with heels. Example if you wear a size UK4/37, you buy a size 38. This ONLY applies to open shoes. Boots are the trickiest. You really need to do quite a bit of research on this. I had to sell a few actually!!! Half lucky!I shop on taobao. Sister company to AliExpress. I have bought clothes, belts, shoes, boots, heels, etc… Holler out if you need help. I

      1. Lungi

        thank you for the feedback Marianne

  13. 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

    1. Lungi

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

  14. Natassha

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

    1. Lungi

      Hi Natassha,

      I pay using a credit card.

  15. 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?

    1. 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

      1. 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?

        1. Lungi

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

          1. Tamara

            Hey Lungi, when you ordered clothing from AliExpress has it happened that the order was reported to be in sA but when you go to the post office they say it has not arrived at all in SA? Also has your order been reported as completed but you haven’t recieved or confirmed thatyou’ve recieved it?

            1. Lungi

              Hi Tamara, I’m in the same boat right now. There are 3 items that I ordered in April and May that I haven’t received. I think this is because of the Post Office strike that ended in July. To be honest with you I’ve just written those items off – I’ve accepted the L. Because based on prior experience if your items get stuck due to a strike you’re not likely to ever get the items.

              1. Tamara

                Did you get a refund?

  16. Thokozani

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

    1. Lungi

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

  17. 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?

    1. 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.

      1. Roxzanne


  18. 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

    1. 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.

  19. Gee

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

    1. Lungi

      Hi Gee, I’ve never shopped from Wish before

  20. 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??

  21. Adelaide

    Hi lungi I just need to ask is the hair from AliExpress good quality especially Brazilian,Peruvian brands?

    1. Lungi

      Hey Adelaide, I’ve had good experiences with all the hair I’ve bought on Ali Express

  22. Snazo

    Hi Lungi…I want to buy shoes n farewell dress at Aliexpress..and I’ll need it on November…am I late?…do you think my order might not arrive earlier?..I’m scared but I don’t have other option

    1. Lungi

      Hi Snazo, there’s a workers strike at the Post Office currently so I wouldn’t advise buying stuff from AliExpress that will be shipped via the Post Office. I have several items that I ordered >3 months ago that I haven’t received yet.

  23. Winnie Sebapu

    Hi Lungi , with aliexpress how would i know that the parcel is at the post office if ive used aliexpress free shiping? do i get a parcel receipt at the adress i used ?

  24. Mmaphadi

    Hi LungiMy items arrived about 3 weeks ago through the AliExpress standard shipping yet I’ve still not received a notification to fetch them nor can I track them? What should I do, I am so worried.

    1. Lungi

      Hi Mmaphadi,

      Unfortunately there isn’t much you can do if the Post Office hasn’t sent a collection slip yet. As far as I know it’s not possible to track the items

    2. Nelly

      I’m in the same situation, did you manage to get yours.

  25. Otshepeng Matolweni

    Hi LungiIf I may ask, do you need a import license in order to by and receive products from other countries

    1. Lungi

      Hi Otsepeng, no I haven’t required one so far

  26. nokwa

    Hi lungy…i am so in luv with aliexpress. I order my hair from them. I recently ordered lipstic and perfume. When i track them it says “order completed”….and i contacted the store i bought from and they said i must go to my nearest post office to check for my order. Hope to find it though

    1. Lungi

      Hi Nokwa, I also looove AliExpress, if only we didn’t have to deal with the troublesome SA post office. Just wait and pray that your stuff gets here, if it takes too long you can always try requesting for a refund.

  27. Portia

    Hi Lungi thank you very much for sharing your experiences with us. Unfortunately for me I read your post after ive ordered a bag and a purse an already i can see they have started shipping and will get it 1st week November. Im crossing fingers for the quality as they advertised it as leather. Now that the JK stores does not ship to South Africa. Which other store sells good quality hair.

    1. Lungi

      Hi Portia, here’s to hoping that your stuff will get here soon. The last hair I bought was from KL hair.

  28. Nelly

    Hi LungiIt was my first time buying clothes from Aliexpress, it’s shows my items were delivered, so how do I know which post office I must go and check my items, cause I can’t even track it anymore its shows as if I have received the items on the app.

    1. Lungi

      Hi Nelly, unfortunately you have to wait for a collection slip or sms from the post office. In the mean time you can let AliExpress know that you don’t have your stuff yet and they’ll change the part where it says your order has been delivered

  29. Vijay

    Howzat Lungi……..if i buy a phone…..what customs fees will i face….if any….and what is the best way to receive it, courier or postal???

    1. Lungi

      Hi Vijay, it’s difficult to calculate the exact custom fees. But I always advise that if you’re buying something that’s worth >R500 you must expect to pay custom fees. With regards to shipping, I would advise using a courier if you’re buying something as expensive as a phone.

  30. Amo

    Hi lungi x I love this article, it’s my first time ordering on AliExpress. Do I have to go to the post office to receive the package or will they call me to tell me to collect it? I’m sorry if this is a silly question.

    1. Lungi

      Hi Amo, not a silly question at all. If your package is shipped via standard shipping (eg. China Post) you’ll get it at the Post Office. You’ll either get a collection slip delivered to your house or a sms telling you to fetch the package at your nearest Post Office

  31. tumi

    hi i need to know about the sizes,my son wears a size 11-12,so what size should i really get for him

    1. Lungi

      Hi Tumi, I’ve bought clothing for my daughter according to her age on AliExpress. The item will specify what age children it’s for & whether it fits to size or it’s a smaller/bigger fit

  32. mpho

    Hi Lungi,Have you used a courier before? if so which one and how much did you pay? How much were your items worth?How long did you have to wait for deliver?Thank you

    1. Lungi

      Hi Mpho, I’ve used a courier only when shopping for wigs & it was free. You can watch the video for more info on shipping.

  33. Delz

    Hi Lungi,Thanks for all the information. A friend of mine is looking into buying items like clothing, accessories and hair to re sell. Would you recommend Aliexpress or any other site for bulk purchases? And will she be able to make enough profit considering the costs she has to cover (shipping, customs, etc.). Thanks,

    1. Lungi

      Hi Delz, unfortunately I don’t have answers to whether your friend will make a profit or not because it depends on a lot of things. But I know people who are in business selling hair and such that they buy from AliExpress

  34. Mellisa

    Hi Lungi, I’ve ordered 12 items on Aliexpress and used the free shipping option. I now read that I must have an import license or I won’t get my staff, how true is this? Oh and all the items are from different stores on Aliexpress.

    1. Lungi

      Hi Mellisa, no, you won’t need an important licence. You’ll receive your goods at the post office.

      1. Mellisa

        Thank you, next time I’m using courier.☺

  35. Slie

    Hi Lungi I ordered a wig from AliExpress but entered the wrong address for a place that’s within my town. What could happen to my parcel?

    1. Lungi

      Hi Slie, is it being shipped by courier? Did you enter your correct cellphone number? If it’s by courier then once you’ve tracked that your parcel has arrived in SA, call the company and give them your tracking number and ask to change the delivery address

  36. Danielle Weels

    Hi Lungi I’m looking to make an order in the upcoming sale Aliexpress. When my parcels start arriving at the post office will I have to pay a fee for every single item separately?

    1. Lungi

      Hey Danielle, you’ll pay for them separately

  37. kulani

    HI, I want to drop ship product from ali express .will their dropship the product to my clients on shopify account

    1. Lungi

      Hi Kulani, I don’t have any knowledge on that.

  38. Nana

    Hi Lungi I’ve ordered hair from Aliexpress before & it feels nice it’s just that it’s thin, light. Can you suggest which stores have fuller wigs?Also they still say their delivery will be 7-12 days despite the pandemic… Do you suggest I continue with ordering from them?

    1. Lungi

      Hi Nana, right now I wouldn’t buy from AliExpress as you don’t know if your goods will be cleared at custom, maybe wait until we get to level 3.
      I got my hair at JK Hair and I was satisfied with it.

      1. Nana

        Thank you so much standwa

  39. Ted

    Hi Lungi,Since We’re now in Level 3, do you advice one to buy from Aliexpress and do you think there may be problems with customs at this level?

    1. Lungi

      Hi Ted,
      I’ve placed 2 orders this past week to be delivered via the post office. I’ve read that the post office is experiencing major backlogs with international parcels – so I’m bracing myself for a long wait.

  40. Akhona

    Hey Lungi, bought something on AliExpress and it says the parcel arrived on destination country on 29 June. Will they notify me when the parcel is ready for collection. Been waiting for more than 3months for the parcel to arrive in South Africa it’s so bad.

  41. Akhona

    Hey Lungi, my parcel arrived in SA on 29 June its been a month now haven’t received it even went to my local post office and the parcel is not there. I’m so stressed now.

    1. Lungi

      Hi Akhona, I’m afraid you’ll just have to wait & pray that it gets to you. Customs in Joburg has a huge backlog currently & most probably your parcel is stuck there.

Leave a Reply