This is an AliExpress buyer’s guide. The guide will take you through frequently asked questions about AliExpress by Ugandans, steps on how to shop on AliExpress from Uganda and tips to buy safely on AliExpress.
What is AliExpress?
AliExpress is an online retail ecommerce marketplace located in China. The platform does not directly sell any products but rather connects buyers and sellers and facilitates small businesses to sell their products internationally.
Sellers on AliExpress are located across the world but most of them are located in China, Singapore and Hong Kong. Anyone from any part of the world can buy products from AliExpress and get them shipped to their country.
AliExpress was launched in 2010, and it is owned by Alibaba Group, a Chinese multinational conglomerate holding company specializing in e-commerce, retail, Internet and technology.
The Alibaba Group was founded in 1999 by a Chinese businessman, Jack Ma, and it is the biggest internet company by revenue in Asia. The company also owns Alibaba.com, a massive B2B ecommerce platform that connects manufacturers with small business around the world. In fact, recently, I wrote a guide about how to buy goods on Alibaba and ship to Uganda.
How Does AliExpress Work?
AliExpress works in the same fashion as the other generalist ecommerce platforms like Jumia, eBay or Amazon where one simply searches for a product, and the website shows them available product options from multiple sellers.
To use AliExpress, you need to first register for free AliExpress account via the signup link provided on the AliExpress app or website.
Once your account is setup, you will be able to browse AliExpress products via the search feature at the top of their website or app. The products can be can be directly purchased from their individual page by tapping the Buy Now button or add them to cart by tapping the Add to Cart button and checkout later after collecting all the items you want to buy.
The shopping process on AliExpress is very much similar to that of other online shopping stores such as Amazon, Jumia or eBay.
When you order anything on AliExpress, the seller already has a shipping arrangement for you and you would only wait to receive your item in Uganda, saving you the hassle of having to hire the services of a freight forwarder like it is with buying on Alibaba.
Where is AliExpress located?
AliExpress is located in China. The company operates through the internet where it hosts a directory of small businesses in China who sell their products internationally online at www.aliexpress.com. Goods on AliExpress are sold by companies and individuals, and most of them are in China.
Who is AliExpress meant for?
AliExpress is originally meant for ordinary consumers who buy products in small quantities for personal use. In fact, AliExpress limits the maximum order quantity (MOQ) to 100. Most sellers accept maximum order quantity of less than 10. If you want to buy goods in bulk for resell, use Alibaba.
Is AliExpress Safe?
Yes, AliExpress is a safe online shopping website. Otherwise it wouldn’t be one of the most visited online shopping websites in the world with millions of shoppers across the world.
The platform has policies and protections that protect buyers from getting counterfeit goods. These protections are automatically applied to all buyers. In fact, as a buyer, there’s nothing extra you need to do.
As long as you make your purchase directly through the AliExpress website or mobile app, you will be protected no matter what you buy. It should however be noted that you will not be protected if you make payment for your purchase externally ie through western union or bank transfer or any other form of payment that is not accepted by AliExpress.
AliExpress is also safe in terms of Cybersecurity. The company employs top brains in cybersecurity who work 24/7 to ensure that the platform is safe and secure for everyone. Interestingly, AliExpress’s parent company, the Alibaba Group, is behind a cloud security service which offers cutting-edge AI technology for security identification and risk analysis to other companies. It’s common knowledge that the same robust security technologies are applied to AliExpress as well.
Are AliExpress products genuine and legit?
The vast majority of products on AliExpress are legit, although there are a number of sellers that sell replicas, fakes and counterfeits. But if you know all the principles of making an order on AliExpress, you will never face the danger of buying counterfeit products on AliExpress.
Most counterfeits are common with branded products (world brands), electronics, storage and memory components. If possible, try to avoid buying products that fall in these categories.
But generally, AliExpress is not a scammy platform as some people mistakenly think. Major Chinese brands like Huawei, Baseus and Xiaomi among others feature their products on AliExpress website along with other small businesses.
Just in case it happens that you received a defective or counterfeit product, you can always open a dispute against the seller and AliExpress will refund your money.
Why Are Items So Cheap on AliExpress?
Majority of sellers on AliExpress are based in China. The cost of production in China is too low compared to other countries, thus the low prices of items. The cost of production is what determines the final price of an item. This is why some sellers on AliExpress can even afford to offer free or very cheap shipping. AliExpress sellers offer really good deals, but not all products are legit. You will find all sorts of counterfeit items there, from electronics to fashion items. Of course, being able to tell the difference between a legit item and a fake one is crucial when buying something from AliExpress.
Does AliExpress ship to Uganda?
Yes, they do. You can order any product AliExpress and get it in Uganda. You just have to select the shipping method of your choice.
Below are some of the shipping carriers that sellers on AliExpress use to ship items to Uganda:
- AliExpress Standard Shipping
- Singapore Post
- POS Malaysia
- China Air Post Registered Mail
Choosing a shipping method depends on the seller you’re buying from. Some sellers set only one shipping carrier while others put multiple shipping carriers to choose from.
Does AliExpress have free shipping to Uganda?
Yes, some items come with free shipping. But when you hear the term free shipping, it does not exactly mean that. In fact, in reality, there’s nothing like free shipping. The shipping cost is obviously hidden in the final product price. Free shipping is not something you can count in your favor because they secretly charge you for it. While buying on AliExpress, you shouldn’t only look out for free shipping. An item can have paid shipping, but when you add its shipping cost to the product price, the item still remains cheaper, which would make sense to buy such a product. There’s however nothing wrong with going for free shipping, it just depends on how the seller handles your item.
Also read; How To Start An Online Store In Uganda
AliExpress Uganda – Does AliExpress have offices in Uganda?
No. AliExpress does not have any offices in Uganda. They don’t have agents here either. AliExpress is an internet based company which has only one office in China.
Does AliExpress have a pickup station in Uganda?
A pickup station is a place where you can collect a package you shopped online. For now AliExpress doesn’t have any pickup station in Uganda. Not even in Kampala. When your items arrive, you will most likely pick them from the nearest Post Office (Posta Uganda). If your items were shipped via major carriers like DHL or EMS, just stay at home, they will bring them to your door-step.
My recent order landed at my workplace, and the seller shipped it via China Post Mail. Even if your order wasn’t shipped via express carriers like DHL, guys at Posta Uganda can bring it to wherever you are at a small cost starting from UGX 4,000/-.
Does AliExpress accept cash on delivery?
No, AliExpress does not accept cash on delivery. You shouldn’t worry about not receiving your item. When you buy something on AliExpress, your money is completely safe, as AliExpress holds the money and only gives it to the seller after you have confirmed that the order has arrived and it is the exact one you ordered for. If you don’t receive the item or receive an item not as described online, AliExpress will refund your money 100%.
What if I don’t get my order?
First contact the seller after estimated time of delivery has elapsed. The seller should respond with an explanation as to why you haven’t received your order. If the seller doesn’t give you a satisfying response or refuses to respond, open a dispute against them within 30days from the last estimated date of delivery. AliExpress team will step in your case, and if they confirm you indeed didn’t receive your item within the specified shipping time frame. That’s the best thing about AliExpress. You can never lose your money just like that.
Why you should buy from AliExpress – Benefits
- Low priced items. Products on AliExpress are way cheaper than those in downtown Kampala.
- The platform has a massive database of over 100 million products, giving you endless options to choose from.
- Very low shipping rates. In fact, some AliExpress products ship to Uganda for free.
- Buyer protection. You will get back your money if you order something and you don’t receive it in a specified period of time. You will also get a refund if the seller delivers an item which isn’t exactly as it was described online.
- Past buyers have an option of leaving feedback on the items they bought. The feedback helps you make the right choice and also give you confidence to buy from a particular seller.
- Secure payments
- They have a very complete order tracking system that will help you know where your product is.
- 24/7 customer service support.
The problem with AliExpress – Disadvantages
- There’s a limit on the number of pieces you can you can buy for a single item. The maximum limit is 100.
- There’s a huge risk of buying counterfeit products since you can’t see or touch the item and quality is not guaranteed.
- Although AliExpress is a trusted platform, there still exist risks of getting scammed.
- Fixed prices. No possibility to bargain or negotiate prices like it is with Alibaba or eBay.
- Longer delivery times due to a long distance between Uganda and China.
- Although some products ship for free, some come with very costly shipping that is unexplainable.
- Some of their items can be more expensive than those in the local Ugandan market.
- Impossible to request customizations of any kind. If you are buying for resell, it limits marketing options of your company.
- The seller can take up to 10 days to ship your order.
- Many products do not have the quality we expect.
Do I pay tax for goods purchased from AliExpress?
There’s no sales tax levied on products purchased from AliExpress, however you may be charged import tax by Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) for something you bought on AliExpress if its value exceeds $50.
According to URA, any items imported into the country whose collective value is more than $50 (about UGX 180,000/-) are taxable, whereas items whose collective value is below $50 are exempted from taxes.
URA import taxes depend on the nature of goods you are importing. The taxes range between 24-65%, with 24% being the basic customs duty for most items.
However there are some goods that are exempted from taxes e.g medical equipment, medicines, postage stamps, supply of insurance, supply of financial services, educational materials, agricultural equipment, agricultural products etc.
Before you order anything on AliExpress whose value is above $50, ensure that you first get tax information for that particular product from the URA website or from any URA office near you, so you can be sure of how much tax you will exactly pay when your item arrives in Uganda.
Below is table showing import customs tariff for some of the commonly imported products in Uganda:
SN ITEM Import Duty VAT Excise Duty Withholding Tax Infrastructure Levy
1 Phones 18% 6% 2 Cameras 25% 18% 6% 1.5%
3 Garments 25% 18% 6% 1.5%
4 Shoes 25% 18% 6% 1.5%
5 Cosmetics 25% 18% 10% 6% 1.5%
6 Wedding Gowns 25% 18% 6% 1.5%
7 Beauty accessories e.g necklaces, bangles, hair, decorations 25% 18% 6% 1.5%
8 Computers 18% 6%
How long does it take for my AliExpress order to arrive in Uganda?
How long does AliExpress take to ship to Uganda? This is a common question many Ugandans keep asking me.
To understand how long your AliExpress order will take to reach here, we need to first understand how shipping works on this famous website.
When you click on any product on AliExpress, you will see the estimated shipping time and fees indicated alongside the product. When you finally place an order, the seller begins the process to ship your order.
The process includes organizing, packing and dropping the order to a shipping station.This can take several hours to days depending on the size of the package or the volume of other orders the seller has at the moment. Most sellers usually process orders between 1-5days.
Once your order is processed and dropped at the shipping station, it will be on its way to your home in Uganda.
If the seller ships your order via Sea freight, it will take approximately 45-60days to arrive in Uganda, but if it is shipped by air (economy shipping), it takes approximately 10-30days to reach Uganda.
You can even receive your package much earlier if the seller uses Express shipping method. Express shipping takes 3-7days for your package to reach Uganda but it is more costly than economy shipping.
Remember the speedier the shipping method, the more costly it becomes. For example I recently ordered a Video Switcher from AliExpress via Express shipping, and I got in just 4days.
Steps on how to shop on AliExpress from Uganda
AliExpress is a bargain with all the letters, an online marketplace where we can find all sorts of products. Below are the steps on how to buy on AliExpress and ship to Uganda:
- Create an AliExpress Account
- Get familiar with the AliExpress App or website
- Search for products
- Add item to cart/bag
- Enter your shipping address
- Choose payment method
- Confirm and Pay for your order
- Track your order
- Collect your package
Step 1 – Create an AliExpress Account
Like any ecommerce site, to buy any product on AliExpress, you will obviously have to first create an AliExpress account. Anyone can create an AliExpress buyer account and it is free.
To get started with AliExpress, download their Android or iOS app or head over to their website www.aliexpress.com, look for the signup or create account link and click it.
On the next screen/page, you will be asked to enter your info such as name, email address, country, phone number, shipping address and company name.
Once all the required info is filled in, click “Agree and Register” at the bottom of the form. You will receive a confirmation mail to the provided email address. Click the confirmation link to confirm your email address and your account will be ready for use.
The AliExpress app and website are very easy to use and if you have an account with them, you can be able to search for products, contact sellers, chat with AliExpress customer care representatives and be able to make payments for your orders.
Once you have created your account, the next thing is to search for and add to cart the products you want to buy.
Step 2 – Get familiar with the AliExpress App or website
If you are new to AliExpress, before searching for products and placing any orders, it will be much easier for you if you first get familiar with their website and learn about several of their trade terms.
Explore their website and get with their features and how they work. If there’s anything you don’t understand about their website, you can always contact their 24/7 support for help.
Also take advantage of the “help and community” section on their website. This section has very useful information about AliExpress ranging from how to find products, placing orders, making payments, buyer protection, opening disputes etc.
Understanding how their platforms and how to navigate through it will enable you to have a smooth buy experience with them.
Step 3 – Search for products
The next step is to find the products you would like to buy. You can do this by either browsing through the product categories or by entering your product search term in the search box. For example if you are looking to buy women’s sneakers, you will browse through the sneakers subcategory that can be found under women’s fashion category.
The site also has powerful product filtering features to help you find exactly what you are looking for. You can filter products using different values such as size, price range, free shipping, rating etc.
Once you finally zero down on the product you want to buy. Ensure that the product is legit and will meet your expectations. Carefully read through the product listing description, customer reviews and seller feedback.
If the product has poor rating by past buyers, it is advisable not to buy such a product as it is like to be of poor quality or not exactly as advertised.
Step 4 – Add item to cart/bag
Once you have identified the item you want to buy, and you are satisfied with the product reviews and all other relevant information provided by the seller, select item variants like color, size, quantity etc and either proceed to BUY NOW or ADD TO CART the item.
Adding an item to the cart will save the details of this item until you are ready to buy it, just like as if you have popped something you want to buy into a real shopping basket. You can add multiple items to cart.
Step 5 – Enter your shipping address
Once you’re ready to place your order on AliExpress.com, during the checkout process, you will be required to enter your shipping address. A shipping address is a place where you would like your package delivered.
In Uganda, we do not have home address system like it is in the Western world. If you have a postal address, enter it as your shipping information. You can also use a postal address of a friend you trust, so you can pick your package from their address when it arrives.
If you have no own postal address, and have no friend to help you with theirs, don’t worry, you will still be able to receive your AliExpress package. Just enter a generic shipping address like this below:
Name: Okello Peter
Address: Bugolobi Flats, Bugolobi, Nakawa Division.
State or Province: Central, Western, Northern or Eastern
Postal/Zip code: 00256
If you used a generic shipping address, when your package arrives, it will be dropped at Posta Uganda offices near you and you will be notified by SMS to go pick it. Please ensure that the above general shipping address has your real name as it appears on your national ID and phone number
Step 6 – Choose payment method
At this stage, you have to choose the method you want to pay for your order. Choose a payment which is safe and suits you. When it comes to payment, AliExpress accept the following forms of payment:
- Debit/Credit card (Visa, MasterCard, Discover, Maestro, Troy, MNP, American Express etc)
- PayPal (few sellers accept payments via PayPal)
- Wire Transfer (Bank transfer)
- Western Union
The easiest and safest form of payment among the above is use of Debit/Credit card. Almost all local banks in Uganda now issue debit cards that can perform online transactions.
If you cannot access a debit card issued by bank because of various reasons, you can take advantage of virtual debit MasterCards issued by Uganda telecom networks. MTN Uganda has MTN Momo MasterCard and Aitel Uganda has Airtel MasterCard.
These cards are virtual not physical. You can create them on your mobile menu. You can dial *165*70# to create MTN Momo MasterCard or *185*7# to create Airetl MasterCard.
These MTN and Airtel virtual cards are charged at 1000/- per transaction. The money is deducted directly from your mobile money.
The virtual MasterCards not only work on AliExpress but can be used anywhere MasterCard is accepted.
- Using PayPal in Uganda: Sending, Receiving, Withdraw & Limitations
- Paypal To Mobile Money: How To Receive/Withdraw Paypal Funds In Uganda
Step 7 – Confirm and Pay for your order
Once you have selected your payment method in the previous step, you can now proceed to confirm and pay for your order using any of the above mentioned payment methods. Upon successful transaction, you will see an onscreen message notifying you of the same. You will also receive detailed information about your order via email.
Step 8 – Track your order
Once your order is placed and payment is confirmed, you will receive a tracking number to follow up the journey of your package to Uganda. The tracking number is normally sent to your email once the package has been shipped. It can also be found in your AliExpress account under your orders.
You can check the whereabouts of your package by tapping on “Tracking Information” link besides your order.
Alternatively, you can track your order using international parcel tracking solutions like 17 Track. To get started, simply visit their website and enter your tracking number.
The website will show you information about the status of your order and where it is at the time of checking. If your order arrives in Uganda, you will be able to see that as well.
Step 9 – Collect your package
Before placing an order, you we asked to provide your shipping address. If you enter your postal address, your package would be dropped at your address.
If you entered a virtual postal address provided by Posta Uganda, your package would be dropped at Posta Uganda offices near you and you will be notified SMS or call to go and pick it.
If you didn’t a postal address and entered a generic one as discussed in step 5 above, your package will also be dropped at Posta Uganda offices near you and you will be notified via SMS to go collect it.
To collect your package at Posta Uganda, you are required to pay a withholding fee of UGX 3,000/- per package received.
Moreover if your item arrives at Posta Uganda and you have no time to go pick it, they can deliver it to your doorstep for as low UGX 4,000/-. Just call their hotline: +256414255569.
However if your order was shipped via major courier companies like UPS, DHL, FEDEX or EMS, just stay at home, they will bring to you.
Also read; How To Start An Online Boutique In Uganda
Tips to buy safely on AliExpress and ship to Uganda
Whereas AliExpress is a legit shopping website, you cannot rule out the possibility of getting scammed from there. Scammers are everywhere on the internet, and they keep up with new scam tricks from time to time. To ensure your money protected, follow these tips below:
1. Open a dispute before your time runs out.
When something goes wrong with ie you pay and the seller never ships it or it doesn’t arrive within the estimated delivery time, open a dispute against the seller before your time runs. Remember you have only 30days from the last estimated of date of delivery to open a case against the seller.
2. Never cancel a dispute
NEVER cancel a dispute just because the seller requested you to do so! On AliExpress, it is not possible to re-open a closed case, and if you can’t reopen a closed case, you will most likely lose your money.
3. Communicate within the AliExpress platform
Never at any point should you accept communicate with the seller outside AliExpress’s website or app. Do not accept to chat via email or whatsapp or any other external communication channel. Communication out AliExpress’s official platform does not concern AliExpress and you will not be protected in an unlikely event that you get scammed.
4. Don’t bulk buy on your first time.
Do not make bulk orders especially if it is your first time to buy from a certain seller. First buy one or two pieces just test the quality of their product. If the quality turns out to be good, then you can order in bulk on your next purchase if bulk buying was your initial plan
5. Don’t pay via unsecured payment methods
Never pay for your orders via unsecured payment methods like Western Union or Bank Transfer. When you send money to someone via Western Union, you have sent it to an individual not AliExpress. So you can’t really know where your money is going to end. It could be a crook trying to fleece you. The only secure payment methods I recommend is Credit/Debit card and PayPal, and the payment must be made within the AliExpress website or app.
6. Only buy from Established Sellers
Always try to buy from sellers who have been selling on AliExpress for a considerable number of years and have positive buyer feedback. Long time sellers care a lot about their ratings and will always be willing to help you in case something goes wrong with your order.
7. Read Complete Item Details/Description
Sellers include very useful information about the product in the description section. Do not just place an order simply looking at images and product price. Carefully check the description as the seller might have included important explanations for the buyer. For example, the seller might include product compatibility requirements and whether it is an original product or a replica. Some sellers also answer questions to order related topics such as shipping, refunds and returns in the item description section.
8. Never Buy Branded Goods on AliExpress
AliExpress is not a recommended place to buy branded products, especially global brands like Apple, Samsung or Nike. There are high chances that the branded items you are buying will be replicas or of very poor quality. However if you are buying Chinese brands, you are likely to receive good quality products – they exist.
9. Be Careful with Storage and Memory Components
Most counterfeits on AliExpress are common with storage and memory components such as memory cards, flash disks, hard disks etc
If possible, try to avoid buying products that fall in this category. But if you insist on buy one, only buy from official stores or listings with good feedback.
Avoid ones that usually don’t have the exact capacity (e.g 32GB instead of the advertised 128GB).
10. Be aware of phishing sites.
Fraudsters usually copy exact designs of popular websites and launch them on fake domains that slightly look like one for the popular site. Their sole aim is to steal your private data such as passwords, credit card info or simply trick you into buying a fake product that doesn’t exist and run away with your. Always double-check the URL of a site before entering your information. The official website for AliExpress is www.aliexpress.com, but a hacker could create an exact copy of the AliExpress website and launch it on a fake domain like www.aliexpress.tk or www.aliexpresss.com (fake with triple S).
Best AliExpress alternatives in Uganda
There are several alternatives to AliExpress that Ugandans can buy from. Although none of these alternatives is anywhere close to the mighty AliExpress. They include:
- Jumia Uganda
- Kikuu Uganda
- Ubuy Uganda
- Condala Uganda
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Shopping on AliExpress.com in Uganda is simple and easy as that. If you are looking for a wider array of products that would easily find in downtown Kampala, you should definitely consider AliExpress. As long as you remember to keep the things mentioned above in mind, AliExpress is a fantastic place for online shopping as it will save you money. I hope this article has given you all the basic insights on how to shop on AliExpress in Uganda. If you have any questions or additions to this, feel free to leave a comment below.
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