how to shop on aliexpress from uganda
AliExpress in a mobile phone screen. Photo credit: Shutterstock.

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 worldwide, but most are in China, Singapore and Hong Kong. Anyone worldwide can buy products from AliExpress and get them shipped to their country.

AliExpress was launched in 2010 and 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 businesses worldwide. 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 a free AliExpress account via the signup link provided on the AliExpress app or website.

Once your account is set up, you will be able to browse AliExpress products via the search feature at the top of their website or app. The products can be directly purchased from their individual page by tapping the Buy Now button or add them to the 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. 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.

Also read; How To Import Goods from China to Uganda For Your Small Business.

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, most of which 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 a maximum order quantity of less than 10. If you want to buy goods in bulk for reselling, 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 worldwide.

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. However, you will not be protected if you make payment for your purchase externally, i.e., through western union, bank transfer or any other form of payment that AliExpress does not accept.

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 that 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 also applied to AliExpress.

Also read; The Expert’s Guide To Online Shopping In Uganda.

Are AliExpress products genuine and legit?

The vast majority of products on AliExpress are legit, although some sellers 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 the AliExpress website along with other small businesses.

If you receive 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?

The 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, 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
  • EMS
  • UPS
  • China Air Post Registered Mail
  • DHL
  • FedEx

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 actually 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 remains cheaper, making it sensible to buy such a product. However, there’s 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 that has only one office in China.

Does AliExpress have a pickup station in Uganda?

pickup station is a place where you can collect a package you shopped for online. For now, AliExpress doesn’t have any pickup stations in Uganda. Not even in Kampala. When your items arrive, you will most likely pick them up 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 doorstep.

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 is the exact one you ordered. 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 the 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 30 days from the last estimated date of delivery. AliExpress team will step into your case if they confirm you 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. You will also get a refund if the seller delivers an item that isn’t exactly as described online.
  • Past buyers have the option of leaving feedback on the items they bought. The feedback helps you make the right choice and gives you the confidence to buy from a particular seller.
  • Secure payments
  • They have a 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 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. There is no possibility to bargain or negotiate prices like with Alibaba or eBay.
  • Longer delivery times due to the 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 reselling, it limits the 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, some goods 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 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 a table showing import customs tariffs for some of the commonly imported products in Uganda:

SNITEMImport DutyVATExcise DutyWithholding TaxInfrastructure Levy
1Phones18%6%
2Cameras25%18%6%1.5%
3Garments25%18%6%1.5%
4Shoes25%18%6%1.5%
5Cosmetics25%18%10%6%1.5%
6Wedding Gowns25%18%6%1.5%
7Beauty accessories e.g necklaces, bangles, hair, decorations25%18%6%1.5%
8Computers18%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 must 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 of shipping your order.

The process includes organizing, packing and dropping the order at a shipping station. This can take several hours to days, depending on the package size or the volume of other orders the seller has at that time. Most sellers usually process orders between 1-5days.

Once your order is processed and dropped off 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 the 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 it 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 e-commerce site, to buy any product on AliExpress, you will have first to 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. If you have an account with them, you can search for products, contact sellers, chat with AliExpress customer care representatives and make payments for your orders.

Once you have created your account, the next thing is to search for and add the products you want to buy to your cart.

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 their website’s “help and community” section. This section has very useful information about AliExpress, from finding products, placing orders, making payments, buyer protection, opening disputes, etc.

Understanding how their platform work 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 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 is found under the 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 a 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 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 your cart.

Step 5: Enter your shipping address.

Once you’re ready to place your order on AliExpress.com, you will be required to enter your shipping address during the checkout process. A shipping address is a place where you would like your package delivered.

In Uganda, we do not have a home address system like 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 up 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.

City: Kampala

State or Province: Central, Western, Northern or Eastern

Postal/Zip code: 00256

Country: Uganda

Tel: +256701234567

Email: mail@example.com

If you used a generic shipping address, when your package arrives, it will be dropped off at Posta Uganda offices near you, and you will be notified by SMS to pick it up. 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 a payment method.

At this stage, you have to choose the payment method you want to pay for your order. Choose a payment that is safe and suits you. When it comes to payment, AliExpress accepts the following forms of payment:

  • Debit/Credit card (Visa, MasterCard, Discover, Maestro, Troy, MNP, American Express etc.)
  • PayPal (few sellers accept payments via PayPal)
  • WebMoney
  • Wire Transfer (Bank transfer)
  • Western Union

The easiest and safest form of payment among the above is Debit/Credit card payment. Almost all local banks in Uganda now issue debit cards that can perform online transactions.

If you cannot access a debit card issued by the bank for 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 Airtel 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.

Also read;

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 payments mentioned above. 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 on 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 the “Tracking Information” link beside 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 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 will be asked to provide your shipping address. If you enter your postal address, your package will be dropped off at your address.

If you entered a virtual postal address provided by Posta Uganda, your package would be dropped off at Posta Uganda offices near you, and you will be notified by SMS or call to pick it up.

If you didn’t have 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 by SMS to go collect it.

To collect your package at Posta Uganda, you must 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 pick it up, they can deliver it to your doorstep for as low as 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 it to you.

Also read; How To Start An Online Boutique In Uganda.

Tips for buying safely on AliExpress and shipping 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 keep up with new scam tricks from time to time. To ensure your money is protected, follow these tips below:

1. Open a dispute before your time runs out.

When something goes wrong with your order, i.e., 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 30 days from the last estimated delivery date 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 impossible to reopen 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

You should never accept communication with the seller outside AliExpress’s website or app at any point. Do not accept chatting 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 the 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 buying from a certain seller. First buy one or two pieces just to 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 are Credit/Debit card and PayPal, and 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 years and have positive buyer feedback. Long-time sellers care a lot about their ratings and will always be willing to help you if 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 by simply looking at images and product price. Carefully check the description because 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 about 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 is a high chance 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 buying 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 and credit card info, or simply trick you into buying a fake product that doesn’t exist and run away with your money. 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. However, none of these alternatives is anywhere close to the mighty AliExpress. They include:

Global alternatives

  • eBay
  • Amazon
  • Walmart
  • Bestbuy
  • Dhgate
  • Banggood
  • Newegg

Local alternatives

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Final thoughts…

Shopping on AliExpress.com in Uganda is simple and easy as that. If you are looking for a wider array of products that you wouldn’t 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.

Thanks for reading. See you on the next post!

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Masaba Josh is the founder of ICT Guy blog. He’s a digital entrepreneur and a self-taught technology guru. He has spent 6+ years in the ICT field with experience in consulting, design, support, coaching and analysis. He also has expertise in Internet startups, e-commerce, web development, digital marketing, SEO and content development. He has obtained several industry recognized certifications including CSDP, CCT, CCNA, MTA, AWS as well as a degree in Information Systems and Technology. His love for technology is only surpassed by his desire to create change in Uganda with regards to technology. His ultimate vision is to create a world class technology hub where Ugandan technologists can meet to share knowledge, share experiences, forge relationships and create wonders in technology.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Mr Mun, may God bless the work of your hands and your head!
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