Now That You’ve Bought From AliExpress, What Should You Expect?

William Chui Avatar
AliExpress Orders

Touted as the world’s biggest sale (whether online or not) Singles Day came and almost $18 billion dollars later, went, Zimbabweans also got in on the fun. Sure Zimbabweans may make up an insignificant figure from that large amount above, but AliExpress was used last week to get a number of products for many.

Some of you may be new to how this works going forward and have a few questions as to what to expect.

I’ll try and demystify any questions you have and hopefully give you the reassurance you need.

What happens after I’ve paid for my goods?

If you notice on the AliExpress website, there is a My Orders tab, that allows you to check all Orders that you have either paid for or that are awaiting payment. Here you can track what the general status of your goods are, have they been paid for, shipped or awaiting delivery?

I say general in that I was unable to find a means to track the exact location of a consignment of mine, but if you can read Chinese (some Orders have English, but most of mine were Chinese, and Google Translate never helped me much), you can click on the View Detail link just next to an Order and under the Logistics Information you’ll be able to click to a website that shows you.

So, in answer to the question above, after a payment to an Order is made, that Order is then forwarded to the ‘shop’, they check if you have filled in all details specific to the order; right colour, right size, right model, etc.

If any details are left out, they will not ship your goods and will sent you a message asking for the relevant info.

Just under your name, click on the Message Center and then have a look under Order Messages. If there are any challenges with your Order, the Shop will advise you here – we actually had 2 transactions that needed further info from us and our Order hadn’t shipped because those details were absent.

Once you supply the details here, your order should leave shortly thereafter.

How long will my goods take to arrive?

As mentioned in my previous posts, this takes from 30 – 60 days, however, I’d get most of my Orders after 38 days on average. There is nothing you can do to speed up the delivery, but just be patient. This having been the biggest day Sale that Alibaba (the parent company of AliExpress) has had, chances are high that a number of Shops/Couriers are going to be on their toes trying to see to it that your delivery is made in the quickest time in order for them to keep your trust in them.

What you could do during this period is to visit your local post office and familiarise yourself with their processes. When do they send out that little slip that advise you that a parcel awaits you, what are their charges for parcels (should be $2 handling fee if you don’t pay duty and your package is less than 1kg, I think) and should you need to pay duty for your package, where are ZIMRA’s offices so that you can settle this matter.

This information will save you time when your goods arrive (you may have bought the stuff for resale or want to give someone as a gift) so having this knowledge prior to the goods arriving saves precious time.

You could try and track your package, though I’ve had little success with this. Someone mentioned in a previous post that you could get the details of ZIMRA and check with them through your tracking number whether your parcel would have arrived. I’m not the best of friends with the tax man, after they took some of my toys and refused to allow me to bring them in.

How much duty will I pay?

A number of people have this concern and want to factor it into their budget for wanting to bring in something. I’ve yet to master the charges that ZIMRA levies for bringing in goods, but what I do know is that anything bought less than $10 (ten dollars) is duty free (well, so long as you are permitted to bring that item in).

Other than that, ZIMRA charges based on the duty tariff for the cost of bringing the goods to Zimbabwe, which includes the purchase price and shipping cost. It is for this reason that I prefer to go for the ‘free shipping’ option when buying, yes it takes long to arrive, but from my experience when I brought in some goods through courier, DHL got involved out of nowhere and charged me a ‘processing fee’ of $50. For this reason, I encourage people not to use courier shipping, and to make sure guys like DHL DO NOT get involved, otherwise you’ll be regretting your purchase.

On average, if your consignment is over $10 prepare to pay between 40 – 60% of the purchase price for that item.

I always encourage people to ‘shop’ at different stores on AliExpress, and to make each store’s purchase no more than $10 (if possible), so as to avoid paying high duty.


What if I missed the Single’s Day sale?

It is never too late, AliExpress always have great deals that allow people to enjoy massive savings from what they’d normally pay on the streets of Harare.

An even bigger secret is that if you download the AliExpress mobile app you are able to pay even less for products as there are discounts there.

If there is anything in specific you want to buy or need some assistance with on AliExpress, do hit me up in the comments below and I’ll glad answer.



  1. Master

    Standard shipping charges $2-3 on items less than $20 when using Post office….I suggest you ask from your saler not to print out a price tag at all.

    1. William Chui

      It’s termed a ‘handling fee’ and it is not really based on the price of the goods, but on the weight and on whether you pay duty for it or not. But argument, you can say, it’s also the price of the goods that determine duty, but I’d say let’s state it as the two aspects above.

  2. kilotango

    Good article, but heres some more additional info on this topic:

    – ZIMRA calculate duty and tax on your VDP (value for duty purposes) amount. that amount INCLUDES shipping costs. so if your item costed $5, and shipping costed $6.. your VDP is $11. because the amount is over the $10 limit, you are obligated to pay taxes on your import. VDP is generally calculated on the declaration form that comes with your items. if theres an issue with that declaration form, ZIMRA will flag it for inspection. i once bought tools from China, and they were declared as toys, so it does happen sometimes.

    – If duties are charged, you wont have to pay ZIMRA directly. instead the duties, taxes and clearance fees are added to the parcel slip, and you pay for everything at Zimpost when you collect. There are exceptions though, if you imported something which needs a import license, then you will need to present the license (which needs to applied for before arrival of the items) or face heavy penalty fee’s (like $2,000+ in some cases) with your items being seized at customs.

    – Please try not to knock DHL or the other couriers, the $50 isnt just for “processing”, its a clearing fee for import clearance at ZIMRA. If you opted not to pay the $50, you’d need to pay for the document release and you would have to go to ZIMRA at the airport and clear everything yourself. This isnt fun, or as straight forward as you might think.

    – You contact Zimpost central sorting office to find the location of your items if you have a tracking number after about 30 days.

    1. Mdara Libo

      Yes yes, DHL charges 25USD for document release. I have used their service many times and did the clearing by myself. Proved to be cheaper in most cases.

      1. kilotango

        $25 dollars cheaper yes? your duties and tax amounts wont change from the amount that the courier gives at ZIMRA. Now add in transport costs to the airport and back.. as well as the amount of time spent there?

    2. William Chui

      Thanks for the additional pointers that one needs to take into consideration.

      “Unfortunately”, I am yet to pay duty for goods bought through AliExpress, so my knowledge is based on enquiries I’ve made on the issue.

      In regards to DHL (and other such couriers), yes, I felt ripped off, because even after the sender paid them for shipping, all of a sudden they stepped into the equation here and then levied some processing/clearing fee. Nowhere did they give me an option to do this myself or quote me before extending their service, but they just opted to render the service and bill me.

      I’m still healing from the way they treated me, and as such, I won’t recommend anyone to use them fr clearing.

  3. Joe Rag

    Early this year i tried to make a payment for a Laptop on Aliexpress using the Eco Cash Debit Card , i failed, the money returned back to my account after some hours.My question now is how is payment made on AliExpress,

    1. Prof X (Stewart, not McAvoy)

      how much was the laptop? I heard there are limits to how much you can pay thru ecocash which is $150. so if your payment was above, that could be the problem. check

  4. Robert

    I bought a wireless headphones from aliexpress, based on your reviews. I must say, I am glad I did. I bought them on the 30th Nov and I received them today (standard/free shipping).

    They cost me $18 (Black Friday), which is a fraction of the +/-R1000 they cost here in joburg (Bluedio Turbine Hurricane)

    I paid R22 to collect them from SA Post Office.

    1. William Chui

      Excellent. I am happy to read that.