Everything you need to know about AliExpress UK online shopping.
I am always on the lookout for places to shop online that would get me the best value for money. Over recent years, just like many of you, it has been Amazon. While it has its benefits that others can’t beat, price is not one of them anymore.
Let’s face it, over 80% of things that we get from Amazon are made in China. So why not order them directly from China at a huge discount?
Introducing AliExpress – a China based marketplace that is open to shoppers all over the world similar to Amazon. You can buy electronic gadgets, kids toys, household items, clothing and so much more for less than a few quid.
Sounds too good to be true??? I get it, we all probably had one or two dodgy experiences getting cheap stuff from China.
…Which is why I want to share everything you need to know, based on my more than 1-year experience over 50+ purchases in AliExpress UK online shopping, so you buy products at an affordable price with confidence.
As my experience is based on shopping on the AliExpress UK site, if you live outside of the UK, shipping, tax and customs may be different for your country.
This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I may earn a small commission at no cost to you if you make a purchase. Please read the disclosure for more information.
What is AliExpress?
AliExpress is an online marketplace based in China that connects China sellers and manufacturers directly with international consumers. Similar to Amazon, AliExpress is a platform for online sellers to market just about anything. However, it doesn’t sell any of their own products, which is one of the main differences to Amazon from a consumer’s perspective.
AliExpress is part of the Alibaba group and they take the growth and development of this online marketplace very seriously. Which has led to it being a global success.
Why is AliExpress so cheap?
The reason AliExpress is so affordable is because you are paying for goods at a China price. A lot of the times you are buying directly from the manufacturer, cutting out the middleman and overheads that drive the cost up.
Before we look at just how far your money can go with AliExpress, I do want to be clear that this is NOT a place to shop for Western branded items.
However, if you just enjoy the product itself rather than brands, and are looking for dupes with similar quality at a fraction of the price, you are in for a treat.
Furthermore, there are unique products on AliExpress that you just can’t find anywhere else.
What’s good to buy on AliExpress UK online shopping?
Here are some of my AliExpress purchases that saved me a ton of money…
Affordable workout clothing:
AliExpress UK online shopping for affordable workout clothes is ADDICTIVE!
I used to pay over £80 for a pair of Lululemon Align leggings when I was really just after the butter-soft fabric that doesn’t constrict me while doing yoga. So for a fraction of the price, I am now converted to these Lululemon align dupes. In fact, I love them so much, I bought 4 different colours for less than what I paid for 1 pair of Lululemon.
Similarly, I often find Gymshark dupes on AliExpress that are just as good of quality, squat proof. This vital seamless full set is half of the price you pay on a similar Gymshark top.
Small electronic gadgets & accessories
China has been well known for affordable electronic gadgets and accessories. Over the recent years, they have upped their quality game to compete with the big global players. In fact, many global brands source a large portion of the components from China.
If you are in the market for Bluetooth headphones, mobile phone accessories, laptop accessories or filming equipment, you can find some inexpensive deals on AliExpress UK site.
Smart watch (if you don’t want to pay for iwatch and fitbit price) £20.67
I used to pay £30 for 5 pairs of Victoria Secret no-show underwear. Since I’ve found these alternatives (4pcs for £5.30) from AliExpress, I’ve never looked back.
Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no cost to you.
How much do you spend each year on getting your nails done in the salon? You can save long term by getting yourself a home gel nail kit. You can get a kit on Amazon at £89.99 , which you will get the money worth after 4 uses comparing with spending £25 a pop at the salon.
But if you can wait 2 weeks, you’ll get a larger set (including a fast-drying LED lamp, and 12 gel nail polishes) for £20.
… now that’s what I call value for money.
What to avoid buying from Aliexpress?
Rather than advising on the categories of products to avoid, I would go with the price point. Because of the long shipping, and a risk of things not being quite as expected, the general rule of thumb is, do NOT buy anything that’s expensive enough that you would regret it, if it turns out to be a dud.
Just for information my limit is £20-25, and so far this has worked fine.
How to buy on AliExpress?
Making purchases on AliExpress is simple. You can either shop on their website or app.
To start shopping on AliExpress, you need to create an account, either by registering your email, or Google account, Facebook etc. for quick access.
Once you are in, it’s pretty self-explanatory on searching for items. You can also browse through different preset categories. Putting an inventive flavour to the platform, you can also speak or use a QR code, or even take a picture of something you like and search for similar items.
You can also “heart” the items that you like which automatically puts them on your “wish list”.
In terms of payment, AliExpress takes debit and credit cards, and some stores take PayPal. Just make sure you check with your bank card that there’s no fees for international purchases.
Once the purchase is completed, you will instantly get a confirmation message from the seller. After the seller dispatches the item, you are able to track all the way to your door, within the app. No more copy and paste the tracking number to use on external sites.
AliExpress ships to pretty much all countries (175) around the world, however do expect 2 to 6 weeks.
Purchases over £8 generally get express shipping and arrive in 2 weeks in the UK. Anything less than that, gets put on ocean freight, which is why it generally takes 6 week.
AliExpress is certainly a place to buy affordable products, but if you need something at the last minute, Amazon Prime would be your best bet.
Customs Duty and Tax
The sellers are very knowledgeable regarding the shipping methods when it comes to customs duty and tax. They get it, and will help you to avoid any additional payments.
The HMRC policy for international purchases is that anything more than £15 (from the same seller), incur a 20%VAT charge as your order will go through customs. On top of that, there will be a £8 handling charge from Royal mail if this is not pre-paid and handled by the shipping company. Anything above £135 will be liable for import duty.
Some sellers offer local delivery. This means that they will send your order from a warehouse in the UK. This way you can avoid paying any additional customs duties and taxes.
I often make small purchases of less than £15 to avoid any additional customs and handling fees. Anything above this, always check with the seller.
Returns and Exchange
AliExpress has a money back guarantee policy. Some sellers also provide a Free return policy.
However, in my personal experience, I’ve not come across many Free return sellers.
So if you have to pay to ship back to China for something that’s less than £15, the cost will almost be the same amount.
To request for a return or exchange, you can simply contact the seller and file a dispute. You will need to fill out a short form on the reason why you are asking for a return or exchange. You can also attach pictures to describe the issue.
In my experience, the process of filing disputes was really easy. However, the customer service does vary from seller to seller. I’d say 4 out of 5 have been positive.
Ultimately you can often buy several items and still be cheaper than 1 bought in the UK! You win some, you lose some.
Essential Tips on AliExpress UK online shopping
To avoid dud purchases, there are a few essential tips and tricks when it comes to AliExpress UK online shopping to help increase your success rate.
- Star rating – This is the same as Amazon. The customers are asked to rate the product and purchase experience out of 5 star scale. I don’t purchase anything less than 4.6 stars.
- Reviews – It’s also important to read the reviews on what customers liked and disliked on the product. Many times there are pictures in the review, which help to give additional information on what the product looks like. Especially for clothing, often reviews address the size question you may have.
- # of products sold – This is an important one. As there are so many sellers on AliExpress, having a large quantity being sold for the particular product is an indication that the store is reputable and also gives confidence on the star rating. At the end of the day, I will take a 4.8 star of 1000 products sold, rather than a 5 star rating for a store that only sold 3 products.
- Store rating – This is another crucial matrix to check it out. To weed through the credible stores from the rest, check out the store overall rating. This is based on how accurate they have described the item, communication, shipping speed. As a rule of thumb, I usually go with a store with a score over 97%.
- Free shipping – most of the stores’ ship for FREE to the UK, but make sure you check. Some stores even offer express shipping (within 1 week) at an extra cost.
- Searching for products – If you can’t find exactly the product you are looking for, try using alternative keywords to describe the product. For example, if you are looking for a pair of gym leggings, the alternative keywords can be “Yoga Leggings Women” to have more search results. Also, pay attention to the keywords similar products are using.
- Video – For clothes purchases, in addition to checking on the size chart (provided in the description), I also like to check out the reviews, and pictures. For workout leggings, I often find try-on videos on youtube to give me a much better feel for the size and quality.
- Contact seller – If you ever have any question, before or after the purchase, it’s very easy to contact the seller on AliExpress. They often get back to you within a day. Just be mindful of the time zone difference.
- Coupon codes – There are always sales on AliExpress and it often participates in Black Friday Sale, New Year Sale, but the biggest sales are on 11.11. The coupon appears next to the item. All you need to do is to click it, and it will appear at the checkout.
AliExpress UK online shopping – Pros
- Let’s face it – It is so affordable!
- Often free shipping
- Easy tracking within the app and website
- Good quality products if you do your research right
- Knowledgeable sellers help get you the best deal on shipping to your country
- Coupons and sales on top of already very inexpensive products.
- Good customer service from reputable sellers
- Plenty of reviews and pictures from customers
- The more you buy the higher your member status – giving more member offers
AliExpress UK online shopping – Cons
- Shipping is lengthy
- Returning not worth the shipping costs
- You won’t know the brand
- Sizing can be a bit hit or miss sometimes
- Be warned – shopping on AliExpress can be addictive!
Frequently asked Q&A:
Is it safe to shop online at AliExpress?
Because of AliExpress Buyers Protection program, it is probably even safer than platforms like ebay and Etsy.
Is AliExpress a legit website?
Yes, AliExpress is a totally legit website.
With so many affordable products, you will be amazed what you can get for less than £2, and if you go up to a hefty £15 you are opening Aladins cave.
But like any online purchase you should do your homework first.
Check the price in your home country to check you are getting a good deal.
In addition, follow all the essential tips in the previous section.
Does AliExpress deliver to UK?
Yes, but you always need to check the shipping costs when making a purchase.
I have never paid for shipping, and if you find something you like but there is a shipping cost, keep searching and you will find the same thing for the same price with free shipping.
How long does AliExpress take to deliver to UK?
It takes between 2 to 6 weeks. Anything that’s over £8 (from a single seller), generally gets put on express shipping, which means you will get within 2 weeks. If the item is less than £8, it’s likely to be on ocean freight, therefore expect 6 weeks to get to the UK.
I did make a £0.66 purchase, and that took 6 weeks, and arrived on exactly the last day before AliExpress recommended you should contact the seller to follow up.
Final thought on AliExpress UK online shopping
My experience with AliExpress UK site has been 90% positive. Not only I love how affordable it is buying from the site, some products you just can’t find anywhere else.
AliExpress UK online shopping is a cheaper alternative to Amazon. As long as you don’t mind the products from unknown brands and the shipping time, you are in for a treat on lots of inexpensive goodies.
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