How To Buy Stuff From AliExpress Online From Zimbabwe

AliExpress home page

The saying goes that the world has become a ‘global village’, which in essence is referring to how the internet has made countries that were once months away (when travelling by boat) are now just a few clicks away.

This has become ever the more prominent in my life over the last couple of months, not only because things have become a tad bit expensive here in Zimbabwe, but also because China is where my ancestors come from. And no, I don’t know kungfu…

The opportunity of shopping on the internet has been a global phenomena for some time but relatively new to Zimbabwe, partly because the internet is ‘kinda new’. Widespread internet access came not too long ago, October 2010 to be exact and we’re still tryna get a hang of it.

As mentioned above, I’ve been shopping online and today I want to share all that I know about ‘how to buy online from AliExpress‘, saving you money in mistakes that I’ve made and helping you put extra money in your pocket. AliExpress is an online retail store for giant Chinese business Alibaba and lists thousands of products on their website.

Register an account

First you will need to register an account on AliExpress. Either on the website or their mobile application. Use an email address that is yours and you have the password to access. Do the normal email confirmation and stuff and your ‘A’ for away.

Shop for stuff

Yeah, it’s that easy. No need to apply for any permit or anything. Just get to shopping.

Tips on buying

Here are tips on how to shop:

  • Turn on the ‘free shipping’ tab. Look for goods that are free to ship to Zimbabwe. These goods normally take 20 – 40 days to arrive. Long yes, but the goods come, I have just had one package not arrive out of 17 and even then AliExpress gave me a refund.
  • You could include items that have a shipping cost, but some items will cost $2 but have a $40+ shipping fee thus making it unattractive. Look for items that the total cost, including shipping is within budget.
  • Look for goods that have a high rating, both positive feedback and high order numbers (high is relative, but more than 5 will do)
  • If you are buying for resale, either make sure that you have a confirmed order for what you are buying, or if you are hoping to sell the stuff make sure the product has a large enough target market. I’ve bought iPhone 6 covers and after finding out that my target market already had theirs, there were not many people I could sell to. Getting things like cellphone chargers, earphones, usb charging cables, etc will do, because if iPhone users don’t want to buy, there are still Samsung, Nokia, Blackberry and others that may be interested.
  • If buying a product that you ‘hope’ to sell, buy something that you yourself can use in case you don’t find any buys for the product.
  • When buying multiple products, try to make sure that they come from different stores. So AliExpress is like a mall and has various stores that sell stuff. The advantage of doing this is that if you buy from the same store and within the same period (same period could be a few days if they may not have dispatched your first set of goods), that ‘shop’ will combine your goods into one package. Having your goods as one package will increase either the duty or handling fee (more about that soon)

Buying goods

Once you have found products that you like, you can either click ‘buy now’ or ‘add to cart’. As the names suggest, buy now means that you will process the transaction there and then, where as add to cart will allow you to put multiple items in your cart and pay when you are done.

I’d suggest paying once at the end as this will reduce the transaction fees that you will pay your bank.

Make sure to include your phone number on your check out details as the local post office may call you or message you when your parcel arrives. This is not standard procedure, but they ‘sometimes’ do it.

Paying for goods

AliExpress accepts ‘major credit and debit cards’ – read Visa and MasterCard, that are both available in Zimbabwe. If you have either, including the prepaid ones from BancABC and FBC, all you will have to do is enter you debit card details.

I prefer to use the Ecocash Virtual Card Number (VCN), as it will access money from my Ecocash wallet. Go here for instructions on how to buy a VCN.


Most stores on AliExress will give you a ‘tracking number’ that you can use to check on the progress of your shipment. Details like money received, goods shipped will be sent to your email address, while know where your goods are will need you to log in to the shipping company’s website – most times it is China Post. After you purchase goods you will be given communication under the ‘My Orders’ tab, where you can see all communication about that shipment. Information like date shipped and the tracking code can be found here.

Receiving you goods

Depending on the shipping option used, when your goods arrive here’s what you need to know:

  • Duty is paid on goods that are $10.01 or more. Yes, it used to be $50, but Zimra reduced it.
  • Alternatively, if you can get your shipper (that’s the store you buy from) to mark your goods as a ‘gift‘ that will raise the duty free value to $75. I have not tried this myself, so I’m not sure whether these guys that sell hundreds of goods a day will go out of their way to do that, you can only try.
  • Duty is calculated at Zimra’s rates on the product brought in. You can find their tariffs on their website (enter what you looking for in the search box, hit Enter and see the tariff)
  • Zimpost will charge you a ‘handling fee’, $2 if your goods are less than 1kg and you don’t pay duty. However, if you pay duty if your product, even if it is under 1 kg you pay $10. For 1 – 2kg $5 (non-dutiable items), $12 (dutiable).
  • That is why I would recommend that you buy from separate stores and that you make sure that products bought are less than $10

There you have it folks, I’ve spilt the beans of how those guys in town at the traffic lights (some call them robots) are bringing in their USB charging cables, earphones, etc.

Do share this information with a friend so that we can all enjoy buying things that are cheaper online.