Prices listed are correct at time of publication.
Every time I mention Ali Express I get a ton of questions, so I thought the handiest way to talk about it was on here, in a post that I can direct people to. I'll divide it up so it's easier to follow.
What is Ali Express?
It's a selling website like eBay - but it's all mainly sellers from China/Japan.
Is it safe to use?
Like any site, there are risks - I have bought several times with no problems, but I can't guarantee that it's 100% safe (no more than I could any other website). If you'd feel safer, get a prepaid credit card and use that - 3 Money do one. I will say, I find more peace of mind doing one big transaction rather than several small ones.
What kind of things do they sell?
You name it, they have it. They've got tablets, phones, clothes, toys, jewellery, gadgets - everything.
NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. Do NOT buy makeup from Ali Express. It is fake, it will burn the eyes out of your head. Korean brands? Probably okay (Sugarbox, Etude House, Tony Moly, Music Flower - all a safe enough bet). Kylie Jenner, Urban Decay, Too Faced, The Balm, MAC and Anastasia Beverly Hills? NOOOOOOOOOO. Believe me, if something is sold out over here, there ain't 1000 of them sitting over in a warehouse in China for €2 a pop. Okay?
How do I use it?
Log on to www.aliexpress.com or for better value, download the app. Just search "Ali Express" in your app store.
Isn't it just for wholesale?
Nope, it's open to anyone. There are offers for people who buy in bulk, but you can buy single items from the majority of sellers.
How long does the stuff take to arrive?
Between 4 and 6 weeks - but sometimes 7, and sometimes 2. If you're interested in Christmas stuff I'd get going ASAP, forget about Halloween, it will not arrive in time.
What happens if it doesn't arrive?
Any sellers I've dealt with have been very helpful and have refunded me or offered to resend the items, often they'll throw in a discount too.
So what's good?
Get a cup of tea.
* The top one is €1.00 and available here: Pro Face Oval Makeup Brush.
* I can't find the middle one but a search for "Kabuki Brush" throws up loads of similar ones (make sure they're not fake MAC or Real Techniques).
* The bottom one is €2.95 and available here: Big Makeup Brush.
Two other great brands of makeup brush to search for are Jessup and Ducare. I've used both and they're every bit as good as any expensive one I've tried.
The liquid lipsticks are excellent - similar to the NYX matte lip creams, but some have better staying power. I've a full review in this post: €1 Liquid Lipstick: Bargain or Bin? If you search for "Danimer Lip" on the site, you'll get loads of results, they're nice lipsticks.
*CHILDRENS CLOTHES*This is hit and miss, and sizes can be funny, but there are a few gems if you know what you're looking for.
*The character hoodies are lovely - stuff you wouldn't really see here. They're very light, so they're not going to provide much warmth, but they're great for over a top or jumper. My twins are still in size 2-3 tops and I went for the size 3T - they fit great.
They were just over €8 from this seller: Mon Love Baby.
*The 3-piece Mickey Mouse set is really lovely, it's equal to Penneys or H&M in quality. I wanted this for a very young baby to grow into, so I got it in size 12m and I'd say it's equal to a 6-12m from Penneys. Plus, the hoody has ears!!
The 3-piece set was €8.17 from this seller - Lokedike Official Store. It's now €12.64 so keep an eye out for a price drop.
* It may be a little too late to order Halloween costumes for this year, but just for future reference, this is a Spiderman one I got. In terms of quality it's not perfect - there are loose threads (as seen in pic on the ends of the sleeves) and it's very, very light but it's big enough to fit over clothes and it does the job for a three year old.
I got it in size Small and it fits a 3 year old over his clothes. It was €4.72 from this seller: Anime Lover.
*ARTS AND CRAFTS*
The site has a ton of stickers, pens, planners, notebooks - I've ordered a fair bit of stuff in this category but a lot of it hasn't arrived yet, I'll update when it comes.
* I got this chocolate notebook as a fun stocking filler for a chocolate lover, it cost €2.48 from this seller: Jing Lu Trade Co., Ltd. It has blank pages inside (no lines).
* Adult Colouring Books - this set of four are softcovers with lots of different patterns. Pages are quite thin so I don't know if markers would bleed through to the other side - they're probably better used with colouring pencils. The set of 4 cost €5.27 from this seller: Fantasy Stationery. I don't think these were worth the money.
* Scratch Art Night Scene - these are available with different City pictures on them, I chose the Las Vegas one. I think they're a nice alternative to colouring. This cost €5.67 from this seller: wei ling.
* These fineliner pens are a great buy if you're a fan of the more expensive brands of fineliner pens (Stabilo in particular) - they're good quality, vibrant, and €5.36 for a set of 24 from this seller: Very7good Technology Co., Ltd.
*There are great sticker sets available, anything from single stickers up to 100 or 200. I chose a pack of 50 because the kids like stickers - I was lucky enough to get a couple of Star Wars one in my pack so one of the lads will be delighted. There were a few weird inclusions (grilled chicken, anyone) but overall the quality was good and they'll make nice stocking fillers. There are different themes available (including Pokemon). The pack of 50 cost €2.27 from this seller: LM E-Commerce Co., Ltd.
* I love Christmas cookie cutters, I know you can probably get them anywhere now, but I wanted a snowflake one specifically to make "Anna cookies" (Frozen fans). This is a lovely size, just smaller than a standard digestive biscuit. This cost €1.32 from this seller: Mszhu.
I've bought lots of bits before with varying success - this snowflake necklace is one of my all-time favourite Christmas items, I couldn't find it for the picture but you can have a look here:
* This necklace is so pretty, the picture doesn't do it justice. It cost €2.55 from this seller: most beautiful bride.
I suspect this is why most of you are here - the Ali Express lego. I've seen two brands, "S World" and "Bela". I've bought both and they're always good quality, they fit with proper Lego, and the kids never know the difference.
* The minifigure sets are great value. I know some sellers include the box for an extra fee, but I don't think it's worth it. They come in loose bags, and you have to put them together. My favourite seller is fairly fast - both sets of 8 that I ordered cost €5.70 per set (they've gone up a few cent, keep an eye out for offers) from this seller: 5A Toys Top Service Provider. The one thing I would mention is that bizarrely, most of the figures seem to come equipped with some kind of gun or pistol no matter what series they are.
* I picked up this Minecraft style cushion for my eldest, it's nice quality, soft, and looks good. It was €9.70 (gone up over €10 now so watch for a price drop) from this seller: BTL'store. It's a standard cushion size, like the ones in Penneys.
* I got these Peppa and George plush toys for my lads last year - ours are missing clothes and a bit grubby at the moment so excuse the stock images, but they're really great quality. They're about the height of a sports water bottle, and they wash really well in the washing machine. They cost €3.15 from this seller: Dream factory store.
Any toys I've bought have been great quality - they do loads of dolls, characters, teddies, vehicles. If anyone likes Tsum Tsums, they do 10 packs for a tenner.
Hopefully this will help make it a bit clearer, it can be overwhelming when you log on to something like Ali and don't know where to start!
If you'd like to know anything and I've left it out, just pop it in the comments and I'll reply as soon as I can.