We have put together some top tips for sending a parcel abroad. With the rise in global eCommerce, sending an item across international borders is the new normal - cross-border shipping is becoming a must for businesses who want to succeed, especially when the cost to send a parcel abroad is lower than ever due to the choice of couriers available to book.
Chances are, you will one day be sending a parcel or two abroad to friends, family or customers - so here are our tips on how to get the most bang for your international postage buck.
The logistics involved in international shipping can be impressive – think multiple contractors, methods of transportation, and postal organisations.
If you’re sending a parcel or packet by surface mail to Australia, you can expect it to take a full three months to arrive Downunder – if not more. Other regions don’t fare much better, with deliveries to South America, Africa and Asia taking up to two months, and North American recipients waiting a not-too-speedy six weeks for theirs.
If time is of the essence – as it usually is – look into a courier service. Very often you’ll pay only a little more for a four-day door-to-door premium service or a sub-fortnight economy service.
Rather than picking a “send” date, do the reverse and set a target “arrival” date. This will give you a safe window for when to have your items ready to send – and it’s definitely something you’ll want to stick to if you’re sending a parcel to arrive in time for the end-of-year holidays, for example.
Tip: View our handy guide to “final call” Christmas sending dates for the festive season.
While most courier companies will happily come to you to collect a parcel ready for sending, parcel drop-off points have become an increasingly popular option over the past few years.
Found at specific locations – generally shops – these drop-off points are a convenient way to get things rolling at a time that suits you. It’s a service that’s especially handy if you’re often out of home or the office.
If you’re booking an international courier online, you’ll be able to see what your drop-off and pick-up options are – and make a courier choice accordingly.
Delivery time is one of the most important factors in choosing a courier service, with another being cost.
Typically, the more you pay, the quicker the delivery – and the more comprehensive the tracking information. If time is on your side, a less expensive service can be an option, but be sure to check what kind of tracking and liability features are available.
You’ve chosen your courier and you’re readying your parcel for drop-off or pick-up. Take the time to make sure that your item is properly and safely packaged – and that your packaging can withstand the bumps, knocks and temperature fluctuations that might occur when on the road or in the air.
Tip: Void filler is a popular choice for ensuring your parcel’s contents sit safely within their packaging, but it can be a pricey item – and one that you need to go out of your way to buy. Consider scrunched-up newspaper, bubble-wrap, or recyclable materials that can function as cushioning.
It’s not just travellers who have to get through customs at the end of a long flight – parcels have to do the same thing.
This is where you need to get friendly with customs documentation and the specific customs requirements of the countries you’re planning on shipping too.
If you’ve booked your courier online, you’ll be given a downloadable or web-based form for providing a detailed listing of your parcel’s contents. Being thorough, comprehensive and descriptive is key to lessening the chances of a parcel being held up.
While you’re online, be sure to check the importation rules and restrictions of the country you’re shipping to – some items are forbidden for obvious reasons, but others are outlawed seemingly arbitrarily. For example, audio cassettes and sports equipment can’t be sent to India, wooden parcels and playing cards are a no-go in Mexico, and calendars, catalogues and magazines are on the restricted list in Australia.
Now that you’ve determined what’s allowed to go inside your parcel, spare a few moments to determine what has to go on the outside.
If you’re shipping outside the EU, check that you’ve attached enough copies of the relevant invoices – you can use “Documentation Attached” pouches or regular envelopes to do so, so long as they’re secured to your parcel.
When it comes to adding delivery information to your parcel, don’t stop at just an address. Wherever possible, provide accurate contact information for your recipient in case customs issues or additional duty requirements arise.
Now it’s time to wait – and keep a careful eye on your parcel’s shipping progress via its tracking information. Most courier companies provide milestone tracking updates that you can follow online to check that your parcel is on schedule or to follow up if needed.
Tip: Share the tracking link or number with the parcel recipient so they know to be there to greet the parcel upon its arrival.
We’ve covered all the essentials for getting a parcel from door to international door quickly, cheaply, safely and with the all-important thumbs up from customs.
Now all you need to do is figure out what you want to send – and where.