5 Quick but Important Tips for Shipping Internationally

5 Quick but Important Tips for Shipping Internationally Whether you need to send a birthday present or a care package to a friend who lives in another country, or you’re a small e-commerce business owner with customer overseas, there are things you should know about international shipping to make sure that your shipments arrive on time and intact. Here are 5 quick but important tips for shipping internationally that will make things easier for you and help you save time and money.

Don’t Try to Ship Things You’re Not Allowed To

Before shipping anything, you need to make sure that it isn’t on the list of restricted or prohibited items. The prohibited items list is quite logical; it consists of hazardous and dangerous items such as flammable substances, explosives, weapons, illegal substances, poisonous substances, alcohol-containing products (including perfumes), etc. As a rule, most foods, liquids, and live animals cannot be shipped overseas either.

In addition to the general list of prohibited and restricted items approved by the Universal Postal Union, there are country-specific lists of prohibited items. They might not always makes sense, but you are still required to follow the rules. For example, it is forbidden to ship fluoride-containing dental products to Algeria, chewing gum to Singapore, feeding bottles to Venezuela, and ballpoint pens to Nigeria.

So, when you need to ship something overseas, you should start with checking out the UPU prohibited and restricted items list and the import rules of the destination country, which can usually be found on the official website of its postal or customs service. Double-checking with the shipping carrier won’t hurt either.

Make Sure the Customs Declaration Form Is Filled Out Appropriately

All international shipments go through customs, which means they all need a customs declaration form. A customs declaration form is a source of information about the contents of a parcel: the list of items in the parcel, their quantity, weight and value, and their type (gift, commercial goods, etc.).

The good news is, you can fill out a customs form while generating a shipping label online and print them together on the same sheet of paper. Printing shipping labels online with PostageMaker is as easy as 1-2-3: you sign up for the service, deposit funds to your account to be able to pay postage, fill out a form, and click a button. Once your shipping label is ready and paid for, you can print it out immediately or save as PDF.

Remember that Double-Checking Is Never a Bad Idea

Even a seemingly insignificant mistake on the shipping label may result in a delivery delay, so make sure to double or even triple check everything before printing your shipping label: the recipient’s address, the return address, and information about the items in the package in the customs declaration.

You also need to double check the size and weight of your package, preferably before printing the shipping label so that you can choose the right shipping rate. The reason for that is that shipping carriers charge either by gross (actual) weight or by dimensional weight, which is calculated based on the package size. So you need to know both weights of your package before printing a shipping label. Here’s a link to our article on the difference between gross and dimensional weight and calculating the dimensional weight of your package depending on the carrier.

Check the Estimated Delivery Time

Depending on the shipping service, destination, and number of other factors, international delivery can take between a few days and a few weeks. It usually takes longer during the peak seasons, when processing facilities and post offices are busier than normal; in addition, the estimated delivery date may shift a day or two if the package arrives to the destination country close to a weekend or a public holiday. If delivery time is crucial to you, you may want to pay extra for a faster shipping service or weekend delivery.

Pack Properly and Take Precautions

To make sure your package arrives intact, you need to pack it properly. We have a whole article on how to pack for international shipping, but we don’t mind reiterating its key points here:

  • make sure the box is the right size for the items inside
  • opt for a box made of a lightweight but sturdy material such as corrugated cardboard
  • when shipping multiple items, used special partitions to separate them inside the box
  • use bubble wrap and/or cushioning materials to protect the items inside the box
  • seal the box with packing tape, making sure to cover and reinforce each seam
  • when shipping fragile items, label the package accordingly

The precautions that you need to take in order to ensure the arrival of your package include paying for online tracking and shipping insurance. Although it increases the shipping cost, having protection against damage or loss is almost always worth paying a little extra.