How to Make Sure You Got an International Shipping Address Right

How to Make Sure You Got an International Shipping Address Right International shipping can be quite expensive, so it would be a shame if your package gets returned or lost because of an error in the recipient’s address. How to make sure you got everything right? Here are a few tips that will help you write an international shipping address correctly.

Each country and territory has its own postal addressing system, but most international postal addresses consist of similar elements that are usually arranged in the order from most specific to general. Typical elements of an international postal address include:

  • The recipient’s name and/or company name
  • Street name, building number, apartment number (if needed)
  • City area/district/neighborhood (if needed)
  • City/town/village
  • Postal code
  • Destination country

However, there are slight differences in the way postal addresses are written in different countries. For example, in the United States the ZIP code usually comes second-to-last (before the country name), but in much of Europe, the postal code precedes the city/town/village name. Similarly, there are differences in placing of building numbers: either after or before the street name. Some countries have different formats for rural and urban addresses.

It might seem that the easiest way to get an international address right is to check in with the recipient. However, in some countries domestic addressing conventions are different from international, and the recipient may not know the difference between the two. A much better idea would be to check out the general addressing guidelines issued by the Universal Postal Union (UPU), as well as the specific addressing guidelines of the country of destination.

According to the UPU guidelines, the name of the destination country must always be printed in uppercase letters on the last line of the address. It should be written in the language of the country of origin or an internationally recognized language (English or French). It is acceptable to include the name of the destination country twice, in the language of the country of origin and in English/French.

The recipient’s address should be written in Latin characters and Arabic numbers. If the destination country uses another alphabet or writing system, you should translate the address into English or transliterate it into the Latin script. It is possible and even recommended to include the address in its original language as well if there is enough space on the envelope/shipping label.

It should be noted that you should comply with the postal guidelines of the country of origin when writing the destination country name and with the postal guidelines of the country of destination when writing the rest of the address. But where can you find the guidelines and recommendations of the postal authority of the country of destination?

The obvious answer would be “on the postal authority’s official website”. However, you will need to find the website first; moreover, not all national postal operators have a high-quality, easy-to-navigate English-language version of their website. It’s much easier to use addressing guides available on the UPU website. All you need to do is:

  • Click on this link.
  • Select the destination country from a drop-down list under “Postal addressing systems in member countries and/or territories”.
  • Click Download to download a PDF file with addressing instructions or open it in your browser.

The file will contain information on the country’s postcode system, address elements and their proper arrangement, and other tips that will help you get an international shipping address right. For example, if you choose France, you will learn that French postal codes consist of 5 digits and are written to the left of the locality name, no punctuation should be used from the line with the house number and street name onward, and it is recommended to write the last three lines (four if you count the line with the country name) in uppercase letters.

Remember that if you make any mistakes in the shipping address, you package may be misdelivered, returned to the sender, or lost. This is why it is extremely important to peruse the addressing conventions and recommendations, double check the address before printing a shipping label, and include your return information on the package to prevent it from getting lost.