4 Tips for Preventing Common Errors in International Addresses

4 Tips for Preventing Common Errors in International Addresses Getting an international address right can be tricky because different countries have different addressing conventions, which can be further complicated by the fact that some countries have different formats for domestic and international addresses. Today, PostageMaker is sharing helpful tips to help you avoid common mistakes when writing international postal addresses.

Do Your Research

As we’ve mentioned in the introduction, different countries and territories have different postal addressing systems. While most international addresses consist of similar elements (the recipient’s name; street name, building number with or without apartment number; city area/neighborhood/district; city/town/village; postal code; country name), there are slight differences in the way these address elements are arranged in different countries.

For example, in much of Europe it is common to write the postal code before the city (town, village) name, whereas in the United States, the ZIP code is usually placed before the country name. In some countries, the building number is placed before the street name, while in others, it is placed after the street name. Finally, there are countries where urban and rural addresses have different formats.

So the first thing you should do before shipping something internationally is research the address format of the destination country. We highly recommend that you do your research even if the address has been provided to you by the recipient; as we’ve already said, some countries have different formats for domestic and international addresses, and the recipient may have unknowingly provided you with their domestic address.

Most national postal operators have addressing guidelines and recommendations on their official websites. However, these websites may be tough to navigate, especially if they lack an adequate English-language version. Luckily, the official website of the Universal Postal Union has an addressing guide you can use, so you can find the addressing guidelines of the destination country in three simple steps:

  • Click on this link.
  • Find the drop-down country list under “Postal addressing systems in member countries or territories” and select your destination country.
  • Click Download; a PDF file with detailed instructions should open in your web browser.

Double-Check the Postal Code

Most countries and territories use a postal code system to make delivery easier. The postal code is typically used as the primary identifier of a mailpiece’s destination, so it is important to get it right. Double-check the postal code before shipping your letter or package to make sure the characters in the postal code are in the right order and the postal code itself is in the right place on the envelope/shipping label.

Transliterate or Translate the Address If Necessary

According to the Universal Postal Union’s international addressing guidelines, the recipient’s address should be written in Latin characters and Arabic numbers. Of course, this won’t be an issue if the destination country uses the Latin alphabet. However, if it uses another alphabet or writing system, you will need to either translate the address into English or transliterate it into the Latin script. If there is enough space on the envelope or shipping label, you can write the address in the language of the destination country as well, but the Latin script takes precedence.

Remember that the Destination Country’s Name Should Be in All Caps

The Universal Postal Union requires that the name of the destination country be written or printed in uppercase letters on the bottom line of the address, either in an internationally recognized language such as English or French, or in the language of the country of origin, i.e. the country you are shipping from. We recommend that you write the name of the destination country twice, both in English/French and in your country’s language.