International shipping: options besides Royal Mail?
Everyone has their favourite story about using the Royal Mail (motto: “We know where you live”). Being confronted with byzantine fee structures and packages that confound the law of conservation of matter by simply disappearing is one matter. Add an international boundary to this, and it gets complicated.
So many people worldwide are now shipping items that they sell on eBay that brushing up on the international shipping options is a necessity. The two inviolable rules of posting things abroad are:
- Retain proof of postage
- Retain proof of market value, such as a Paypal receipt
If you stick to these rules, you’ll at least have the option of filing a claim against the postal service and getting some compensation for items that are proved to be irretrievably lost, and you’ll have a direction to focus your anger during the 12 to 20 weeks that this process takes.
Here are your international shipping options with Royal Mail:
Surface Mail. This is the least expensive option, and it takes the longest time: two weeks to Western Europe, six weeks to North America, and 12 weeks to Australia. Packages are strapped to the back of tortoises and pointed in the general direction of the recipient’s address. If a surface mail package is confirmed to be lost or damaged, you can file a claim and receive up to the market value of the contents of the package, or £32, whichever is less. And you don’t get reimbursed for postage costs.
Air Mail. This costs roughly twice as much as Surface Mail, but delivery is much faster: three days to Western Europe, five days to pretty much anywhere else. The compensation process for lost or damaged items is the same as for Surface Mail.
International, Signed For. This isn’t a shipping option unto itself, but rather an additional £3.50 fee added onto a Surface Mail or Air Mail charge. While it doesn’t mean the package will arrive any faster, you will get a signature upon delivery and electronic tracking until the package leaves the UK. The £32 compensation for lost or damaged items remains, but get this: you can purchase extra insurance on items shipped, and you can get the cost of postage refunded if your package arrives damaged or not at all..
Air Sure. This is a service added on to Air Mail charges for the cost of £4.20, and it is only available to certain countries: New Zealand, U.S., and a bunch of European countries. These packages may also be tracked electronically until they leave the UK. Again, extra insurance is also an option, and you can get postage refunded on top of the insured value, or £32 if the package disappears or is damaged.
No matter which option you use, however, you still have to wait an excruciatingly long time for an investigation into lost or damaged packages to be completed. So consider options for shipping within Europe, including Parcelforce and DHL, with shipping costs from £13.99+VAT for packages of 5 kg or less to £26.99+VAT for packages of 25 kg or less. To the U.S. and Canada, Fedex charges anywhere from £18.03+VAT to £151.99+VAT. for packages under 6 feet (185cm) long. Fedex will also deliver to Asia starting at £18.03+VAT and ranging to £197.99+VAT.
What other international mail delivery options have you used? Please share your tips/suggestions in the comments below, and we'll feature the best tips in an upcoming post.