International shipping: options besides Royal Mail? 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:

  1. Retain proof of postage
  2. 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.


  • Craig
    Although there are lots of alternatives to Royal Mail, some are definately better and more reliable than others. I had a lovely experience with UPS just last week in fact. Waited in all day for a parcel, checking the online tracking every hour or so, then around 2.30 the status updated and said that they couldn't deliver as the address provided was invalid. Bit odd I thought, so phoned their customer service department as was told that they couldn't deliver to my flat as the parcel only had the block number, not the individual flat number. Containing my anger I thought fair enough, if the address isn't right they can't deliver, so set off on the 30 min journey to their depot to pick the parcel up myself. When I got the parcel I couldn't believe that the customer service 'lady' was right, the correct address wasn't on the label, it was actually written on twice. O well, just a 1hr round trip and sitting on your arse all day waiting for a delivery that never turns up. I've got many many other stories of shocking courier and delivery companies, with Home Delivery Network being another personal favourite. Avoid these schisters.
  • Mike H.
    What I'm finding most disturbing about raoyal mail at the moment is that they don't even attempt to deliver the parcel, they'll just stick a "Sorry you were out, we tried to deliver" card through your door even though the door bell hasn't even rung! I think this is an attempt to save time, so they can deliver more parcels to destinations that they can gurantee someone will be able to sign for, since most delivery drivers are on a 'per parcel' rate, not delivering parcels to locations where a signature is unlikely could save them 30 mins per day, which means they have an added 30 mins per day to deliver extra parcels, wankers.
  • Jeffrey
    What I can't get over, is how on earth are they allowed to NOT refund the postage paid on certain services, if they fail to deliver? Surely, you're paying them to undertake a service - the delivery of the parcel. If they fail to undertake that service, surely you don't owe them a penny for it?
  • phill p.
    to mike hock quote "since most delivery drivers are on a ‘per parcel’ " wot an arse you are where do you get this from...get your facts right you k nobhead
  • Jill
    Jeffrey - I'm pretty sure they do refund the postage. I sent something overseas late last year and got a full refund of the postal costs - it's actually an option on the compensation form. Also, compensation is up to £39 not £32. I do hate to nit-pick but the link you actually provide says £39...
  • Amanda H.
    @phil postie try reading this: or codforum 8000+ parcelnet drivers on 45p+ per parcel 8000+ dhl couriers on 65p-£1 per parcel all self employed van drivers with contracts with the major companies are paid per drop not sure why you think hes being an arse?
  • phill p.
    @ Amanda Hugginkiss ..........He was on about royal mail drivers
  • Mike H.
    NoPhill, I was on about 'delivery drivers', k nobhead, try reading rather than skimming, twat.
  • AmanDOH H.
    He was wasn't he.
  • Jeffrey
    @Jill I've seen there is the option on the compensation form for this, but I know from personal experience that whenever I've claimed things that were sent first class and been lost, I've only ever once (which was probably a mistake - out of about 5 times) been given the postage back. A quick telephone call confirmed that they would not refund the postage. And £3 wasn't really worth my time chasing too hard. But they should refund the postage as a matter of course.
  • Jill
    Weird. I just wrote how much the postage was on the form and that was included in the compensation cheque.
  • eBay B.
    [...] pay for packing materials and shipping. For international shipping alternatives to Royal Mail, you guys made some great suggestions.You can go to the Royal Mail price finder and make a pretty good estimate of what you’ll have to [...]
  • james
    Royal Mail drivers aren't paid per drop/delivery/delivered item etc...they're paid by the hour they do the job. There is no incentive then to just leave parcels over fences/in hedges/thrown over gates etc to get paid for the delivery like other companies do.
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