It’s a small world, until you have to get a parcel to the other corner of it. But don’t panic. Yes, shipping within the European Union is easier than to far flung destinations like America or China, but here’s how to send your parcel abroad to Belgium, Bangkok and beyond.
1. Know what you can and can’t send
Before wasting a penny on international postage, check whether your item is banned – search TNT’s list by country to see if it’s on the prohibited list. If it is, don’t panic – try sending your parcel via TNT’s Special Services, but call and ask their customer service team first. If ever in doubt, call and ask TNT, Hermes or Parcelforce.
2. Check what’s covered
Be prepared to send large, fragile or perishable items at your own risk. Think chocolates or car parts, canvas prints and glass. Couriers like Parcelforce won’t be held responsible if these items are damaged on their journey across the planet.
When it comes to food, remember to only send tinned, jarred or dried goods with a shelf life longer than six months – all in its original packaging with a complete list of ingredients.
3. Package properly for maximum protection
Make sure your packaging can handle the rough and tumble of international travel – if only because couriers like Parcelforce won’t offer compensation for damaged goods that aren’t properly packaged. When it comes to boxing your parcel, many of the rules from our Christmas posting guide still apply.
Find an appropriate container
Tuck sharp objects and small books into padded envelopes – bigger books into corrugated fibreboard book packs. Send your electrical gizmos in their original packaging, complete with polystyrene surrounds if you have it. And when using any box, check that it’s strong enough – if in doubt, find a new one. When you reuse an old box, completely cover those old bar codes and addresses.
Wrap every item individually
And pop your object into a plastic bag before putting it into your box, to help waterproof it.
Put fragile items in the middle
Labelling ‘fragile’ or ‘this way up’ won’t protect your parcel, because handling machines can’t read, so you need to get clever with your packaging. Put your fragile items in the middle of the box and surround them with at least 5cm of protective padding, from cushioning materials like towels and unwanted clothes to packing peanuts, foam or bubble wrap.
Seal your entire parcel with the strongest tape
Cover every hinge, flap and edge of your parcel with nylon or vinyl packaging tape that’s at least 4cm wide. Of course, you shouldn’t gift wrap the outside of your parcel, unless you want it to get caught in the sorting machines. And likewise, you shouldn’t tape parcels together – put them in a larger box with a cardboard divider to separate them.
Double check your addresses
Google your recipient’s address to check you’ve formatted it properly, type it out and print a label for your parcel to avoid any confusion – handwriting can be hard for your courier to decipher. Remember to always write the post code and the country in English – and in capital letters.
And finally, add your own name, return address, post code and phone number (with international dialling code) to the inside and outside of the package.
3. Weigh and measure your parcel carefully
Note the weight in kilograms and the dimensions in centimetres, so you pay the right amount of postage – stopping your parcel from being delayed and your account from being overcharged.
4. Find a quote and book your courier online
Research pays off. See, Parcelforce offer six international delivery options, starting from as little as £9.65. Alternatively, send up to 15kg, fully tracked and compensated to over 190 countries with Hermes. Or leave TNT to declare exports to HMRC for you, using the information on your commercial invoice, saving you some paper work.
The choice is yours. Simply enter the size of your package and the destination to get an international postage quote.
5. Budget extra for Customs Duty and tax
Right now, you don’t have to pay duty on goods you send within the EU. But when you ship beyond Europe, customs duty and tax isn’t normally included with your original courier quote.
If you’re sending more than one gift in the same parcel, you could get the Customs Duty and VAT-free allowance for each gift if they’re for different people, listed separately on the customs declaration and wrapped individually.
6. Attach and sign your invoices
There’s plenty of paperwork to complete before sending something abroad, especially if it’s heading outside the EU, but your courier can guide you through every bit of it. If you send a packet outside of the EU, you must remember to complete and attach a customs declaration for each item. The Royal Mail, for example, say fill out, sign and stick a CN22 label to a parcel worth up to £270. Or a CN22 and a CN23 form if it’s valued more than £270.
If you’re a business, read up on commercial invoices – TNT expect four signed copies of your commercial invoice, because of the worldwide customs regulation.
7. Track your parcel
Said ‘bon voyage’ to your parcel? Not entirely, because most couriers will let you track it online, showing you when it’s expected to land at its destination and giving you the heads up if something goes wrong.