How to Send Your Parcels Abroad

Send your parcel to the ends of the Earth with international couriers like TNT, Hermes or Parcelforce. Here’s all you need to know…

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.

When Your Courier Doesn’t Deliver, Read This…

One of the joys of shopping online, aside from avoiding the high street crowds, is having your goods delivered straight to your door at a time to suit you. When that doesn’t happen, for whatever reason, it’s very frustrating indeed.

A Which? investigation found that sixty per cent of shoppers experience a problem with their online delivery. From boxes chucked into bushes and left out in the rain, to fragile goods disintegrating in transit, if they arrive at all – there are some horror stories about British courier services. With a ‘bad’ rating from 30% of customers, Hermes is the UK’s second worst parcel delivery firm. Whether you use them, or TNT, for example, remember this when things go south…

Know Who to Blame – Don’t Let Retail Customer Services Deflect Towards the Delivery Driver

If you ordered a parcel from a high street shop, who sent it via Hermes – contractually, the delivery company can’t discuss where your parcel is. As frustrating as it is, they’ll only chat with their customer, the retailer, directly. So badger the shop to make your case for you.

Under the Sale of Goods Act, your purchases must be delivered within a ‘reasonable time’, depending on the type of goods and the original delivery estimate. Once this time passes, if it arrives late or not at all, you can cancel your order under the Distance Selling Regulations, and receive a full refund.

Technically, the blame lies solely with the company you shopped with, who chose the delivery company on your behalf.

You agreed to the shop’s terms and conditions when you made your purchase, not the delivery company’s. So it was the retailer who breached their contract, by failing to deliver your goods on time. They’re responsible for putting things right.

Not So Next Day Delivery

Paid extra for premium or next day delivery to hurry things along? If it doesn’t arrive when you specified, you’re entitled to a full refund, including the money you paid for speedy delivery. Don’t settle for their ‘better late than never’ approach.

Under section 75 of Consumer Credit Act 1974, the credit card company that you paid with are liable too.

Send It Back

When deliveries don’t turn up, or arrive damaged, you can demand a refund from the seller. If you make a purchase from a physical shop and change your mind, you can return your purchase within 30 days. Online shopping has the same protection. Some retailers may even extend their returns policies over Christmas and into January, but the 30 day rule typically applies.

The Consumer Rights Act 2015, allows you to cancel or return your order for a refund ‘without undue delay’. But read the small print. Unless the shop’s terms and conditions state that you have to pay for returns, don’t have to fork out for it. When deliveries don’t turn up, or arrive damaged, you can demand a refund from the seller.

Broken, Damaged, Or Faulty?

You’re covered by the Distance Selling Regulations which give you the right to cancel and return goods that aren’t fit for purpose, even if they’re damaged in transit. It’s the retailer’s responsibility to get them to you in one piece. Write a letter of complaint to whomever sold you the goods, explaining the situation, and giving them 21 days to send a refund. If they don’t comply, the small claims court may be your next port of call.

Still no joy? Call Hermes and TNT direct.