7.4 Sending Mail & Shipping Packages

When sending mail, ask about special wrapping requirements, and if it must be inspected before wrapping. Ask the postal clerk to postmark your mail in your presence. Use registered mail for important documents. Be sure "par avion" is written or stamped on any airmail you send.

"Packages are almost always inspected before they are sealed -- do not seal them until the post office has said to do so. Of course, this tips off the postal worker to what is of value, so do not send anything of value without using insurance. Also note, that packages sent to your home country will be inspected and possibly tariffed upon arrival. Private materials can be sent to your home address. Mark as 'private -- do not open' any packages you do not want your family or home base people to open (like personal journals). If you take photos and develop them as you travel, consider mailing them home too. However, send the negatives separately using first class mail." <Alan Nelson>

"Many countries, especially in SE Asia, have a special 'small package' rate which can save you 60% or more on shipping things home. Sometimes you must ask about it to find out, some post offices may honor it and some may not. In Indonesia, it is called Registered Letter, and is good up to 2 kilograms." <Larry Lustig>

"If you are a journal writer, consider sending to your homebase a travel summary for each country. This can later be collected into a mini-journal and also can be copied and passed around to friends and family while you are gone. Try to use 'local' stationary or whatever for that special ambience. I used it to great effect. I also did not have to worry about the safety of my journal when traveling. A last recommendation -- use those exotic beer coasters as postcards -- all my friends loved them -- especially the ones with Chinese characters on them. Just use regular postcard postage. All but one made it home safe and sound." <Alan Nelson>

"In my experience, most of the post is very reliable, and in some places (e.g. Fiji) exceptionally cheap; expect one or two things to go astray and remember you will likely not be around to investigate what happened. Do not post really important or valuable things if you are in doubt or cannot afford the loss." <Chris Finlayson>

"International rates vary widely. Nepal is exceptionally cheap, Thailand noticeably higher (more like US rates which are among the lowest in the world). A single First Class letter mailed abroad from Germany costs 3 DM ($1.80) but that covers up to 50 grams. Oddly, Express Mail is not necessarily faster than normal Air Mail (to Bali, for example; the Express Mail is probably sent to Jakarta first, while the regular Air Mail goes direct). Unfortunately, international mail service is becoming less and less reliable. Major portions of my mail to Nepal, Thailand and Indonesia were lost. Using Registered Mail should help, but that can be exceptionally slow (and the international indemnity is limited to a few Swiss Francs ($32.35 US))" <Larry Cotter>

"There is a more-or-less universal agreement that educational materials be shipped at extremely low rates. Not all postal clerks are aware of this. It is sometimes called the 'book rate'. I use it to send home books, especially cookbooks, and all those little brochures we are always collecting while travelling. Before leaving home, I address 5"x7" and 9"x12" manila envelopes with clasp closures. It is sometimes a requirement that book rate materials be unsealed." <Icono Clast>

Federal Express, DHL, and UPS have offices in the most out-of-the-way places, however their costs for even the smallest of packages can be prohibitively expensive.

DHL Worldwide Express
Purolator Courier
TNT Express
U.S. Postal Service
Mail Boxes Etc.
Voyagers Mail Forwarding Service

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