How to Ship Internationally

In today’s interconnected world, shipping internationally has become a have-to-do for both personal and business purposes. Whether you’re a savvy e-commerce guru wanting to reach a global audience or just a regular person sending a special gift abroad, it’s important to understand the ins and outs of international shipping.

The process of international shipping can seem pretty intimidating, with its fair share of hurdles and complexities. But with the right knowledge and preparation, shipping internationally can be a smooth and successful experience. 

The following sections will walk you through how to ship internationally. From initial preparation to navigating customs and choosing the right shipping method. We’ll also provide you with a clear insight into what it takes to successfully ship your packages across borders. 

How Does International Shipping Work?

International shipping plays a crucial role in the global transportation of goods, delivering over 80 percent of products worldwide. It requires coordination between multiple parties, including shippers, carriers, customs officials, and recipients.

The process begins with the sender packaging the items securely to ensure their safety throughout transit. They also prepare all necessary documents, such as a commercial invoice, shipping label, packing list, and any required customs forms. Then, they pick a shipping method based on cost, speed, tracking options, and the nature of the items being shipped.

Before the shipment can get to its destination country, it must go through customs clearance. The sender provides complete customs documents, which has information about the contents, value, and purpose of the shipment. Customs officials review and verify the documents, figure out if any duties or taxes apply, and maybe give the package a once-over if they need to.

Once the shipment is cleared at customs, it is transported to the destination country. The specific mode of transportation depends on the chosen shipping method. For example, air shipments are typically transported by airlines, while ocean shipments are carried by cargo ships. Throughout the shipping process, the sender and recipient can track the progress of the shipment using a tracking number provided by the carrier. 

Step-by-step Guide on How to Ship Internationally

Ready to send goods overseas? Here are simple steps on how to ship internationally: 

  1. Understand the customs regulations and requirements  
  2. Prepare all the necessary documentation 
  3. Fill out the required customs forms 
  4. Package and label the items properly 
  5. Choose a shipping carrier and method 
  6. Calculate and pay for the shipping costs
  7. Drop off the package at the designated shipping carrier 

1. Understand the Customs Regulations and Requirements

The rules for shipping goods across borders and determining who can receive them depend on various factors. For detailed and current info on the exporting and importing requirements of more than 125 countries, check out the Country Commercial Guides on

These resources often contain detailed information about customs procedures, prohibited items, restricted goods, and any peculiar requirements for specific product types. You may also be charged custom duties and taxes, but the rate may vary depending on the country you’re shipping to.

Sometimes, the product type and shipping restrictions of the sender’s country might require an export license or ECCN number to follow the Export Administration Regulations (EAR). Shipments may also be subject to restrictions regarding the recipients who are eligible to receive them.  You can use a tool in FedEx Global Trade Manager to screen your recipient info to ensure they’re eligible to receive the package.

Extra Information: ECCN or Export Control Classification Number ​​is a five-character alphanumeric designation.

2. Prepare all the Necessary Documentation

Create a commercial invoice that includes essential details about the shipment, such as a description of the goods, quantity, value, and currency. Also, generate a shipping label that displays the sender’s and recipient’s addresses, contact information, and any specific instructions for handling or delivery.

A packing list is another document you’ll need. It lists all the stuff you’re shipping, with descriptions, quantities, and any other relevant information for customs and logistics. You can use Shipbee, an automated order management system, to generate all the necessary paperwork, like invoices, labels, and packing slips. 

3. Fill out the Required Customs Forms

Determine which customs forms you need based on the type of shipment and where it’s headed. The usual forms include a commercial invoice and customs declaration form (such as CN22 or CN23). Be precise and thorough while filling all fields and attach any required supporting documents, such as certificates of origin or licenses.

Sample of a CN22 form

Sample of a CN22 form

Don’t forget to make copies of the forms you filled out. It’s handy to have them for future reference. And when you’re all set, submit the completed customs forms along with other required shipping documentation to the appropriate authorities. 

4. Package and Label the Items Properly

Popular carriers like USPS and FedEx offer a selection of shipping packages designed to accommodate various item sizes. 

For smaller items, carriers often provide padded envelopes or small boxes. Medium-sized packages can be shipped using standard boxes, while larger or bulkier items may require larger boxes or even crates. They may also offer specialized packaging options for fragile or sensitive items, such as double-walled boxes or foam inserts for added protection. 

Alternatively, you can use corrugated cardboard boxes, bubble wrap, packing peanuts, or foam inserts to provide cushioning and protection. Use high-quality packaging tape to seal all openings and seams of the boxes. To provide additional strength, reinforce the corners and edges with extra tape. 

If the content is fragile, hazardous, or requires special handling, include additional labels to indicate the specific instructions or warnings. For example, use “Fragile” labels, “This Side Up” arrows, or “Hazardous Material” labels as needed.

MORE: How to make a shipping label.

5. Choose a Shipping Carrier and Method 

To choose an ideal carrier for your shipment, you must compare the international shipping rates of different carriers to figure out which one fits your budget. 

The delivery speed is another essential consideration besides the overseas shipping rates. For example, UPS offers lower shipping rates, but with FedEx, you get your packages delivered faster and with time-definite services.

It’s best to use reputable carriers like UPS, FedEx, USPS, or DHL Express. And if you run an eCommerce store, consider using efficient shipping and fulfilment services like Efulfillmentpro or Estafeta USA to handle your overseas shipping. These services integrate seamlessly with your online store and automatically handle your shipment preparation and international shipping.

MORE: How to start dropshipping.

6. Calculate and Pay for the Shipping Costs

To determine the correct shipping price, take note of your shipment’s weight, dimensions, and destination of your package. Then, visit the carrier’s website or use their online tools to access their shipping rate calculator. These calculators typically require you to enter the shipment details mentioned earlier. 

The rate calculator will provide you with a list of available shipping services along with their corresponding prices. Review the options and select the one that best meets your needs in terms of cost, speed, and any additional features you require. Popular payment methods include credit cards, online payment platforms, or prepaid shipping accounts.

MORE: What is Standard Shipping?

7. Drop off the Package at the Designated Shipping Carrier

Once you have prepared your package for shipping and paid for the shipping costs, find the nearest drop-off location or service point of your chosen shipping carrier. Go over the package once again to ensure it’s securely sealed and labeled.

After handing over the package to the carrier, request a receipt or proof of drop-off. This document confirms that you have submitted the package for shipping and can be used for tracking or any future inquiries or claims. 

Comparing International Shipping Rates

International shipping rates vary as a result of many factors such as:

  • Package weight and dimensions,
  • Destination country,
  • Shipping method,
  • Currency exchange rates,
  • Shipping carrier.

Package Weight and Dimensions

Heavier and bulkier packages generally incur higher shipping costs compared to lighter and smaller ones. This is primarily due to the additional resources, space, and handling required to transport larger shipments.

Destination Country

Destination country plays a role due to variations in shipping distances, import/export regulations, customs procedures, and carrier availability. Moreover, remote or less accessible destinations may incur higher shipping costs due to limited transportation options or higher logistical challenges.

Shipping Method

Different shipping methods, such as air freight, ocean freight, or express courier services, have varying costs. Express services are generally more expensive but offer faster delivery, while slower methods like ocean freight may be more cost-effective for larger shipments.

Currency Exchange Rates

Fluctuations in currency exchange rates between the sender’s country and the destination country can impact shipping costs, especially when dealing with international payments.

Shipping Carrier

Different shipping carriers have their own pricing structures, service levels, and coverage areas, which can impact the cost of shipping internationally. It’s advisable to compare rates from different carriers to find the most competitive pricing for your specific shipping needs.

To get a more specific comparison of rates for your packages, you will have to use a shipping calculator. You can find these calculators on various shipping sites. 

Or better still, check out our detailed review of top calculators to learn your shipping rates, business performance, and more.

Key Takeaways

Now you’ve learned how to send packages internationally, you’re ready to expand your reach and connect with recipients around the world. Remember that the world of shipping is vast and ever-evolving. Be sure to check our website regularly for more international shipping news and tips. Explore the wealth of information available and elevate your international shipping

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

The cheapest way to ship worldwide depends on various factors such as package size, weight, destination, and shipping speed. Comparing rates from different carriers and considering options like postal services or consolidated shipping can help find cost-effective solutions.

To ship internationally to the US, select a shipping carrier that offers international services, prepare the required documentation, package the items securely, and choose an appropriate shipping method. You can check in with FedEx, USPS, DHL, and other credible international shipping carriers.

The list of items not allowed to be shipped overseas varies by country and carrier. Generally, items such as hazardous chemicals, perishable goods, illegal substances, and certain weapons or ammunition are prohibited. You may need to obtain a special license in order to ship some of these prohibited items.

Yes, DHL is a renowned shipping carrier that provides international shipping services to various destinations worldwide.

The duration of international shipping depends on various factors, including the destination, shipping method, customs clearance, and any unforeseen delays. Delivery times can range from a few days to several weeks, so it is advisable to check with your shipping carrier for estimated delivery times.

The cost of shipping internationally can vary significantly depending on several factors such as your carrier, package, and destination. International shipping rates can range from $20 to $70 using standard postal services for packages weighing up to 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds). For larger packages or expedited shipping methods, the cost can be higher, ranging from $100 to $500 or more.


Katrina Haggarty

Katrina Haggarty

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