What is International Shipping?

International shipping involves shipping packages via various modes of transportation, such as air, sea, or land. It is a fundamental aspect of global trade and commerce. And it relies on the services of international freight shipping companies to facilitate the transportation process.

International Shipping Explained

International shipping involves transporting goods, packages, or freight across borders to destinations outside the sender’s country. Some shipping and fulfillment services specialize in helping online retailers handle complex order logistics with the best systems for order management, shipping, returns, fulfillment, and more.

These companies offer a broad range of services, including freight forwarding, customs brokerage, warehousing, and distribution. They work closely with transportation providers, such as airlines, shipping lines, trucking companies, and rail operators, to ensure seamless movement of goods from origin to destination.

But what is the process? Find out in this article as we explore how international shipping works and how to ship freight internationally. You’ll also learn about the benefits and drawbacks of international shipping, and key considerations as you navigate cross-border logistics.

Interesting Fact

“Did you know that ships deliver over 80 percent of global trade? International shipping has become a total game-changer for foreign commerce and personal connectivity. Whether you’re selling internationally or surprising your pal with a package from halfway across the world, it ensures seamless travel and delivery of goods across borders.”

How Long Does International Shipping Take?

The chosen shipping method primarily determines the international shipping rates and timeline. Here is how long each shipping option takes to move packages across borders. 

  • Expedited International Shipping

This is the fastest shipping option available, usually provided by courier services such as DHL, FedEx, or UPS. Express shipping offers expedited delivery with shorter transit times, often within 1-3 days or even overnight.

  • Standard Shipping

Standard shipping is the regular shipping option offered by most carriers. It balances cost and speed, with transit times typically ranging from 5 to 10 business days, depending on the distance and destination.

  • Parcel Post Shipping 

Economy or parcel post shipping is a slower but more economical option. It is suitable for non-urgent shipments where cost-saving is a priority. Transit times for parcel post shipping can take up to 14 postal business days.

MORE: International shipping top tips.

How to Ship Freight Internationally

Ship freighting entails moving freight over the sea on cargo bags. It involves several key processes which aren’t very distinct from domestic shipping processes.

Start by gathering all necessary documentation such as a commercial invoice, packing list, bill of lading, and any required customs forms. In most cases, you will need a customs broker to help you complete your customs clearance faster. You can find a broker by port on the official US Customs and Border Protection site. 

Package and label the freight properly and familiarize yourself with the customs regulations and import/export requirements of the destination country. Then, track your shipment to ensure it reaches its destination country safely. 

On the other hand, you can select a reliable freight forwarder or shipping carrier that specializes in international freight. Some of the popular international freight shipping companies include:

  • FedEx, 
  • UPS, 
  • DHL,
  • Express,
  • USPS.  

These companies will assist in coordinating the logistics of your shipment, including arranging transportation, handling customs clearance, and managing any necessary permits or licenses. 

To choose a more compatible and convenient company for your shipments, check out our detailed review of the 7 best international shipping companies in 2023.

MORE: eBay Global shipping program.

Key Considerations for International Shipping

Several components distinguish international shipping from domestic shipping. These components include:

  1. Customs regulations, 
  2. Packaging and labeling, 
  3. Shipping documentation, 
  4. Import/export duties and taxes, 
  5. Shipping method and carrier. 

1. Customs Regulations

When shipping internationally, you must navigate the customs regulations of both the country of origin and the destination country.  Governments establish these regulations to control the flow of goods in and out of a country and ensure compliance with trade laws, security measures, and revenue collection. 

Understand the customs procedures, documentation, and any restrictions or prohibitions that may apply to your goods. Compliance with customs regulations is crucial to avoid delays or complications during customs clearance.

2. Packaging and Labeling

International shipments require sturdy packaging to withstand long-distance travel. These packages often pass through multiple handling points, use various modes of transportation, and have longer transit times. As a result, it’s crucial to protect their contents with durable shipping boxes. 

Proper cushioning is another key aspect of sturdy packaging. Using materials like bubble wrap, foam inserts, or packing peanuts helps create a protective layer around the item, minimizing the risk of damage from shocks or vibrations

Additionally, ensure your packages are properly labeled with clear addresses, shipping labels, and any required customs forms or documentation. Tools like Label2Label or AZLabels are excellent for generating labels. Here’s a detailed guide on how to make a shipping label.

3. Shipping Documentation

International shipping involves specific paperwork to ensure the smooth movement of goods. These documents may include a commercial invoice, packing list, bill of lading, and any required customs forms or certificates. These documents are like a passport for your goods, showing that everything is above board and qualified to enter a new country.

Customs officials may inspect shipments to verify the accuracy of documentation. Additional permits or licenses may be required for specific goods, such as restricted or controlled items. Any discrepancies or missing information can lead to delays or complications during the shipping process.

4. Import/Export Duties and Taxes

Customs authorities in the destination country may impose import/export duties, taxes, and fees on the shipment. These charges are typically based on the value, type, and quantity of the goods being shipped. They are intended to regulate trade and generate revenue for the government. It’s crucial to consider these additional costs when calculating the total shipping expenses.

In addition to import/export duties, other charges such as value-added tax (VAT), goods and services tax (GST), customs processing fees, and administrative fees may also be applicable. These charges are imposed by the customs authorities or the shipping carrier. And are meant to cover the costs associated with customs clearance, documentation processing, and handling of the shipment.

5. Shipping Method and Carrier

Choose a suitable shipping method and carrier based on your specific needs. Consider factors such as cost, speed, reliability, and the nature of your goods. Whether you opt for air freight, ocean freight, or express courier services, selecting the right shipping method and carrier ensures an efficient and secure delivery.

Various shipping methods are available for international shipments, such as air freight, ocean freight, or express courier services. Each method has its advantages, costs, and delivery times. Choosing the right shipping method depends on factors such as urgency, budget, and the nature of the goods being shipped.

Pros and Cons of International Shipping

Before leaping into international freight shipping, it’s important to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of shipping goods across borders.

Pros of International Shipping 

  • Global Market Access

International shipping allows businesses to expand their customer base and reach markets beyond their own country, opening up new growth opportunities.

  • Increased Profit Potential

Tapping into international markets can lead to higher sales volumes and increased profits, as businesses can cater to a larger audience with diverse preferences and a higher purchasing power.

  • Product Diversity

International shipping enables access to a wide range of products and materials from different countries, allowing businesses to source unique or specialized items that may not be available locally.

  • Competitive Advantage

Offering international shipping options gives businesses a competitive edge as they serve customers with more choices and convenience, distinguishing themselves from competitors.

  • Cultural Exchange

International shipping promotes cultural exchange and fosters connections between people from different countries, allowing for the sharing of ideas, traditions, and experiences.

Cons of International Shipping 

  • Cost and Complexity

International shipping can be more expensive and complex compared to domestic shipping due to factors such as customs duties, taxes, import/export regulations, and the need for additional documentation.

  • Longer Transit Times

Shipping goods across borders often involves longer transit times compared to domestic shipping, especially when using sea freight. This delay can impact delivery timelines and affect customer relations.

  • Customs and Regulatory Challenges

Dealing with customs procedures and navigating through varying regulations in different countries can be challenging. Delays, inspections, and potential issues with customs clearance may arise, affecting the shipping process.

Key Takeaways

So, international shipping might seem like a daunting task at first, but it doesn’t need to be all that complicated. If you know where to start and what to look out for, it can be very straightforward. Here, we explored the key considerations of international shipping, how to ship freight internationally, and the advantages and disadvantages of international shipping. So make sure to keep this article handy for reference whenever you need it!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

International shipping is the process of transporting packages, or freight across borders to destinations outside of the sender's country.

The speed of international shipping can vary depending on distance and the shipping method chosen. Delivery speed can be as fast as overnight, 1-3 days or as slow as 2-3 weeks.

The main difference between domestic shipping and international shipping is the geographical scope. Domestic shipping involves the movement of goods within the same country, while international shipping involves transporting items across borders to different countries.

Shipping internationally can involve additional complexities compared to domestic shipping. However proper preparation, understanding of the processes, and assistance from shipping carriers or freight forwarders can smoothen the process.

Expedited shipping services offered by international freight shipping companies like DHL, FedEx, and UPS are typically the fastest options for international shipping.


Adaline Lefe Mary John

Adaline Lefe Mary John

A great researcher and creator, Adaline is responsible for planning and managing content for all our websites. She has over 10 years of experience in creating and managing content.

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