The Ultimate Cheat Sheet on International Shipping

If you are only selling and shipping to customers in the U.S or Canada, you are missing a huge market. With the wide spread availability of digital devices and the expansion of supply chain capabilities, consumers who shop online have access to a wide range of products, brands, and prices when they shop outside of their own country. Tens of millions of consumers shop online in cou1461943845_tmp_shutterstock_227199826ntries like China, Brazil, and Mexico. But for online retailers, going global brings a variety of new challenges: supply chain complexities (warehousing and distribution), multiple currencies and carriers, working with several taxation and regulatory issues, customs and duties, returns processing, customer service, fraud management, just to name a few.

We compiled some international shipping tips just for you. Learn how to ship your packages to international customers and expand your business globally by tapping into the growing global marketplace.

First step

Start with a nearby country or English speaking country (unless you are fluent in other languages).

It is easier to communicate with the customers in the countries like Canada, UK, and Australia. Plus these countries all have reliable postage services and advanced network coverages.

Selling and shipping to Canada or the US is even easier because both countries fall under the NAFTA free trade agreement and there are fewer regulations and restrictions on certain goods.

Choose your products

Make sure your item will be allowed into the destination country. Also, ensure the item is appealing to the consumers in that country which you can gauge from online interest and metrics. It could be a unique product, a product that consumers could not find locally, or a product that  is too expensive to purchase locally.

You want to focus on products that are small, light and easy to ship. In another word, not fragile, bulky or dimensionally large

In the mean time, consult the lists of items that are prohibited and restricted to ship internationally. For example, USPS lists these items, as most couriers do, on their websites. (

Research shipping costs

Just like shipping locally, it is important to get the shipping costs right, so you don’t lose money or the ability to attract new customers.

Understanding the total costs for sending an order internationally includes customs, landing duties, and taxes if applicable.

Communicate clearly with your customers

When communicating with your international customers, make sure they understand they will be responsible for the customs, landing duties and taxes if applicable. A higher touch with international customers may be necessary and it is important to set expectations in advance on transit time for shipments.

Check country specific regulations

Before you create a delivery expectation for your customers, check if your item needs to meet specific requirements or regulations, such as certificates, to prove the country of origin. There is a helpful tool on UPS which lets you retrieve specific country rules and regulations by simply inputting the origin and destination countries.

Check shipping availability with commercial acceptance

If you are shipping a commodity, you will need a commercial invoice.

Choose your mail class

On top of the shipping rates, carriers like UPS and FedEx charge extra fees  such as fuel surcharges. While USPS is the only carrier that does not charge any surcharge, it is often the lowest cost option to ship internationally.


With international shipping, it is essential to package your items safely to ensure safe arrival. USPS provides durable boxes for free on Priority mail international and Express mail international. This can cut back on your shipping costs as well.

Print postage and complete custom documentation

Yes, you will always need to including a custom form with your international shipment unless your shipment is an envelope that weighs less than 16oz.

Communicate delays to your international customers.

Mail disruptions may occur due to reasons out of your control. Keep your international customers informed in a timely manner.

International Insurance

Insurance protects you in case your package is lost or damaged.

If you want to increase your sales, start thinking globally. Don’t let the fear of international shipping prevent you from going global. Start small, one step at a time, by knowing the restrictions and how to overcome them.You will be able to start finding customers all over the globe. Happy Selling!


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