Kay (ikel89) wrote,

pigeon post records

This posts is to help with international shipping in general, useful for but not limited to secret santa exhanges. If you have questions about secret santa gift exchange specifically, try our FAQ.

The wisdom of this post is built on communal experience, and I encourage you to keep on contributing. I will keep the main body of this post updated as you add your comments, to the benefit of all interested parties.

Last updated October 2019.


  • No liquids or perishables that aren’t pre-packed.

  • Just to be safe, look up the list of stuff that can’t be shipped to your destination country: those are usually posted by government postal services or customs agencies (at times in contradiction to each other, but should give you a general idea of dos and don'ts ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ )

  • I heard some countries get really iffy about what they let leave their border, so it might be worth checking with them in advance. For instance, Bulgaria doesn't allow magnets to be shipped anywhere.

  • On average, international mail arrives anywhere between 10 to 30 days. In high season, sending a month in advance of the date you want the sender to receive your package would be the safest bet. For example, if you’re sending to Russia mid-December, the delivery will likely not happen before mid-January, as the first ten days of January are public holidays in Russia.

  • I would suggest including the recipient’s phone number on the address, if the recipient is okay with sharing that info. Many postal services can keep the adressee informed about the upcoming delivery via text.

  • If it doesn’t offend your aesthetic sensibilities too much, try wrapping the stuff that can get damaged by water in some plastic wrapping. (The dodginess of my CP3’s cover is only rivalled by what’s beneath it, which is, ok, fair, but better books should be spared that treatment.) And naturally, bubble wrap or otherwise cushion fragile or free-rolling items, if you can. The tighter everything lies together in the package, the less damage it takes.

Destination specifics by country are under the cut.


  • Please do not use express services like EMS/UPS. Not only it is more expensive than the regular post, but when shipping into Russia, the problem is always either (a) the customs declaration, which in this scenario for some bizarre reason requires the recipient to declare what’s in the box, and rejects any explanations like ‘it’s a gift so idk what’s inside’ and just returns the gift back to sender, or (b) delivery happens at the home address during work hours, which is not exactly where working people are, and after two unsuccessful deliveries they ship it to a creepy suburb of Moscow which is a pain in the ass to get to, but at least so far possible to pick the gift from. After a lot of pain and tears, that is.

  • Just use the regular postal services offered by yer old state post.

  • Seriously, it works. The principle is this: the package arrives to the local post office, and then a paper notification is sent twice into the mailbox of the recipient, who can come and collect the package with that notif slip during working hour of the said post office within one month of receipt of notification. Unclaimed packages are sent back to senders after one month.

  • If there is an option to do so with regular postal services, do pay a little extra for tracking number - this way, even if your recipient hasn’t for some reason received paper notifications, they will be able to go with that number to their local post office and reclaim the package.

  • UNLESS you’re sending from US. The regular US post (USPS) doesn't seem to offer regular mail with international tracking option, and attempts to send it with USPS International Express. International Express hands the delivery in Russia to the EMS instead of the normal Russian post, which is no good (see point 1). So far all US mail shipped by regular USPS without tracking numbers arrived to Russia, so fingers crossed the luck holds.

  • German post to Russia also works fine without tracking number, from my experience.

  • Shipping perishables that aren’t properly packed doesn’t seem like a good idea. It may have been the reason why one or two packages I'm aware of got never delivered.

  • Latest information from MY MOM of all people: for packages sent to Russia with a phone number stated on the box, the recipient gets actual goddamn texts about tracking status changes :O go, Russiapigeons, go!


  • My default package type was мелкий пакет: anything up to 2 kg with box-like dimensions, fixed price to any end of the world. Delivers just fine, automatically comes with a tracking number, but recently it has been impossible to track it outside Russian borders, which is uh. Why would you do that? But it doesn’t seem like an option we can ditch, so w/e. Benefit: very easy customs declaration form (the tiny green sticker is enough).

  • When the package either has weird dimensions (and is light) or is above 2 kgs, you go with a regular package (посылка). The price for that varies based on weight and destination, and drawback is you gotta fill four sheets of paper for the customs. Other than that, delivers just fine.

  • Usual delivery time 2-4 weeks for both.


  • Include phone number by all means (and send to address that is open to postmen during daylight hours, i.e. office > home address)


  • Afaik cosmetics are not allowed in US-bound packages. At least the rules say so, and I never argued with them, but if anyone has other experience, do tell.

  • I think I'm yet to hear a limit to what cannot be send within US domestically. Lucky bastards.


  • International shipping is comparatively expensive, so if you have concerns, please ask your local office for prices beforehand.

  • US has the same divide between parcels <4 lb (best off shipping First Class -- unless your contents are small enough to fit in a Flat Rate Small box, which is, like, the size of a trade paperback) and >4 lb (best off shipping Priority Mail International -- either Medium Flat Rate or in your own box; which is cheaper will depend on the exact weight, but pretty comparable until ~6 lb). Priority International is marginally faster, I think. Also, 4lb is the point where you switch from the shorter customs declaration form to the slightly longer customs declaration form, so it's a really good idea to know where your package falls relative to this line before you get to the post office. (hamsterwoman)

  • USPS seems to be the best way to ship internationally from the US. It's cheaper than most other easily accessible options, and gets handed off to the postal service of the country you're shipping to, which tends to avoid the packages showing up in weird ways or demanding weird things from the recipient. (hamsterwoman)

  • Depending on the size and weight of your package, and possibly where you're sending to, the Flat Rate boxes (which go Priority) or First Class Mail may be cheaper. If you have the size/weight of your package and destination, you can calculate the cost and see what the cheapest option is here online, and your post office person can also help you with that. If your package if over 4 lb but under 20 lb, the Flat Rate boxes are almost certainly going to be your best bet $-wise.(hamsterwoman)

  • a friendly step-by-step from cyanshadow

  • 1. Go to your local post office and acquire a customs form 2. Look at the flat-rate boxes they have there for free. IIRC, they can be cheaper than just using your own box if the box is particularly heavy (because they charge per lb if you use your own box), but there's also only three sizes which may or may not be convenient to you. 3. If you're like me and not good enough at thinking ahead to have To:/From: stickers to use already, they sell those at the post office too. (Why you need one of these stickers when both sender and recipient are already on the customs form AND the typed up version of the customs form that they also slap on the box, I don't know, but 🤷‍♀️) 4. Fill your box (flat-rate or otherwise) with Santa goodies and fill out the customs form 5. Take box (already taped up is fine) + customs form to post office 6. Pay them the money they ask for and wave the package goodbye. It's quite possible that there are cheaper methods, but so far USPS has worked for me, so it's what I tend to default to. 🤷‍♀️


  • Don't use EMS. They don't exist here and their work is handled by DHL, who hate this job and hate you. I spent a month hunting down a package from Japan once between customs, EMS and the DHL warehouse in the sketchy outskirts of town, while the average time for jp post to here is a week. So, don't do it. UPS should be fine, though I've never tried it myself (I only got visa delivered by them). In general, German post (Deutsche Post) and DHL are both quite reliable!(rinkafushi)

  • Always include a customs slip on the package that details what's inside and how much it's worth. If you do that, chances that customs will snatch it are close to zero :) (rinkafushi)


  • You only get tracking number (and insurance) for Paket, sadly, which is quite expensive. I've only ever sent Kay stuff to Russia as Päckchen, which has no tracking ID and no insurance but comes under 10 Euro. It always arrived iirc! One friendly clerk once recommended me to use Internationales Einschreiben instead which is insured and traceable and comes at about 20€ I think. (rinkafushi)

  • Your cheapest option when shipping from Germany is as "Brief International" - cheaper than "Päckchen" and way cheaper than "Paket" (exceptions are maybe if you're shipping within the EU)(rinkafushi)

  • "Maxibrief" let's you send a package (sides up to A+B+C = 90cm) and up to 1kg or 2kg. The former costs 7 €, the second 17 €. You can even add a tracking number for just a few Euros more. (rinkafushi)

  • as of 2019, shipping anything other than letters from Germany is no longer possible as a letter of any form, but has to be labeled Päckchen. The only option with tracking would be Paket, and considerably more expensive.(rinkafushi)


  • Much better to use Canada Post, the government-run post, than a third party like UPS or Fedex. UPS will definitely cause customs delays and charge customs and warehousing fees greater than the worth of the parcel.(sephystabbity)

  • There are some stuff you're not allowed to ship, including alcohol (ofc) and some plants n stuff. They want food stuff to be properly packaged, but I haven't had a problem about this despite sending many packages containing candy/spices(sephystabbity)

  • They get a bit weird about plants and flowers being shipped. (sephystabbity)


  • deliveries from the EU arrive within 2-5 days, sometimes a little over a week.

  • because of stupid radish rules, when shipping to UK from outside the EU please declare your gift as under 39 quid and in total with shipping costs less than 135 quid. Please read the full customs & duty slip for more information on these nonsense rules, otherwise i'm gonna pay some stupid inflated customs fees on receipt here.The shipping rules are definitely enforced with commercial packages: I had to pay customs fees on anything above the ridiculously small value threshold :<


  • Use the price finder.

  • The cheapest way is royal mail international economy, which  offers no tracking number but claims 40 days delivery, but de facto brings packages to the US within two weeks. this option is available only with regular post offices; newsagents will offer only international standard, which is slightly more expensive, has a tracking number and delivers withing same 1-2 week span on average.

  • Postcard stamps are more expensive than they should be (1.5 irrc)

  • Royal Mail Second Class is perfectly fine for domestic deliveries, but no international equivalent exists.

  • When the postman can't leave the package with you or your neighbor, they will leave a slip with the address of a local post office for a pick-up. There are two near me, and not a single person has been able to explain by which logic they go into one or the other.¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Tags: gift exchange, hear me announce stuff, pigeon post

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  • a short note

    Hello friends, I'm back from my extended weekend with its travels and other mordorous activities, well-fed and with pictures to share. However,…

  • Friendling-friendly

    Hello there! This journal, which I write alternating between English (most posts, actually, on all things fandom and ranty) and Russian (occasional…

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