Sending and receiving packages in China

Hello,

As an expat, there are inevitably certain items you might want or need from back home, and around the holiday period, many people like to send gift packages.

How easy is it to send and receive packages in China?

Is the public postal system efficient?

Do people tend to prefer using private shipping services? Which ones?

How do the costs of the private shipping services compare?

How long does it take generally to receive packages from abroad in China?

Do you have to pay taxes on items received by mail from abroad?

Are packages delivered right to your doorstep, or do you usually have to go collect them somewhere?

Thank you for sharing your experience,

Priscilla

What a timely topic, shipping packages.  Well I have lived in China for 11 years now and how I do this has changed dramatically over the years.  It's much easier now in some ways than it was 11 years ago.

Let's start with the fact that anything you think you really need from back home, can most likely be purchased on-line right here in China, and that will save you a ton of time and money.  Check on-line first.  Next, I can only speak to shipping from the US to China and vice versa so if you are not from the States, this may not apply to you.

If you plan to ship from the US the best and cheapest method is USPS.  Yes, that's right, the good ol' post office will do just fine.  They have flat rate boxes to China (and many other countries) pick a box, stuff it full and ship away for one price.  Box sizes vary and so does the cost depending on the size not the weight.  http://www.usps.com/shipping

My preferred box is called a "game box," it is not wide but it is tall and you can stuff many items into it.  Do not ship liquids, bad idea.  Do not ship breakables, again a bad idea.  Never ship things that can not be replaced for obvious reasons. 

Fill out the forms as instructed, but be sure you are fairly generic when it comes to the customs form. If you give too many details you may end up with too many questions when it gets to customs.  It's better to say OTC meds various, than to say 10 boxes of Tylenol Cold and Flu OTC.  If you put a brand name it can ring bells and cause your box to be delayed.  If you have clothing take off all tags if the items are new and do not claim it as new, used is better.  Label it used clothing various.  It's just better to be generic.

Your box will ship priority mail so expect it to take 3 weeks, that is normal. What I have done for the past 6 years is to ship boxes back to China when I first get to the States so they will be in China when I get back.  So far it's worked well.  You can track the box as it leaves US customs, and then track it once it clears China customs but there is a period when you won't see anything.  China does a good job and even the few boxes that were waylaid were not China's fault. 

One point to make clear, make sure your custom forms are clearly seen on the top of the box.  If the person at the post office puts them anywhere else it can delay things.  Make sure you write clearly and that the address is in Chinese and with a local phone number, if there is a problem they can call someone.  Finally, keep all paperwork until you have your box.

Shipping from China back to the States, this can be a little trickier.  Many items can NOT be shipped and it will depend on the post office you use in China.  Yep, I use China Post and they have been fine.  You must bring your items NOT boxed and then you box them at the post office because they want to see what is in the box, and they will give you a box to pack things into.  I have been told I can't ship used clothing, or medications, or food.  They are rather picky.  If you need to ship those items it will cost you more but you can do it using any of the "air" shippers like Federal Ex.  Be prepared to pay a lot more.  China Post has two options, the quick option will get a box to the US in about 3 to 4 weeks, the very cheap option can take up to 3 months (yep by boat).

When shipping locally (in China) China Post is fine and they have been known to get an item from Beijing to Guangzhou in a day or two.  They are actually very good but you will need someone with language to help you if you don't speak Chinese.

Costs, well it depends, I can ship a game box which holds about 20 to 25 lbs, for about $100.  For me it's a no brainer, shipping two boxes verses dragging two suitcases...I prefer to leave the suitcases behind.  I have also started buying items locally (in China) and not bothering with trying to get them from "back home" it's about the same cost and it's actually faster.

My worst experience was a box I shipped from CA to China and the people in San Francisco (SF) customs lost the box.  It took me 3 months to get them to try to locate it and finally they gave up and so did I.  However, later that same week China Post contacted me that they had a box for me.  It had somehow gotten damaged but made it to China without being tracked about the same time the SF people had told me the box was lost for good.  I have never figured that out.  The tracking documents had been placed on the bottom and so they eventually were damaged and hard to read.  Furthermore the box had water damage which made the address illegible, thankfully I always put my address inside, so they were able to find me.  Some items were slightly damaged but I have a habit of packing stuff in zip-lock bags so that gave my things added protection.  All in all, I got my box a little later than planned and with some items a little banged up.  However, that was my worst experience to date.

Good luck on your shipping adventures, don't stress it and be willing to let it go if things get lost or damaged, it's the risk you are taking.  My advice, if you must have it, bring it with you or see if you can find someone else to do that for you.  Learn to live with what you can get locally, in the end that will make your life here much easier.

Now the Short answer.

1, Don't ship anything to China, the cost is so high you can buy a buy a new whatever instead.

2, if you ship things it is China ship air mail or it takes 2 months. Air mail very expensive.


  Bottom line you will not save money shipping anything. Make sure it's worth it or buy new.

Alternative, buy extra luggage weight and fly it with you when you go to or leave China.

Hello dear
See if you send the parcels buy slow land to land transfer like cargo ships or by sea then its cheak and it usually take 20to 30 days time but you will get to your home address to any part of the world u stay i sent some books which were all my medical years books and it was about 20 to 30 kgs two such box its not easy to carry in airways as tax is high nad 70 rmb per kg so ita cheap when i was in 2011 i sent the 2 box with 400rmb only to indian address and its was safe i got it and it s post office u have to drop your stuff carey all books snd the box is given my post office or you can make a box and do all stuff easy to do soo
Anyways see u around if any thing u need to know let me know about China shanghai i worked there so know all places there u can hit me a mail *** or my number ***

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Dear Inquisitor:

Yep, I agree with all you just said, clear and concise.

LRai

personal experience, i got clothes sent which never arrived but did get the previous one arrive, its hit n miss on packages, but i did have a mailbox and e lockers  also a shop locally took in parcels where i used to live,
now i moved i only have a local store that takes in parcels if i can communicate with the delivery driver to drop it there, very hard to live where i am now for parcels. like most comments are saying, just go out and buy whatever it is you were going to be sent, although i love JD shopping which presents the same problem.

Dear Funnyoldworld:

I am not sure where in China you are living but I have found Starbucks to be a great help. If I need to I can get my parcels sent to my local Starbucks and they will call me when they arrive.  I also get packages sent to my work which is not a problem, finally if you can make friends with a local shop owner they can often accept parcels for you if you have a good relationship with them.

Shipping to China can be expensive using the normal carriers like USPS. 
There are US based reshippers that you can send your package to, who get it over to China at a cheaper price.  I believe they package your stuff with others and save money by sending it all over as one parcel.  It can be slow, but it is priced more competitively.  Most of these seem to be based here in Oregon as we have no Sales Tax, so you can buy something on Amazon and ship it to a Portland company to reship to your address in China. 
My wife used these for her TaoBao business for many years, and still uses them now that she is in the US. 
Shipping from China to the US seems dirt cheap for EBAY items.  They can get us a $1 item that includes free shipping.  I dont know how they do that.  They say China Post is subsidized, so maybe that is it.

Hi,

I used China Post,  their prices are bit ok, we did send few chocolate's and toys to my dear one at India.
Thank you

Hello,

I am UK guy living in Dalian since March 2018. This my home now for future life and I have a lovey new daughter only three months old.
My experience in China had been great but sorry to say not so good with China Post. They have lost 5 air mail post items two from USA and three from UK, one being a new credit card.  All where clearly marked with address and very clearly stated Dalian but they never turned up and China Post claimed it was not their problem.

So only solution I can see is using private companies like UPS / Fedex etc and they work as they have full tracking system.  Standard post for me just has not worked. 

My advise would be don’t try and ensure you have tracked items you can trace. 

Best of luck. Malcolm.

I've got to say that @Irai provided an absolutely fantastic narrative on shipping. Really.

I would just like to add a few hints and tricks.

[1] If someone is going to ship to your Chinese address, write it in English, and in Chinese simplified characters AND Chinese pinyin. Put this on a clear paper and photograph it. Tell the person sending the package to print out that photo on their printer and then tape it to the outside of the box. Use wide tape to make sure that water won't mess up the ink and make it unreadable.

[2] I always use my Chinese wife's phone number because the delivery people rarely ever speak English. If you do not have a Chinese spouse, use a trusted Chinese friend or even your work address with a work contact that knows that you are expecting a package. I once had a friend that

[3] Shipping to the USA can be tricky. Many things that are legal here in China are restricted or regulated in the USA. Avoid shipping drugs, vitamins or seeds. Shipping Viagra, whether it is the actual drug or a generic equivalent could get the person you are shipping to into serious trouble with ICE. A check on the ICE website shows prison sentences approaching 15 years to some hapless folk who only wanted a years supply of Viagra, but who did not have a prescription or imported non-approved versions of Viagra. Be careful and not upset the USA police state.

[4] China Post is a decent shipper. Follow their advice.

Best Regards.

Dear Vannrox:

That's priceless...you can't send someone Viagra, but you can buy "pot" legally in some States...hmmmm, I wonder if you can ship it to those States...LOL

Good advice on what to ship or not ship...it's becoming much harder now in so many ways.  BTW on item 2 it seems something is missing...you had a friend....?

Thanks for the kind words...

Thanks dear.

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