Sending Packages Abroad: China Post vs. Other Parcel Services

Sending Packages Abroad: China Post vs. Other Parcel Services

By Dennis Ming Nichols

There are at least five public parcel services in Shanghai that make sending packages (domestically and abroad) fairly easy. Though FedEx, UPS and DHL provide better English services as well as a greater variety of priority options, using China Post (part of the Express Mail Service (EMS) Cooperative) is the cheapest way to mail things within and out of the country. If you don't mind waiting about one week to have your stuff delivered, then China Post is the way to go. At the end of the article is a price comparison of all the parcel services. But first, here's the basic China Post how-to:

1. Go to your nearest China Post office (the ones with the green sign) in the morning (earlier the better) or between 2-3pm on a weekday. This way, you'll get a bit more attentive service. When it's busy, China Post is not a fun place to be if you don't speak/read Chinese.

2. You can pack your own box or you can use the boxing service provided. There are many box sizes to choose from (ranging from 2-10RMB) and they add crumpled newspaper as shock absorbers. If you are sending something fragile or valuable, perhaps box it yourself or over-see the person who is boxing your stuff.

3. The boxing assistant can also provide an address sticker to attach to the box. Writing the recipient country as well as your return address in Chinese plus a telephone number is a good idea.

4. If you are sending something internationally, tell the boxing assistant which country you are sending to. He/she can get the correct customs form, which should be bilingual. This is better than waiting in line to get the form. You might have to fill out 2 of these.

5. After you fill out the form(s) and everything is properly addressed and packaged, get in line at the service window. The clerk might ask if you want airmail ( 航空件 hángkōng jiàn). If you want it delivered within a week, then tell you do want airmail. You will be charged by weight and dimensions for your postage and the box (if you used their box services).

And be sure to bring cash as there are no credit card machines at China Post. For a basic estimate of postage costs, refer to this chart or call their English service hotline at +86 21 11185.

Price Comparison with other parcel services
FedEx, DHL, UPS, and TNT all offer more options for next day and priority delivery methods. For an estimate on price for those services, visit their websites for a quote. Each company's website also offers tracking services. The following quotes are based on a 5-7 day express delivery method for a 2KG package:

China Post/EMS
375RMB
http://www.ems.com.cn/ (English available)
You can also call +86 21 11185 for services in English

FedEx
455 RMB
http://fedex.com/cn_english/
For a rate quote in English, call 400 889 1888

(Shanghai also has 9 FedEx/Kinkos stores where you can conduct all services. Here is a listing of all Kinkos locations in China.

DHL
499 RMB
http://www.cn.dhl.com/en.html

UPS
516 RMB
http://www.ups.com/content/cn/en/contact

TNT
538RMB
http://www.tnt.com/express/en_cn/site/home.html