Is it really this hard to ship to Mexico?
May 23, 2016 11:18 AM   Subscribe

I went to a fed-x today to try to ship some chocolate and OTC headache meds to my friend in Mexico. It got complicated fast....

fed-x tells me I need several forms from the Mexican Embassy, as well as the Mexican Secretary of Agriculture. Also, that my friend needs a special permit to receive these items. I guess fed-x would know their business, but it seems awfully labyrinthine - neither sender nor receiver are a commercial entity, it's about a pound of chocolate, one 20ct bottle of OTC migraine...seems simple, right?

Are they correct? Is there a better way? Am I doing it wrong?

Maybe I should just ask, "What's the best (not cheapest) way to ship some chocolate and OTC headache meds to my friend in Mexico?"
posted by j_curiouser to Travel & Transportation around Mexico (13 answers total)
 
Your problem is likely that it is food and drugs. I ship stuff to mexico all the time via USPS first class international mail and I've never had to complete more than the very basic customs form. But I don't ship food or medications.
posted by magnetsphere at 11:47 AM on May 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


I don't have an answer specific to your situation but a few years ago I shipped some photo developing chemicals to the Caribbean and I had to fill out all sorts of customs paperwork. I sent it via the USPS expedited shipping, which would be about a 2-3 delivery timeframe, and the package got there about a month and half later.

So....if you are thinking FedEx will get your package delivered zippity-quick, I suggest you think again.

In another lifetime I used to do shipping/receiving and would ship internationally on a regular basis and I've never even hear of needing anything from any embassy, but then again I wasn't shipping anything edible or medicinal.

Although if you look at the USPS mailing requirements for Mexico here: Link, you can see chocolate and medicine listed specifically as needing special permission.

Restrictions

Chocolate and products made of chocolate require prior authorization from the Mexican Secretary of Commerce.

Medicinal products, beauty products, cosmetics, and toilet articles are admitted only by prior approval of the Department of Public Health in Mexico.

posted by eatcake at 11:49 AM on May 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


there's a list here which says that non-prescription drugs require additional paperwork.

(i get chocolate sent to chile regularly (thanks mom!) and chile is paranoid about importing food, so i doubt it's the chocolate) [on preview looks like i am wrong there]
posted by andrewcooke at 11:54 AM on May 23, 2016


Hi, I conduct international shipping and fulfillment for a living and yes there are a boatload of restrictions around food and drugs of any kind.

You know how most people get around this? When the person at FedEx or USPS says "anything liquid , fragile, hazardous, or perishable etc etc" they say "nope!" and when asked what the contents are they lie and say something innocuous like "photos and a book"

Now I am not suggesting you do this, as professionally I'm ethically bound to not do this kind of thing (I'm even honest with customs agents and have missed flights over it), but it is what everyone is doing and they are very very rarely caught.
posted by French Fry at 1:09 PM on May 23, 2016 [9 favorites]


We've had a fair amount of packages lost/stolen trying to get to Mexico. It's definitely a situation where declaring the contents honestly means you might as well not send anything.
posted by michaelh at 1:26 PM on May 23, 2016


Even if it weren't food and OTC drugs you need to get several forms filled out and notarized. I used to live in a border town and knew folks who would smuggle stuff across the border and use local mails there.


When I was shipping for an actual business some professional video equipment parts, I did the whole nine yards of getting the forms, filling them out, and having them signed and stamped by someone specially certified and recognized on both sides of the border.

The advice to go to the consulate may be because things are more restrictive now or to increase your chances of finding this specially certified notary person. The border area I was in had several dozen.
posted by tilde at 2:57 PM on May 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


If you aren't picky about the specific kind of chocolate, is there a local gift delivery service that you could pay to do this? Florists often include boxed chocolate as an optional add-on... pain meds would be unusual but if you paid enough someone might pop over to the drugstore.
posted by ecsh at 3:09 PM on May 23, 2016


I'm ethically bound to not do this kind of thing

yeah, just-not-declaring-it isn't an option for me. the recipient has zero headroom for customs bullshit/legal expenses.

...is there a local gift delivery service?

that's a pretty good idea, but nope - not in this part of the country.

I'm gonna have to rethink this. Thanks, everyone!
posted by j_curiouser at 3:19 PM on May 23, 2016


You know how most people get around this? When the person at FedEx or USPS says "anything liquid , fragile, hazardous, or perishable etc etc" they say "nope!" and when asked what the contents are they lie and say something innocuous like "photos and a book"

Now I am not suggesting you do this, as professionally I'm ethically bound to not do this kind of thing (I'm even honest with customs agents and have missed flights over it), but it is what everyone is doing and they are very very rarely caught.


Opposing viewpoint: when I was living in Mexico a classmate of mine was hoping on getting his prescriptions mailed to him by his mother from the States and she did not declare them. They were held up in Customs which opened the package and found the medications and then he just had to feel like crap without his meds for several weeks until they were cleared to reach him.
posted by chainsofreedom at 3:43 PM on May 23, 2016


Do you know anyone going to the country who would be willing to legally walk the items through customs and mail it from there? Someone who happens to be traveling?
posted by tilde at 4:01 PM on May 23, 2016


Do you know anyone going to the country who would be willing to legally walk the items through customs and mail it from there? Someone who happens to be traveling?

funny you should ask...this is usually my role - i've had to delay travel.
posted by j_curiouser at 5:10 PM on May 23, 2016


Please ignore if this is not helpful, but I'd check the ingredients of the OTC migraine med your friend uses to see if there is a way to buy or duplicate locally in your friend's location.

Have a look at this page just for the general idea (but important! check against the actual medicine's ingredients! don't use this as the guide*) For example the ingredients in Excedrin Migraine is the same as Excedrin Extra Strength, which is acetaminophen 250mg, aspirin 250mg, caffeine 65mg. Acetaminophen is usually known as paracetamol outside the U.S., and Wikipedia has a list of some of the brand names in different countries. So if someone usually takes two tablets of Excedrin Migraine or Excedrin Extra Strength, they could take one 500mg tablet paracetamol/acetaminophen, one 500mg aspirin with some (caffeinated) cola, coffee, or tea. (Also, if it *is* Excedrin Migraine that your friend uses, I see that it's sold in Mexico, so even if it's not available where they are, I assume they can probably order from within the country.)

Advil Migraine has the same active ingredient as regular Advil – 200mg Ibuprofen (see this older Ask Metafilter thread about that), and Wikipedia says Ibuprofin is sold as Advil in Mexico.

Just mentioning in case any of this info might help your friend with half the problem.

* I notice a rather grave typo on that page, where they show the Excedrin Migraine ingredients as "Acetaminophen 250g, Aspirin 250mg, Caffeine 65mg." 250 grams is obviously wrong – that's about half a pound! Don't take a half a pound of acetaminophen! :) So be sure to check the actual product ingredients directly.
posted by taz at 3:36 AM on May 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


I know I'm late and the OP already said they are not not declaring it, but for anyone who wanders here in the future: I live in Mexico and the situation with chainsoffreedom's pal was not bad luck. Every single package from overseas is opened and inspected in customs, so even if you successfully get it shipped by not declaring the actual contents of the package, your counterpart will most certainly not get it unless the paper work is there.
posted by fjom at 12:04 PM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


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