Shipping the goods home...
March 14, 2006 9:36 AM   Subscribe

Questions about using post offices in Europe.

I'm going to Amsterdam and then Barcelona this week (and the next few). I want to buy stuff (especially in Amsterdam as I hear the markets and such are just great) and ship it home. How feasible is this and what should I know? No warnings about not mailing contraband home from Amsterdam are necessary as I have no intention of even considering that. I'm taking about boots and a scarf or something like that.
posted by pissfactory to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total)
Many stores will ship things home for you, which would save you the trip to the post office. The other thing to keep in mind is that post office hours are generally fairly restricted, so the possible added expense of having the merchant ship it would be offset by the hassle of having to get to the PO while it's open.

I'm not sure about the Netherlands and Spain, but Italy required that packages contain NO extraneous writing or design -- you basically had to buy butcher paper and wrap up the package first, or they wouldn't accept it.
posted by occhiblu at 10:02 AM on March 14, 2006

Easy but expensive. You'll be better off bringing an extra suitcase (or leaving lots of room in your luggage) and bringing back the gifts with you. Use large suitcases. The penalty for going over the weight allowance is far less than the penalty for bringing extra checked baggage. (I found this out the hard way.)

If you decide to do this, remember that the luggage allowance for flying within Europe are different than for international flights (assuming that's how you are getting from Amsterdam to Barcelona).
posted by luneray at 10:06 AM on March 14, 2006

In Dutch the post office is called Postkantoor, and there are a few around the city. You can buy 'official' packages to post items in, but of course if well packed up you can send any package.

There is a Postkantoor locator here, however the whole site is in Dutch. Of course this being in Holland they will probably speak English anyway. For the site, postcode is zipcode, Woonplaats is place of residence, straat is street.

Some small post offices might be located in a bookstore, however they will have a sign of the TPGPost outside.
posted by sebas at 10:08 AM on March 14, 2006

When i lived in Holland i would ship stuff back to the US using the "postpak" kits for sale at all post offices, and never had any problems.

(on preview, yeah, what sebas said)
posted by Hlewagast at 10:10 AM on March 14, 2006

I found postage rates to vary considerably. Packages sent from France were cheap, from Switerland and Luxembourg, more expensive. That being said, most coutries will have special boxes that you pay a flat rate for, and can put anything you want in it (up to a certain weight) usually they are your best bet, but they might not be the exact dimensions you want. Custom sizes and weights jack up the price.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:53 AM on March 14, 2006

Response by poster: I'm not so concerned about cost. Ease is nice. Would the post office and businesses over there take VISA? Sorry if these are dumb, dumb, dumb questions.
posted by pissfactory at 12:10 PM on March 14, 2006

Spanish Post Office web site.
posted by sic at 12:47 PM on March 14, 2006

Would the post office and businesses over there take VISA?

For the Netherlands: nearly all businesses will take Visa/MC (and most AmEx). The Post Office will also most likely accept it, though I can't find a confirmation on their site. Markets and smaller/independent shops may not, but there are ATMs everywhere which gladly accept your Visa.
posted by swordfishtrombones at 1:44 PM on March 14, 2006

For the Netherlands: nearly all businesses will take Visa/MC (and most AmEx).

I'm not saying that's not true, swordfishtrombones, but do you really think so? I live in central Amsterdam and find that the vast majority of businesses, even large chains, don't tend to take credit cards. Even Ikea didn't, until about two years ago. And I don't think you'd have much luck with AmEx except at the big department stores. But fair enough, I guess we've just had different experiences.

Anyway that's a moot point because, as you mention, you can use Visa at an ATM if you need cash desperately.

Just for your interest, pissfactory (I feel silly writing that!), the current parcel post rates to locations outside Europe are (all prices in Euros of course, the first column is for priority mail and the second is for standard mail):

0-250 g. 5,60 3,85
250-500 g. 11,00 7,40
500-2 kg. 20,75 11,75

All you really need to do is take your stuff to a post office (there are quite a few around the place, just ask someone or look for the TPG Post logo as seen on this website. You'll need to fill out a very small green customs form detailing the contents, as per usual with international mail. You can get padded envelopes and boxes at the post office if you need them, and as mentioned above, most people below 50 in the major cities speak great English. That said, a smile and a "Hi, do you speak English?" often gets a more pleasant response than just launching into a foreign language rapid-fire.

Have a great trip!
posted by different at 3:57 PM on March 14, 2006

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