How Do The Postal Services of These Countries Compare?
September 2, 2007 3:07 PM   Subscribe

The Postal Service of a few different countries is a factor in where I decide to move.

I'm in the USA and am considering moving out of the country for at least a couple years. I've been fairly successful selling stuff online for extra cash, and would like to continue to do so if I move abroad. I'd sell goods I found in my new country of residence. We're talking supplementary income, not a full-time business.

Crucial to this possibility is the quality of the Postal systems of the countries I've narrowed down: Thailand, Czech Republic, Greece, Germany, Panama. Cost is of course a factor, but I'm more concerned about reliability and consistency, especially with international shipping. I have to have a reasonable assurance that my packages (which will probably never be bigger than a breadbox, or over a few pounds) will get to where they are supposed to undamaged within a decent time frame.

Has anyone mailed several (a dozen or so) packages a week from any of the countries I mentioned? What were your experiences? What were the laws governing how much was considered to be subject to tariff, or when you were required to get a permit to sell stuff from that country?

For what it's worth, I'll be selling consumer goods and/or souvenirs to individuals (yes, as in online auctions). I would be fine with taking these items to the post office myself (as opposed to pickup by the postal service).
posted by Rykey to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I guess that checking the travel guides in a bookshop of the relevant countries will help with an overview - most have that sort of information in the front. I also expect that since the countries are travel destinations for English speakers the postal services will have English language versions of their websites.

The Germans are notoriously efficient and being in the EU I expect the tariffs are low for sending to continental Europe or the U.S. Sending from Britain to the E.U is often a similar price at sending it within Britain.

Good luck with the move, my money's on Germany for the best Postal Service out of your list.
posted by takeyourmedicine at 3:35 PM on September 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

I have not lived in the countries you list. However, I have lived in several countries with atrociously bad postal systems, and the solution in each of them when you had a really important letter or package to send was to use a private carrier like DHL or FedEx. The cost isn't always cheap, but you have guaranteed delivery times, insurance, item tracking, credit card payment, and often expedited customs service... none of which may be available in that country's postal service.

In the third world, DHL and others will have offices in at least the capital city, and possibly in other large cities; European countries should have pretty complete coverage. So if you are intending to not only go to Thailand, but to actually live in some far-off village, you will have much more complicated shipping issues than if you are in Bangkok.
posted by Forktine at 3:56 PM on September 2, 2007

Generally the postal service correlates with the overall level of development, putting the German post in first place. With countries like Thailand, especially, you will want to consider the village v. Bangkok thing as posted above--you should be fine in Bangkok for your purposes, I think, but I can't vouch for more rural areas. I know I've had some severely delayed postcards from the Thai post.
posted by deeaytch at 6:08 PM on September 2, 2007

DHL, owned by the German Postal service holds (held?) the international delivery contract for Amazon, which I think should tell you their system is pretty good.
Colleagues in the Czech Republic showed an expectation that their postal system was at an equivalent level to the UK or other euro countries, so with no other info I would suggest it would be second.
I have heard dubious reports on the Greek system for inbound parcels from expats sending stuff home.
I would suggest Panama and Thailand are likely to be at the bottom of the list too, although they may still be suitable for your purposes.
Can you absorb the cost of the items + postage for, say 5-10% of losses? If so, I would expect any of these locations would be suitable.
From a place to live perspective, I would probably pick Thailand for low cost mixed with friendliness and exoticness.
posted by bystander at 6:32 PM on September 2, 2007

I sent a lot of letters/parcels from Germany to Australia in 1996. They cost three times as much and took twice as long as posting a letter from Australia to Germany. Things may have changed since though.

Germans, however, would not tolerate a postal system that lost mail, so I'd say it'd be up there with the most reliable in the world.
posted by kjs4 at 8:38 PM on September 2, 2007

I used to send a lot of letters and the occasional package when I was traveling through Europe a few years back, and the German and Austrian systems impressed me as being exceptionally reliable, but also fairly expensive. I think there are negotiated rates for intra-EU mail, but sending stuff back to the US cost more than sending it from the US to Germany. But in terms of options for sending, it struck me as being just as good -- maybe better -- than the USPS.

In some countries in Europe (and elsewhere), the Post Office also functions as a bank (?), and if you go at the wrong time of the day/week/month there can be looong waits while folks do financial transactions. At least this was my experience in Hungary; not sure how the Czech Republic compares.

The only other country on that list I've sent mail from is Panama, but it was just a postcard so it's not a good test. It did make it back to the 'States, though, and I don't recall any difficulties in buying stamps or anything. I wouldn't expect them to have print-your-own-ePostage, though, or much else very sophisticated...although a lot can change in a few years.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:51 PM on September 2, 2007

I lived in Germany for 5 years. IMO, Deutschpost is an over-rated pile of crap. Germans have faith in German institutions, but we know the value of faith in Bush country, ja?

I had an address on a main street, but an entrance around the corner (same building, either way). In the center of town, on the main shopping street. The parcel division of Deutschpost could not deliver packages, most of the time. They insisted the door around the corner wasn't the same address, and was not in 'their' territory. The folks responsible for the side street insisted the alternate address didn't exist! Many packages shipped to me from the States were returned as undeliverable. And 'regulations' prohibited us from getting a post box, to eliminate the problem. They refused to allow any remedy to the situation at all. Steaming pile of worthlessness.
posted by Goofyy at 4:41 AM on September 3, 2007

I was in Germany for a couple years as a kid, and I remember we always had huge problems using American envelopes - they were often not accepted at the post office because of their nonstandard size.

My most vivid memory of the post office was trying to mail a letter in an American envelope and the clerk pulled out this plastic gauge with a bunch of slots cut out of it. The envelope wouldn't fit through any of the slots, so the clerk folded over the envelope and taped it down until it would fit.
posted by backseatpilot at 9:43 AM on September 3, 2007

Not to derail, but you should consider how much customs and duties are going to have an effect on your business.
posted by jcwagner at 1:58 AM on September 4, 2007

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