Shipping USA to Germany

So far only short, there is more to add.


All depends on your needs. If time matters, and the item is small, the price is usually not the problem. But I had to ship large (e.g. 80 cm * 60 cm * 40 cm) and in some cases heavy (40 kg and more) items. Time did not matter, only safe arrival. Value of items has been low, means some hundred US$, so shipping costs mattered.

On the ocean

Basically, it worked, took less than 4 weeks, but was much too expensive due to German (Hamburg) port charges and service fees in Germany. Half of shipping costs were pickup in US including ocean travel to Germany, the other half was caused in Hamburg port! Using FEDEX economic had been less expensive, and even UPS had been equal. NEVER again, because price. (I picked it up in Hamburg port myself, did customs clearance on my own, nice experience, but once is sufficient.)

The parcel services

USPS United States Parcel Service

USPS has unbeatable prices as long as shipment is within their size and weight limits. No "volumetric weight"! Insurance up to US$ 500, for GXG (Global Express Guaranteed) 2499. As of 2011-07. Worked well for me multiple times before 2010. Pay attention to select a trackable service, like Priority Mail International (not the good sounding First Class Mail International).

Do not expect Deutsche Post (now it is DHL) to bring you a parcel sent by USPS in US. As far as I remember, their German partner has been German Parcel. I cannot say for sure exactly date of last shipment that way, but for sure they rose service fees for customs processing in the years before 2010. In 2011, DHL seems to deliver packets, but other users report this for 2007 already. Parcels shipped as letter will be delivered by Deutsche Post, handled like letter. During phone calls, Deutsche Post told me even in 2011 some stuff may go other ways in Germany, depends on service chosen for the shipment.

Options to choose and to avoid

Always use a trackable shipping. "Priority Mail International" worked well even for large boxes, which usually arrived within 10 days.

Do not use "First-Class Mail International". The name sounds impressive, but it is not trackable. The lightweight package arrived, but it took much much more than 30 days, in the middle of 2011. Unfortunately, I have no exact records at hand now, but from my memory the transit time was very close to 60 days.

Experiences 2011-07-xx

Contact USPS by web form: No answer, neither email nor phone, but only the survey regarding "feedback on your E-mail experience", which tells me that my email address has been registered correctly.

Calling their toll free customer service number (not toll free from outside US, but this is no issue), I experienced:

Misleading tracking information at USPS

This is the last statement I see at USPS, including some history:

Expected Delivery Date: July 16, 2011 
Class: Priority Mail International Parcels
Service(s): International Parcels
Status: Attempted Delivery

Your item could not be delivered on July 19, 2011 at 8:10 am 
in GERMANY due to the addressee requesting pick up. 
It is being held while the addressee is notified. 

 Detailed Results:
 Addressee requests own pick-up - Item being held, 
 addressee being notified, July 19, 2011, 8:10 am, GERMANY 
 Customs clearance processing complete, July 18, 2011, 8:34 am, GERMANY 
 Customs Clearance, July 18, 2011, 8:34 am, GERMANY 
 Customs Clearance, July 18, 2011, 7:45 am, GERMANY 
 Processed Through Sort Facility, July 18, 2011, 7:44 am, GERMANY

I definitely did not "Addressee requests own pick-up".

Entering the USPS tracking number at DHL Germany international shipment tracking revealed, that:

The real problem with USPS, or better with Deutsche Post (for letters) or DHL (for packets) in Germany is customs handling. At random, but very often, the addressee is asked to show up at local customs and present additional documents (because e.g.: "commercial invoice not affixed externally to package"), or open package, although all required shipping and import documentation is in perfect state. Depending on location of addressee and customs office, and other people there, this easily eats 4 hours of addressees time!

Local customs is unable to tell why it has not been finally handled at central customs and delivered to addressees door immediately, collecting any fees there, but I have to accuse local customs for not checking documentation again, and reversing central decision if it has been unwarranted. Local customs just sends formally the letter to addressee and waits for things to develop.

Even friendly customs employees and being served immediately after entering the office cannot outweight 2.5 hours of my time and 60 km drive, to just cite one example.

FEDEX, others

FEDEX "INTL economy" can beat USPS prices, or come close to it, at even higher size and weight (less restricted), but multiple times I did not found the economic rates on fedex web site, at least not in calculator. My US partner pointed me at that option. We talk about e.g. US$ 250 while other carriers are asking for 600 and more. So far, worked well at least once for me.

FEDEX does customs processing on behalf of addressee, and does so in advance. If there is anything unclear, or just unusual, they call addressee and ask for instructions, even in "economy" class (as of 2011-07, own experience). They took 10 EUR handling fee for this service.

Fedex the more standard services, UPS, DHL are usually very close to each other, but for large low-value items prohibitively expensive. I mean US$ 600 to 1000 and up. Coarse example is UPS for 60 lbs 24 inch * 24 inch * 14 inch box asks 500 (2011-07).

--- Author: Harun Scheutzow ------ Last change: 2012-02-19 ---