Handy hints to mail packages overseas:

  • Go to the post office and get a couple of Priority Mail medium and large flat rate boxes – they’re free – and four or five of the transparent envelopes (Form 2976-E) used to affix the customs declaration and other documents to the package.
  • Before sealing the package, include a card with the from and to  name, address and phone number.
  • On the front of the package, you will need to put both the transparent envelope (which will include the postage and customs information) AND the from and to names and addresses.  I usually put the duplicate address on a small sticker in one corner of the box.
  • Go to http://www.usps.com and, if you haven’t done so, open an account.  Even if this is the only time you may use the website, it saves a long time filling out customs forms and waiting at the post office, and it’s almost always cheaper than the price you pay at the post office.  That’s also true for domestic priority mail packages and envelopes.
  • Then sign in, and click on “ship a package” and “print a label with postage.”  Select the foreign destination and “print a shipping label now.”  Click the box that says you want to receive notification of your shipment.  Fill in the name, address and other required information.  When sending it to Becky and Greg, include both names so either can pick up the package. Click the “I am shipping a gift” box.   Even though you’ll be shipping a flat rate package, include what you think it will weigh, and guess the value.
  • On the next page, choose the box size you will be using.   Gasp in horror at the price ($60 for a mediuml package, $77 for a large one).
  • The next page is for the customs forms, and this is the one that always gives me trouble, but once you have it figured out, using this form will save a lot of grief and time.  The total package value and weight cannot exceed what you entered earlier.  Remember that everything (clothes in particular) is USED.  Add the items you’ve included, but you can group them (clothes, candy, coffee, etc.).  If you have more than three items, the customs form will take an extra page which might confuse the South African customs people.  The AES exemption is NOEEI 30.37(a), total value <$2,500.
  • If you’ve successfully negotiated the customs forms, click on continue then affirm that you aren’t sending anything illegal or dangerous and enter your credit card information.  Then you can print your forms; there are four forms (2 per page) and one page of instructions.
  • Cut the Dispatch note, customs forms, etc., and put them in the order indicated (1-2-3) in the lower right hand corner.  The fourth copy and the instructions are for you to keep.   Put these in the transparent envelope and put the transparent envelope on the package.
  • You must personally deliver the package to a postal clerk or your carrier.  If you’ve been to the post office before and the clerks know you, you can go to the front of the line, smile and put your package on the ledge and leave.  There’s nothing they have to do except say “thank you” and accept the package.  You don’t have to sign the customs form, and they don’t have to stamp your receipt unless you want them to; it’s all taken care of.
  • You will receive regular emails tracking your package until it clears South African customs; at this point, send Becky an email so she will be expecting the package.

Good luck!  We’ve had no problems with anything getting lost/stolen, and it normally takes about 1-1/2 weeks for items to get from Rifle to KZN.  Most of that is taken up in the stretch from when the package enters SA customs in Johannesburg until it gets to the Waterfall post office.