International Shipping

International Shipping: How Long Does It Really Take?

For online retailers, it's important to know exactly how long international shipping takes and what affects delivery times. Here's what you need to know.
International Shipping: How Long Does It Really Take?
Gayatri Bhaumik

By Gayatri Bhaumik

 

April 30, 2020

If you’re looking to grow your eCommerce business, operating across borders should be part of your strategy. But, this is easier said than done, especially if you don’t have much experience or knowledge about operating a cross-border business. To succeed in international shipping, you should identify key strategies that suit your business.

Among them is identifying the best shipping solutions. There are many couriers out there, so this could take time. But, using a platform like Easyship will help you aggregate all the possible courier services so that you can always find the best one for each of your shipments while taking cost, service quality and shipping time estimates into account. As well, you should build an understanding of the basics of international shipping. Of the utmost importance is being able to effectively answer the question of how long international shipping takes.

Most businesses don’t ship internationally, but there are a plethora of reasons for this. While some might be considering it as an option in the future, others are content with just servicing their domestic markets. However, selling across borders is the key to growing your business. The guide below outlines some of the basic international shipping you need to know before you take the leap.

Related: 3 International Shipping Issues and How to Solve Them
UPS Plane for International Shipping

7 Things to Keep in Mind When Shipping Internationally

International shipping procedures are far more complex than local shipments. As such, you should consider several factors to ensure that your international shipping process is seamless. These factors also come in handy when determining how long international shipping takes. Below are seven things you should keep in mind when thinking about shipping internationally.

1. Customs Clearance

When shipping from one country to another, the custom departments of various countries will be stringent in enforcing their custom guidelines. As such, customs will clear all products initially to determine their eligibility to enter into the country and check if the required clearance fee has been paid. If you don't prepare adequately for this - by providing the appropriate paperwork, for example - this can significantly delay the standard shipping time.

Don’t forget that having the right paperwork is important. These should be accurately filled out with all the necessary information, including harmonized codes and product descriptions. If you use Easyship, our automated shipping tools can help you generate pre-filled customs forms.

2. Managing the Coronavirus Pandemic

The current COVID-19 pandemic has brought many industries to a complete standstill. International trade and shipping are among the most affected, with many countries taking extensive precautionary measures to prevent the continued spread of the virus.

The slow pace of clearance will certainly affect international shipping times. Most couriers have now suspended many international delivery routes due to government restrictions and are advising that there are delays on many operational routes. For more information, see our pages on carrier operation impacts in Europe, the US, and Asia-Pacific.

3. Shipping Services

You should also consider the medium of transport when shipping internationally as it determines how long international shipping will take. Sea and air cargo are the most commonly used shipping services. But, before opting for either, you should consider the time, cost, and nature of your products.

Air freight is faster than ocean shipping but more expensive. Sea, on the other hand, is affordable but takes a long time. Sea shipment is also not good for delicate items that can’t endure long trips in enclosed containers.

4. Prohibited Items

Various countries restrict the entry of different items. As such, you should consider individual countries' restrictions before sending your shipment to ensure that you aren’t breaching their guidelines for prohibited, restricted, or dangerous items.

You should be aware that if one of the countries that your shipment passes through has restrictions on the items, they will ground your shipment for an indefinite period. This alters UPS ground shipping time, as well as other courier companies’ standard shipping times.

5. International Shipping Address Format

Shipping can also take more time if you don't adhere to the prescribed international shipping address formats. All countries have a specific address format and paying attention to this will ensure that your shipments are delivered as quickly as possible.

6. Potential Delivery Issues

Delivery issues can affect both local and international shipping times. To avoid delays due to delivery issues, you should employ the services of a shipping company that offers detailed insights into your shipment status or takes preemptive measures to ensure delivery.

This way, your customers will be informed immediately if there is a delay so they know their shipping time estimate will not be valid, and they (and you) will know what the procedure is for different scenarios where delivery may be impacted, such as if someone isn’t home at a residential address. Knowing all this information will allow you to take precautionary measures to avoid huge shipping delays.

7. Carrier Opening Hours and Holiday Shipping Deadlines

How long does international shipping take, and how do the shipping companies’ opening hours and deadlines affect this? Great question. Different shipping carriers have their own operating hours and deadlines for holiday deliveries, and this can significantly affect shipping time estimates. To avoid unnecessary delays, take note of your specific carrier's operating times, and avoid shipping your items too close to significant holidays to avoid longer shipping times.

Cargo Shipping Overseas

What is the Fastest Way to Ship Internationally?

International shipments take different lengths of time to reach their destinations, depending on the shipping courier used, and the origin and destination addresses. Below is a breakdown of the shipping time for major couriers to deliver a shipment from Brooklyn, New York to Hong Kong.

Is FedEx, DHL, UPS, or USPS Faster?

There is certainly no standard delivery time when it comes to international shipping, regardless of which courier you use. Nevertheless, you may well be wondering how long international shipping takes with FedEx, DHL UPS, and USPS? Here are some shipping time estimates.

Courier Service Estimated Delivery Time
USPS Global Express Guaranteed 1-3 days
USPS Priority Mail Express International 3-5 days
USPS Priority Mail International 6-10 days
DHL Express Worldwide 4 days
UPS Worldwide Express 1-3 days
FedEx International Next Flight Next day
FedEx International First 3 days
FedEx International Priority 3 days
FedEx International Economy 5 days

With these rough estimates, you can evaluate how long it will take a shipment to reach your intended destination. Fortunately, all couriers have shipping time calculators that come in handy. Additionally, Easyship’s shipping rates calculator will show you a list of the best available courier services for any of your shipments, including costs and shipping time estimates.

Can I Speed Up my UPS, FedEx, DHL, or USPS Delivery?

Luckily, if you have urgent shipments, it is possible to speed the delivery time. UPS, FedEx, USPS, and DHL all have a variety of shipping methods, and if you choose express services, you’ll easily shorten your delivery time.

The lowest ranking service for most couriers is the ground shipping service, which is cost-effective and provides an approximated date of delivery; the trouble is, ground services are usually the slowest available courier solution. However, if you initiated a ground shipment and you would like to fast-track your shipment while in transit, you can intercept the package and speed up delivery by contacting the courier directly.

All you have to do is inform the courier representative that you want to upgrade your shipping and provide your tracking number to get a Priority Mail shipping time.

For most companies, you have the option of upgrading your shipment to two-day or overnight delivery and significantly cutting your shipping time estimate. The representative will set up your arrangements and adjust your account information. Note that you will have to pay some additional shipping charges.

Fedex truck using its Fastest Delivery Service

Choose Your Delivery Speed for Your Shipment

In most cases, shipping companies can't guarantee an accurate delivery time. However, the tracking number they provide will give you plenty of information so that you can keep track of your package while it’s in transit. But, if time is a concern and you want to choose your delivery speed, here’s what you should consider.

Delivery Lead Times

This is probably the most important factor in choosing your delivery speed. Every courier service will have a different estimated delivery time, so you should pay attention to this when choosing which service to use. To get a better estimate for delivery dates, you should try using a shipping time calculator - this will help you gauge whether the delivery speed is suitable for your needs. Just remember that even though shipping estimates on most courier websites, such as USPS estimated shipping time are great, they are not guaranteed for most shipping classes.

Tracking

As mentioned, the tracking number provided by your shipping courier can help in determining the delivery time. For example, you can use your number to get an estimate for your FedEx Ground shipping time.

Improve Shipping Process

You can streamline the shipping process to ensure the most accurate delivery time. For this, you should identify specific factors that make the shipping process easy and helps you avoid things that lengthen the shipping process.

Coronavirus Impact

Right now, the coronavirus pandemic is having a major effect on shipping times. Many governments have imposed restrictions to slow the spread of the virus, which means that many couriers have had to suspend international delivery routes or are facing delays on open routes. You should take this into account when estimating delivery dates for your international shipments.

Get Real Estimates for Delivery Times

While considering the question of “how long does international shipping take,” you have to take certain things into consideration to get a good answer. International orders shipped through couriers are subject to different delivery times based on customs clearance, restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, and standard or express services.

However, with the help of a shipping time calculator - like the one available through Easyship - and other processes that will streamline your international shipping, you can complete your deliveries with no fuss.

That said, you can make your international shipping process smooth by engaging the services of Easyship. The platform is designed to ease shipping for all sizes of businesses. You can manage every aspect of your shipping from the platform in one dashboard.