Traveller essentials - what you can send in the post and to where

Travelling is one of life's greatest pleasures - the joy of experiencing other cultures, standing in the presence of iconic sights and discovering hidden gems is incomparable. Those that are fortunate enough to be on the road for extended periods will understand this well; the freedom to travel for some is one of the best things in life.

However, there may come a time when you realise you forgot to bring that essential item and although there may be shops where you are, they might not sell what you want or need – and as many a backpacker will attest - the funds to buy a replacement may not be available. What do you do? Get someone to post it to you, of course!

Here's the low down on what you can have sent to you:

Food stuffs

It might seem strange, but sometimes you can't be without a favourite food for too long. 'Proper' chocolate, if you're staying in the US, for example or a certain spread (that everyone either loves or hates) and of course, crisps of a particular flavour from home just can’t be substituted.

However, there are rules about posting food items and they vary from one country to another. A general one that transcends border control though is this: anything that is deemed perishable and may go off while in transit cannot be sent in the post.

That means no fresh fruit or veg, no dairy and definitely no meat. Foods should have a 'best before' date of at least six months. Items that are store bought and packaged tend to be acceptable, providing they remain in their original packaging.

Customs agents will expect to see item descriptions and their ingredients when passing through screening, so be certain to include those details and make sure that the original labelling is evident. Double check too that there are no ingredients in the goods that are on the destinations countries prohibited items list.  

Further information on sending food in the post can be found here.

Medicines

Prescription medicines are understandably subject to restrictions, to ensure that they are used properly and safely. They generally need to be sent by, or at the request of, a qualified doctor or nurse. In some cases, therefore, it might be easier to go to the local doctor or chemist to obtain a prescription.

If medicines from home is the only option, you may need to obtain an export licence from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MRHA), so check first – if you send something you shouldn’t, there’s a risk the parcel will be seized. If you are really not sure, ask the local parcel delivery service for guidance.

Contact lenses

Another frequently forgotten item is contact lenses. These can be difficult to post as they contain liquid and many countries prohibit them outright. Posting a pair of glasses however, isn’t usually a problem, providing the recipient won't mind sporting their specs instead.

The alternative is for sender to post a copy of the recipient's prescription, so that they may buy the right lenses where they are. 

Money

In these days of internet banking, there shouldn't be much need for posting money abroad. However, there may be circumstances that necessitate the sending of physical notes – though understand that the ipostparcels service is not suitable for items classed as ‘valuable goods’ – which means those of high value such as cashiers or travellers cheques, currency, money orders, credit or debit cards.

For more information on valuable goods, see our prohibited items for international delivery page here

It’s also important to note that many countries will not accept cash. These include Australia, China, France, IndiaJamaica and New Zealand - to name but a few. It’s advisable to do your research otherwise you may lose your money all together.  Check the information on our individual country pages for details on sending currency through the post.  

Personal Effects

Sending personal effects from the UK to another country can be done, though you do need to be aware of a few things before doing so. Each country has different regulations and requirements around clearing these kinds of items; some are not particularly strict, but many are – and usually to the countries where a personal effects parcel might be sent.

For example, Australia and New Zealand require a very detailed packing list, noting every item with a description and value associated to it. There are admin fees to cover the customs clearance as well – and failure to get these things right can result in additional fees in the form of fines. Other countries don’t require fees to be paid, as long as the items are all used; new items will attract an import tax – so check this out before sending things off to a far flung destination – it could become more costly than expected. Many of our country specific pages have information on personal effects to the most popular destinations.   

Related content:

International prohibited items
How to protect items in transit
Sending food and drink in the post
How to complete an international invoice
Sending large and heavy items in the post
Waterproofing and packaging your parcel
Packaging parcels for international delivery

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