International Shipping: A Beginner’s Guide

October 4, 2021

International Shipping
International shipping is enough to make any seller’s head spin. Luckily, we’ve got a guide to bring you some peace of mind.


In the modern world of shipping transportation, it’s easy for consumers to purchase items from overseas. However, it’s far more involved to be on the other end of the equation.

Whether you’re new to selling or simply new to international shipping, you might be unaware of what international shipping entails. So, what does it take to ship your products from the U.S. to other countries?

Packaging & Labeling

First, you want to make sure to coordinate with your manufacturer or source to clearly label and package your merchandise. This helps ensure that you receive the correct products as well as helps to organize your inventory. You want the packaging and labels to make your life easier once you’ve received your inventory.

It’s also important to make sure you have the right packaging for shipping an item overseas. Packaging should not only properly protect your product as it travels, but meet the destination country’s packaging standards as well.

Finally, it’s also essential that you have the correct labeling for an international package. Incorrect labeling can result in packages getting lost, being sent back, or getting stuck in customs. To avoid this, make sure that you research proper labeling before sending a package overseas.

Mode of Transportation

There are generally two ways to transport your items internationally — via air or sea. Additionally, Countries like Canada and Mexico can receive orders by train or car from the United States. Air travel is ideal for fewer packages, while sea travel is best for transporting larger shipments.

Note that each mode of transportation has different travel times, as there are no standard shipping times for international shipping. Below are estimations for how long each mode of transportation can take to arrive:

  • Air: Roughly 1–10 Days
  • Sea: Roughly 2 Weeks-A Few Months
  • Train: Roughly 3–8 Days
  • Car: Roughly 1–6 Days

Finally, it’s important to remember that each type of transportation also has different processing times. Once your package arrives in its destination country, ground transportation will transport the package from the customs entry point to the customer.

Delivery Duty Paid vs. Delivery Duty Unpaid

International sellers must know the difference between Delivery Duty Paid (DDP) and Delivery Duty Unpaid (DDU).

DDU means that the seller is responsible for the safe delivery of a package to the customer. With DDU, the customer pays for all transportation expenses and assumes all risks during transport. However, once the package arrives in its destination country, the customer becomes responsible for paying all landing costs.

DDP requires the seller to cover safe delivery of the package, assuming all transportation expenses, risks, and all landing costs. With DDP, the customer is not required to pay any additional fees once the package arrives.

Sellers must know what delivery method applies to their package before it’s sent overseas. Customers must also know beforehand of any extra costs they will have to pay to receive their package.

Failure to clarify this information to your customer or to understand it yourself can result in two potentially devastating outcomes:

Your Package is Stuck in Customs

Unpaid packages could get stuck in customs, meaning the customer will not receive their package.

The Customer Faces Unknown Fees

Customers faced with high, unexpected fees are likely to reject their package.

Landing Costs

Whether you or your customer pays for landing costs, it’s important to understand these fees. Landing Costs refer to any shipping charges applied once a package has reached its destination country. As the package enters another country, it must meet the customs regulations for that country. Each country has different rules and restrictions, so make sure to research them before shipping your package.

Landing costs include a number of fees, including:

Customs Duties

Customs duties are taxes imposed on goods transported across international borders. These duties exist in order to protect each country’s economy, residents, jobs, and environment. They control the flow of goods, especially restrictive and prohibited goods, in and out of the country. Duties are assessed by the declared value of the goods shipped. To avoid excessive taxes, be sure that your customs forms accurately represent the values of your goods.


Domestic taxes are an important part of landing costs. Some countries have more agreeable tax policies than others, so always make sure to review before shipping.

Shipping Costs

The shipping tariff includes the cost of shipping as well as any additional freight taxes. According to the International Trade Administration, some countries have very high duties and taxes, while others have relatively low duties and taxes. If your product is primarily made in the U.S. and of domestic originating components, it may qualify for duty-free entry into U.S. free trade agreement (FTA) partner countries.

Broker Fees

A customs broker works with importers and is responsible for clearing your package as it enters its destination country. Brokers must ensure that your package meets the local regulations, laws, and packing specifications. They also make sure that all taxes, fees, documentation, and other needs have been fulfilled. Broker fees vary depending on the company and country, so research what your fees will be ahead of time.

Depending on the receiving country, landed costs can include a range of additional fees, including insurance, storage, and fraud prevention.

Keep Up To Date

Due to COVID-19, the world of international shipping has become trickier than ever before. Make sure that you’re staying up to date on any countries that are not accepting international packages. Any changes that could potentially jeopardize delivering a product to your customer are important to know.

It can be very intimidating to consider international shipping for your brand, but it doesn’t have to be. By keeping organized and up-to-date on international shipping news, the process can be made much simpler. Additionally, there are third-party programs that can help you manage your shipments, taking the burden off of your shoulders.

About Soapbox

The less time and money you spend on fulfillment, the quicker you can get back to growing your business. Soapbox wants to help you manage your fulfillment operations, so you can focus on your business growth. To learn more about our shipping services, click here!

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