A Comprehensive Review of the Fastest International Shipping Options
by Lori Boyer
Spurred on by the pandemic, international shipping needs skyrocketed in 2020. With old-fashioned brick and mortar stores shuttered, consumers and businesses alike turned to the internet to get their needs met — and they weren’t only shopping for goods in their home country. As a result, the share of goods purchased and shipped online globally skyrocketed. By the end of 2022, we had reached a historic record — $32 trillion in global tradeopens in new tab, a 12% increaseopens in new tab over previous years. An astounding 11 billion tons of goodsopens in new tab were shipped across the ocean in a single year (that’s 1.5 tons per person globally!).
Let’s face it, the world is becoming more and more interconnected. And whether you work in ecommerce or at a 3PL, marketplace, or any other business that relies on shipping, it is critical that you’re able to meet the global demand that will inevitably come your way. When you are ready to expand into other countries (or if you’re looking to improve your current international shipping!), finding the fastest, most affordable international shipping option is critical to your success.
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Things to look for in an international shipping carrier
A variety of factors should be considered when choosing an international shipping carrier. The following characteristics all come into play when finding the right carrier for your individual business.
- Delivery speed — This is pretty self-explanatory; you want your products to get to your customers as quickly as possible. It’s easy to see why: 87% of consumersopens in new tab say that delivery speed would change where and how they shop. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the faster the delivery, the higher the cost will be. So, make sure to weigh the cost vs. the urgency of the delivery.
- Shipping rates —Just like with delivery speed, you want to make sure you're getting the best deal. Compare international shipping prices from different carriers (not just the big ones!) and make sure to factor in any additional fees, such as customs or taxes. See the section below for some of the most common carrier shipping rates.
- Insurance — It’s estimated that 1.7 million shipmentsopens in new tab are lost or stolen each year in the United States. No one wants to lose money due to lost or damaged goods, so make sure that your packages can be insured. Look for prices that range between 1.5% and 4% of the value of the goods.
- Tracking — Being able to track your package can give you peace of mind and also helps you to keep your customers informed. Thanks to advancements in GPS software, knowing where your package is at all times is becoming easier and easier. Be sure to review the tracking options that come with any international shipping company.
- Customer service — In the worst case scenario, if something goes wrong, you want to work with a carrier that will be responsive and helpful. The good news is that you can find plenty of resources online to find out about others’ experiences. Be sure to take some time to read online reviews before selecting a carrier.
- Maximum shipping weight/dimensions — Maximum shipping weight and dimensions are also important to consider. You obviously need to make sure the carrier you choose can accommodate the size and weight of your products. If you ship oversized or hazardous materials, review the prices that come along with those specialty items as well.
- Weekend delivery —More and more customers are expecting to receive packages on any day of the week. Not all carriers offer this service, however. If you need to get your products to your customers on weekends, make sure the carrier you choose offers this option.
Comparing major international shipping options
Now it’s time for the good stuff! Let’s compare some of the nitty-gritty of the most popular options out there. For the purposes of brevity, this article will cover the general costs and shipping restrictions of some of the most commonly used carriers and will give a brief overview of smaller carriers. However, don’t forget to do your own research and look into the features mentioned in the section above as well.
Note: The information below is subject to change. As always, it’s recommended that you check for current details on a carrier’s website or contact them directly for a quote based on your specific shipping needs.
Overview — DHL Expressopens in new tab is a popular option for international shipping. They offer fast delivery, competitive rates, and good tracking options. However, they can be a bit more expensive than other carriers, and their weight and dimension restrictions can be strict.
- Average cost — DHL Express international shipping rates start at around $45 for a small package (less than 2 kg) sent to a nearby country and can go up to hundreds of dollars for larger packages sent to more distant countries. The cost for ecommerce services may be lower than Express, but the delivery time can be longer.
- Weight and dimension restrictions — The maximum weight for a single package with DHL Express is around 70 kg, and the maximum dimensions are around 120 x 80 x 80 cm. These restrictions may vary depending on the destination country and the service selected. If you are shipping oversized or heavy packages, DHL also offers freight services, which can accommodate larger and heavier packages.
- Other restrictions — In addition to package weight and dimension restrictions, DHL has some restrictions on the types of items that can be shipped internationally. Hazardous materials, for example, are not allowed to be shipped with DHL Express. Certain items such as fragile items, valuable items, and live animals, may require special handling, and thus, may have additional costs.
Overview — FedExopens in new tab offers a wide range of services and is known for reliability. This reliability can come at a cost, however. They are slightly more expensive than other carriers, and their weight and dimension restrictions are on the stricter side.
- Average cost — The cost of international shipping with FedEx can vary greatly depending on the destination, package size and weight, and shipping service level chosen. Factors such as customs clearance and duties can also affect the cost. However, on average, international shipping costs with FedEx can range from $30 to $100 or more for small- to medium-sized packages. The cost can increase for larger or heavier packages or for expedited shipping services.
- Weight and dimension restrictions — For FedEx International Priority and FedEx International Economy, the maximum weight is 68 kg per package and the size restriction is a maximum of 274 cm in length and 330 cm in length and girth (length + 2x width + 2x height).
- Other restrictions — FedEx Express will accept certain hazardous materials classified as "limited quantity" and "excepted quantity" per the IATA regulations. Hazardous materials are not accepted on FedEx International Ground.
Overview — UPSopens in new tab is a great option for international shipping. They offer fast delivery and good tracking options. They can be a bit more expensive than some other carriers, but they are known for their reliability.
- Average cost — The costs for international shipping with UPS will depend on the shipping service level chosen, the destination, package size and weight, and other factors such as customs clearance and duties. On average, international shipping costs with UPS for business can range from $30 to $100 or more for small- to medium-sized packages. The cost can increase for larger or heavier packages or for expedited shipping services.
- Weight and dimension restrictions —
- For UPS Worldwide Express, UPS Worldwide Express Freight, UPS Worldwide Saver, UPS Worldwide Expedited, and UPS Worldwide Express Saver, the maximum weight is 68 kg per package and the size restriction is a maximum of 274 cm in length and 330 cm in length and girth (length + 2x width + 2x height).
- Other restrictions — UPS does not transport weapons, illegal drugs, and hazardous materials. It's important to check with UPS or the relevant authorities to ensure that your item is not prohibited or restricted for shipment.
Overview — USPS Internationalopens in new tab is a popular option not only for businesses that need to ship to the U.S., but also for those that need to ship around the world to 190 different countries. They offer some of the most competitive rates out there and are known for their good customer service. Though not the fastest shipping option, they offer priority shipping you can pay for as desired.
- Average cost — On average, international shipping costs with USPS for small- to medium-sized packages can range from $20 to $50 for economy services such as First-Class Package International Service and $30 to $60 for Priority Mail International. The cost can increase for larger or heavier packages or for expedited shipping services such as Priority Mail Express International.
- Weight and dimension restrictions — The maximum length for First-Class Shipping internationally is 24 inches, and combined maximum length + height + thickness is 36 inches. For other international packages, length (the longest side of the package) plus total girth (distance around the thickest part) of your package must be under 108 inches.
- Other restrictions — The first thing of note with USPS is that if you’re not allowed to ship an item in the United States, you are also not allowed to ship it to any other country. Likewise, just because you’re allowed to ship something domestically does not mean you can ship it internationally. All shipments are subject to the laws of that particular foreign country. The following items cannot be shipped:
- Air Bags
- Alcoholic Beverages
- Dry Ice
- Hemp-based products (including cannabidiol [CBD])
- Marijuana (medical or otherwise)
- Nail Polish
- Perfumes (containing alcohol)
Don’t overlook lesser-known carriers
A variety of carriers throughout the world have specialty focuses or only deliver within certain geographic areas. While these carriers are not as well known as some of the ones previously covered, they may still be great options for your needs. Read on for a quick overview of some of these carriers.
Do you ship large or heavy items on a regular basis? R+L Carriersopens in new tab may be the right international carrier for you. They have fewer weight and dimension restrictions than other carriers while still offering competitive rates.
Blue Dartopens in new tab is a popular option for shipping in India and South Asia. They offer competitive rates and good customer service. However, their delivery speed can be slower than other carriers.
For those doing a lot of shipping in Latin America, Ascendiaopens in new tab is one of your best options. It’s good to keep in mind that, similar to Blue Dart and other regional carriers, the delivery speeds at Ascendia can be slower than the bigger carriers. That being said, their rates are good, and since they specialize in Latin America, they can benefit those shipping in the area.
Orange DSopens in new tab is a go-to carrier for shipping in both Africa and the Middle East. They have great en-route and DDP tracking for a large number of countries. If speed is of essence to you, however, this may not be a great option. Their fastest, expedited delivery speed is still just 3-8 days.
APC Postal Logistics
Our final regional carrier is APC Postal Logisticsopens in new tab who specialize in shipping to Asia. They offer competitive rates — up to 30% off for commercial goods. Their average shipping time is 4 — 7 days and they have solid online reviews.
Use technology to make the international shipping process easy
In today’s high-tech world, no one should ship internationally without taking advantage of the latest technology has to offer. That’s where EasyPost comes in. EasyPost is a shipping platform that helps businesses with both their domestic and international shipping needs. Our industry-leading API integrates easily into a business’ tech stack to automate the shipping process, making it easy to manage orders, print shipping labels, and tracking shipments. Using cutting-edge technology, EasyPost helps businesses to compare prices and delivery times, then purchase and print shipping labels, all in one place. Our Tracking API gives you insight into packages in real-time, and our tracking webhooks mean you receive automated notifications on all package movements, including delivery. In addition, our Insurance API provides peace of mind when shipping internationally. For FAQs on how to ship internationally using EasyPost’s API, click hereopens in new tab.
To learn more about how EasyPost makes shipping internationally a smoother, easier process, sign up free today.