Sending a Gift Abroad

Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries… if your relatives, friends and loved ones are dotted around the globe, sending a gift abroad is probably on your international shipping agenda. Here is a ParcelHero guide to sending a gift abroad, from making sure your gift is eligible for shipping to packing it correctly.


hamper-caribbeanWhat You Can & Can’t Send Via Courier

Food and drink is often high on the list of gifts, or even a ‘taste-of-home’ care package for an ex-pat. Thankfully, the rules around shipping food abroad are simple to follow, if not a tad restricting. The golden rule of sending food abroad is don’t send anything classed as perishable. Perishable items are foodstuffs that can spoil during transit, which is everything that isn’t stored in a tin or jar, or dried goods. If you do want to ship a particular food item, then here is a basic criteria: For further information read our Do’s and Don’ts on Shipping Food Abroad.

  • Foods must be in the original manufacturer’s packaging.
  • Food packaging must be sealed and not tampered with in any way.
  • Food label must list all ingredients.
  • Foods must have a shelf life of longer than 6 months from the date of shipping.
  • All foods that have a shelf life of less than 6 months will be classed as perishables, and cannot be sent via courier, even if store bought.

It is important to check if either your courier or the recipient country has restrictions on the gift you wish to send. Information on restricted items can be found on each country’s customs website, which normally has a detailed list of what is currently allowed and what isn’t. It can also give details on quantity. It is sometimes a bit surprising to find out what some countries restricts, from Kinder Eggs in the USA to game consoles in China: here are some of the best.

Remember, no courier will transport alcohol in any form. This is due to alcohol being a flammable substance.

For example, these are items are restricted for shipping:

  • Perfume
  • Lighters
  • Photographic supplies
  • Lithium Batteries

How to Ship Your Gift Via Courier

Now you have made sure your gift is okay to ship, it’s now a good idea to look into some shipping details. Depending on how much time you are giving for the shipment, it is a good idea to choose a delivery service and courier that caters to your requirements and budget. For example, if you need an urgent delivery then our Express service is ideal for any time-sensitive, last minute deliveries to anywhere in the world. If your parcel is less urgent, then our Economy service is perfect.

chinese-new-year

If you are sending a gift for a national celebration then it is important to be aware that national holidays affect delivery times. It is a good idea to first check delivery deadlines to ensure your gift arrives on time, to avoid any disappointment. If you are shipping a gift for Christmas, then please ensure you have read our Christmas delivery deadline page for further information.

Sending a gift during a public holiday?

Close-up of a man's hand signing delivery document

Customs Requirements for Shipping Internationally


When you complete your order you will be provided with customs documents to be printed out and attached to your package. It is important that you correctly fill out the required fields to avoid any confusion at Customs, which could end up with you paying more than you should. It is also essential that you attach these documents clearly to the outer packaging of your parcel, with a spare set inside the package for added security.

It is important to remember that most international shipments outside of the European Union will be liable for customs duty and tax, and this may include your gift. If your gift is liable for tax, then this charge is not included with your original courier quote – it is a separate charge issued by the customs authority. It is therefore important that you accurately state the value of items and the reason for shipping – it is proven to be far simpler and cheaper to be completely honest on customs forms than attempting to get round customs duties. Some countries operate an import exemption amount on tax for gifts and personal items. When shipping a gift to the US for example then a $100 USD exemption is in place. This means you can import a gift that is valued under $100 tax-free. We know international country-by-country customs restrictions can be confusing so if you want to check, give our customer service team a quick call for advice.

To make things a little simpler, every product has a commodity code (also known as a Customs Tariff code or harmonization code). Each code has a set level of tax to be paid on it, depending on whichever country you are shipping to. It is important to state this code clearly; otherwise the customs authority will simply open your package, check the items themselves and then apply what they think is an appropriate amount.

This charge is normally paid by the recipient of the package, but as this is a gift, you can arrange for the charge to be sent to the sender – all you need to do is contact our customer care team to arrange it. For further details on import duties and taxes, we recommend reading our customs and import duties page.

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How to Package Your Gift for Shipping Abroad

  • Choose a new box to transport your gift in. This will provide the maximum amount of protection. We absolutely recommend that you don’t use any form of gift-wrapping as the outer packaging, instead, use it as the inner packaging. We recommend using a gift bag, which will survive a possible customs inspection.
  • Place the items inside the box, but without touching the inner walls. Use packaging chips or newspaper to then fill in any leftover space to stop the items moving around during transit.
  • All items should be wrapped individually. If you are sending precious items then you should use a ‘two box’ method. This involves placing the precious items inside an internal box to then be placed inside a second, outer box, to provide extra cushioning.
  • Reinforce any hinges and flaps with packaging tape for added protection. This is particularly important if you are using an old box. The box should feel self-supporting when you lift it.
  • Place a copy of the shipping paperwork that is automatically provided by ParcelHero on the outer packaging of the package. Place a spare set of customs documents on the inside of the package.
  • Remove any unused bar codes or labels to ensure shipping staff are not confused by which barcode to scan or label to check.

Packing your gift is an important aspect to shipping internationally. Your item will pass through varied handling stages, conveyor belts and transport vehicles. However, with some everyday packaging items and a few helpful tips your package will arrive undamaged and on time.

If this is the first time you have shipped an item abroad then please read our packaging page for further instructions on packaging your item correctly.

Track Your Package
Now that our professional courier has taken your gift you can track its progress by logging into our tracking portal with your unique shipping number. Our Real-Time parcel tracking technology provides up-to-date parcel scanning information as it passes through each stage of its journey.

If there are any problems, like your parcel has been marked ‘Exception’, then it is possibly being held at customs and is awaiting clearance. Log into your live parcel-scanning updates and confirm what the issue is. If this problem continues, then please get in touch with our UK based customer care team who can assist with getting your gift moving again.

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