While France is one of the European countries closest to the United States, it is still very far away. Packages traveling to France must cross country borders and 4,775 miles of Atlantic Ocean to reach their destinations. As a result, international shipping can be long, arduous, and, at times, expensive. However, it doesn’t always have to be!
This article outlines the best carriers for shipments to France, unique shipping requirements, and the postage required for standard postcards, envelopes, and parcels.
Best Carriers for Mail to France
The United States Postal Service (USPS), Federal Express (FedEx), and the United Parcel Service (UPS) all ship to France.
For envelopes and light parcels, USPS is typically the most affordable carrier. First, USPS transports all envelopes and parcels to customs offices in France. Then, the mail is collected by La Poste (the French mail service), who ultimately delivers it to its final destination.
However, while USPS is often the cheapest option, it is not the most efficient. If you need your parcel to arrive quickly or in a specific timeframe, FedEx or UPS is a better shipping option. FedEx is the most expensive, but it offers the most definitive delivery days and has several shipping services that can guarantee delivery within a certain timeframe.
Will all that said, given that USPS is typically the most affordable option, the postage rates in this article reflect USPS prices (unless otherwise specified).
Postage to Send Postcards to France
Postcards can be shipped via USPS using international postage rates. To ship a postcard to France, you will need $1.30 in postage (per the August 29, 2021 price increase), which can be covered with one Global First Class Forever Stamp ($1.30) or three First Class Forever Stamps ($1.74).
USPS defines postcards as rectangular cards that have dimensions between 3.5×5.0x0.007 inches and 4.25×6.0x0.016 inches. Cards that are outside of these dimensions (or are not rectangular) require additional postage.
Postage to Send Standard Envelopes to France
Envelopes can be sent to France using international postage rates with USPS. To ship an envelope weighing less than one ounce to France, you will need $1.30 in postage (per the August 29, 2021 price increase), which can be covered with one Global First Class Forever Stamp ($1.30) or three First Class Forever Stamps ($1.74).
If your envelope weighs more than one ounce, you will need an additional $1.13 in postage for every additional ounce.
USPS defines standard envelopes as envelopes that have dimensions between 3.5×5.0x0.25 inches and 6.125×11.5×0.25 inches. If your envelope is rigid or not rectangular, your envelope will be considered non-machinable, meaning it will need to be hand-sorted. Non-machinable envelopes require an additional $0.21 in postage.
Postage to Send Large Envelopes to France
Large envelopes can be sent to France using international postage rates with USPS. USPS considers large envelopes to have dimensions between 6.125×11.5×0.25 inches and 12x15x0.75 inches.
The postage required to mail large envelopes is dependent on the weight of your envelope:
|1.0 ounce||$2.60||2 Global Forever Stamps ($2.60) or 5 First Class Forever Stamps ($2.90)|
|2.0 ounces||$3.67||3 Global Forever Stamp ($3.90) or 7 First Class Forever Stamps ($4.06)|
|3.0 ounces||$4.73||4 Global Forever Stamp ($5.20) or 9 First Class Forever Stamps ($5.22)|
|4.0 ounces||$5.81||5 Global Forever Stamp ($6.50) or 11 First Class Forever Stamps ($6.38)|
|5.0 ounces||$6.87||6 Global Forever Stamp ($7.80) or 12 First Class Forever Stamps ($6.96)|
|6.0 ounces||$7.93||7 Global Forever Stamp ($9.10) or 14 First Class Forever Stamps ($8.12)|
|7.0 ounces||$9.00||7 Global Forever Stamp ($9.10) or 16 First Class Forever Stamps ($9.28)|
|8.0 ounces||$10.06||8 Global Forever Stamp ($10.40) or 18 First Class Forever Stamps ($10.44)|
|9.0 ounces||$12.20||10 Global Forever Stamp ($13.00) or 22 First Class Forever Stamps ($12.76)|
|10.0 ounces||$12.20||10 Global Forever Stamp ($13.00) or 22 First Class Forever Stamps ($12.76)|
Visit Where to Buy Stamps to find out where to buy stamps near you.
Postage to Send Packages to France
The postage required to send packages to France is based on the size and weight of the parcel. You can calculate the cost of postage for your parcel using the USPS Postage Price Calculator.
To use the USPS Postage Price Calculator, follow these steps:
- Under the “What’s the destination country” dropdown menu, select “France.”
- Enter the date and time of when you plan to ship your parcel.
- Select the type of parcel you wish to send.
- A new page will appear with the price of various shipping options in your area.
You can choose the shipping method of your choice based on your desired delivery date. Once you have determined the shipping method you wish to use, you can print a label using the USPS Click-N-Ship.
If you want to avoid the hassle of calculating your package’s size and weight, you can also ship items using USPS Flat Rate boxes. Flat Rate Boxes come in various sizes and can be shipped for a standard rate regardless of the weight of the contents. For more information about the Flat Rate shipping options offered by USPS, visit USPS Priority Mail.
Delivery Times to France
The average delivery time for postcards and First Rate envelopes mailed with USPS First Class Mail International (the standard shipping option used) is 7-21 days. If you mail postcards or envelopes using Priority Mail International instead, the delivery time is shortened to 6-10 days. Priority Mail Express International is the most expensive option for postcards and letters, but it guarantees delivery in 3-5 days.
Package delivery times are dependent on the carrier and the shipping method you choose. Customs can also delay package delivery. Generally, parcels shipped with USPS, FedEx, and UPS take 2-7 days to reach their final destination.
Addressing Mail to France
Addresses in France are similar to those of the continental United States, with only a couple noticeable differences.
First, make sure your addresses are written in the correct location on your envelope:
- Destination Address: Write the destination address in the center of the back of the envelope. Other than the postage in the top right corner, the destination address should be the only thing written on this side of the envelope.
- Return Address: Write the return address on the flap on the front of the envelope (after you seal it). La Poste likes to have it written here to ensure that the envelope has not been unsealed or tampered with.
Second, keep track of your letters and lines! La Poste will only accept addresses if they meet the following criteria:
- Each address line cannot contain more than 38 characters
- The address cannot contain more than 6 total lines
- Each proper noun must be capitalized
Finally, addresses should be completed in the following way:
Company Name (optional)
Name of Addressee
Zip Code and City
FRENCH COMPANY (optional)
Additional information regarding each line of the address is discussed below:
Line 1: Company Name (Optional)
If your letter is professional in nature or going to a business, the business name should be included as the first line in the address.
When you write the business name, the business name (or at least the last word of the business name) should be fully capitalized. For example, French COMPANY or FRENCH COMPANY would both be acceptable.
Line 2: Name of Addressee
This line should reflect the name of the person to whom you are shipping. The last name of the addressee should be fully capitalized.
You can also consider using French titles with the name. For example:
- “Monsieur” or “M.” for a man
- “Madame” or “Mme” for a woman
- “Mademoiselle” or “Mlle” for a young woman
For example, you could write “M. John SMITH” or “Madame Sue SMITH.”
Line 3: Street Address
When writing the street address, you want to write the house number, followed by the street name. Do not use a comma to separate the house number and street name.
Line 4: Zip Code and City
This will mess up most Americans so pay close attention. In France, you want to write the Zip Code and then the city – not the other way around! French Zip Codes are five digits in length.
Certain addresses, especially business addresses, may also contain a “CEDEX.” CEDEX stands for Courrier d’Entreprise á Distribution Exceptionnelle. It is a special postal number assigned to certain businesses that receive their mail separately for more efficient delivery.
If the address has a CEDEX, the postal code will still appear as 5 digits, but the fully-capitalized word “CEDEX” will be added after the city. For example, the address above might instead read:
75010 Paris CEDEX
Line 4: Country Name
This line represents the country in which your parcel’s final destination is located (in this case, you will want to write “France”).
Customs Forms for Shipments to France
Parcels shipped to France require customs forms.
If you are shipping with USPS, you can print customs forms at USPS Custom Forms. Envelopes and small parcels require a Form 2976 Customs Declaration, which appears as a separate item on the shipping label. If you are shipping medium to large boxes, or items valued at more than $400, your parcel will require a Form 2976A Customs Declaration and Dispatch Note CP 72, which includes a full-length custom report included within your parcel.
If you are shipping with UPS, you can complete your customs forms using the UPS Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). If you are shipping with FedEx, you can complete your customs forms using the FedEx Electronic Trade Documents (ETD).
If you are concerned about your customs forms (or unsure how to fill them out), employees at USPS, FedEx, and UPS will happily help you complete the forms and prepare your package for shipment.
Items Prohibited from Import to France
Each country has its own set of rules regarding items that are prohibited for import or export. Being able to ship an item from the United States does not guarantee that the item will pass through customs and into your destination country. Therefore, it is important to make sure that the items you are shipping are not included on the French prohibited or restricted item lists.
France currently prohibits the import of the following items:
- Arms and ammunition
- Banknotes, coins that are legal tender in France, and precious metals
- Cigarette lighters that use butane gas
- Feeding bottles
- Funeral urns
- Goods bearing false marks
- Human remains
- Imitation pearls containing lead salt or any jewelry that has these pearls
- Measuring instruments with units that do not comply with French law
- Most live plants and animals
- Most perishable, infectious, and non-infectious biological substances
- Radioactive materials
- Saccharine in tablets or packets.
France also has restrictions on several items. Restricted items include:
- Bees, honey, and beeswax must be accompanied by a certificate of origin and non-infection issued by a qualified official.
- Books not in compliance with French copyright laws.
- Canned vegetables, fish, plums, and nuts that are not correctly demarcated.
- Gold coins or other articles weighing more than 500 grams that do not possess a permit from the Bank of France.
- Medicines or medical products that do not have a license from the Central Pharmaceutical Service of the Ministry of Health.
- Perishable biological substances that are not addressed to approved facilities.
- Plants, seeds, and bulbs without a plant health certificate.
- Tobacco leaves and stems, manufactured tobacco, cigars, cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and smoking tobacco weighing more than 10 kilograms (22 pounds) that are not permitted on behalf of the State Monopoly.
For a full list of France’s import prohibitions and restrictions, see USPS’s Country Conditions for Mailing – France.