The United Kingdom, or the UK, is a European nation that includes England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. While each country has its own postal services, you can follow the same key tips and tricks for shipping anywhere within the UK.
This article outlines the best carriers for shipments to the UK, unique shipping requirements, and the postage required for standard postcards, envelopes, and parcels.
Best Carriers for Mail to the United Kingdom
The United States Postal Service (USPS), Federal Express (FedEx), the United Parcel Service (UPS), and DHL all ship to the United Kingdom.
For envelopes and light parcels, USPS is typically the most affordable carrier. USPS is also the only carrier that offers flat rates to ship to the UK. However, if you choose to ship with USPS, the one major con is that your tracking number won’t work once your parcel reaching the UK. USPS transports all mail to the customs offices in the UK, where Royal Mail then collects the envelopes or parcels and delivers them to their destination.
While USPS is certainly the cheapest option, it is not the most efficient. Royal Mail can take a few days to deliver USPS parcels, and the delivery date is not a guarantee. FedEx, UPS, and DHL, on the other hand, all handle parcels from the US to their destination within the UK. As a result, they are able to guarantee faster delivery times, albeit for a higher cost.
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 the United Kingdom
Postcards can be shipped via USPS using international postage rates. To ship a postcard to the UK, you will need $1.40 in postage, which can be covered with one Global First-Class Forever Stamp ($1.40) or three First Class Forever Stamps ($1.80).
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 the United Kingdom
Envelopes can be sent to the UK using international postage rates with USPS. To ship an envelope weighing less than one ounce to the UK, you will need $1.40 in postage. You can use one Global First-Class Forever stamp ($1.40) or three First Class Forever Stamps ($1.80).
If your envelope weighs more than one ounce, you will need an additional $1.04 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 that it will need to be hand-sorted. Non-machinable envelopes require an additional $0.21 in postage.
Postage to Send Large Envelopes to the United Kingdom
Large envelopes can be sent to the UK 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:
|2 Global Forever Stamps ($2.80) or 5 First Class Forever Stamps ($3.00)|
|3 Global Forever Stamp ($4.20) or 7 First Class Forever Stamps ($4.20)|
|4 Global Forever Stamp ($5.60) or 9 First Class Forever Stamps ($5.40)|
|5 Global Forever Stamp ($7.00) or 11 First Class Forever Stamps ($6.60)|
|6 Global Forever Stamp ($8.40) or 13 First Class Forever Stamps ($7.80)|
|7 Global Forever Stamp ($9.80) or 15 First Class Forever Stamps ($9.00)|
|7 Global Forever Stamp ($9.80) or 16 First Class Forever Stamps ($9.60)|
|8 Global Forever Stamp ($11.20) or 18 First Class Forever Stamps ($10.80)|
|10 Global Forever Stamp ($14.00) or 22 First Class Forever Stamps ($13.20)|
|11 Global Forever Stamp ($15.40) or 26 First Class Forever Stamps ($15.60)|
Visit Where to Buy Stamps to find out where to buy stamps near you.
Postage to Send Packages to the United Kingdom
The postage required to send packages to the UK 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:
- Follow the link to the USPS Postage Price Calculator.
- Under the “What’s the destination country” dropdown menu, select “United Kingdom (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland).”
- 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 for 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 a variety of 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 the United Kingdom
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 their delivery in 3-5 days.
Package delivery times are dependent on the carrier and the shipping method you choose. Package delivery can also be delayed by customs. Generally, parcels shipped with USPS, FedEx, and UPS take 2-7 days to reach their final destination.
Addressing Mail to the United Kingdom
In general, addresses in the UK are similar to those of the continental United States. The most notable difference actually has nothing to do with the address itself, but rather with the placement of the address on the envelope.
When addressing an envelope that is going to the UK, you should set up your envelope in the following way:
- Destination Address: The destination address should be written in the bottom left corner of the envelope. Make sure your text is left-justified but leave a good margin around your address to ensure it easy to read. Your address should be written using the format noted below.
- Return Address: The return address should be placed on the back of the envelope. Make sure it is clearly visible even once the envelope is closed.
- Postage: Your stamp(s) should be placed in the top right corner of the envelope.
Your destination address should be completed in the following way:
Name of Addressee
Business Name (optional)
House Number and Street Name
Locality (if needed)
Town (printed in all capitals)
Vauxall Post Office
37 Revesby Walk
Additional information regarding each line of the address is discussed below:
Line 1: Name of Addressee
This line should reflect the name of the person to whom you are shipping.
Line 2: Business Name (Optional)
If your letter is professional in nature or going to a business, the business name should be included as the second line in the address.
Line 3: House Number and Street Name
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: Locality (if needed)
Some cities in the UK are broken down into localities to provide additional clarifications for addresses. Localities allow postmen to differentiate between streets with the same name. They are usually geographical (e.g., Southwest End or North Side) and are just as important as any other part of the address.
Line 5: Town
The name of the town should be printed in full capitalization to make it distinct from the rest of the address. For example, the address above uses “BIRMINGHAM” rather than “Birmingham.”
Line 6: Postal Code
Postal codes in the UK are alphanumeric and vary in length from six to eight characters. Most postal codes will be broken into a one-two letter postal code area (BN), followed by a one-two number postal district (BN17), followed by a space and one-two number postal sector (BN17 2), followed by a two-character postal unit (BN17 2LG).
All characters within the postal code should be capitalized. Make sure you leave a clear space between the postal district and postal sector.
You can search for the postal code of your destination address at UK Postal Code.
Line 7: Country Name
This line represents the country in which your parcel’s final destination is located. If you are shipping within the UK, your address should be the specific country within the UK: Scotland, England, Wales, or Northern Ireland.
Customs Forms for Shipments to the United Kingdom
Parcels shipped to the United Kingdom 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 to be 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 the United Kingdom
Each country has its own set of rules regarding items that are prohibited from import or export. Being able to ship an item from the United States does not guarantee that the item will be able to pass through customs and into your destination country. It is therefore important to make sure that the items you are shipping are not included on the prohibited or restricted item lists.
The UK current prohibits the import of the following items:
- Controlled drugs
- Offensive weapons, such as flick knives
- Self-defense sprays, such as pepper spray
- Endangered animal and plant species
- Rough diamonds
- Indecent and obscene materials, such as books, magazines, films, and DVDs
- Personal imports of meat and dairy products from most non-European Union (EU) countries
The UK also has restrictions on several items:
- Firearms, explosives, and ammunition that do not have the required special licenses.
- Food and plant products that are not free from pests and diseases, are not for your own use, or were not grown in the EU.
- Goods suspected of infringing on intellectual property rights.
Here’s a link to learn more about banned and restricted goods.