Snail mail

New technology cannot replace the good old snail mail when it comes to sending handwritten letters, gifts and postcards. Royal Mail is the UK’s mail service and its website ( has in-depth information about sending and receiving mail overseas.

Sending letters

Sending postcards and letters home is as simple as buying a stamp at the post office or corner store and popping it in the mail.
The Royal Mail also offers a price finder website service.

Sending a letter or card to Europe (weighing up to 20g) costs 50p and to anywhere else in the world 81p. Australia and New Zealand are in the Royal Mail’s Zone 2 for global deliveries, and South Africa in Zone 1.

A postcard weighing 30 grams to South Africa, Australia or New Zeland sent airmail will cost you £1,22. You can send small packages weighing up to 2kg via airmail, with these costing £30 for Zone 1 and 2. For these, simply write ‘small packet’ on the front top left of the package and don’t forget to attach a Customs declaration form. For further details, see Royal Mail’s price guide.

For packages heavier than 2kg, the Royal Mail’s Parcelforce are used. Items are priced individually depending on weight and factors including the destination, how fast you want it to arrive and whether the contents will be insured. Airmail can be delivered in three to five days, depending on the destination.

Sending valuables or presents

Royal Mail recommends enhanced services if you are sending valuables ‘Airsure’ or ‘International Signed For’ home to protect your goods. Mail sent using Airsure (Airmail fee plus £4.20) receives priority handling, can be tracked electronically, and comes with compensation cover of up to £34, with additional cover £2 extra. International Signed For costs £3.50 on top of the normal postage and gives the peace of mind of having your package signed for on delivery, instead of left on a doorstep.


To save your packages getting ripped open, fumigated or devoured by sniffer dogs, put a Customs declaration on the outside. You should clearly print what is inside and how much it costs. 
This is important because Customs authorities around the world are cracking down on mail arriving in their country without the required customs declarations correctly completed. 
If you’re posting packets or parcels outside the EU and don’t complete the CN22 or CN23 correctly, they may delay or return the item to you.

For gifts and goods up to £270 in value you’ll need to complete and attach a CN22 customs declaration label. Don’t forget to put your own name and address on the item as well.
Use customs declaration CN23 and the SP126 plastic envelope for gifts and goods over £270 in value. And again, don’t forget to put your own name and address on the item as well.

Always check what you are allowed to send. If you are not sure about what you cannot send, go online to the Royal Mail’s web page for prohibited goods or call their customer service centre on 08457 740 740. Textphone users should call 0845 600 0606.

Also check the Customs information for the country you are posting to — even if it can be sent from here, it may not be allowed in at the other end.

Correct addresses

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? But putting the correct address in legible writing complete with postcode is beyond some people. There are three basic rules for getting the address correct. 
1. Get the postcode right. New Zealand, for instance, does not have a postcode system, but for most other countries, it is a must. If you are not sure about a postal code, simply click on the Royal Mail’s postal code finder.
2. Write the town and country name in capital letters, without abbreviations, at the end of the address. 
3. Put on a return address in case it all goes wrong.

Address example for Australia:
Mr Bruce Cobber
264 High Street
AUSTRALIA (The state abbreviation should be inserted on the same line as, and between, the town and the postcode)

Or New Zealand:
Mr Rangi Sweetas
64 Waterloo Quay

Or South Africa:
Mr Doug de Villiers
2 Dorothy Street


The mail system is heaving at Christmas, so getting your cards and pressies in to the post office early is going to ensure you don’t get a cranky call from your sister when nothing arrives for Christmas Day, and you’re busy opening your huge parcel that just lobbed on your doorstep. The Christmas deadlines change every year and Royal Mail encourages people to constantly check the website, call into a post office or phone General Customer Service on 0845-774 0740.

As a guide, the following 2009 deadlines will apply:
» December 11: Last posting date for Airmail letters to western Europe.
» December 9: Airmail letters to Japan, the US, Canada and eastern Europe
» December 4: Airmail letters to South and Central America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, New Zealand and Australia.