Send/Receive International Packages

This page has taken a little from the Communicate how to and expanded some options.

The basic answer is that you can:

  • Ship by regular postal mail
  • Ship by a courier company
  • Get a "foreign address" and have your mail forwarded

Each will be explored in detail.

Post Office (Correos)

The post office (correos) offers little in the way of surprises. If you go to the cunter with virtually no Spanish skills and hand them something addressed to any destination in he world they will understand and just ask you for money.

The offer various services for sending. The default is "regular mail". It tends to be relatively fast (usually 2 days) around Nicaragua and gets slower the further away you get. But, I have found the delays to usually be larger in the US than in Nicaragua, for example. It has proven to be cheap and reliable.

There are no posted mail rates for sending packages so I asked. Here is the info I received on Paquetaría Internacional rates by writing ventas@correosdenicaragua.com.ni:

5 Kg. es de C$ 344.00
10 Kg. es de C$ 571.00

Nota: En este servicio no se cobra IVA.

So, in today's prices that is about $20 for 5 kg and about $33 for 10 Kg for what the US would call "Air Parcel Post". Certainly a lot cheaper than courier rates.

Tendrá que pagar 10% del valor de la mercadería a enviar para ser asegurada. 

10% of the value seems like a lot for insurance (I belive UPS in the US charges $.35 per $100 and makes a profit) but at least it is available.

Many national postal systems offer a "courier service" alternative and Nicaragua is no exception. Many are members of the EMS Cooperative. That includes neighboring Costa Rica, the United States and well over 100 other countries. If EMS service is available, it is fast and usually costs a lot less than private courier services. Info including rates can be found at http://www.correos.com.ni/.

If you receive packages with a customs value, the post office handles the customs clearlance for you. When you go to pick up your package at the local post office, you will get a "Postal Police" form with a list of the items and the value. Just pay the duty in the Post Office and leave with your package. For low value items, it is amusing to thing that they translated the packing list to Spanish for maybe $1 in duty.

Note that there are no duties on books, videos, CDs and DVDs. Most duty will be 15% but some special items (such as phones and communications equipment) will have a higher duty.

If you don't have a permanent address, you can receive mail at the central post office in any town. You will need id and you will be charged $.15/letter. Have the mail addressed as follows:

    Your Name
    Lista de Correos
    Correos de Nicaragua
    Town, Department
    Nicaragua

For example,

    Harry Chest
    Lista de Correos
    Correos de Nicaragua
    San Juan del Sur, Rivas
    Nicaragua 

If you are sending something from the U.S. to Nicaragua, do not use WorldMail, a USPS option that is supposed to fly the package to the destination country and then put it in the local mail. After two tries with two different vendors, I now know how it works. DHL flies the package to Germany and then sends it surface mail (meaning by boat) to Nicaragua. Yes, this is crazy but it really is what is happening. That's your USPS.

Couriers

DHL, UPS, FedEx and maybe TNT operate in Nicaragua. The only surprise you are likely to experience is that there may be duty on items you send to Nicaragua. Of all of these, only DHL has been helpful for me. If you are in Managua, any of the services may work but, elsewhere, find out if there is a local office. The difference between a company office (DHL has one in Estelí, for example) and an agent can be the difference between getting and not getting your package. Bottom line, if there is no local company office, either plan on going to Managua or use the postal service. I have all too many horror stories about the options.

Of particular interest has been my experiences with FedEx and TNT.

  • I have a personal horror story related to FedEx and duty. There is no FedEx office in Estelí so FedEx seems to think I want to drive to Managua (300km round trip) to pick up a package. Or, if I deposit the duty in their bank account they might deliver it. Twice when I told them to deliver it they faked delivery attempts and then returned the package to the shipper.
  • TNT has actually been worse. Apparently TNT doesn't really exist in Nicaragua but there is an agency called Real Express. The Estelí office lied to me for over a month about how I would soon get my package and would pay the duty to them when I picked it up. Talking to the office of Real Express in Managua they said, flat out, that they would not do the customs clearance--that was my problem to come to Managua and deal with it.

I assume these companies must either actually do their job in Managua or only deliver documents.

Note that I just talked with the long-term employee in the DHL office here. She has proved to be extremely helpful and reliable. She seems to understand the word service.

I was talking to her about the TNT/Real Express mess. (She worked for the DHL Agency here before they opened an office. The ex-owner of that agency is the husband of the owner of the Real Express agency here.) She said that if something is not picked up in customs, unless the sender requests that it be returned, it will eventually be auctioned off. Thus, if you have something "lost in customs", contact the shipper to ask to have it returned or file an insurance claim.

General Courier Information

I have had people tell me that they always had great experiences with one particular courier or bad experiences with another. I can assure you that there is no one magic answer. I have been shipping stuff commercially for 20+ years and there are all so many variables.

We used to use RPS and had great luck with them. They were more like a cooperative--each driver owned his own truck, for example. When FedEx bought RPS we were worried but all was well. FedEx proved to be a 100% reliable courier for us. When I moved to Costa Rica, they remained great. But, for example, in Nicaragua, they have been a disaster.

More often than not, these disasters are a result of not really having the shipping company in one of the countries. For example, while TNT and FedEx "deliver" to Nicaragua, all indications are that the parent company only contracts with someone local do to the work. The result could be good or bad. In my experience, always bad.

Foreign Address

If you need to receive mail and packages from the United States regularly you might consider a service offered by TransExpress ( http://www.transexpress.com ). You get an address in Miami and they fly your mail and packages to Managua daily. They also deal with customs for you. I used their service called Interlink in Costa Rica for over two years and was very happy with it. The Nicaragua service is called NicaBox.

Note that I am less happy with their service in Estelí as we make a lot of phone calls to get them to coordinate shipping up here by bus. An alternative service is JetBox.

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I did that!!

right here in esteli. Went to correos one day but they couldn't accept my package because the luz se fue (I think their postage scale is electric). They also mentioned that it has to be wrapped in kraft paper. Came back later loaded for bear: open box for inspection, frsaft paper pre cut, roll of tape to seal. Tip: don't go scazy with the tape because you must leave room for the ten zillion small denomination stamps!. Package got to AZ fine in a week or so. ¨pata de perro¨

Trans-Express

While this who page needs a serious revision, I am adding this as a comment for now as I have more "experiences" to add soon.

TransExpress are the people on the U.S. end that do NicaBox here and Interlink in Costa Rica. Well, they have a different service now that is just for packages. You sign up on their web site and get an ID number. Then then deliver "to your door" packages you order.

It is less than perfect but one of my better experiences. They bill you for shipping (the price list is on their page). The Nicaragua end (same office as NicaBox) deals with customs and bills you for that. Unlike SkyBox who seem to be crooks, TransExpress sends you all the real customs paperwork so you know they really paid the duty.

They suggested I pick up the packages I had as they were fragile. I said no. They charged me an additional $5 (which I don't understand) for Carga Trans to deliver to my door. CargaTrans is a 1970s Toyota pickup that delivers packages. Amusing but they seem to be reliable.

Mail Preparation for sending to US

I just sent some packages to the US. They were all in nice white boxes and sealed with tape. The woman in the PO said they looked very nice. But, to send a box to the US it has to be wrapped in kraft paper. Huh?

New game for Correos packages

Just when I thought you could actually receive packages easily, the game changed again. As soon as I have all the details, I will update the HowTo. For now, here is my new story.

When to my mail box. There was a slip for a package. I went into the back to get the paperwork which has always been a pink piece of paper you take to the window and pay the duty. This time it was some laser printed forms--about six pages--with info on the package (addressed to and weight--typed on the first four pages.

I go to the window. The woman says "what's this"? Ok, she goes to talk to the package guy. He comes to talk to me and says "you have to pay in BanCentro". Huh? He shows me the "self-explanatory" page. Let's just say it isn't self-explanatory. But, there are three copies of a page with the amounts, some account numbers and a place for you to print your name, put in the number of your cedula and sign.

I go to BanCentro and while standing in line estimate it will be 45 minutes. I think about how they will then say "you must have a cedula" or ... So, I bail. Gixia will stand in line. Tomorrow we may know more.

Temporary update

That is, I will put all this in the HowTo soon but, for the moment, here is how it worked this time.

I sent Gixia (in other words, a person with a cédula) to Bancentro with the paperwork. When she got to the window they gave her a special, multi-part deposit slip that is virtually identical to what was on the three copies of the paperwork I received.

She then copied all the information from one of the copies to the deposit slip. This included the account number and four itemized "service codes" with amounts, reference number and other stuff. Signed it and included her cédula number. She got back all the original paperwork plus two copies of the deposit slip with an imprint on the back that, once again, had most of the information she had copied from the original paperwork to the deposit slip.

I go to Correos this morning and expect all is fine. So much for efficiency.

It is certainly ironic that to pay for services of aduana postal you have to go to a bank. But, you can pay your electric bill (private company), phone bill (private company), water bill (part of the government) and a few others in the post office.