One of the most common questions in the various Medellín Expats groups on Facebook is related to how we receive packages and mail and other items from outside of Colombia. What do I mean by this? What I mean is, how can we receive mail, correspondence, and packages here in Colombia from overseas? What are the best ways to send things from Colombia to family, friends, and colleagues overseas? How should my family, friends, and/or colleagues send me items from overseas?
This is made all the more complicated given the fact that Colombia’s postal service, 4-72, is not reliable or efficient. To be honest, no one I know uses 4-72. I remember one week last summer, seeing a bunch of 4-72 delivery vehicles and texting a friend of mine here and she could not believe it since 4-72 is not a big deal here. Unlike Correos de Chile (Chile’s postal service) or Correios (Brazil’s postal service), 4-72 is not the preferred method to send or receive packages or mail in Colombia. If you receive bills here in Colombia, a courier or messenger comes personally to your billing address and drops them off. We do not receive bills in the mail here like you would living somewhere else.
When I lived in Santiago, Correos de Chile, had mailbox drop off points, and they delivered to your house, very much like the United States Postal Service (USPS), and it appeared to be pretty reliable. Heck, even when I was in Montevideo, in Uruguay, and my parents mailed me something there via USPS, what they sent me was delivered on time, no big deal. However, here in Colombia, I do not trust 4-72, since the infrastructure is not great. I have heard stories of packages being lost, being delivered months later, items being held by customs for months, or never arriving. So, it may work, but it’s slow and unreliable. Personally, when I have had to send packages within Colombia, I did not use 4-72 and would avoid using 4-72 whenever possible.
I guess I should not be surprised that I receive so little mail here given the lack of an efficient and reliable postal service in Colombia, but one thing that has surprised me about living in Medellín is how little mail I receive and how no one gets anything via the post. I have in over a year of living in Colombia have received max, 15 pieces of mail. And those things would have been bank statements from my Colombian bank or notices from my cell operator, Tigo.
For example, if you asked me where or how I would purchase stamps if I wanted to mail a postcard, I would guess that might you be able to purchase them at a 4-72 office, but I could begin to tell you where or how to do that? This brings me to another point, I rarely ever see postcards for sale here, as I have traveling in other places, which makes sense if no one really writes letters or sends anything via regular post in Colombia. And I had to use this website, to figure out my postal code here in Medellín. You can use this site and put in your department, city, and street address, to figure out the postal code wherever you are in Colombia.
Sending mail and packages to and from Colombia
You might be reading this and thinking now, so you mentioned not to use Colombia’s postal service, 4-72, how do you recommend that I receive mail here? First, do not use your regular postal service to send anything here, because if you send something through USPS, Royal Mail, etc. from another country to Colombia it will have to go through 4-72 when it reaches Colombia, and who knows how long that will take and if it will even arrive. However, have no fear, you have options! You can send items using services like FedEx and DHL or use a mail forwarding service such as Envíos Market or a freight forwarding service such as CaribbeanShipper to receive packages from overseas.
Using FedEx and DHL
Your first option, if you are receiving a package from overseas or within Colombia is having the sender, use services such as FedEx or DHL. However, just a word of warning using FedEx and DHL can be expensive. There are hacks you can use to make using these services less expensive. If you sign up for an account with DHL or FedEx and get an account number, you can get a discounted rate and other benefits as opposed to just shipping something off the street. Getting a FedEx and DHL account is FREE, although you may have to put a credit card or debit card on file as a payment method and do some other things to make this happen. In the case of DHL, you may have to email someone and talk to someone on the phone about your shipping needs–what you expect to ship, the frequency you will be shipping items, where you will be shipping from and to, etc. to set up a “business” account.
One thing to keep in mind is DHL is a more global company than FedEx, so if you are trying to ship something via FedEx in a smaller city or town outside of the U.S., you might have to go far out of your way to find someone to pick up your package or find a FedEx store. However, DHL has better coverage globally, so if you are in a small town that is far away from a big city, you are probably more likely to be able to get DHL to come to pick up your shipment, assuming you provide your own packaging and print the label and paperwork from their website. You can trust German logistics and efficiency in this case. To quote a friend of mine who used to work in international trade, they used DHL for sending and receiving important documents.
Using FedEx to ship documents to and from Colombia
I have received and sent documents via FedEx from Medellín, and I have received a package from New York City via FedEx, and I have had no issues. I have strangely found that shipping FedEx International Priority (two day shipping) is less expensive compared to shipping documents via FedEx International Economy. I am not totally sure why this is the case, someone tried to explain to me why this is the case, but hey, I ain’t going to complain if the priority service costs less than the economy service.
I have found shipping things via FedEx International priority that my items arrived more quickly than I expected. Recently, I had to mail something to the U.S., and I sent it via FedEx International Priority, on a Friday afternoon, and by Monday morning, 10 AM EST, my document had been delivered, when I was expecting it to be delivered by Wednesday.
Another great thing about FedEx is that shipping with them can be less significantly more affordable as opposed to shipping via DHL. FedEx’s rates and shipping speeds can more favorable compared to what DHL offers. And the FedEx website tends to be more user friendly when compared to the DHL website. One thing to remember if you are tracking your shipment via FedEx, do not be surprised if your shipment is routed through Memphis, Tennessee, where FedEx’s headquarters and major hub is located. FedEx has a major hub adjacent to the Memphis airport. Before you ask how I know this, this something that I learned living in Memphis.
Mail Forwarding and Air Freight Services
An option for people if you want to maintain a U.S. address or receive packages in the U.S. and have them sent to Colombia is using a mail forwarding or air freight forwarding service. These services allow you to receive packages, mail, and documents at a designated U.S. address and then they forward them onto you in Colombia. When you use these services, you have a box in Florida where you receive mail and packages, and you will only pay for the use of these services when you receive mail or packages, you do not pay for the use of the box in Florida.
These are low-cost and easy ways for people to maintain a U.S. address and receive mail here. For the purpose of this post, I will be recommending two options for this, one choice, Envios Market, which is good if you are living in Medellín or the Metropolitan Area, and CaribbeanShipper another option for people living in Colombia or some islands in the Caribbean.
Envíos Market (Medellín and surrounding area)
Established in 2011, Envíos Market is a Medellín based shipping and logistics business. Envíos Market ships to anywhere in Colombia, Venezuela and across the globe and they have some of the best rates for shipping here in Medellín. I first heard about Envíos Market, when my friend Boris, told me about how he was able to receive packages from eBay and Amazon here in Colombia.
Late last year, I went into Envíos Market’s location here in Poblado, located south of Parque Poblado, and followed Boris’ instructions, I signed up for their Plan Box (casillero) service in Florida. When I went in to sign up, I showed them my Cédula de Extranjería, foreigner’s identity card here in Colombia, filled out some paperwork, and I received a welcome letter with my box number and addresses to receive items in Florida and at Envíos Market’s location here in Medellín. Envíos Market’s welcome letter includes information about shipping with them, instructions, addresses to receive packages in Florida and Medellín. You can sign up here to create an account for your free box service.
Your shipping address in Florida will look something like this:
COL (your box number here)
1510 Sunset Way, Weston, Florida 33327
For example, if you are ordering something via Envíos Market in the U.S. to be sent to Colombia, you would purchase the item, put your shipping address as your address with Envíos Market in Florida with your box number. When your package arrives in Florida, you should be notified, and it should be here in Medellín, within a week assuming there are not any holidays or something else going on. When your package(s) have arrived in Medellín, you will receive an email from Envíos Market to inform you that your packages have arrived and to come to pick them up. Your packages are sent to Colombia as they are received in Florida, with no need to worry about consolidating your shipments.
You only pay by weight but depending on the value of your item(s) and what they are you may or may not have to pay additional fees and taxes. You will not be responsible for paying any customs taxes if you are bringing in documents, books, brochures, letters, correspondence, magazines, etc. into Colombia. Everything else, you might be responsible for paying taxes below are the shipping rates and taxes:
Shipping Rates for Envíos Market’s Plan Box, depends on the weight and/or measurements, and is payable with cash or card in Colombian Pesos:
From 0 to 2 Lbs. – $0.015 USD x Gram
From 2 to 4 Lbs. – $0.013 USD x Gram
From 4 to 6 Lbs. – $0.012 USD x Gram
From 6 Lbs. and beyond – $0.011 USD x Gram
Taxes and Customs Fees (This is in addition to shipping costs):
You will be responsible for paying a customs and handling fee, as well as insurance that is 1% of the declared value of the item(s) for all purchases/shipments received via post/express shippers.
Articles that are not personal correspondence, books, documents, etc. whose declared value is less than $200 USD will only pay a 10% tariff for the declared value of the item(s).
Articles being received via post or express shipping whose declared value is greater than $200 USD means you will be responsible for paying a 10% tariff for the declared value of the item(s) and a 19% IVA (Value Added Tax) corresponding to CIF (Cost, Insurance, and Freight) for the imported goods.
Other important things to remember when receiving items with Envíos Market:
These shipments will be limited to items whose declared value does not exceed $2.000 (two thousand) USD, a maximum weight of 50 kilograms (110 lbs.). You cannot receive more than six units of the same item, because if you are receiving more than six of one item, you will no longer be able to receive this regular post. And it’s possible that you might not be able to receive any packages via post whose measurements are greater than 1.5 meters (4.92 feet). These rules are from the Colombian government’s Decree 2658 which governs tariffs and duties for importing items into Colombia.
You cannot send these items to Colombia via international post:
War toys for children
If you do not comply with the above rules, your package(s) will no longer be a regular package, and it will immediately become considered as something that you are importing, which means that you will be beholden to different rules. For tips in Spanish on ordering stuff from outside of Colombia to be shipped to Colombia, you can check out this article in Spanish from El Tiempo.
Keep in mind you that will pay the fees for shipping, customs, and duties on your items once you receive them at Envíos Market. They offer delivery if you are in El Poblado or Envigado, in case you are in one of those areas and want your items delivered. They also offer business plans for companies looking to use their mail forwarding and/or shipping services. When you are getting your stuff, you will have to go to their office on Avenida Poblado (Carrera 43A) to pick up your packages.
Tips for saving money when shipping to the U.S. with Envíos Market
I recently had to get a document sent from the U.S. to Medellín, and when I looked online at the rates on the FedEx website and the DHL website, their rates were going to be close to or over $100 USD. In the past when I had to send documents FedEx International Priority with Envíos Market, I paid less than $30 USD to do this. So, I went to Envíos Market. I explained my situation and they made me a FedEx Priority label, which I emailed to my sender. It was half the price to have the people at Envíos Market make a FedEx label for me it cost less than $55 USD to have documents sent from the U.S. to Medellín. Keep in mind, that I was still paying for FedEx’s International Priority service, since Envíos Market, but it was so much less expensive to do it here and send my sender the label.
Tips on finding Envíos Market
Finding Envíos Market can sometimes be a bit of a challenge if you have never been here before. Envíos Market is located on Avenida El Poblado/Carrera 43A, south of Parque Poblado, on the side of the street headed south towards Envigado. They are located diagonally across the street from Davivienda and across the street from Pasteleria Santa Elena before you arrive at Confiar. The sign in their window may say Impresioname, and it may look like a paper/stationary store when you enter, but don’t worry this is the right place, even if it’s a little hidden.
Carrera 43A #8–67, Local 7, Centro Comercial Aliadas
El Poblado, Medellín, Colombia
Phone: +57 (034) 322-1624
Whatsapp: +57 317-363-0227
Monday-Friday: 8:30 AM-6:00 PM
Saturday: 9:00 AM-12:00 PM
CaribbeanShipper (Colombia and some islands in the Caribbean)
Mike Mac, who owns the CaribbeanShipper, provides a freight forwarding service from Miami to all over Colombia as well as some islands in the Caribbean. The CaribbeanShipper is one of the preferred forwarding and mail services among expats here in Medellín, although I have never personally used Mike Mac/the CaribbeanShipper, but everyone who uses this service raves about it. Here is the link to sign up for the CaribbeanShipper’s services. When you sign up to use their service, you will fill out an application on their website and receive an email later with instructions for having your items forwarded to you, along with the appropriate shipping address.
The CaribbeanShipper will ship from Miami, Florida to the following locations:
St. Kitts & Nevis
San Andres, Colombia
The Entire Caribbean Region of Colombia
Trinidad & Tobago
If you are ordering something with the CaribbeanShipper, to have sent to Colombia, you will receive a free U.S. mailing address in Miami, where your items will be shipped to. It’s a similar concept as Envíos Market, you purchase something online and have it shipped to them, and they will forward it to you. After they receive your shipment(s), they will receive your items, consolidate them with other cargo and ship them directly to your door, whether that is your home or business. You should then receive your items within four (4) to five (5) business days.
The Caribbean Shipper also provide express air delivery and next day shipping options in Bogotá. All of their shipments are insured. They can also ship from Colombia to the United States. This allows you to shop online with any vendor without having to pay tons of money and deal with the headaches that involve getting your items shipped to Colombia. I would recommend that if you are a U.S. expat moving to Colombia and you want to ship some of your personal items, you could consider shipping them with CaribbeanShipper, since they transport cargo and can consolidate all of your items into one larger shipment. When having items forwarded to them, once they receive your package, you will receive an email to notify you. And they will hold your package until they receive further shipping or consolidation instructions from you.
When getting anything shipped to you in Colombia from them, make sure that your label looks like the following:
2916 NW 72nd Ave
Miami, FL 33122
If you are using the CaribbeanShipper’s Air or Sea daily delivery services in the Caribbean, your shipping label should look like this:
10901 N.W. 146th St.
Hialeah Gardens, FL 33018
These are the rates to ship things to Colombia using the Caribbean Shipper. You will pay this before you receive your package in Colombia before they send it to you here in Colombia:
$1.80 USD per pound for physical weight or dimensional weight, whichever is greater
$5.00 USD for insurance for up to $100 USD
Duties and customs taxes are prepaid
They will collect 12% for shipments valued less than $200 USD and a 30% tax for shipments whose value is greater than $200 USD.
The minimum freight charge is $15 USD. There are no other fees or hidden charges, and your items should arrive within 4-5 business days.
2916 NW 72nd Avenue
Miami, Florida 33122
Phone: +1 (954) 480-3048
WhatsApp: +1 (954) 673-2147
Shipping items within Colombia
The following are a list of companies that ship items within Colombia. If you are in Medellín, you can find some of these services here at Envíos Market in Poblado in Medellín, who offers excellent rates for shipping domestically and internationally, as well as excellent customer service.
Amazon in Colombia
Having moved from Washington, D.C., this never receiving mail or packages here has been an adjustment. When I lived in the District (D.C.), I had an Amazon Prime membership and could order so many things from Amazon, you name it, I could get it on Amazon, quickly and easily. However, Amazon Prime benefits for shipping do not apply for Colombia, so moving here, means that I rarely use Amazon anymore, for a variety of reasons, it does not always make sense to order things from Amazon, to avoid shipping costs and more.
At the beginning, I really missed having Amazon, being able to order almost anything online and have it delivered within a few days. Now that I do not have easy access to Amazon, I have probably saved a lot of money and am much more judicious about my purchases. Now I usually get stuff sent to someone in the U.S. coming to visit me here and have them bring me things that I have ordered or I get stuff sent to my parents’ house and get it whenever I am visiting them. I missed Amazon a lot at the beginning, but now I have gotten accustomed to not having it and do not miss it as much anymore.
When I first moved to Medellín, during early 2018, Amazon was not shipping to Colombia at all. However, during early 2019, I learned that sometime during 2018, this policy had changed and Amazon had begun service to Colombia, here are Amazon’s rates for shipping to Colombia, although I am not sure if these rates include duties and taxes. This is exciting news for all of us who are living here in Colombia because this means that we will be able to get more items here. Also, you can always order items on Amazon from Envíos Market and have them shipped to you here in Colombia. Yes, I know Amazon is an incredibly problematic corporate behemoth, and whenever I can, I do my best to support independent, local, small businesses whenever I can. But it’s not always possible to find a small business selling what you want or need, affordable or possible for everyone to always shop small.
I hope this blog post helps you to understand how to send and receive mail, packages, and correspondence within Colombia. This post contains a lot of the information that I wish I had when I first moved to Medellín. If you have any other questions, feel free to send me an email, or Facebook message.
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