Even if you organize your life in “paperless” mode, sometimes you don’t have a choice and you have to receive a letter or a parcel. Not necessarily obvious when you are digital nomad and you don’t have a permanent address.
Concretely, in two and a half years of travel, the need arose 3 times. Each time in order to receive a bank card (twice following the expiration of the card, once following a hack).
I have so far experienced DHL (in Vietnam, Turkey, Chile and Mexico) and FedEx (in Canada).
Here’s how to proceed.
1/ Find a shipping address
You have several options:
- Send mail to your Airbnb address. It isn’t necessarily obvious: you must have the key to the mailbox (when it exists), ask the owner for the exact contact details. Not to mention the risk that the deliveryman may not be able to access the mailbox and leave a calling card.
- Use a hotel address. This is a convenient and fairly safe solution, especially if the reception is open 24 hours a day. Ask your hotel if they can receive mail, they usually do. On the other hand, it implies staying a few days at the hotel. Sometimes the mail arrives before my stay, it is the case for my concert tickets in Warsaw and I received them on arrival
- Send mail to the UPS, FedEx or DHL relay closest to you. This is the solution I prefer because it reduces the risks. We are sure that the DHL driver will find the address of the DHL relay 😀 To find a DHL relay it’s here, for a UPS relay c’est ici and for a FedEx relay it’s this way.
2/ Ask someone close to you to send the letter
Once you have identified a shipping address, ask someone close to you to go to the nearest UPS, DHL or FedEx relay.
It is possible to purchase and send the prepaid shipping label online.
The DHL or UPS sites being pretty badly screwed up, I’m not sure it saves you time.
Ask him to fill in the address as follows:
First Name – Last NameRelay Address
Your loved one must obviously pay for the shipment (remember to reimburse it). The bad news is that it is quite expensive. Here is as an indication what I paid for the sending of a simple letter with DHL (express mode) :
- Chile : 50 €
- Vietnam : 52 €
- Turkey : 26 €
Ask your loved one to keep the tracking number and give it to you.
Security Tip: If sending a credit card, ask your relative to GRATTEN the 3 numbers behind and give them to you by phone-BEFORE sending it to you. This way, if your mail is opened by mistake by a hotel employee (for example), he won’t be able to make an online purchase without knowing the 3 digits.
3/ Retrieve mail
Once the package arrived safely (you can track it thanks to the tracking number), go to the agency with the number and your passport.
Go to the counter and you can pick up your mail.
The deadline is 48 / 72 hours after shipment.
I discovered this service very recently and haven’t had the opportunity to try it yet but it looks promising.
Boxtal is a company that works with the largest carriers and benefits from “wholesale rates”.
For example, sending 250 grams to Vietnam, which cost me €52.25 with DHL, would have cost me €46.20 (€38.5 excluding VAT) via Boxtal. Without even needing to ask your loved one to go to an agency since Boxtal would have picked up the package at home!
If you are in France: the “Poste Restante” solution
If you are in France, there is the “Poste Restante” solution
It’s not very well known but you can send yourself a letter in any post office in France and pick it up
The envelope must indicate
Last Name – First
I’ve used it several times, it works
Sometimes you will be asked to pay a few euros, not always
On the other hand, it is only valid for simple mail, no tracking
So there’s some randomness and I wouldn’t go through that to send myself a credit card.
Anh used the Poste Restante service in Italy but she has some more tips for Italy here
How much does it cost?
Fedex, DHL and UPS are fast, secure and efficient, but they are still quite expensive.
Here is what I have paid so far:
- DHL from France to Mexico (730 grams) : 37,77 €
- DHL from France to Vietnam (250 grams) : 52,25 €
- DHL from France to Chile (400 grams) : 50,25 €
- DHL from France to Turkey (170 grams) : 26,44 €
- DHL from France to Italy (1kg, non-express mode): 26€
- UPS (slow version, 6 days) from France to Italy (1kg): 23€