DISCLAIMER: This post is a mix of my personal experience and information from PHLPost.
Throughout the years of collecting journaling materials like washi tapes, stickers, and ephemera, there are times that I end up having a box of stationery that don’t spark joy anymore. In order to lessen my space and have new materials, swap or sell my preloved stationery in the local craft community by courier or during meetups.
Last 2019, I posted on Instagram that I was looking for a new stationery swap. I did not expect to receive 2 messages from Canada and Australia. Swapping stationery overseas has not come into my mind but I agreed to the swap. I was excited to correspond to a fellow craft lover from another country and at the same time, exchange presents! The first thing that came into mind when it comes to international mail is our post office.
PHLPost, or the Philippines’ postal office, is the place to go to send postcards, letters, and packages all over the world because it is more affordable and traditional. Sending postcards is easy because postcards are priced at a fixed rate, but things can be a bit tricky when you can send a letter: especially if you plan to add some flat extras for your pen pal.
Here is a walkthrough on how I did it and added some information you might need to know.
What can I send my pen pal?
You are sending a snail mail so a simple letter is definitely part of the package! You can send almost any flat stationery! You can also send you own artwork for a more personal touch.
Some ideas include:
- washi samples
- ephemera/die cuts
- old postage stamps
- own artwork like sketch or painting
What can’t I send to my pen pal?
Different countries have different regulations. Stationery is generally safe to send but if your swap buddy requests other items such as pressed plants, coins, or items that can promote propaganda, you may have to check if the country of destination allows receiving the items.
What can’t I receive from my pen pal?
- Coins; currency notes or securities of any kind payable to bearer; traveler’s checks; platinum, gold, or silver (whether manufactured or not); precious stones; or other valuable articles.
- Firearms and weapons and parts thereof including replicas of weapons; ammunition.
- Gambling devices.
- Liquids, easily liquefiable items, and glass or similarly fragile articles.
- Lottery tickets, circulars, or advertisements relating to lotteries.
- Perishable infectious biological substances.
- Perishable noninfectious biological substances.
- Radioactive materials.
- Powdered coffee, coffee beans, or ground coffee, used for personal consumption only. Powdered coffee may not exceed two plastic bottles, each containing 500 grams (approximately 17.64 ounces), and coffee beans or ground coffee may not exceed 2 kilograms (approximately 4.4 pounds). Approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – Philippines is required for items that exceed these limits.
- Plants and similar items require sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances and phytosanitary certificates from the Philippines Bureau of Plant Industry (National Plant Protection Organization). Philippines national legislation authorizes the disposal or destruction of items that do not contain the proper documentation.
Where can I find penpals?
How do I write a letter?
There is no strict format when it comes to writing letters so feel free to express yourself! When it comes to writing the addresses at the cover of the envelope though, you may have to follow a format. It is advisable that the address is written legibly or printed so that the address will not be misread.
The delivery address is where your letter will be sent. Although not necessary at times, the return address at the upper left part of your envelope is where your address is. It is sometimes optional but there are times where the postmaster may ask you at times to write the return address.
Why go to PHLPost?
What’s the difference between ordinary and registered mail?
How much would it cost to send an overseas mail?
Before anything else, keep in mind that any letter that will exceed 2000 grams will already be considered a package.
The cost of sending a letter abroad will depend on three things:
- the weight of your package (by grams)
- the country of destination, and
- ordinary or registered mail services.
It would be helpful to have a digital kitchen scale to weigh your letters because a 101g letter can already cost more than twice as much sending a 99g letter. 2 grams can make a huge difference.
What is the difference between postage and metered mail?
Postage mail are simply stamps that you stick to your mail and it has a variety of value and designs. Some stamps are even limited edition! Metered mail uses a meter mail machine to stamp the exact postage compared to individually sticking postage stamps. Most people who are into penpalling prefer postage stamps for the aesthetic and it can be a collectible!
Postage and metered stamps will cost you the same. If your package costs Php191 to send, you will either stick Php191 worth of postage stamps or have a single metered stamp of the same value. If you will end up having to put too much stamps though, it would be advisable to just go for the metered stamp.
How long will it take to receive the package?
it usually take 2-4 weeks to receive a package, depending on the sender’s address and the type of delivery. It may as quick as 1 week from Taiwan, 2-3 weeks from US, Canada and Australia and more than a month from India and Russia.
Will my incoming package go through customs?
Is there a handling fee for happy mails?
When you will only receive a letter or postcard, you don’t have to worry about handling fees. Things becomes tricky when you send an envelope with some goodies. You may or may not be charged.
Last June 16, 2021, PHLPost announced on their Facebook post that they will stop sending notification cards and will deliver parcel to your doorsteps. Here are the steps for customs tax-free parcels:
- Parcels and letters that are tax free will be directly delivered door-to-door to the delivery address.
- The receiver will be charged Php112 as payment for Presentation to Customs Charge (PTCC)
There are reports that some charge an additional Php100 for delivery charges apparently, but I cannot verify this myself.
Why do we pay Php 112?
This is a regular fee that is collected by post offices around the world.
TL;DR: Whether you have a handling fee or not will actually depend on what your sender has prepared for you and how your sender will prepare and send your package.
How can I avoid paying for a swap letter?
This will depend on your sender. Aside from avoiding (as much as possible) inbound mails with an attached CN22/23, the package is not recommended to appear as if it has something taxable inside. It is not recommended that letters should appear too bulky or have a plastic/bubble wrap. Avoid signs like “Fragile” or “Do Not Fold.” A sturdy and well-packed envelope is more than enough. And it has to be as flat as possible.
If you have any clarifications, corrections or questions, or if you want to be penpals or swap with me, do leave a comment or contact me! 😉
Updated 15 August 2021. This post will be updated on a regular basis.
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