As one of the first nations to pioneers international postage, Germany’s postal history stretches all the way back to the middle ages. Starting as a private enterprise as part of the Butchers’ Guild, mail was delivered throughout Europe on horseback, with riders announcing their mail-laden arrival with horns – the horn symbol becoming synonymous with postal systems to this day!
The postal system in Germany in its current form is a series of private companies, devolved from the former state-run postal service then known as Deutsche Bundespost. Those companies are Deutsche Telekom, the multinational telecommunications company that owns T-Mobile.
The next is Deutsche Postbank AG, a financial services brand and retail arm of Deutsche Bank that deals primarily in wire transfers for individuals and businesses.
As a result, Deutsche Post AG is the largest company in all of Europe and the largest postage company in the world, the services of which shall be revealed as we explore postage to Germany: Everything you need to know!
See related: Best Things to do in Germany | Points of Interest
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How does it work?
In short, it works well! 95% of all post mailed in Germany arrives the next day and 99% of it within two days.
No, but seriously, Deutsche Post and DHL are very easy to use, and function similarly to most western nations’ chief postal systems, such as the US’s USPS or Britain’s Royal Mail.
Deutsche Post and DHL operate thousands of post offices, post kiosks and DHL package drop off and collection shops across the country in easy-to-find places, such as town centers, retail malls, airports, and railway stations, all denoted by the bright yellow banner adorned with the black post horn that has been the symbol for postal services in Germany for centuries and officially since 1947. The vast majority of post offices now will also display the yellow and red DHL logo too.
See related: 15 Fun, Interesting Facts About the Berlin Wall
The postboxes are also yellow, again marked with the post horn for easy recognition, and are typically well dispersed in any settlement. In typically efficient German fashion, many German postboxes have 2 slots; one slot being for local mail and the other for anything further afield.
But how does it work? Simple;
For letters, pay for your postage stamp (or marke), affix said postage to the top right corner of the letter, and drop it off in a postbox or post office, just like would here in the US.
Stamps can be purchased at any post office, or post kiosk, ordered online, OR even printed out(!) from Deutsche Post’s website. There is also the #PORTO service which we’ll talk about later!
For packages, you can pay for postage at the counter of any DHL shop (or Paketshop), or you can pay online for a slightly cheaper fee and drop it off at the Paketshop or a DHL Packstation. Packstations are automated lockers, similar to Amazon Lockers, where you can pay for postage and drop off your parcels for shipping, 7 days a week.
Also for a little extra cost to your shipping, you can have DHL come to your address and pick it up for you!
See related: 20 Best Parks in Berlin, Germany | Berlin City Parks
Which international postage companies operate in Germany?
DHL is the first and best option for posting packages to and from Germany. The biggest and widely regarded as the best international courier service in the world, DHL is known for having the fastest international delivery speeds, with many international packages being delivered the day after shipping, as well as accommodations to handle hazardous, perishable, and temperature-sensitive items.
The rates for international shipping are among the lowest out of any major international courier service too, but perhaps the best thing about DHL is their unparalleled package tracking, allowing any delivery to be tracked in detail, down to the minute.
Other than DHL, there are a few major international courier companies that service Germany. Other heavy hitters include;
- UPS – The United Parcel Service; a vast US multinational courier service with almost the same level of coverage as its primary competitor DHL. UPS operates a five-day delivery guarantee but also offers overnight or next-day delivery for an additional cost.
- FedEx – Despite its name being derived from the Federal Express, FedEx is another huge courier service that operates all over the world, not just in the US, offering overnight and two-day delivery services. Unlike UPS, FedEx is able to ship hazardous, perishable, and temperature-sensitive items internationally.
- DB Schenker – Another German courier service that doesn’t enjoy the same coverage as DHL, but rivals it in terms of transit time and competitive shipping rates. A growing company, DB Schenker is fast becoming one of the favorite courier services for big and small businesses across the globe.
What do postage & shipping fees to/from Germany – USA cost? How long does it take?
It depends on two things; What type of mail you’re sending and how quickly you’d like for it to reach its destination.
So, how much postage to mail letter to Germany?
Let’s say you’re mailing a postcard or standard letter from anywhere in the continental US to anywhere in Germany.
In this case, it’s best to keep it simple and go with USPS, because the cost of first class postage from US to Germany is CHEAP. Your best bet for airmail postage to Germany is 3 Forever Stamps ($0.55 apiece), or 1-2 Global Forever Stamps ($1.20 apiece), each purchasable from any US post office or online.
The postage rate for postcard to Germany, is less than a letter, so only one Global Forever stamp may be necessary!
Delivery time is anywhere between 7-21 days, the average being about 10, and will ensure that enough postage has been paid.
Ok, now let’s return the favor by mailing a postcard or standard letter from anywhere in Germany to anywhere in the Continental US. Again, let’s not overcomplicate things, because the Germans won’t!
It’s made quite simple for you; at the post office, kiosk, or the Deutsche Post website, you’ll want to purchase 1 Postkarte International Marke (stamp) for a postcard (approx $1.10 apiece), or 1 Standardbrief International Marke for a standard letter (approx $2.00 apiece). Alternatively, if you’re in a rush, you can do the whole thing online or on your phone with #PORTO!
With this method, the fee is slightly higher than buying stamps (about 5 cents more) but super convenient. Once you’ve paid the desired amount, Deutsche Post will text or email you a code, valid for 14 days. Write that code in the top right corner of your envelope/postcard (where you would affix a stamp) and mail it off!
Again, you can expect that letter or postcard to reach its destination between 7-21 days, with 10 being the average.
Sending a package gets pricey fast and there are a few decent options to choose from. Let’s look at sending a small package (5lb, 5x5x10in) from either the continental US to Germany or vice-versa and compare how the prices and delivery times between some of the earlier examples we’ve seen stack up:
- DHL – Don’t look further than DHL’s Express Worldwide service; the fee is going to be between $55-60 and delivery 1-4 days.
- UPS – There are a few choices worth comparing; UPS Expedited is the slowest with a delivery time of 4 days, but also the cheapest being around $200. There are also UPS Worldwide Saver, which should see a delivery time of 3 days for around $210, and UPS Worldwide Express Plus with a delivery time of 2 days for around $260.
- FedEx – FedEx International Economy is the cheapest option they offer, costing around $195, but takes 6 days to arrive. FedEx International Priority is the best bet for 2-day delivery costing $215-220. You can try FedEx International First, but rates jump to around $270 for the same 2-day delivery.
- USPS (US Only) – The cheapest option is USPS Priority Mail International, which should cost around $65, but, it’s slower than treacle, taking anywhere from 8-15 days to arrive. The other option is USPS Priority Mail Express International, which for $80-85 isn’t much faster, taking anywhere between 6-10 days.
For parcel postage from US to Germany, the easiest option is definitely USPS, but most snails would give the service a run for their money in terms of speed. Both UPS and FedEx are easy options, not to mention pretty speedy, but the cost is considerably steeper than the competition.
DHL is the most economical, and while it is quite well established in the US, the company doesn’t enjoy quite the same storefront exposure as the other 3. That said, you can still pay for DHL to collect your package so you don’t have to go to them!
For Germany->US don’t look any further than DHL. It’s everywhere and the cheapest option available, and again, they’ll collect your package for you if you pay them.
Overall, the most bang for your buck is DHL, which is cheaper both to and from Germany, fast, reliable, secure, prepared to ship virtually anything, and easily tracked.
Shipping Hacks & Tips
- Post offices in larger cities have longer opening hours (with a couple in Berlin and Bonn being 24hr post offices), but those in smaller towns and rural areas can have really varied opening hours and are closed on some days – plan ahead!
- Can’t find a post office? Have something you need posting late in the day? International airports and city railway stations in Germany have post offices on-site, open till late, 7 days a week.
- Most post offices will offer banking services from Deutsche Postbank AG and telephone services from Deutsche Telekom.
- Letter postage to Germany from USA is best done through USPS; a Global Forever Postage stamp to Germany costs very little!
- Parcel postage from US to Germany is best done through DHL, even if the storefronts are slightly more scarce.
- When shipping packages from the US to Germany, you will be required to fill in and attach a customs declaration form describing the contents of your package and their overall value. Depending on the value of the contents, the package may incur customs duties, which will need to be paid by the recipient when the package arrives in Germany – try not to stiff someone with the bill and learn more about it here!
- When shipping packages into Germany, be cautious of controlled substances and materials that aren’t permitted in the country.
- Take care about which services you choose to ship packages – some (like FedEx and DHL) can safely ship just about anything, while others don’t have the means to ship fragile or perishable parcels. Compare their rates and shipping times too!
- Already in Germany and can’t find the closet post office? You can try tracking it down here!
- As of writing, COVID-19 is still causing delays for virtually all international courier services; be mindful of this when mailing.
- Make sure you address all postage to Germany in the German format, (recipient name, street, street number, postal/ZIP code, town, [if outside the country] Germany/Deutschland) For example:
Sample Staße, 12
Have the address filled out in the bottom right corner of the envelope/package (though not all the way up to the edge!) and any postage in the top right corner.
Got any tips for sending mail to and from Germany? Let us know in the comments!