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Old 07.05.2014, 11:21
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My experience shipping stuff from US to Zurich

We recently moved from Southern California to the Zurich area and we shipped everything we wanted via the mail. This is our (positive) experience that I think will be useful for others.

We are a family of 4 and moved with 8 duffels on the plane and 24 boxes via USPS Priority International.

US Postal service did very well, and I'd recommend using this method. I printed the labels at home through their website (and paid online). I got a cheap digital scale at Walgreens that worked out well because it keeps showing the weight after locking it in. That means we could put a box on, wait 3 seconds, take it off, and then read the weight. We packed everything we wanted to take in Home Depot Medium boxes (and some Small boxes). We wrapped each box with large (but not excessive) amounts of packaging tape. That means all the edges, and a wrap around in each of the 3 directions.

I took the boxes to the US Post office, stood in line, handed each one over the counter to be weighed. I gave the person the right label for each box as it was being weighed, and that's it. Sent on Friday, they (almost) all arrived the next week. No need to use Priority Express International, which I tried for one box.

The post office delivered them to the doorstep of the temporary apartment we were living in. There was tax to be paid on some (more details below), which I paid to the driver in cash. On two occasions, I wasn't home when the postman came by, and they left a slip saying I should pick up the boxes at the local Die Post. After picking up one, I learned that I can ask for a "second delivery attempt". This gets scheduled for the day after next. It was great - they came back around with the remaining boxes and dropped them off at the doorstep.

In the midst, one of the boxes slipped through the cracks and I saw online that the status was (unable to deliver, returning to sender). Eeek! I thought. It's going to get sent back to the states? Turns out it just didn't get written on the "customer not at home slip" from Die Post. A week later, they tried again to deliver it, and this time left a slip. I was able to go to the Die Post and pick it up. So the lesson there is if you're missing a box, ask the local Die Post to check if it's in their storeroom.

Printing and organizing labels in the US for the USPS:
When you create a shippment online, you can give it a reference code. This is any arbitrary word/identifier you want. I put a big letter on each box in permanent marker (A-R and alpha-zeta) and used the same as the reference code. This made it easy to hand the right label to the postal worker as they weighed each box. Also note that you have to print all 4 labels that look nearly identical per box (It's 2 sheets of paper, each with 2 labels per half-sheet. Don't print double-sided).

The postal worker initially told me that I need to detail how many socks, shirts, etc. are in each box. But I found that you can just say used clothes.
IMPORTANT: To avoid taxes, use the magic words "Personal belonging" or similar. Switzerland allows you to bring anything you already own but it has to be clear that these are your personal belongings for relocation. I spoke to someone on at the customs office and she said "You wrote 'used kids books', but you didn't say it was your personal belonging". I got taxed on 6 of the 24 boxes and it was somewhat arbitrary. The boxes labeled "desktop pc" and "projector" didn't get taxes, but clothes and books occasionally did.

I had also placed a big note in German on each box saying "personal items for relocation" on a folded form 18.44. However, it seems they want to see those words on the USPS packing slip. Either way, I was told I can submit the tax receipts and probably get reimbursed.

Condition:
The boxes arrived banged up and corners dented, but nothing inside was damaged. A couple had large tears of the seams on the edges gave out, but the tape held it together. The one box marked "Fragile" did arrive in slightly better shape than the rest. You should have reasonable expectations that these boxes will get tossed from truck to truck and stacked on top of each other.

Overall, we got all our items at a reasonable price and I'm happy we went with USPS Priority International.

I will add that I had a friend send a document FedEx and that was not as smooth. The driver left a slip because I wasn't home, and then I wasn't able to get clear instructions from the person on the phone. Picking it up from the fedex location is more of a hassle because it's not around the corner. The weird thing is that USPS Global Express Guaranteed (their fastest service) is actually just contracted out to FedEx, so I don't recommend that. (To be fair, the FedEx driver did come back later in the day after I had gone to the main office and explained that I really needed it that day.)
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Old 07.05.2014, 11:38
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Re: My experience shipping stuff from US to Zurich

Excellent post, thanks for sharing your experience.

I wonder if you considered freight shipping as a (possibly?) cheaper alternative to 24 USPS boxes? There are a few services that do LCL - Less than full Container Load - , and when you get up near the $1000 range for 24 boxes, that might work out similar or possibly cheaper. However the customs clearance with freight is quite different.
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Old 07.05.2014, 11:55
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Re: My experience shipping stuff from US to Zurich

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Excellent post, thanks for sharing your experience.

I wonder if you considered freight shipping as a (possibly?) cheaper alternative to 24 USPS boxes? There are a few services that do LCL - Less than full Container Load - , and when you get up near the $1000 range for 24 boxes, that might work out similar or possibly cheaper. However the customs clearance with freight is quite different.
I shipped about 20 boxes from the US to CH when I moved here, via the US Post Office. I found it was definitely the cheapest way to go. I had gotten a few quotes from those freight-shipping/container companies, as well as FedEx, and all the quotes were much higher than what I ended up paying through the post office. I also didn't have to pay anything for customs, etc. I had marked each box as "gift" and wrote "moving to CH" on each form. I also valued each box so they didn't go over 100 CHF.

I shipped from Detroit to Zurich, and each box took about 6 days. One even arrived in only 4 days -- just the most basic international shipping option the post office had ("economy international" or something).
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Old 11.05.2014, 09:54
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Regarding containers: I didn't want to go through the logistics of figuring out which shiping company to use and how to pack my things. Also, I assumed a container would take longer to arrive, and wouldn't get dropped off at my doorstep. Shipping via USPS allowed us to create boxes at home over the course of several weeks, and then ship them all before our flight.

Sorry... forgot to give you a direct answer: No, we didn't look into containers beyond hearing that the option existed.

Last edited by 3Wishes; 15.03.2015 at 18:39. Reason: merging successive posts
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Old 12.05.2014, 12:54
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Re: My experience shipping stuff from US to Zurich

Great write up, Does anyone have information the other way around?
I am on my way back to California.

Advanced thanks and great job with the relocation!
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Old 16.07.2014, 22:21
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Re: My experience shipping stuff from US to Zurich

Hi abartzi - I am also moving from Los Angeles to Zurich and was considering shipping all household items. However, I am getting quotes in excess of $5,000. I am rethinking whether to just take min number of items. I talked to a shipping company and they would need a min of 40 boxes for about $3000 cost. I think that USPS might be good option.

Can you please indicate what size of the boxes you used. From what I can tell on USPS website, the boxes look rather small.

thanks
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Old 17.07.2014, 04:16
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Re: My experience shipping stuff from US to Zurich

Just a heads up.
When moving from US to CH, I shipped 3 desktop computers, including an iMac, and was charged customs duties. I called Die post, and I got refund from them in a few weeks, since they were all "Personal Items".
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Old 17.07.2014, 09:45
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Re: My experience shipping stuff from US to Zurich

Thanks abartzi for the good write-up.

Did you write "personal belongings" in English or German?

Did you put your name on both "from" and "to" ?

As far as I remember, there is no "personal belongings" to check on the online USPS form. Did you choose "gift"?

It would be awesome to find out what is the best way to not get taxed.
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Old 17.07.2014, 10:38
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Re: My experience shipping stuff from US to Zurich

Excellent post, thanks so much for the information.

Does anyone know roughly how much I would have to pay to ship over one or two suitcases (30kg each) from the US?
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Old 17.07.2014, 18:39
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Re: My experience shipping stuff from US to Zurich

Did you write "personal belongings" in English or German?
-yes in english and Italian (I was moving to Ticino).

Did you put your name on both "from" and "to" ?
-from: my name, to: wife's name

As far as I remember, there is no "personal belongings" to check on the online USPS form. Did you choose "gift"?
-that's correct, USPS form does not have that option; bummer!
I did not tick gift, since they were personal items.
But, later on I shipped ten more boxes, and I
wrote "personal items / moving to CH" at the bottom of customs form and no duties were levied.

It would be awesome to find out what is the best way to not get taxed.
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Old 17.07.2014, 20:58
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Re: My experience shipping stuff from US to Zurich

Hi IronAngle, I believe that it's not possibly to ship suitcase per se, they should be in a box. I remember looking into Swiss Air cargo, and their response was:

<blockquote>Unfortunately we can not offer this service to shippers with personal items. According the changes in the TSA regulations in the last few years SWISS (passenger operated airlines) are not allowed to transport goods unless the shipper holds an Indirect Air Carrier certificate. This certificate is issued by the TSA for shippers that have a history of shipping goods over a period of time and have adhered to the necessary TSA procedures and requirements. SWISS operates passenger flights out of United States of America. You may approach an airline that operates "Cargo Aircraft Only" - flights out of the U.S.A. or you may seek the services of a freight forwarder who may be able to assist you with your transportation needs.</blockquote>

Not sure who these "Cargo Aircraft Only" airlines would be, maybe something like FedEx.

And I'm pretty sure a suitcase won't fit into any of the box sizes that USPS allows you to ship. Well, maybe a teeny one.

BUT fyi if you're traveling alone like I was (with three suitcases off the plane), SBB can deliver your suitcases from the airport station to any "manned" station in Switzerland, for only 12 CHF a pop. Totally worth it in my opinion, way cheaper than a taxi.
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Old 22.07.2014, 01:50
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Thanks, @abartzi, @noipv4, and others, for all the information about shipping from US to CH. I am moving from the US (in Illinois) to Lausanne for a year with my wife and two kids, and would like to ship 3-4 boxes worth of personal items, mostly clothing, as well as a couple of desktop computers. I had some questions about that:

1. I talked to several companies, and USPS was definitely the cheapest, by a substantial margin: roughly $140 for a 40-lb (18 kg) box. That's not too bad, but does anyone know of a less expensive way to ship boxes of personal items from the US to CH?

2. @noipv4: What service did you use to ship your 3 desktop computers? And can you say how much that cost?

3. @abartzi wrote: "The postal worker initially told me that I need to detail how many socks, shirts, etc. are in each box. But I found that you can just say used clothes." That is a huge relief, so just to confirm, was this documented somewhere or was it at the postal worker's discretion? (The USPS agent I met, reading from her handbook on international shipping regulations, said Switzerland even requires us to list the *fiber content* of each clothing item. Ouch!.)

Many thanks for any answers or related advice!

Quote:
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<snip>
BUT fyi if you're traveling alone like I was (with three suitcases off the plane), SBB can deliver your suitcases from the airport station to any "manned" station in Switzerland, for only 12 CHF a pop. Totally worth it in my opinion, way cheaper than a taxi.
Background: I am moving with my family to Lausanne next month. We are flying in to Zürich and then taking a train to Lausanne (couldn't get a reasonable flight to Geneva with our constraints).

Your suggestion sounds useful! But is this the service you're referring to?
http://traintickets.myswitzerland.co...age/index.html
(I hope not, because I just read on the FAQ that this service is not available at Zürich or Geneva airports!)

If it is a different service, can you give us a pointer to more information about it?

Thanks!

Last edited by 3Wishes; 15.03.2015 at 18:40. Reason: merging successive posts
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Old 22.07.2014, 02:49
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Re: My experience shipping stuff from US to Zurich

Not exactly the same, but I'm shipping from Canada to Switzerland using Air Canada Cargo services. We're just doing boxes of house hold goods, and no heavy furniture. The rates were better than the quotes I got for container/less than full container shipping, AND gets there in less than a week versus the 2 - 4 months for the sea shipping.
The main disadvantage is that you need to pick up and drop off from the airport.
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Old 03.02.2016, 12:58
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Re: My experience shipping stuff from US to Zurich

Wow...loads of great info! BUT i am going from st gallen back to nyc, and will be taking mostly boxes, a bunch of karate kicking pads, one bed, one dresser.
I wonder can i ship in cargo hold of airlines, i did that with plastic boxes when i came to CH 14 yrs ago.
Thanks for any help!
Planning on the move an middle july 2016
Thanks again!!!
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Old 29.07.2016, 21:51
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Re: My experience shipping stuff from US to Zurich

This thread (and in particular the 1st message) is absolute gold, and I thought I would add my notes. I also am moving from SoCal to Zurich and mailing some boxes ahead. Just to add to what the OP said (please read that post first!), when I have a box ready to ship, this is the process I go through:

1. Seal the box REALLY well, double- or triple-tape all the seams and seals, etc.

2. I made a sign that said "personal items for relocation / personliche Gegenstande fur den Umzug" in big letters and taped it to the outside of each box.

3. I start preparing all the papers that will go with the box. I am actually using the 18.45 form (duty-free importing after being married), which is VERY similar to the 18.44 form, so depending on which form you use, your paperwork will vary slightly. For me, I print out:

- A copy of my wedding certificate
- A copy of my husband's passport
- A copy of my long-term Swiss visa

4. I also print out a single page that just itemizes the contents of the box in both English and German. Here's an example from a box I mailed yesterday:
Contents: personal items for relocation

kitchen items:

drinking glasses
spices
dishes
kitchen tools



Inhalt: personliche Gegenstande fur den Umzug


Küchengeräte:

Gläser
Gewürze
Geschirr
Küchengeräte
Note: if you don't speak German and use Google Translate (like me!), I recommend doing a google search on the German words AFTER you translate them to be sure you get it right. When I originally did this list, Google translated "glasses" to "Brille" which is actually eyeglasses! I discovered the mistake by actually googling the word "Brille" --and the immediately I saw the image results (lots of pairs of eyeglasses, lol) and figured out what happened.



5. Finally, I measure the box dimensions and I weigh it, then I use Google to translate the weight into kilograms. (You'll need BOTH weights, as the USPS form uses lbs, and the Swiss customs form uses kg!)

6. Then I fill out the 18.45 form (or, again, you may be using the 18.44 form, which is almost identical). Since I'm mailing a bunch of boxes, I downloaded and filled the form out once, and then I keep an electronic copy so I can just tweak the form for each box (most of the info on the form the same for every shipment).

The hardest part of the form to fill out is the bottom section, where it asks if this is the complete "importation" or if there are multiple pieces. I am confused by this but I'm treating it as each mailing (each box) is a separate thing. I didn't mark either checkbox or write anything in next to "previous document." However, I did put "1 cardboard box / 1 Pappkarton" where it asks for the info about the packages.

So at this point, I have all the Swiss paperwork together in one place (18.44 or 18.45 form, contents of box, and all supporting documents that they ask for). NOW it's time to do postage and US customs!

7. Log into usps.com and use "Click 'n' Ship." Note that you want to send your box via Priority Mail Int'l. I'm mailing boxes that are around 18" x 18" x 18" and weigh around 40 lbs, and that's costing me about $140 per box. (Since I'm only mailing about six boxes total, I'm very happy to be able to ship so much stuff door-to-door for under $1000. YMMV.)

8. The USPS web site will guide you through the entire process of not only making the postage label, but also generating the US customs paperwork. (I love that it's all handled for you.) Just answer all the questions-- it's pretty straightforward. Where it asks about contents of the box, I enter "personal items for relocation / personliche Gegenstande fur den Umzug," and then where it asks for detailed contents, I paste in my detail list ("drinking glasses, spices, dishes, kitchen tools").

9. At the end of the USPS process, you pay for the postage online, and then print the two-page form. These papers are both the mailing label and the customs forms all ready to go.

10. Finally, I put ALL the papers together-- USPS form on top, followed by Swiss 18.45/18.44 customs form, followed by all supporting docs... fold them in half... and put them into one of those clear sticky plastic half-page clear plastic document holders that sticks to the box. (The post office gave me these doc holders for free btw, and they're very handy.)

And that's it. I drop the box off at the at the post office without needing to do anything else... they just look at the box and put it in a bin, since it's ready to go. They don't have to scan it or stamp it or anything.

Finally, if you log into the USPS web site after a day, and go to the "history" section of your account, you can click through and to a screen with tracking information for your box. On that tracking screen, there's an option to enter your email address. I mark the checkbox that says "Email me all tracking information for this box every time there's a change" since I like getting an email every time one of my boxes goes somewhere (departing Los Angeles, arriving NYC, departing NYC, arriving Switzerland, entering Switzerland customs, leaving Switzerland customs, etc.). You can also mark a checkbox that just says "Email me when the box is delivered" if you don't want all that details. ;-) And of course you can also just log into the web site and go look at the screen any time.

Right now my first box is about to be delivered in Zurich, 9 days after I mailed it from the US. Another box that I mailed at the same time (9 days ago) is JUST leaving the US, so I'm not sure why it got stuck here-- there's no indication that anything was wrong with it; I think the post office is just weird sometimes. Another one of my boxes somehow got routed to New Zealand (!?!) but it looks to be back on its way to Switzerland now... I'm assuming that's just some weird way the USPS works. So while it doesn't seem very consistent :-) in how the boxes are handled, everything does seem to be flowing in the right direction, and I'm confident that once the boxes get to Switzerland, good Swiss efficiency will take over and they'll be delivered promptly and easily. Yay Swiss Post. :-)

Hope this helps other folks in the same situation!

best
E



Hope this helps other folks
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