Shipping Amazon to Hanoi

Well not directly because Amazon does not do that. What I do have though is a mail service agency which receives my mail and packages and will then forward them to wherever via whatever international service I wish to use. I can ship via dHL FEDEX, USPS. The first thing I bought was a pair of cheap Wrangler Jeans because I really prefer wearing Jeans to long cargo pants. Jeans just fit my cosmopolitan lifestyle better and you cannot find larger sizes here. Some things here cost less like food and beer and lodging. Other things cost more and its harder to find. So here is what I did.

I ordered the Jeans on 27 March and had them shipped to my forwarding agency. Due to a mixup Amazon tried to deliver them on Saturday which will not work so I had them redo the delivery to a weekday. Amazon customer service is most excellent with this stuff guys. The person re-ordered the delivery and it came in around the 29th or so. I then had the forwarding agency ship the box to me which weighed about 2 pounds to my hotel in Hanoi. I shipped via the cheapest USPS which was international first class no tracking. I started counting the days. Today is 16th of April and it arrived. The box had been opened and inspected by customs and then carefully re-sealed. Expected that to happen given the realities of international shipping. So, discounting weekends and stuff, you can see how long it took to get here. Not a prohibitively long time but if you want something like “soon” you will pay to use DHL or FEDEX. For me, being at the same address another 1.5 months its no big deal.

Now that I know what to expect, I ordered one other thing which is hard to get here and it should arrive at my mail forwarding agency tomorrow. At that point US Global Mail and this is a pitch for them will box it up and ship it to me. I just want to digress on the importance of finding an independent service and not just using a UPS store or something. These guys are good and they tell you what it will cost up front on their website. Many of these services charge per piece of mail received. If you go over, you pay more. US Global Mail does not charge per piece. When a letter arrives you notified and you can have it scanned, trash it, or forward it. Very handy. If you get a number of boxes they will combine the boxes into one and ship. Again, very handy if you are an expat or retiree living abroad.  This is paid by the year for service. I paid $150.00 per year but of course custom things like mailing a letter or box cost more.

Its more about peace of mind and not relying on family or friends to take care of stuff you should really have planned out. I have felt that the mail is mine and having an ex-wife or child deal with it kind of absolved me of responsibility and put it back on someone else. I would rather pay for a quality of service like what US Global Mail provides and also have a centralized location for mail services. One thing I did do was to switch as much as I could to digital or paperless service and many of the services I had like insurance went away when the car went away.

Give it some thought if you are planning an extended absence. For me, I had looked long at various services and paying by the piece seemed a ripoff. Some of the expenses for the basic service were more than US Global Mail too.

I feel that I found a very reliable and honest service that I can use when needed to forward things where I need, preview and download scanned PDF files of mail, and also not depend on the good will of others to take care of stuff that is really mine to deal with.

This type of service should be added to your list of things to plan out and execute on when you are leaving. The other is banking. I don’t do credit cards so I wanted a second debit card. I went with CapitolOne 360 and linked my banks together. They are completely virtual and have been quite easy to work with traveling. I can make money flow by transfer within 3 days so I plan when I would want to have money in that account and transfer it. There are reasons to use the CapitolOne 360 debit card including international ATM fees.. There are reasons to not have credit cards for me. I distrust them and me. Its too easy to do things with a credit card that you will regret later.

So two things which I felt were necessary. The virtual mail and forwarding service is a big thing when you think of it. Financial services is big too. I feel like I put in some time planning how to handle routine things.

One thing of note if you use a mail agency is that you cannot change your address online with the banks to that agency. They are marked. You have to call customer service. They will willingly do it but want to talk with you. Once you do it, the change was almost instantaneous in my online banking records.