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Mail & Shipping — México

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The Méxican postal service is slow, cheap, and mostly reliable. International airmail, depending on how and where it's sent, can take weeks or even a month or more to arrive. For domestic airmail expect one to two week delivery times. México City is the exception, expect international and domestic airmail to arrive in just under a week.

Airmail is, of course, faster than surface mail. Still, sending or receiving airmail can take weeks depending on the country; delivery time predictions are at best rough estimates.

That said, expect these delivery times:

Airmail Surface
US, Canada 5 - 14 days 3 - 4 weeks
Europe 1 - 2 weeks 1 - 2 months
Australia, New Zealand, Japan 3 - 4 weeks 1 - 3 months
*Outside of major Méxican cities add one to two weeks to these delivery times.

Business Hours

Times differ depending on location, but Mexican post offices (oficinas de correos) are typically open Monday to Friday from 8 am to 6 pm and Saturday from 9 am to 1 pm.

Sending mail from México

It is safer to take mail to the post office than drop it in a mail box.

Airmail costs for letters and postcards:

Less than 20g Between 20g and 50g
US, Canada Mex$11 Mex$18
Europe, South America Mex$13 Mex$21
Everywhere else Mex$15 Mex$23

Be sure that airmail items are marked with por avión or por vía aérea on the front of the envelope; otherwise, they may be delivered by surface mail. When addressing mail destined for abroad use Spanish abbreviations for countries instead of English. For example, the abbreviation for the US in Spanish is either EE.UU. or E.U.A.

Send all important mail registered (certificado). The extra cost for letters is Méx$20, but is well worth it to guarantee delivery.

Receiving mail in México

One of the most reliable means of receiving mail in México is to use the nearest post office as a mail drop. Post offices will hold mail free of charge for up to a month. This service is especially useful for travelers with loose itineraries given how slow and unpredictable the postal service is. Moreover, even if your hotel dates are firm, there's no guarantee that your mail will arrive when you're there.

There are two ways to address mail to a specific post office — Lista de Correos (mail list) and Poste Restante (general delivery). Mail sent to Lista de Correos is held free of charge for ten to fourteen days and put on a list that is updated daily and displayed in the post office. Mail sent to Poste Restante is also held free of charge, but for much longer, up to thirty days, although its not put on a daily list. In both cases, if the mail is not claimed during that time, it is returned to sender.

Since the Lista de Correos is updated daily and publicly displayed, presumably saving a wait in line for mail that might not be there, it should, in theory, be more convenient than the Poste Restante. In practice, however, not all post offices are diligent about posting the updated list every day, so you'll probably have to wait in line anyway to see if your mail has arrived.

In cases of cities with multiple post office branches, it is best to address mail to the central post office because even if a specific post office is addressed, mail may still be sent to the central office anyway.

Address Lista de Correos mail like so:

Lista de Correos
Correo Central
Oaxaca, 68000, Oaxaca (City, Postal Code, State)

Address Poste Restante mail like so:

Poste Restante
Correo Central
Oaxaca, 68000, Oaxaca (City, Postal Code, State)

Make sure everything is printed clearly, especially the addressee's name, and always capitalize the surname, postal staff may have trouble deciphering what are to them poorly scribbled foreign names. And never use middle names, only list a first name and surname. Listing middle names will only cause confusion because the paternal surname in Spanish is the second name in cases of three names and the third name in cases of four names.

Moreover, when searching the Lista de Correos, interpret it creatively, the transcription of names may be butchered. If the name is found, write down the number next to it; this will help in retrieving the mail. Either way, always write down and hand both the name and the number, if any, to the clerk. If a clerk says there is no mail have them check again under the first name. To claim mail a passport or some other picture identification will usually need to be presented.

Mail can also be forwarded to another post office. This is really convenient when your mail hasn't arrived yet, but you're ready to move on. Change of address cards (Tarjeta de Cambio de Dirección) are available at any post office. The forwarding card can be left at the post office where the mail is addressed to or mailed back from a new location. Keep in mind when mailing a forwarding card back there is a delivery time; the card could arrive after the mail has already been returned to sender.

Change of address cards should be addressed like so:

Oficina de Correos
Correo Central
Oaxaca, 68000, Oaxaca (City, Postal Code, State)

American Express offices worldwide can be used as a mail drop. They will hold mail for card and check holders for thirty days, others can use this service, but a small fee is usually charged. For more information visit www.americanexpress.com/travel.

And, of course, mail can always be sent to the hotel or hostel. Most will hold mail for current or future customers.

Shipping Packages

As you might imagine, sending packages abroad from México via the postal service (Correos de México) is a fairly bureaucratic endeavor. Mercifully, most postal clerks will usually lead you through the process.

Still, here's what to expect:

  • A postal clerk or customs inspector will probably want to inspect the contents of all packages before they're sealed, so bring them unsealed to the post office.
  • Be prepared to answer a few simple questions about the packages' contents, such as their value and nature, describing the contents as gift will do.
  • A return address is always required. A hotel or hostel address is acceptable.
  • A postal clerk may ask to see your tourist card.
  • Once inspected, all packages will need to wrapped in solid paper (no patterns) and taped-up securely, so make sure to bring paper and tape.
  • Package weight is limited to 25kg (55lbs) or less.

Many stores catering to tourists will ship theirs customers' purchases abroad for them for the cost of shipping and maybe a small fee. It's usually worth taking them up on this offer to avoid the hassle of trying to do it yourself.

Private Mail & Shipping

There are private mail and shipping companies operating in cities, mid-sized towns, and many places with large expat communities that will ship to almost anywhere in México and the world. Although much more expensive than the postal service, private companies can be counted on to deliver letters and packages quickly and on time. If speed is imperative, they're your best bet.

UPS  ships to most countries. Call toll-free 01-800-902-9200 nationwide in México or visit the website www.ups.com to locate customer service centers and authorized agents or to check shipping rates and delivery times.

Fedex ships to most countries. In D.F. call (01-55) 5228-9904, elsewhere in México call 01-800-900-11-00 or visit www.fedex.com to locate customer service centers and check shipping rates and delivery times.

DHL ships to most countries. In D.F. call (01-55) 5345 7000, elsewhere in México call 01-800-7656 345 or visit www.dhl.com to locate customer service centers and check shipping rates and delivery times.

Estafeta is a Méxican company that ships to most countries. In D.F. call (01-55) 5270 8300, elsewhere in México call 01-800-378-23382 or visit www.estafeta.com to locate customer service centers and check shipping rates and delivery times.

Mexpost, although not private, it's run by the Méxican postal service to compete with private courier and shipping companies, ships to most countries and everywhere domestic. Mexpost offices are generally found in mid to large size cities next door to post offices. Ask at a post office for the nearest Mexpost office.

Within México packages can be sent via buses, there just needs to be some at the other end to pick it up when it arrives. Inquire at the nearest first-class bus station about shipping rates.

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