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Security and privacy information and advice at home and abroad.

RQ Addendum: How You Get Your Stuff At Post, Part II

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A few weeks ago I responded to a Reader Question about How You Get Your Stuff Overseas.  Many might wonder if all you are able to get overseas are your air and sea freight as well as your POV.  While these might be the only expenses paid for by the government, you’re certainly not prohibited from shipping things to post on your own dime.  There are several ways this can happen:

The diplomatic pouch is an address in Dulles, Virginia, that is forwarded to post either on a set schedule (i.e. all packages bound for Frankfurt go out on Tuesdays and Fridays) or when a certain amount of packages build up (i.e. 10 tons of material have accumulated for Tokyo).  The pouch is a slow, steady system subject to a myriad of regulations about batteries and hazardous materials (“hazmat”).  Since every modern piece of electronics has a battery in it these days, complaints arise around the holidays when people can’t get their Kindles, iPhones, or other battery-powered gifts through the pouch.

The Armed Services Post Office (APO) and/or Diplomatic Post Office (DPO) takes advantage of the partnership between the Department of Defense and the Department of State.  Most embassies give their employees access to APO, DPO, or both.  Letters are free between APO addresses.  Heavy packages are discounted.  The mail comes in regularly.  The downside of APO/DPO addresses is that not all vendors will ship to such addresses.  You can sign up for ShipItAPO which, for a fee, will serve as a forwarding address in the US that will send it on to the APO address.

The local postal service may or may not be a good third option.  In developed countries you’ll be fine, keeping in mind that packages bound too and fro the diplomatic community often receive extra scrutiny in customs.  In underdeveloped countries you might get your package stolen outright.

Again depending on where you are, shipments can take between a usual minimum of 2 weeks to up to two months to arrive (although 2 months is rare these days).  It is most certainly a reminder that you’re not back in the United States, but it comes with the territory if you’re in the Foreign Service.

Be sure to check out past Reader Questions in the Archives.

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