Difference Between International Shipping and Domestic Shipping

Vanessa Tran , Jun 15 2021

Most business owners rapidly become familiar with domestic shipping. It’s precisely where many e-commerce businesses get their first sales. It’s a reasonably straightforward process to ship something from one US state to another, for instance. However, the process can become more complicated when a business begins moving into the international market. There are critical differences in the shipping process when parcels begin to cross borders, and a savvy business person must understand those distinctions. There are logistical considerations, additional taxes, and more paperwork associated with shipping internationally that never even come into the picture regarding domestic shipping. 

Related: How to Ship to Europe



Distance is a critical consideration for any shipment. It affects the cost to ship the parcel and the time it takes to get a package from one place to another. Many international shipments indeed cover less distance than some domestic shipments. For instance, shipping from France to Spain isn’t nearly as far as shipping from Florida to Washington within the United States. On the other hand, if you were to ship from the United States to Europe, the distance would be considerable. So, it becomes a more prevalent factor when considering overseas shipping. 



Hourglass with red sand demonstrating time is money in the shipping industry


Another key difference between domestic and international shipping is time. While it’s possible to get next-day service overseas, the cost can add up very quickly. International shipping doesn’t just tend to take more time because of the distance covered. Other elements to the international shipping process can eat up the hours and days even when a parcel isn’t in transit. This additional time comes from the time spent processing shipments. Customs in both the country of origin and the destination country need to review shipments. 


In some cases, this can even include the opening and search of a package to verify contents. Additionally, if the shipper doesn’t pay the taxes and duties ahead of time, a package can be tied up in customs on the other end until the customer is contacted and supplies a payment to get their parcel. Note that Parcll avoids many of these hangups by shipping Delivered Duty Paid (DDP)



Many factors influence the cost of shipping a parcel. They include size, weight, origin, destination, shipping fees, and associated taxes and fees. Cost is a crucial difference between domestic and international shipping. With domestic shipping, you don’t generally have to worry about duties and taxes. Because the parcel is moving within a single country, there’s no foreign entity assessing further taxes




Related: Guide to the Cheapest Way to Ship Internationally in 2021




International shipment can subject packages to a greater degree of handling than domestic shipments merely because they pass through more phases of transportation. Because of this, packaging for international shipments needs to be more robust than that for domestic ones. Some specific cases require wooden crates. 



Modes of Transport

In general, there are fewer modes of transportation involved with domestic shipping than international. In most cases, it’s possible to simply load the parcel on a truck and move it from one location to another. However, when a package has to travel over an ocean, other forms of transportation need to become involved. In the case of parcels, this usually means the use of a plane. 




Are you looking for a great partner for your international delivery needs? Check out Parcll to discover how they can help!




International shipping requires more paperwork than domestic. The amount of paperwork needed depends in part on the nature of the shipment. However, a few types of paperwork you’ll run into follow. First is a customs form. The government uses this to gather information about the parcel, such as its contents and value. In addition to this form, you may need to include a commercial invoice. This document provides information about the shipment, including the harmonized code of each item. It also provides contact information for both the shipper and the recipient. If the shipment is worth over $2,500, electronic export information is required. Finally, when shipping from the United States to another country with a Free Trade Agreement, a certificate of origin is required. Some countries require this document regardless of a Free Trade Agreement.



Destination Country Import Regulations

When you’re shipping an item from one US state to another, you generally don’t have to worry much about differing laws between the two. There are exceptions, particularly as it applies to CBD products and biological matter, but the laws between states are usually easy to navigate. This ease of navigation does not always apply when it comes to international shipping. Regulations and restrictions on certain items can vary widely from country to country, so it’s essential to understand the rules at your shipment’s destination.  



Customs, Duties, and Taxes

Every international shipment passes through customs twice. It happens once as it leaves the country of origin and again as it enters the destination country. When a package moves through customs, there are requirements, fees, and taxes collected based on local law. Governments may tax certain items at a higher rate in the destination country. Someone has to pay these fees for the package to be delivered. This process can sometimes result in delayed packages as it waits in customs for someone to pay the duties. Working with a company like Parcll, which delivers Duty Paid, helps avoid any hangups as a parcel passes through customs because they calculate duties and the shipper pays ahead of time. 



Language and Culture

Another element that may differ between domestic and international shipping is language and culture. If you deal directly with the customer, it’s essential to learn as much as possible about the country. It’s possible to inadvertently insult someone if you don’t know local customs. It may also be impossible to communicate if there’s a language barrier, so you may need to seek help when that’s the case. E-commerce frequently avoids language barriers by working through a computer interface, but if your customer calls your customer service department regarding a delivery, everyone must be understood. 




model plane on world map demonstrating international shipping


Related: A Guide to International Online Shipping


There are many things to understand about the difference between domestic and international shipping. However, once you develop that understanding, shipping internationally doesn’t have to be complex. To further enhance your ability to adapt to your international efforts, partner with an excellent shipping provider like Parcll. Working with the right partners will simplify the process drastically. 


Is you business expanding to the international market? Contact Parcll for high quality assistance with international shipping!

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