Mailing a Letter to Japan? Here’s How to Calculate International Postage

By Tina RuhowLast Updated Feb 23, 2021 2:03:39 PM ET
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Ever wonder how much it costs to mail an international letter or package? These days, more businesses are cultivating an online presence that allows them to make international sales. This can open up a (literal) world of opportunities for business owners who are familiar with shipping products overseas. We'll take you through the different international shipping options offered by the United States Postal Service (USPS) and how to calculate the appropriate shipping costs for each of those options.

First-Class Mail International

If you're looking to mail a letter or smaller, flat package that weighs up to 15.994 oz, First-Class Mail is probably the way to go. If your letter or postcard weighs less than 1 oz and meets standard size requirements then you can mail it for just $1.20, which is the cost of one Global Forever stamp.

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Photo Courtesy: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Not familiar with Forever stamps? As the name implies, they never expire, even if their price eventually rises. If your package weighs more than 1 oz, then the price will vary, but First-Class International will still generally be the most economical shipping option for qualifying packages.

If your package weighs more than (very specific) 15.994 oz but less than 4 oz and has a value of less than $400, you can use the First-Class Package International Service. Aside from the weight requirements, your package's combined length, height, and width must also be 36 in or under (or 42 in or under for rolls/tubes). First-Class Package International Service rates start at $14.25 and vary by weight and destination. Best of all, you can send a First-Class Mail letter or package to more than 190 countries.

Priority Mail International

If you're mailing a package that weighs up to 70 lbs, you can have it delivered within 6-10 business days with Priority Mail International. Prices start at $28.50 and come with the perk of flat-rate postage options for packages that weigh up to 20 lbs.

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Photo Courtesy: USPS

If your package is over 20 lbs — or you don't want to use flat rate shipping — then the easiest way to calculate postage is with the handy USPS International Postage Calculator. Just select the country you'd like to ship your package to, enter a few simple pieces of information, and your postage will be calculated for you automatically.

Priority Mail International includes USPS tracking and may qualify for free Package Pickup and up to $200 worth of insurance. Make sure to check for any mailing restrictions your destination country may have. Pro tip: You may also want to check out printing your postage with Click-N-Ship, which will automatically generate a customs form for you, saving you that in-person headache.

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Priority Mail Express International

Need your package to arrive a little faster? With Priority Mail Express International, packages that weigh up to 70 lbs can be delivered within 3-5 business days. If your letter or package weighs under 4 lbs, you'll even have the option to send it with flat-rate shipping if it meets certain size conditions.

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Photo Courtesy: USPS

Otherwise, your best bet is to use the USPS International Postage Calculator to determine the price based on size, weight, and destination. As of 2021, prices start at $45.95, but that higher cost might be worth it. In addition to faster shipping, Priority Express International mail comes with a variety of perks, including a money-back guarantee to select destinations, free Package Pickup, USPS tracking, and up to $200 worth of insurance.

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Global Express Guaranteed (GXG)

If you need your letter or package to arrive as quickly as possible, then check out Global Express Guaranteed. When you use this type of shipping, your package can be delivered in 1-3 business days — or even overnight to some locations in Canada.

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Photo Courtesy: USPS

Global Express Guaranteed is available for packages weighing up to 70 lbs with a combined length and girth of 108 in (maximum length: 45 in; maximum height 46 in; and maximum width 35 in). That said, some countries do have different weight and size requirements, which you can check out on the USPS list of destination countries.

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Global Express Guaranteed offers a date-certain delivery money-back guarantee, tracking, and up to $100 of insurance. Your package may also qualify for free Package Pickup and can be prepared for shipping with a free GXG shipping kit. Prices start at $67.80 and, as always, can be calculated with the USPS International Postage Calculator.

Airmail M-Bags

If you're sending certain types of mail, you may want to look into the Airmail M-Bags option. USPS M-bags are used to send large amounts of printed material overseas, so if you’re shipping magazines, newspapers, books, journals, sheet music, catalogs or advertising and promotional materials, this is the option for you.

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While there is no minimum weight for items in an M-bag, the 11 lb price is the minimum that you'll be charged when sending this type of mail. Additionally, the maximum weight for each bag is 66 lbs. Prices start at $51.70 and can be calculated with the USPS International Postage Calculator. Remember: All Airmail M-bags must be accompanied by a customs form, which you can fill out on the USPS website.

International Mailing Restrictions and Additional Services

Due to the global COVID-19 outbreak, the USPS has temporarily suspended international mailing to certain countries due to pandemic-related service interruptions. The USPS website features a regularly updated list of countries that may be affected by such interruptions.

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Note that different countries are listed under different types of shipping. This means that while you may not be able to send a package to a certain country with Priority Mail Express International, you may be able to send it through another service such as Global Express Guaranteed. The same page also features a list of countries that you can click on to see their current shipping restrictions and limitations.

The USPS also offers other international services, including:

  • Military Shipping: You can ship care packages to military personnel serving overseas at special domestic rates through the USPS. Free military shipping kits, Package Pickup, and help with military mailing is also available through the USPS.
  • Money Transfers: Need to send money overseas? The USPS offers international money orders and Sure Money® (DineroSeguro®) wire transfers. Send money to any country that has an active agreement with the USPS.
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Find more information and tips on how to package and prepare international mail for shipment on the USPS website.