How Long Does International Shipping Take?

Posted on October 27, 2022
Categorised as Freight industry news

When you’re sending items internationally, you’ll often be working within a timeframe. So, it’s important to find the right shipping method to suit your schedule. How long your international shipment takes will depend on a range of factors, including the size of the shipment, what you’re shipping and where you’re shipping it to and from. Below are some typical journey times to give you an idea of how long international shipping takes.

How long does sea freight take?

Sea freight is usually the longest shipping method, but it can also be the cheapest way of sending goods long distance. Sea freight can take anywhere between 20-45 days, depending on the destination and the route taken.

Below are popular sea freight routes and the typical transport time to get from port to port:

  • USA to the UK – 30 to 40 days
  • China to USA – 30 to 40 days
  • China to the UK – 40 to 55 days
  • UK to Australia – 50 to 60 days
  • UK to USA – 20 to 40 days

How long does air freight take?

Air freight is usually the quickest shipping method, however, it is also typically the most expensive. It can be a good option for people who have smaller shipments or are working to a short timeframe. Air freight can still take a few days and even a few weeks, as the shipment needs to go through customs at the destination, and processing can sometimes take some time.

Below are popular air freight routes and the typical transport time to get from port to port:

  • USA to the UK – 1 to 5 days
  • China to USA – 1 to 5 days
  • China to the UK – 1 to 5 days
  • UK to Australia – 3 to 10 days
  • UK to USA – 1 to 5 days

How long does road freight take?

Road freight is sometimes an economical option, especially for routes across the UK and further afield to Europe. Some freight forwarders may be able to offer same-day delivery for shipments being transported across the UK. Shipments from the UK to Europe can take anywhere from two to six days, depending on the destination country.

The length of time will depend on how many stops the vehicle will have to make along the journey. The more stops are required, the longer the shipment will take to be delivered.

What can cause delays in international shipping?

There are many factors that can cause delays in international shipping. Busy routes can get congested, which can cause shipments to get stuck at customs. Sometimes global events, like the pandemic, can cause staff shortages which can also cause delays with shipping. Extreme weather will also affect journey times – heavy rain, strong winds, and extreme temperatures can affect all kinds of shipping methods, including air, sea and road.

Mistakes on shipping documents will also cause delays. If the information is inaccurate, the shipment could be held until the right details are obtained from the shipper. If the shipment has the wrong address, it might not ever arrive at the intended destination.

Delays can incur extra fees and fines for the shipper, so it’s best to plan ahead and try to include contingencies in your shipping budget. It can be beneficial to work with an experienced freight forwarding company that can help to ensure your paperwork is correct and that can help to navigate any challenges and delays.

What factors influence the duration of international shipping?

The length of international shipping can be affected by numerous factors. The size and weight of the shipment often play a significant role, as larger or heavier shipments may require more complex logistics and longer transit times. The origin and destination of the package matter as well, as shipments between distant or remote locations may take longer. The chosen shipping method, whether it’s air, sea, or land freight, will also significantly impact the shipping duration.

Additionally, customs procedures can either facilitate or delay the shipping process, depending on the countries involved and the nature of the goods being shipped. Lastly, unforeseen circumstances, such as extreme weather events, political unrest, or even global pandemics, can disrupt even the best-planned shipping schedules.

International Shipping: Understanding the Process

International shipping involves a multi-step process that begins with packaging the goods appropriately for international transit. Once packaged, the shipment is picked up from the sender’s location and transported to a shipping hub. At the hub, the shipment is sorted and loaded onto the appropriate transportation vehicle, be it a plane, ship, or truck. The shipment then transits to its destination country, where it must clear customs.

Customs procedures involve checking the shipment against its provided documentation and possibly assessing duties or taxes. Once cleared, the shipment is again loaded onto a vehicle for the final leg of its journey – delivery to the recipient. Understanding this process can help shippers better anticipate potential delays and manage their expectations regarding international shipping times.

How to Speed up International Shipping

While international shipping inherently takes time, there are a few strategies you can employ to expedite the process. Opting for expedited shipping services from your carrier, when available, can reduce transit times. Ensuring your paperwork is accurate and complete is crucial in avoiding customs-related delays. This includes accurately describing the shipped goods, providing correct recipient information, and paying any necessary duties or taxes in advance. Lastly, working with an established and experienced international shipping company can streamline the process, as such companies have the expertise and resources to navigate the complexities of international shipping efficiently.

The Impact of Holidays and Peak Season on International Shipping

International shipping times can be significantly impacted during peak seasons and holidays. During such periods, an increased volume of shipments can overwhelm shipping companies and customs authorities, leading to potential delays. Furthermore, holidays might not be globally synchronized, meaning a regular business day in your country could be a holiday in the recipient’s country, affecting the shipment’s progress. Thus, when shipping internationally during peak seasons or around holidays, it’s recommended to plan well in advance and allow for potential delays.

How does tracking work in International Shipping?

Tracking in international shipping provides visibility into the transit of a shipment from the sender to the recipient. When a shipment is dispatched, the shipping company assigns it a unique tracking number. As the shipment moves through different stages of the shipping process, updates are logged against this tracking number. These might include milestones such as ‘shipment picked up’, ‘in transit’, ‘customs clearance’, and ‘out for delivery’. If a delay occurs, the status may reflect this, providing insight into where the shipment is and why it’s delayed. Understanding these statuses can help shippers better estimate their package’s arrival time.
PBS International is an expert freight forwarder, offering a complete range of international freight forwarding and logistics to suit your budget and timeframe. Contact us to speak to our team about your requirements or request an international shipping quote today.
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