I just had my first international sale via Etsy last week. I had been hoping that at some point this would happen & was thrilled when I saw that someone from across the globe had made a purchase from my shop. I'm not usually a worrier but I was a little concerned. Should I have packaged the item differently? Would the item make it in it's current condition? Would it end up stuck in customs? Would it arrive at all? I sent a note to my customer informing them when the item shipped & asking that they let me know when it arrives. I received a message from my customer today that the item had indeed arrived & was in perfect condition. Sigh of relief! Ahhh! Interestingly, I put the item in the mail on Thursday the 3rd of March & it arrived Wednesday the 11th. I've seen mail take several days to get to different parts of the county I live in, so for mail to move so quickly is quite surprising. The postal services of each country apparently worked mighty quickly & it must have sped through customs. It's so nice to have someone receive something I've sent & in this case, it was extra special since it was so far.
I have another parcel enroute to another country from a sale this week. The postal worker sorta smirked & smiled at the same time when I smoothed down the metered stamp/postage thing on the package. I laughed & explained that I hadn't sent much out of the country & was still just a little detail oriented about it. I have my fingers crossed that this new customer receives their item in it's original condition in a timely fashion. Will have to report back :-)
International shipping is not all that different from mailing an item in the U.S. There are a few things that helped me in the process of figuring things out. My advice: 1) make sure that you weigh the item, everything you will be packaging it in & the box/bubble mailer/envelope (each ounce when you ship to Canada is only .24 cents but to, say Australia goes up to .80 cents, not a huge amount of money but it sure can add up if one is less than careful), 2) like in the U.S., make sure you are clear in what category your item fits (envelope, small package, etc.), 3) check out the United Postal Services website on international shipping for pricing & information (see below), 4) package your item well, 5) fill out the customs form & afix it to the front of the package. Rumor has it that some postal workers will say that you don't need a customs form. The one who helped me last week seemed to think that it was a good idea & said that it would be less likely to be opened at customs since it said what it was on the form.
FYI, the USPS has information on each country & the types of items that are not accepted in each specific country.
USPS first class international mail: http://www.usps.com/prices/first-class-mail-international-prices.htm
If you have anything to add about international shipping & your experiences, I would love to hear them!