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I have to send a package from the US to someone travelling along the European Mediterranean coast.

One option would be to send it to a hostel, but this could easily fail, or be tortuous for the recipient. I also don't want to use any flight-by-night mail forwarder. This person will be moving, so it has to be predictable when it will arrive (at least within a time-frame of 2-3 days).

I wonder whether some official national postal service (equivalent to the USPS) or well-known companies like DHL, FedEx or UPS would accept that a package is sent to one of their branches, to be picked at a concrete day, by showing some ID.

I suppose these companies would provide the same quality of service across the world. The choices are Portugal, Spain, France and Italy (by order of preference.

Is this feasible? How would such a service be called?

  • One important thing to note is that your package will have to go through customs. This means there could be taxes to pay, and the time it takes to go through customs can be very, very, very variable, depending on what you are sending, whether you include all the relevant documentation, the carrier, etc. – jcaron Apr 17 '18 at 11:29
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Several shipping companies provide options for shipping to a branch for pickup with ID. You could check which one has a more convenient branch location for you. DHL has a stronger presence in Europe.

DHL "Hold for Collection":

At times, it can be easier to have your customer collect shipments from a DHL managed Service Point, rather than attempt a delivery to an uncertain address. Simply request the option at the time of booking and our Customer Service staff at destination will notify the Receiver when the shipment is ready to collect. Shipments are held for up to 7 calendar days free of charge.

UPS "Hold for Pickup":

At no additional charge, UPS can hold your package up to five days... UPS will deliver your package to the UPS Customer Center you choose and then call the recipient when the package is ready. Packages are usually available by 8:30 a.m. on the scheduled day of delivery.

FedEx "Hold at Location":

Most FedEx locations will hold a package. The Find FedEx Locations tool at fedex.com can help you locate one in seconds.

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    Can't speak to the others, but the FedEx service is limited to less that a one week hold, usually -- in my experience. (Depends on location; I've seen as low as three days.) – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Apr 16 '18 at 12:50
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    One weeks seems to be really short. Poste restante has been the way to go for travelers for decades even the third world. – Vladimir F Apr 16 '18 at 14:34
  • @VladimirF OP specifically indicates a 2 to 3 day time frame, though. – jpmc26 Apr 16 '18 at 23:43
  • Is not UPS a US specific service? – Rui F Ribeiro Apr 17 '18 at 7:33
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    @RuiFRibeiro UPS is a very large private global carrier. USPS (note the additional S) is the United States Postal Service, and is indeed the national postal service for the US. – jcaron Apr 17 '18 at 11:27
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In most of the world, you can have letters and packages sent poste restante, addressed to an individual in care of a particular post office, to be held until the intended recipient visits to pick it up. In English-speaking Canada and the U.S., the service is also called general delivery; in Spanish-speaking countries it is also known as lista de correos. It is extremely common, for example, for people on lengthy journeys like the Camino de Santiago or the Appalachian Trail, to have supplies sent ahead of them via poste restante.

Not every post office in every country will accept poste restante mail, but as there are Universal Postal Union (UPU) guidelines for it, you should be safe with the main post office in larger cities. How long the post office will hold the package, the addressing format, the pickup or storage charge if any, and other procedures will vary by country. You can search on this term on the website of the relevant country's postal service; Wikipedia offers an overview of poste restante as well.

Comments by Makyen and others suggest that poste restante mail is not always reliable, especially outside of rich countries. You may try your hand with FedEx, UPS, DHL, and other international delivery services, who will hold a letter or package at a local office or with their local partner (which may in fact be the postal service) for a period of time, although their charges will be considerably higher than regular mail.

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    While this is good information, using the standard postal service in most countries, is, IME, significantly less likely to result in the recipient getting the package within a known, limited time-frame. Even purchasing an augmented service (which is inherently variable by destination country) is problematic. Europe is a part of the world where you are more likely to be successful. However, IMO, you are much more likely to be successful, at probably significantly higher cost, by using one of the shipping companies mentioned in the last paragraph. – Makyen Apr 16 '18 at 0:48
  • "FedEx, UPS, DHL, and other international delivery services will also hold a letter or package at a local office" is that really true ? – Fattie Apr 16 '18 at 0:50
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    @Fattie yes, most of the delivery services keep the package for a specific amount of time (usually 1 or 2 weeks depending on the company) before taking further steps. You might also clearly inform what is the expected time of package picking up. Usually it's possible to contact the delivery company over the phone and redirect or delay the delivery. One thing to consider is to give some extra time (1-2 days) to avoid a situation of leaving the place before the package arrives.I live in Poland which has pretty much similar standards that you might expect in the southern Europe. – Ister Apr 16 '18 at 8:42
  • fascinating, i didn't know it – Fattie Apr 16 '18 at 14:33
  • Beware in many countries, poste restante is limited to mail items (letters and small packages up to 2kg or so). You cannot send regular packages that way then. – Janka Apr 18 '18 at 4:28
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As a Portuguese national, I can tell you to take Portugal out of the equation with such a short time frame.

Our bureaucracy is bad. Your package can be hold hostage for up to 20 to 30 days in our customs for inspection.

Forget our national postal system. It is not unheard of getting mail a couple of months after it is expedited locally. A couple of years ago, my sister-in-law sent us a package from London in early December, by regular mail, and it arrived in mid/late April.

As for Fedex, my experiences in the past are not good with them. DHL seems to work better. Both are costly.

I remember to deliver a document out of this country in a short time frame (3-5 days) the best option used to be paying around 150 Euros to have a special DHL service. I would guess they similarly support the equivalent inbound service.

If we are not talking about documents but objects, you will surely have to clear customs, and I can pretty much assure you that if you do not have a margin of a month for bureaucracy, you would better forget Portugal.

  • -1, not really an answer that helps solve a problem – Quora Feans Apr 18 '18 at 20:47
  • @QuoraFeans I give a possible solution for documents, and if objects, I warn there must be a 30-day window at least, and from quite solid previous experience. Not an answer? – Rui F Ribeiro Apr 18 '18 at 21:42

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