Basics of international shipping

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We know international shipping can be complex, whether you’re sending one fabric sample to Hong Kong or a hundred automotive parts to a customer in Dubai. Learn the basics of international shipping to make it easier.

The calculation of duties depends on the assessable value of a dutiable shipment. For the purpose of determining this estimate, dutiable goods in the shipment are given a classification code (up to ten digits) known as a Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) code, Export Control Classification Number (ECCN) or Schedule B number. When determining a classification code, commodity descriptions might appear to be similar, but they can have significantly different rates of duty.
Learn more about classifying your shipment with commodity with MyGTS (My Global Trade Services).

All DHL Express services are time definite and offer secure door-to-door delivery service of goods and documents to and from virtually every country in the world. Whether you need your shipments delivered early morning or by the end of the working day, our service offers full track-and-trace visibility so you always know where your shipments are.

Export Services: DHL provides door-to-door international export delivery of important time-sensitive document and non-document shipments by the next possible business day.
Learn more about Export Services

Import Services: DHL Time Definite Import Services allow you to import from around the world by a specific time or the end of the next possible business day.
Learn more about Import Services

Whether you are importing or exporting, DHL makes it simple for you to calculate a shipping rate quote with the service options of your choice, as well as find up-to-date transit times.

Getting a rate quote online is easy. Simply input your DHL Express account number, the origin and destination details and the package scale weight and dimensions (length x width x height).  Dimensions are used to calculate Volumetric Weight. Shipping charges are based on the greater of the shipment’s actual weight or volumetric weight.  All available DHL Express services – with a guaranteed delivery date and estimated charges – will be presented. 

Get a rate and transit quote

A “landed cost estimate” is a calculation of the total amount you can expect to pay for transit costs and insurance charges, as well as applied duties, taxes and fees for the commodities being shipped.

Diverse and ever-changing trade regulations and requirements in different parts of the world create complexities and challenges in shipping. Designed to help simplify things, the DHL Global Trade Services solution provides total visibility on critical detailed trade information, all streamlined and customizable to meet your particular needs. To ensure your goods are transported as efficiently as possible, DHL Global Trade Services provides access to millions of trade rules, giving you the information you need to ensure that your Customs paperwork is filled out completely and accurately – and provide a precise landed-cost estimate.

Calculate your landed cost 

Your DHL Express Waybill contains all the information DHL needs to know to keep your shipment moving. 

A Commercial Invoice is the first international document that you prepare as an exporter – for dutiable shipments. The Commercial Invoice serves as a bill for the goods from the importer to the exporter, and is evidence of the transaction.
Review our Customs invoice tips

Exporting: Some additional required and special case documents may be required for exporting – some examples include Electronic Export Information (EEI) – for high value shipments, Certificate of Origin and other Special Case Documents.

Importing: A variety of required documents are required for importing in to the U.S. – some examples include Certificate of Origin, Packing List, Power of Attorney, Licenses, Permits, Carnets and more.

When a shipment enters or leaves the country, Customs reviews the accompanying paperwork to ensure the shipper has followed all the appropriate rules and regulations.

Before handing over your shipment(s) to DHL, making sure you’ve filled out the paperwork properly and completely will help avoid delays in the Customs process. One of the most important things you can do to help your shipment through the customs clearance process is to ensure you accurately describe the items (goods/commodities) on your customs invoice (Commercial/Proforma) and other shipment documents as needed.

To help ensure faster Customs clearance be sure to:

  • Provide all necessary documents
  • List each commodity separately with accurate descriptions
  • Check for consistency across all documents
  • Provide as much detailed information as possible
  • Confirm that all associated costs are correct
  • Ensure that receiving country or person is not on a Denied Parties list

Get more Customs Clearance Advice

DHL Express has the fastest, most knowledgeable Customer Service Representatives and we have Stevie® Awards to prove it. For assistance 24 hours a day, please use our self-serve applications for rate quotes, scheduling a pickup and tracking.

Get in touch with DHL Express


Requesting a DHL Express account offers many advantages – such as preferred pricing, online import/export shipping tools and access to DHL tools designed to help simplify the complexities of international shipping. Plus free shipping supplies delivered right to your door.

Request an account now.