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5 best practices for international express shipping to Europe from Vietnam

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In today's globalised economy, international express shipping has become a pivotal element of business strategy for enterprises in Vietnam. This is especially so when it comes to Europe, Vietnam's third largest export market, which recorded a robust trade surplus of US$35.5 billion in 2022, according to the European-American Market Department under the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT). The European Commission has also reported that Vietnam’s top exports to the region include electronic products, footwear, textiles, furniture, seafood, coffee and rice. 

Given the surge in trade between Vietnam and Europe, the European Union Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) has provided an even greater impetus to this thriving international commerce. The EVFTA, which eliminates almost 99% of customs duties between the European Union (EU) and Vietnam, is expected to increase Vietnam’s gross domestic production by 4.6% and its exports to the EU by 42.7% by 2025. As a result, the European market has emerged as a lucrative destination for Vietnamese exports, presenting a wealth of opportunities for local businesses. 

In light of these developments, it becomes crucial for Vietnamese enterprises to gain a comprehensive understanding of the optimal strategies for shipping from Vietnam to Europe. By mastering these best practices, they can successfully navigate the complexities of international logistics and fully capitalise on the burgeoning export opportunities available in Europe. 

1. Take note of customs regulations and taxes 

Customs taxes 

While the EVFTA provides significant relief from customs duties, Vietnamese businesses must still account for other applicable fees, particularly the Value-Added Tax (VAT) and import duties specific to European countries. It's worth noting that these import tax rates are not uniform across the continent. For instance, while France levies a standard VAT rate of 20% on all imported goods and services, Denmark imposes a higher rate of 25%. 

Beyond VAT, import duties also apply and can vary between 5% and 14% for industrial goods originating from non-EU countries. Furthermore, agricultural products and meat products might be subjected to variable fees. 

It's also crucial to note the recent changes in VAT regulation in the EU, specifically the abolishment of the de minimis rate across most EU member states. This change implies that all goods imported into the EU are now subject to VAT, regardless of their value. This underscores the need for businesses to remain informed about their financial obligations when shipping goods to Europe and budget appropriately. 

Restricted goods 

Some goods entering Europe are subject to special requirements. A few examples include: 

  • Alcohol and tobacco products: These may require the submission of the VI1 Form, alongside country of origin, and quality and sanitation certificates. 
  • Chemicals and hazardous materials: Strict labelling and packaging is required that uses the standardised system set out in the Classification, Labelling and Packaging Regulation for all EU countries. 
  • Electronic equipment: A Conformité Européenne (CE) stamp is required on all electronics entering EU countries as per the European EMC Directive 2014/30/EU. 
  • Pharmaceutical products: All shippers must obtain the European Medicines Agency's (EMA) certification before shipping human and veterinary medications 

Ensure you have the necessary permissions to avoid delays. 

Prohibited goods 

Certain goods are absolutely prohibited to ship. Stay aware of these restrictions to avoid any complications during customs clearance in Europe: 

  • Counterfeit products 
  • Explosives and ammunition 
  • Protected wildlife and endangered species 
  • Illegal drugs 

We understand that navigating customs taxes and duties can be challenging, let alone identifying what’s prohibited and restricted. With our team, however, importing and exporting is a breeze. Our specialists can keep you updated on the latest regulations, which include customs procedures for import and export, estimated taxes and more. 

However, you’re also advised to find out what is restricted and prohibited to export via DHL Express: 

DHL Express strictly prohibits the shipment of the following items: 

  • Living creatures 
  • Animal products 
  • Human remains 
  • Precious metals (bullion) 
  • Cash and traveller's cheques 
  • Gemstones 
  • Firearms and explosives 
  • Illegal and counterfeit goods 

DHL Express will not transport the following items unless a prior agreement is reached after conducting a business case by DHL, and a written record of the approved items is maintained with the Customer: 

  • Antiques, artworks, and fine art 
  • Tax stickers/banderols 
  • Tobacco products and electronic cigarettes 
  • Hazardous goods 
  • Commemorative coins, medals, and high-value collectables 
  • Animal trophies and skins 
  • High-value financial and monetary items 
  • Expensive jewellery and watches 
  • Toy guns, firearm parts, and military items 

2. Research shipping options

When considering your shipping from Vietnam to the EU or any other European country such as the United Kingdom (UK), you must weigh the shipping options that best fit you and your customers’ needs. Air and sea shipping modes are both viable; however, door-to-door express shipping by air has plenty of plus points for international trade:

  • Speed: About 34% of global consumers find it a challenge when the delivery time of a product is longer than what they would reasonably expect, the 2023 Global Consumer Insights Pulse Survey revealed. This means consumers do prefer faster deliveries. Express services such as DHL Express can reduce the duration of delivery significantly. Depending on the destination country, the transit time is one to three business days.
  • Safety: Shipment does not stay in transit too long since shipping and door-to-door delivery is much shorter in duration, reducing the risk of damage or pilferage. Regardless, you can expect the highest standards of security when shipping with DHL Express as many of our facilities have acquired the Transported Asset Protection Association (TAPA) certification. It is an internationally recognised standard guaranteeing that we uphold the highest security measures during warehousing and in-transit storage of high-value goods across the global supply chain. This accreditation is only granted after stringent audit processes.
  • Added values: Express shipping services deliver value-added yet important features at their price point, such as real-time tracking providing end-to-end visibility of the shipment throughout its journey, assistance in customs clearance procedures, as well as flexible discount offerings based on shipping frequency and volume, without any hidden costs involved. Our user-friendly MyDHL+ portal also allows you to easily create shipments, prepare invoices, apply for shipment insurance and track the movement of your parcels, making export procedures from Vietnam and customs clearance in Europe simple. Plus, if you are shipping to an individual, our On-Demand Delivery services provide your customers with choices on how they receive their parcels. For example, they can choose to pick them up from any nearest DHL Express Service Point in the European country they are residing in. Or, they can choose to defer an incoming delivery by putting it on a vacation hold. These are just two of a list of available options.

3. Prepare shipping documents

To ensure a smooth customs clearance when you ship from Vietnam to Europe, your shipping documents must be in order.

Waybill

The waybill serves as the foundational document comprehensively and accurately outlining the shipment details, which include (but are not limited to):

  • Shipper and receiver information, specifically the address and contact details
  • Full description of items in the shipment, which means identifying each type of good and the quantity
  • Total number of items in the shipment, alongside the total weight and shipment dimensions

Customs invoice

The customs invoice provides complete visibility for authorities on the goods being shipped to Europe and their values. Customs clearance necessitates two kinds of invoices: commercial or proforma, depending on the shipment's intent and the involved countries' rules. A commercial invoice applies to goods that are part of a business transaction between buyer and seller. On the other hand, a proforma Invoice is used for items that aren't bought or for resale, such as personal goods, gifts, or return shipments, though its usage depends on the regulations of the concerned countries.

Some examples of the key data elements include:

  • Details of the goods: Detailed and precise information about the goods, leaving no room for ambiguity or errors. A statement such as “women’s clothing” is inadequate. Customs will require a more descriptive explanation, akin to “women’s t-shirts made of cotton”. In addition, quantities and all transaction costs, including goods value, insurance, freight and packaging, must be indicated. The correct Harmonised System (HS) code for each commodity must also be applied.  
  • Origins: Legally mandated details about any preferential origin, presented with an appropriate Proof of Origin Statement, for each commodity shipped, to show the country of origin. 
  • Shipper & receiver information: Addresses, contact details, and identification numbers both the sender and receiver must be stated clearly too

Permits, licences and certificates 

Just as Vietnam requires specific declaration forms, licences and certificates to allow goods entry into the country, you will need to furnish the necessary for exports to Europe. For example, sanitary certificates are required for all commodities made of animals or their by-products before they are allowed entry into EU countries. Likewise, phytosanitary certificates are mandatory for most fresh fruits, vegetables and other plant-based materials. International express shipping service providers such as DHL Express Vietnam can support you to submit these documents to customs in order to comply with the destination country’s import clearance rules and complete all customs procedures without delay. 

By adhering to these guidelines, businesses can facilitate smoother customs clearance in Europe, leading to a more streamlined and efficient shipping process.

We strive to pre-declare shipments before arrival when permitted by customs authorities. Prior to the loading of your packages onto aircraft, we electronically transmit your shipment’s details to the customs authorities. This not only facilitates security checks but also initiates the customs clearance process. This entire procedure takes place in the country of departure, before the shipments even board the plane.

As long as you provide us with the necessary documentation, we’ll get the job done swiftly.

4. Consider packaging and labelling

Accurate packaging and labelling are crucial in ensuring your imports from Vietnam reach their European destinations without issues. Packing electronic items, for instance, requires a box-in-box technique for maximum protection. This entails having an inner box and outer box, both of which are separated by a layer of cushioning of at least 6cm at the bottom and the sides.

European countries, as mentioned before, have stringent regulations for labelling, often requiring standardised symbols and comprehensive product information. For example, France mandates the use of French on the labels of imported products alongside recognised foreign words and phrases. Automotive parts shipped to EU countries like Germany, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands need the e-mark (e4); headlight lamps, brake light lamps and turning signal lamps of all vehicles shopped will need a similar marking (E4) before entering the country.

5. Track your shipments

Efficient international shipping to Europe demands meticulous attention to transit times and tracking. Speedy deliveries give you an edge in the market, while tracking ensures you’re able to monitor shipments wherever they are and take necessary steps should issues crop up. You and your customers may easily track shipments using the air waybill number. While you may do so via the MyDHL+ portal, customers can proceed to the DHL Express Vietnam website, download the app or call our customer services toll-free hotline (18001530) to check the status and location of the shipment. Prompt delivery and real-time tracking updates, as a result, significantly enhance customer satisfaction, making it vital to choose a shipping partner that can deliver both. You can rest assured we tick all the boxes when you choose us.

Whether you are looking for Europe standard rate shipping or customised solutions, DHL Express is your reliable partner for international shipping.

Let your business thrive in the global marketplace with efficient and reliable shipping services from DHL Express. Begin with a business account today.