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Preparing Your Shipment With DHL Express

All the information you need to prepare the contents and packaging of your shipment

Preparing the Shipment: It's as Easy as Counting to 3

1. Shipment weight

  • Weighting and measuring the shipment is recommended.
  • In the case of a large but light-weight shipment, where the volumetric weight exceeds the actual weight, the shipping cost is calculated based on the space the shipment occupies on the aircraft. This is a standard IATA method.
    To calculate the volumetric weight of the shipment, simply multiply the length by the height by the width expressed in centimetres, and then divide the total sum by 5,000 for each shipment piece.
  • Each package in the shipment can be re-measured and re-weighed by DHL to confirm this calculation.

2. Required documentation: waybill

  • All shipments sent with DHL Express must be accompanied by a waybill or DHL label which must be fully filled in and securely attached to each package being shipped. The shipment can thus be handled seamlessly throughout our network.
    Each waybill or label is individually numbered to allow the Customer to track their shipment from the time of pickup to the time of delivery.
  • Sometimes the shipment must also be accompanied by customs documentation, such as a commercial or proforma invoice, as well as by any additional documentation, depending on the content and value of the shipment and the country of destination.

3. Required documentation: invoice

  • A commercial or proforma invoice is required when shipping goods to countries and territories outside one’s own country of origin or customs union. This is basically a declaration containing all details of a transaction, which is used by customs authorities to understand if any duties or taxes are due.
  • A commercial invoice is used when the goods are part of a commercial transaction or are intended for sale.
  • Conversely, a proforma invoice is used for sending goods with no commercial value (e.g., for sending samples). 

Packing Your Shipment

To ensure that shipments travel through our global DHL Express network safely and without damage, it is important to pack and label them properly.

  • When using second-hand envelopes or boxes, make sure that pre-existing labels and markings have been removed.
  • Securely attach the waybill to each piece of the shipment. The waybill can be considered the airline ticket of the shipment, and separating it from the shipment may delay delivery.
  • The bar codes on a waybill are scanned at numerous points during transit. It is necessary to make sure that the bar code is flat and not covered by any tape, shrink wrap, or strapping.
  • Place a waybill on the top or side of each piece of the shipment, making sure it does not overlap the corners or edges of the boxes.
  • Use adequate protective wrapping for fragile or delicate items, and make sure these are placed inside the packaging in such a way as to be as far away as possible from package corners.
  • To prevent injuries to our employees, please take special care when packing sharp objects. The content of packages should in no way pierce the packaging.
  • Individual pieces exceeding 70 kg must be placed on a pallet. In the case of a shipment made up of several pieces, it is not necessary to place the individual pieces on a pallet unless they exceed 70 kg.  For example, a shipment of four pieces of 25 kg each should not be placed on a pallet.

The characteristics of a properly packed shipment

  • Box cardboard must be sufficiently thick.
  • Labels must be placed in such a way as to be legible and on the widest side of the box.
  • Each item must be packed separately and with material suitable for fragile goods.
  • Adhesive tape must be used to reinforce the most sensitive points of the box.
  • No cellophane, wire or string must be wrapped around the box.

DHL Packaging

We offer a range of high-quality, DHL-branded packages which are suitable for shipping items of any shape and size. Available packages include:

  • Plastic envelopes
  • Cardboard envelopes for the shipment of documents
  • Variedly sized boxes
  • Pipes
  • Packages for bottles

Shipment Size and Weight

With our service you can ship goods and documents all over the world in the shortest possible time. Some weight and size limitations apply globally, depending on the service required. Check the table to learn all details.

Your shipments are not compatible with the permitted limits? Contact our customer support to check the availability of dedicated services!

Calculation of shipment weight

The standard IATA method requires that the transportation rate be established by taking into account both the weight of the shipment (actual weight) and the space it occupies on board the means of transport (volumetric weight).

All scales used in our DHL service centres are approved, certified and meet the requirements provided for by the International Organization of Legal Metrology (OIML) and comply with the Measuring Instruments Directive (MID) set forth in Ministerial Decree No. 182 dated 28/03/2000 and No. 31 dated 18/11/2011.

Our scales are subject to annual calibration and regular checks carried out by authorised personnel of the Bureau of Legal Metrology, according to the deadlines provided for each type of instrument. The certification of the above is also visible on the scales themselves through seals that indicate the deadlines of regular checks and bear the trademark of the Bureau of Legal Metrology.

The result of the reweighing action performed results in the real weight of that shipment.

The real weight of the shipment

It’s the actual weight of the shipment. The value declared by the customer in the waybill is verified at the service centre when the goods and documents arrive.

The volumetric weight of the shipment

According to IATA standard method, the freight rate must be established by taking into account the volumetric weight of the shipment, in the case that the latter exceeds the real weight.

This parameter takes into account the volume of your shipment and consequently the space occupied on our vehicles.

Use our calculator to quickly know the value of this parameter.

The shipping cost is calculated considering the volumetric weight or real weight, whichever is higher.

For example, assuming a 30cm x 40cm x 50cm package with a real weight of 5 kg, the rate is charged in relation to its 12kg Volumetric Weight

The Value of Insurable Goods

We offer you an insurance service for your goods.

To request it, enter the data in the dedicated section in the waybill as per instructions, specifying the demonstrable value (e.g., invoice, receipt) of the goods.

The insurance premium is charged on the invoice under the freight rate, and is equal to 1% of the value of the good (minimum taxable amount €11).

The cost of freight may be insured by adding it to the value of the goods.

If the value of the goods you intend to insure exceeds €10,000, contact Customer Support before shipping.


Prohibited and Restricted Goods

Prohibited Items

The items listed below will not be accepted for transportation by DHL.

The following list includes items whose transportation is prohibited under laws, regulations, or rules of any federal, state, or local government of any country from, to, or through which the items were to transit. In the context of international transportation, additional items may be prohibited by the country of destination. DHL may, at its sole discretion, refuse to transport other items not listed below.

  • Ingots (of any precious metal)
  • Money (legal tender - banknotes and coins)
  • Complete firearms, ammunition, explosives and explosive devices, including inert explosives and test pieces, air guns, tasers, replicas and imitations of firearms, replicas and imitations of ammunition
  • Cannabis and all its derivatives
  • Human remains or ashes in any form
  • Hunting trophies (animals), animal parts such as ivory and shark fins, animal remains or ashes, or animal by-products and derivatives not intended for human consumption, the transportation of which is prohibited by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and/or local rules and regulations
  • Unlawful goods, such as counterfeit items and drugs
  • Live animals (including but not limited to mammals, reptiles, fish, invertebrates, amphibians, birds)
  • Lithium metal batteries packed by themselves according to IATA PI968, Section II
  • (cut or uncut, polished or unpolished), bulk precious and semi-precious stones, air guns, replicas and imitations of firearms
  • Asbestos
  • Waste oils

Items Subject to Restrictions

The items listed below will NOT be accepted for transportation unless otherwise agreed upon with DHL. To obtain such an agreement, DHL will have to make a specific study and the items approved for transportation will have to be specified in writing with the Customer.

  • Toy guns, "non-essential" weapon parts, firearm accessories such as: silencers, night vision devices, flashlights, reviews, etc., pointing and cutting instruments not intended for attack but with specific intended use, military items
  • Antiques and works of art with a shipping value exceeding €10,000 
  • Bandanas/tax stickers with a shipping value of more than €500,000
  • Cigarettes, cigars, tobacco products and electronic cigarettes
  • Coins, commemorative medals, ingots embedded in commemorative cards or memorabilia, books, comics, collectible stamps, collectible cards, with value per single item or per shipment exceeding €1,000 are subject to restrictions for transportation purposes
  • Dangerous goods, including, without limitation, perfumes, aftershave lotions, aerosols, flammable substances, dry ice, biological substances, goods deemed dangerous according to the UN classification, and all goods defined as such under the International Air Transport Association (“IATA”) regulations, the Agreement on Dangerous Goods by Road (“ADR”) or the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (“IMDG”) regulations pertaining to the transportation of dangerous goods by sea
  • Forms of electronic money - examples include, without limitation, active SIM cards for cell phones, credit or ATM cards active or with pending activation, blank checks, event tickets, lottery tickets, postal payment orders or payment mandates, prepaid phone cards, (blank) tickets, traveller's checks, vouchers/tokens, unused stamps, etc.
  • Furs
  • Jewellery, precious objects and watches whose worth exceeds €1,000 with reference to every single piece
  • Coral
  • Pornographic Material
  • Plants and flowers
  • Spirits
  • Foodstuffs
  • Medicines and Pharmaceuticals
  • Means of transportation

Shipments of dangerous goods

Dangerous goods, items or substances are defined as goods, items or substances which, if not properly handled, prepared, and packaged, may be hazardous from the standpoint of health, safety, property and the environment.

They can also be everyday items such as solvents, non-water-based paints, lithium batteries, lighters, perfumes, etc. If you have doubts about the contents of your shipment and want to be sure they are transportable, contact DHL Customer Support.

DHL Express provides you with all the support you need to safely ship certain categories of dangerous goods worldwide in accordance with IATA and ADR regulations for air and road transportation.

Thanks to its long experience in the field, knowledge of world markets, and network capacity, and relying on a team of dedicated specialists, DHL is able to best manage the procedures for shipping in compliance with legal provisions.

For more details, download the complete guide broken down by sectors.

Paperless Shipments

DHL Paperless Trade: less paper, more speed 

To save time and money in creating shipments subject to export customs processing, there is DHL Paperless Trade. DHL Paperless Trade is a free service through which commercial or proforma invoices can be sent online, without the need to print and physically attach customs documents to your shipments.

The digital transmission of documents helps make the customs clearance process smoother and faster and cuts down on printing costs and paper use, while ensuring environmental protection.

DHL PaperlessTrade is available for your shipments subject to customs clearance process (Time Definite and Day Definite) and is integrated into our digital shipment preparation tools: MyDHL+, DHL Easyshipe DHL XML Services.

DHL PaperlessTrade is available for shipments to more than 180 countries.

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