Correos -- so, far, it's just worked.

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My Sony battery charger arrived today without problems. This is one of a number of packages I've received here that weren't stolen, lost or mutilated. People might have different experiences with big city post offices, like Philadelphia (postal employee hoarded two years worth of mail, a check lost when mail was dumped in the corridor and not put in individual boxes), NYC (no packages arrived my first year there -- most likely stolen by people in the building), or with Managua.

I thought I'd describe my personal experience with the Nicaraguan Postal System. Short answer is it's sometimes slow, but it gets here in ten days to a little over a month.

In case, anyone else wants to see if they can get packages in the mail, too, rather than have to pay extra for Nica Box or trips to Managua to pick up things at the Customs Warehouse, mostly, this is the way I order things to be mailed here.

1. I have a PO Box/APDO here -- and that is far easier for English-speakers to get right. My guess is some things may go missing because the sender is sure someone in the Nicaraguan Postal System can read English and/or doesn't quite get all the nuances of the address by directions (Claro doesn't and has me in one barrio for one bill and another for another, but I get them electronically so it doesn't matter).

2. I pay for tracking in Nicaragua, though friends have sent me mail that wasn't registered and it got here okay, too, but if I'm paying, it's going to be Priority Mail Express, generally around $10 or $15 more than the next nicest service. Another grade tracks inside the US but not in Nicaragua (limited tracking).

3. When the item leaves the US, I tell the women at Correos that I'm expecting a package (yo estoy esperando una caja, if I'm remembering correctly). I sometimes do this when I order but explain that it's going to be two weeks to a month.

4. When the item clears Nicaraguan Customs, it's a day or two from Jinotega. There is no such thing as a note in a PO Box for anything other than the annual APDO Box bill. My Correos folks have even stopped me in the street to tell me I had a package. They've gotten someone else's number from me and called her to tell her she had a package. Most of the time, I go in and ask, starting a day or two after the item cleared Customs.

5. Paying the customs and tax fees at a local bank is more convenient than paying in Managua. I have been asked on two different occasions if this stuff is for me or am I going to sell it, and I'm just buying single lenses and a couple of adaptors at a time. If you have someone mail five or more identical cell phones, expect to be questioned a bit harder. Seeds and medicines seem to be problematic without a bit more paperwork than is required for camera gear (though at this point, anything with lithium batteries can't be mailed in the US, have no idea about China to Nicaragua imports).

Seems like if the box is high value ($300 up), Aduana sends a bill for IVA and Customs. Some of the smaller boxes which didn't have lenses in them were no charge (like today's). Take the bill to Lafise, pay it, get the receipt, come back, and pay Correos its processing fee (not that much). Sometimes, the Correos office employees will ask you to open the box in their presence -- more earlier than now.

I had a weird one where B&H had a different box weight on the invoice than the box actually weighed, so Customs wanted me to bring the invoice to Managua for an accounting (can't remember now whether the weight was over or under). We compromised by reading it to them over the phone and by me paying $124. The box showed up in Jinotega the next morning. Either higher or lower than the box invoice weight could be a problem (B&H also goofed that order in what it sent me as the tracking number, so it was trainee day or something). If something is missing, the buyer will probably blame Aduanas. If something wasn't on the invoice, then it could be contraband. Anything in the package has to be listed (Medrano Express, now defunct, had problems with people not involving all their items being shipped in bulk boxes and getting fined by Customs).

The first two or three years I was here, I could import up to $500 worth of stuff on one cedula every six months without paying duty and taxes. At this point, only family packages can be sent duty free, up to $500. I'd suggest having family members with the same last name be on the return address. Some items seem to come in duty-free still (most camera gear that's not a lens or a camera body, books).

Mail to the US is slower than mail from the US most of the time. Fed Ex is better for any thing that has to be in the US quickly (and I go to Managua to send that).

I suspect that most problems with the mail are not postal or customs employees stealing, but either machinery eating a package (has happened to me and I got one of my books and one of someone else's books) or mail being left where some passer-bye could take it.

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  1. bill_bly_ca's Avatar
    How do you get the address of the method of payment to correspond to the shipping address? Does your method of payment have the same PO box address ?
  2. MizBrown's Avatar
    Yes, and this is why I can't get things sent UPS (street address doesn't match the card except for city and country and they won't deliver to a PO Box).

    FedEx makes it cheaper to buy at Sony Center, Las Gallerias.
  3. bill_bly_ca's Avatar
    OK.. Most sites will not even send to Canada by post either if the shipping address is not equal to the billing address.

    Although most just do a numerical comparison to the postal code to the one on file with the card. For example some some people I know can buy a hulu subscription (Not to be sold to a Canadian Credit card) but if the numerical value of the Canadian postal code can be crossed to a valid US Zip code (By an online converter tool) then the translation will work.
  4. MizBrown's Avatar
    B&H has been doing international business since as long as I've known them. They send me a Spanish language catalogue. Amazon is fine with me most of the time for books and I have found some associates that ship internationally. Some companies don't allow their things to be shipped internationally at all (I emailed Baratza which makes electric coffee grinders and found that they didn't want to deal with warranty hassles, so bought Orphan Espresso hand-operated coffee grinder instead -- which Customs listed as a cafeteria, so no duty). I've gotten an Aeropress for coffee and an Eheim aquarium heater from Amazon associates who were willing to mail here. I'm thinking about importing Eheim filters for two of my tanks, but that's a want, not a need.

    I use 0000 if I have to fill in a postal code -- and most of the time that works. If not, I find some Social Security paperwork and use whatever they use, which I believe isn't right either.

    Netflix now accepts out of US subscriptions.
  5. el duende grande's Avatar
    On the family package thing now sent by boat or plane the recipient now needs to go to customs and walk the box through, with cedulas, marriage certificates etc, to get the $500 exemption. If you get a 10am or earlier appt, you might just squeek by and get it all done in one day. They also charge about $20 per package. If your box includes a lot of little things, best to bring a second person-- one to talk to the clipboard guy and one to watch that the helpers are not slipping small items into their pockets while you are distracted. I had no problems with the valuations, just the nuisance of going to Managua and the thievery. net net, between the cost and the hassle of shipping a box, it no longer works for me. I pitty Nicas who don`t travel and are awaiting goody boxes from relatives abroad. If you ship a box, also be aware of the restricted items including food, medicines, etc.
  6. MizBrown's Avatar
    I was getting the impression that getting stuff here that way was like getting stuff here through UPS or FedEx (trip to Customs Warehouse). I've done that trip once and paid $124 for camera parts not to do it again. I suspect the next Kindle upgrade I get will be muled in, or I'll just switch to kindle.app on a tablet.

    There's a list of things not to mail out at the local Correos office and I suspect they can tell you what can't be mailed in. I suspect Aduanas found too many family packages with too many cell phones and cameras (a young Nicaraguan acquaintance has told me how much cheaper black market items were), so now do the "Open this in front of us please" routine at their warehouse, rather than dump them into the mail system for a local Correos office to check (I used to be asked to open all my packages in front of the Correos clerks).

    Aduanas had opened the box before this one. The international conversion plugs were scattered around the box and not in their package (someone was in a hurry, apparently), but none of them were missing. This most recent box didn't appear to be opened as the B&H tapes were still intact.

    I looked at the tracking website yesterday and noted that the one thing that doesn't get logged is delivery to the local Correos, so, yeah, expect the package a day or two after it clears Customs and start asking if it's arrived yet at that point. Once I signed for it, that was recorded as delivery.

    I don't know if full tracking keeps people more honest or not. I have had packages sent without it and they also arrived just fine, though some were very much later than average. $68.75 buys a certain amount of piece of mind and is still cheaper than UPS, and quite a bit cheaper than FedEx. For books and socks, I haven't bothered.
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