International Shipping Tracking: Everything You Need to Know

Are you a retailer or consumer who has questions about international shipping tracking of packages? If so, you’re not alone.

Global order tracking can be tricky to understand if you aren’t using the best shipping app.

In this post, we are going to answer dozens of the most frequently asked questions about overseas tracking.

Can you track an international package?

Yes. Most shipping carriers assign each parcel they handle a unique tracking number. This allows them to monitor package tracking worldwide. They also give retailers and consumers the ability to track the location of their parcel, sometimes in real-time.

How do I track a package with a tracking number?

Shipping carriers that offer tracking numbers typically offer an online lookup system for global parcel tracking. If you can identify the carrier based on the tracking number, you can visit their website for tracking information.

If you don’t recognize the carrier, you can enter the tracking number into the AfterShip app. It will detect the carrier and provide global shipping tracking for all of your parcels — even if they were shipped by different carriers.

International Shipping Tracking: Everything You Need to Know
AfterShip Tracking a Package via Professional Couriers

Once you have entered your tracking number, AfterShip will notify you each time your package’s status is updated by the shipping carrier.

This can be especially useful for international shipments with 2 carriers (i.e., when the UPS or DHL transfer shipments to a local post office to complete the delivery).

The most used companies for international shipments include UPS, USPS, FedEx, and DHL. Some, like DHL, are known for offering better rates, but slower delivery times. On the other hand, FedEx has higher pricing than most shipping carriers, but it also has the fastest delivery times.

How do I find my shipping carrier tracking number?

Many retailers and vendors will send a standard international shipping tracking number to the email address you used when you placed your order. If you do not see the email in your inbox, look in your spam folder. Or, if you use special rules to manage your incoming email messages, look in your All Mail folder (for Gmail users) and other subfolders for your email.

What does a tracking number look like?

Worldwide shipping tracking numbers will vary, based on the carrier. For example, UPS tracking numbers sometimes begin with 1Z like this: 1Z9R5W90P221411116. USPS and FedEx both have numerical-only and alpha-numeric tracking numbers, but USPS has the longest tracking numbers with up to  20 digits.

With that said, carriers like UPS, USPS, and FedEx have multiple tracking number formats, which help them distinguish domestic and international tracking services.

How do I track a package without a tracking number?

If you don’t have the tracking number for your package yet, but you know it should have shipped by now, start by contacting the vendor. They should be able to provide you with a tracking number. If this is not the case, you may have to contact the shipping carrier directly and track it using the shipping information you entered at checkout.

Can a UPS package be tracked by address?

Yes! You can get your UPS tracking number by signing up for the UPS MyChoice service on their website. You can then see packages that are headed to your address and obtain their tracking numbers.

What is a UPSN?

A UPSN is a tracking number from the UPS. This number specifically tells you that the package is being delivered by UPS by way of the local USPS office. Be on the lookout for messages from the retailer that note both carriers for your parcel to find a UPSN.

International Shipping Tracking: Everything You Need to Know
Order Confirmation Email with UPS/USPS as the Carrier

Does Priority Mail International have tracking?

Yes. USPS offers US international shipping tracking for priority envelopes and parcels. Best of all, this service has a flat rate for USPS Priority Mail boxes and envelopes, and the delivery time is 3 to 5 business days. To qualify for the flat rates, use Priority Mail packaging provided by USPS.

Has USPS improved their tracking estimates?

The USPS has improved their tracking information system. For a long time, you could only find out if a parcel shipped via USPS was shipped or was delivered. Now, USPS estimates are more on target, with more packages arriving earlier than the estimated date.

Is LBC tracking accurate?

Yes. LBC offers global tracking for packages that may take anywhere from 2 to 30 days to arrive based on origin and destination.

International Shipping Tracking: Everything You Need to Know
AfterShip Tracking a Shipment via LBC Express

What does an EMS tracking number look like?

Express Mail Service (EMS) from the Universal Postal Union (UPU) has a 13 digit international mail tracking number that begins with EZ. Their service is the fastest cross-border postal service, and items sent via EMS take priority over other Mail services, connecting 175 countries.

How do I track a package from China?

China is the first country to have made over half of its retail sales online through ecommerce, according to Shopify. The US ecommerce market is only one-third of China’s, with the US expected to bring in over $843 billion in 2021.

Parcels shipped internationally from China typically take up to two weeks to arrive. Find the merchant’s courier tracking number in your shipping confirmation email. If you’re not sure what courier they used, enter the number into AfterShip to find out.

International Shipping Tracking: Everything You Need to Know
AfterShip Tracking a Package from China

If you didn’t receive a tracking number, you would need to contact the retailer you purchased from to obtain it. Only certain carriers have the option to track packages based on alternative information, such as the destination address, the shipper's reference number, or the shipper’s order number.

Does Royal Mail International have tracking?

Royal Mail International, similar to the USPS Priority Mail International service, offers flat-rate pricing for international shipments that will arrive in 3 to 5 business days. Their service includes a worldwide package tracking number and signature confirmation from the United Kingdom.

Be sure to let Royal Mail know you want to track your packages, as they offer a less expensive international shipping option without tracking.

How long do international packages take to clear customs?

On average, it should only take a few days for a package to clear customs. The timing is based on the countries the package ships from and ships to, as well as the labeled contents of the package. Learning customs for packages with a suspected issue could take days to weeks in some cases.

To ensure that your parcels clear customs quickly, be sure to learn what items are prohibited from shipping out from your country and other countries. Use the proper documentation, packing slips, invoices, declarations, etc., to give your goods the best chance of clearing customs without issue.

Also, encourage consumers to enter their full name and correct address in the shipping field. Add a shipping address validation app to ensure accuracy from consumers.

How long do international packages take to deliver?

The delivery times for international packages vary based on the courier and service type chosen. Merchants can view the status of multiple orders through various carriers using the AfterShip app for their Shopify store. Consumers can use the app from the App Store to do the same for their individual shipments.

How can I find the exact location of a package?

If you have the worldwide shipping tracking number for your package, and the shipping carrier allows real-time tracking, you can see exactly where your package is in the AfterShip app.

International Shipping Tracking: Everything You Need to Know
Real-Time Tracking on the AfterShip App via Professional Couriers

What happens if an international package is lost?

Ideally, with real-time tracking, lost packages shouldn’t happen. But unfortunately, they still do. Packages with real-time tracking information can be easier to track down, as you can see the last stop in the tracking details.

International Shipping Tracking: Everything You Need to Know
See the Last Place Your Package was Checked In

When a shipment gets stuck, the best chance of moving it along is calling the facility where it was last handled. In this case, the best option for the vendor or the consumer is to call the shipping carrier’s warehouse in Lenexa, KS. You may find out the package is still at the facility, or that it was put on a truck but never made it to its next destination.

What is the fastest international shipping?

UPS Express Critical International, FedEx International Urgent Delivery, and the USPS Global Express Services offer overnight delivery of envelopes or parcels worldwide. For some countries, it may take up to 3 days. Each service offers worldwide shipping tracking and delivery confirmation options.

Why can’t retailers/carriers offer accurate shipping estimates for international shipments?

International times will always vary widely due to:

  • When the retailer prints the label versus drops off the package,
  • How busy the shipping carrier is at that time of year, and
  • Customs, something that neither the retailer nor the carrier can control.

The best retailers can do is to know the shipping carriers’ rules and regulations and provide accurate paperwork to ensure parcels pass customs inspections as quickly as possible.

Does customs check every package?

Yes. While they don’t open every package, someone does verify that the package and documentation are in order. Customs delays are more likely now more than ever, due to the increase in online shopping (in the United States and globally), and decrease in workers that are able to work closely together to inspect packages.

How can retailers offer the best international times and rates?

Retailers that use shipping apps like AfterShip have access to hundreds of shipping carriers globally. This allows you to offer your customers multiple shipping options, letting the customer get the best of both worlds: speed and cost.

In addition, every parcel can be tracked inside AfterShip. For retailers, it allows you the chance to see any potential shipping problems early on and work with your customer to find a solution.

International Shipping Tracking: Everything You Need to Know
AfterShip Shipping Tracking App with Actionable Filters

For consumers, AfterShip allows tracking of packages from different retailers and shipping carriers in one app. No more going to several emails, clicking on several tracking numbers, and getting routed to several different shipment tracking pages. Get notifications and monitor shipping statuses in real-time in one place.

Why should retailers provide multiple international shipping options?

One of the top reasons people abandon their shopping carts, according to multiple studies, is shipping. If the consumer feels the shipping cost is too high or was unexpected, or if the shipping time is too long, they might abandon their cart. Worse, they might look for a competitor that offers better shipping.

Why should retailers provide real-time tracking information when possible?

Many customers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience. Research has found a frustrated customer will pay twice as much for that exceptional experience.

If your business can offer it in the form of better shipping rates and transparent tracking from start to finish, your consumers’ additional spending will easily cover the overhead of any fees associated with the upgraded shipping experience.

International shipping tracking will become even more important in 2021, with one of the biggest ecommerce trends: consumers looking outside of their borders to find what they want to buy. So, AfterShip’s overview screen of all your shipment statuses and email open rates will be increasingly useful and actionable.

International Shipping Tracking: Everything You Need to Know
AfterShip’s Last 30 Days of Shipments Overview

In Conclusion

I hope I’ve answered your top questions about international shipping tracking!

If you’re a consumer and you’d like to track your packages in one app, download AfterShip on the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.
If you’re a retailer who wants to offer an excellent customer shopping experience, from multiple carriers to real-time tracking, sign up for AfterShip for free or request a demo for enterprise users. It works with Shopify, ShopifyPlus, Magento, BigCommerce, Squarespace, Oracle, WooCommerce, Salesforce, and more, making it the #1 shipping app for ecommerce.