Shipping & Receiving Packages in Germany
Several mail and package carriers operate in Germany. The most popular are Deutsche Post, DHL, Hermes, and DPD. In many ways, shipping and receiving work the same way in Germany as anywhere else in the Western world, but there are a few particularities that are worth knowing. Read on for our guide to successful mailing in Stuttgart!
Mailing and Shipping
When you address a letter to a destination in Germany, be sure to use the standard German format:
Street then number
D‑ZIP code then town
(Please note: “D-” and “Germany” are only needed if you’re sending from abroad!)
Deutsche Post is the official German mail carrier, although it has been privatized since 1995. They operate not only through Deutsche Post offices but also Postbank locations and DHL Paketshops. You can of course buy stamps and postage at all such locations.
If you have already purchased correct postage, you can drop off letters and small packages inside the large yellow mailboxes marked with DP. If you are just sending a normal letter or postcard it’s possible to purchase postage using your cell phone. You simply send a text message and receive a code to write on the envelope (although it is rather more expensive than what you pay in store).
Deutsche Post also offers the Post Mobil app, which includes such features as looking up Deutsche Post locations and opening hours, checking mailbox locations and pickup times, tracking letters and packages, and calculating postage.
DHL’s primary shareholder is Deutsche Post and they share headquarters in Bonn, so it’s not surprising they use DHL as their package sending service. They offer several different ways of sending a package. You can go to either a post office or a DHL Paketshop to buy postage and send. It can be slightly cheaper to buy your postage online or in the DHL Paket App, then drop it off at a Paketshop or Packstation.
DHL Packstations are automated lockers where you can both buy postage and drop off packages. A big advantage of using a Packstation is that they operate around the clock and on Sundays.
It’s also possible to organize a time for DHL to pick up a package from your house (particularly useful for heavy or bulky boxes!) within a set time window. This “Abholung” service does cost an additional fee but it is quite reasonable.
The DHL Paket app makes everything related to shipping and receiving packages easier. Look up store locations as well as Packstations. Calculate the cost of shipping different types of packages domestically or internationally. Purchase shipping for a package to print at home or download a QR code to show when you drop your package off at a Paketshop. Enter a tracking number to follow the progress of a package on its way to you or your chosen recipient as well as changing the delivery options.
Hermes is an international logistics company based in Germany and specializing in shipping packages. Hermes allows you to choose to ship to a private address or directly to a Hermes ParcelShop. It’s possible to register to receive notifications about your package via text message or email. They also offer an app with expanded services, including diverting a package to a neighbor or a “safe place” like a shed or garage, purchasing reduced postage for pickup or dropoff, generating a QR code to show paid postage at a ParcelShop, a facilitated return service, and even integration with Alexa.
DPD started as a German company called “Deutscher Paket Dienst,” but they were later bought by a French company and renamed “Dynamic Parcel Distribution.” Today DPD is an international company and Germany is one of 18 countries in which they offer email and push notifications regarding the exact expected delivery time of your package, which makes it much easier to ensure it will be received the first time. You can also register for an online account or download their app to access live package tracking, specify delivery preferences, purchase postage with a mobile label, and easily return unwanted packages.
Receiving a Package
You might find that receiving a package works a bit differently in Germany than you are used to. First of all, because there are several mail carriers, you may get mail and packages from different companies at different times of day (Monday through Saturday).
Apartments don’t usually have numbers here, so the delivery person will be trying to match the name on the package with the name on your mailbox or on the doorbell. If your name isn’t there, for example if you are subletting from the main tenant, you will need to make sure the package is addressed to you “care of” or “bei” that person.
If your package won’t fit through your mail slot or if a signature is required, you will need to buzz the delivery person into the building (and perhaps sign an electronic tablet) to receive your package.
What if I’m not home?
If you’re not home, the delivery person will do one of the following things:
1. Leave a note in your mailbox telling you where you will be able to pick up your package as of the following day. That’s usually at the closest post office or a nearby store with the relevant package service.
2. Deliver your package to a neighbor and leave you a note telling you with whom they left it so that you can pick it up there later. This is normal in Germany, so don’t feel shy ringing your neighbor’s doorbell and asking after your package!
3. Leave you a note asking you to set up a new delivery date and explaining how you can do so (usually online with a tracking number).
Sending to Pickup Locations
If you know you aren’t usually home during typical delivery times, you might want to arrange for packages to be sent to a place where you can pick them up more conveniently.
With DHL you can go online or use their mobile app to change the delivery options so that your package will come to a DHL Paketshop or Packstation (the automated booths available around the clock). Hermes and DPD similarly offer diversion to a nearby shop, a neighbor or a “safe place” of your choosing, such as inside a garage, a closet, or a storage shed. They also give you the option of rescheduling your delivery to a day you expect to be home, including Saturdays.
Amazon offers a similar service to DHL Packstations called Amazon lockers. When you order from Amazon you can look for the most convenient Amazon locker, whether that be close to your home or to your office or child’s school. The advantage is that it doesn’t matter which shipping company the Amazon seller uses: you’ll be able to pick your package up at the locker of your choice.