In an earlier post, I shared my experience moving out from my Beijing apartment remotely. I was studying in Beijing and had returned to Singapore early this year. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, I was unable to return as planned. In May 2020, I thought that there was a chance of returning to pick up my belongings, which were at a friend’s place. Unfortunately due to the second wave of COVID-19 infections, I decided to ship my belongings back from Beijing to Singapore. It was a journey full of ups and downs, largely because Friend C and I had initially selected a rather unreliable logistics provider, Seven Seas Worldwide at the start. (For more, see below.) But thankfully, we switched to a more reliable provider for the actual shipment. Here are 3 shipping options to relocate items from Beijing. I have included the rates to the US, Japan and Thailand too. Hope you find them useful!
3 shipping options to relocate items from Beijing
1. DHL/Fedex agent (highly recommended)
This logistics provider was a local contact from our friend’s Beijing property agent. Do note that he is not employed by DHL or Fedex, but consolidates orders and sends them through these couriers. You get a tracking number as well, which is great. The DHL/FedEx agent was very professional and acted really fast too.
When I contacted him at 11am on a Thursday morning, he said he could come down at 2pm to pick-up the goods. By 3.30pm, we were done with the packing (I approached my friend’s housing agent for help with virtual packing) and the boxes were on the way to his warehouse. What was really helpful was that he advised us on what could not be packed in the boxes. For example, battery packs, electronics, make-up creams and contact lenses had to be be packed and mailed separately. The DHL/Fedex agent also helped us with the customs declaration of items in the box, which was really helpful as we were not there in person.
My items were initially 1.5 boxes full, but as they were mostly filled clothes, he suggested for my agent to compress them into 1 box. That helped me save CNY1,900 as it seems that the pricing is based on weight and box. In the end, I paid CNY1,900 for a 25kg standard box.
While the agent conversed with us only in Chinese, I felt that the language barrier wasn’t an issue if you had a basic understanding of Chinese. WeChat translate really helps too.
Our classmate T also used this provider to ship items back from Beijing to Japan, and the cost was about CNY5,500 for an air shipment (2 standard boxes and 1 suitcase). The shipment rates from Beijing to Singapore, US and Thailand are as follows (for shipments 24 kg or heavier):
- Singapore – CNY95 per kg
- US – CNY103 per kg
- Thailand – CNY98 per kg
*Note: The rates are estimations and may vary.
I received my boxes within a week and everything was intact. It was a big relief given that our experience with Seven Seas was very stressful.
- Pros: There are so many – essentially, excellent service.
- Fast response: The agent came down to pick-up the boxes within 3 hours of me placing an order through WeChat.
- Reasonable rates: CNY1,900 for a 25kg box air freight from Beijing to Singapore is a reasonable price, for the service quality. For the shipment of 3 standard boxes from Beijing to the US, it was about CNY7,000.
- Timely: The shipment to Singapore took about 1 week.
- Professionalism: The agent helped condense my items into 1 box. Also advised us on what could be packed into the large box and what had to be mailed separately for a smooth clearance process.
- If you have plenty of belongings to ship back, it will definitely cost more than Seven Seas Worldwide. As the agent advised us to use air freight instead of sea freight due to uncertainty from the COVID-19 period, you might have to pay more if you are shipping more boxes over longer distances.
2. CIM Mover (pretty expensive)
In an earlier post, I wrote about the reasonable moving and storage rates provided by CIM Mover. Thinking that they were quite professional, I approached them to find out the cost of shipping items back to our home country. Unfortunately, the rates they quoted were too high. For California, they quoted CNY16,000 for a shipment of six standard boxes by sea. For Singapore and Thailand it was about CNY9,000 for three standard boxes.
- Pros: If you are unable to be in Beijing physically, CIM Mover handles all parts of the packing and moving for you.
- Cons: The price is WAY higher than market rate. I’m guessing cross-border shipment is not their core competency. They could have outsourced this service to another company, and taken a cut from it.
3. Seven Seas Worldwide (not recommended – for cheaper shipping, you can try SF Express which is their partner. Quality not guaranteed)
We initially went with Seven Seas Worldwide but their service in Beijing was unexpectedly bad. I’ve used several logistics providers in Beijing and none of them come close to providing such disappointing levels of service. I was initially planning to ship back 3 standard boxes through air freight via Seven Seas. It would have cost me about CNY2500. I paid a deposit of CNY700 for the delivery of 3 standard boxes.
Most unfortunately, at 3pm on the date of delivery, a Seven Seas staff cancelled the order, apparently due to ‘COVID-19 restrictions’. (Strange, because our DHL agent faced no such restrictions.) I made several frantic attempts to reschedule the order but failed. Emailing didn’t work, and I was told that someone would call me back but no one did. Naturally, I decided to switch to a different logistics provider and told Seven Seas that I would like to cancel the order as the boxes did not arrive. They refused to process the refund as they claimed the boxes had arrived. (This point was moot as we had already shipped our items out.)
- Of the 3, they had the most affordable rates
- Their website is good for getting automated quotes – you can get one in about 5 mins. It’s probably a good way to estimate shipping costs, just avoid using their service. [If you really need an affordable option, try using SF Express, which is their agent in Beijing. The rates are way more competitive than SevenSeas though I can’t be sure of the quality.]
- Cons: There are too many
- Lack of customer service – couldn’t even provide us with a local customer service number to contact. The customer service didn’t bother to get back to us, only after we filed a complaint asking for a full refund.
- Refusal to provide a refund even when the delivery was cancelled (the deposit we made was over US$100 and no one responded to our emails . We sent about 10 emails to Seven Seas asking for clarification with regard to a refund. No one got back to us with a reasonable explanation.
- There is no one to guide you through the packing process and goods declaration – unless you’re experienced with that, good luck with Customs
The Travelling Squid’s Take
To be honest, using the DHL/Fedex’s agent service was a leap of faith, because he didn’t seem to be from a professional shipping company with a website we could check out. But I am glad he proved to be a reliable contact, as he provided excellent service at reasonable rates. While the rates provided by Seven Seas were lower (CNY2,500) for three standard boxes, their customer service was abysmal. They first cancelled our order of empty boxes, and did not reschedule. Even though it was negligence on their end, Seven Seas worldwide refused to provide a refund. If a shipping company is unable to handle a simple delivery of empty boxes within the stipulated time period, I wasn’t going to take the chance by allowing them to handle my belongings.
COVID-19 has been a stressful period and I’m glad to be reunited with my belongings at last! My biggest learning is that international companies like Seven Seas may not actually provide the best service in China – they take a big cut and some use an agent, which may mean that they have no knowledge on the ground, hence the service level can only be subpar at best.
If you need the contact of the DHL/Fedex agent, do drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Good luck!
Hope you found this post on 3 shipping options to relocate items from Beijing useful. Should you have other recommendations, feel free to include them in the comments section below.