Moving to a foreign country like the Philippines provides you with a rush of new experiences. The food, the drinks, even the personal products likes soaps and toiletries present new choices every day. After the rush wears off a little, you might find yourself longing for some of the things you left behind.
If you live in a big city like Cebu City, Davao City, or in the National Capital Region of Manila, you might be able to find a lot of the little things you miss from your home country in the bigger supermarkets or specialty shops that cater to expats. It’s almost a sure thing that they will be more expensive here than they are “back home”, though. Maybe a lot more expensive. The supply of these foreign “treasures” won’t be guaranteed, either. If you live in the provinces – out in the “boonies” – you may not be able to find any of your favorite items from your home country.
How can you assure a supply of the comfort items from your old home here in your new home?
The Balikbayan Box
The word “balikbayan” (bah-leek-buy-ahn) means “returning to country” in Tagalog (Filipino). A “balikbayan box” is a box filled with gifts and supplies sent by an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) to his or her family back home. For an expat, a balikbayan box would be more of a care package: a box filled with items from your homeland.
How To Do It
There are two ways to get your care package from your home country to your door here in the Philippines. Since I’m an American, I’ll use the U.S. as an example but the same basic steps should work from any country.
Shipping To The Philippines: Ask A Friend
The first way to ship a box with love from home to the Philippines is to ask a friend to receive online orders for you, pack a box, and ship it to you via sea cargo using a balikbayan box shipper.
We do most of our online shopping at Amazon.com(affiliate link). With Amazon Prime, regular shipping on Prime items is free. Amazon mails our orders to our friend and she fills up a standard box that she picked up at the balikbayan shipper’s office.
Once the box is packed, our friend schedules with the shippers to pick the box up at her home. She could also drop off the box at the shipper’s office.
For about $75, the box will ship via ocean cargo and arrive in Manila in about 5 weeks, Two weeks later, it will arrive in Davao at our door.
Another popular company that works out of three offices in California is Manila Forwarder. If your friend doesn’t live near one of their California offices, though, they will have to pay a third party to ship your box to Manila Forwarder first.
This is also true if none of your friends live near a city serviced by the other popular balikbayan box shipping companies. They will have to receive your orders, pack them in their own box, and ship it to one of the balikbayan box forwarders.
Most of these shippers have their own standard-sized boxes. They usually ship “one box, one price”, no matter the weight, using their own box. This is a real advantage! It’s like, “If it fits, it ships”. Also, these companies have streamlined the Customs process which helps to speed up your delivery once it arrives in port.
Another advantage to using these shippers is that they have a network in the Philippines and ship thousands of boxes throughout the Philippines every day.
Shipping To The Philippines: Use A Professional
Another way to get your care package is to use a professional mail forwarding service. I have not used a mail forwarder for this purpose but the principle is the same.
You order your items online and have them shipped to the mail forwarder. They pack a box for you. The mail forwarder either ships the box directly to you via ocean cargo (or air cargo, which is faster but more expensive) or they can ship it to the balikbayan box shipping company.
This method is a little bit trickier for the expat. Like using a friend that does not live near one of the balikbayan box shippers in the above example, a mail forwarder will use their own box, whatever its size. You will have to pay to have the box shipped to the balikbayan box company (via FedEx, DHL, UPS, the U.S. Postal Service or whatever company the mail forwarder uses) and then pay to have it shipped to the Philippines. Or, you will have to pay for the mail forwarder to ship the box directly to you in the Philippines by whatever company the mail forwarder uses.
Our mail forwarder is U.S. Global Mail and they have clear instructions on how to use their service on their website. We’ve used their regular mail forwarding service for over a year now and we’re very happy with them.
There are also companies who specialize in receiving orders from U.S. online stores made from the Philippines and then shipping them to the Philippines. POBox.ph, in California, is one such company but there are others. They will ship small orders in the boxes the online merchants use and also provide consolidation and repacking services where they will fill a larger box with several orders or open several orders and repack them in a larger size box.
Both U.S. Global mail and POBox.ph also offer a shopping service that will buy items for you if your credit cards aren’t accepted at U.S. online retailers.
Of course, if you don’t want to wait weeks for sea cargo you can buy whatever it is that you want and use a professional mail forwarder to ship it to you.
You can even check with your favorite websites to see if they ship internationally. Amazon.com offers Amazon International (affiliate link) for just this purpose.
I hope you have a better understanding of how to get the comforts of your old home – or new and better products from your home country – by shipping to the Philippines. If you have any corrections or comments, please leave them in the Comments section below. I’d love to hear from you!
Disclaimer: except where noted, I have no affiliation with any of the companies linked to in this post and receive no compensation from them for linking to their website(s).