How to best get Christmas parc

How to best get Christmas parcels to South Africa amid heavy postal strikes

Christmas is just around the corner, prompting the question to many expats of how they might attempt to send gifts home with guaranteed success amid some of the worst postal strikes in recent history. We take a look at your options

How to best get Christmas parc

While Somalia is busy celebrating the arrival of postal service in the country South Africans are complaining about the lack of service delivery when it comes to the SA postal services – and rightfully so.

Whether your letter is returned to sender, cards get lost in the mail or packages arrive half-opened (or half-stolen), the issues with the post office seem to amass with no end in sight. That is whenever our dutiful government employees aren’t striking again, as they have been for the past two months, resulting in great damage to parcels still waiting to be distributed out of Johannesburg. The SA postal services have reported a gradual improvement of affairs but the ongoing pay dispute is nevertheless likely to stretch into November, with the growing backlog on account of the illegal strike destined to last into 2015.

Let’s face it: expats have long given up on the efficiency of the post office. Some don’t even send home Christmas cards anymore following the experience of having care package after care package from SA ending up “lost in the post”. There is little advice available from local post offices in the UK and elsewhere, which are extremely busy at this time of the year dealing with items being sent to all four corners of the planet.

So what alternatives are there short of flying to SA and handing out gifts and goodies yourself? We would all gladly do that but not everyone is endowed with the finances and free time to make the annual pilgrimage back home happen.

As often is the case, you might have to look (and pay for) the private sector to take care of your business, which usually comes with far fewer problems and caveats but requires a premium price-tag.

PostNet operates a tight network across South Africa and works with Globalmail in the UK to get your letters, cards and packages home to Mzansi safely. They offer various services and delivery methods, with speeds reaching from a couple of days to a few weeks according to your desired method and budget. You can have your content insured at extra cost, which guarantees reimbursement if any goods get lost or damaged (to the amount of the agreed insurance policy). This is also a rather advisable way for your relatives from South Africa to send you any items you may require, however, beware of certain items being subject to taxation if they are sent from SA to the UK. With this in mind, the numbers may simply not add up for it to be worth your while (and pocket) to receive some items from SA.

DHL is another safe bet. They are one of the world leaders in private postal companies and stand out for their track record on accountability. You can track every last move of your parcel online and speak to customer service representatives 24/7. The vast majority of deliveries to South Africa on DHL is routed via Angola, guaranteeing the arrival of your delivery in Southern Africa usually overnight. From there, the good people at DHL operate a network unlike any other postal enterprise, where automated barcode readers continue to trace all movements until the friendly delivery man (or woman) shows up at your doorstep with your package.

Finally, you can also try to order gifts online and have them sent to your friends and family directly. Many online stores work with private delivery services (such as PostNet and DHL) or have their own delivery vans. They also have their own bulk agreements with these external delivery companies, which means that the cost of your delivery won’t be extortionate.

But even so, with all these options there are still no absolute guarantees, and while these methods may come with assurances and insurances galore, you cannot bank on a package actually arriving at the doorstep. We all agree that we rather prefer to actually have our parcels get to their respective final destinations in time for Christmas than having to go through the rigmarole of claiming money back on the insurance policy and missing out on instagramed family images of little faces filled with joy at the sight of their gifts.