Need expat info for Germany?
The German Postal Service
Yellow is the color associated with German postal services. Due to EU regulations and the ongoing liberalization of the German market, postal services in Germany no longer operate under state control. But while the German Postal Service has gotten some competition throughout the last couple of decades, the Deutsche Post and DHL remain by far the largest competitors. With around 475,000 employees in more than 220 countries, the German postal service is one of the largest logistics companies in the world.
It therefore comes as no surprise that the Deutsche Post, privatized in 1995, is still the pre-dominant provider of postal services in Germany. Although the company has previously argued that it is the only German postal service that guarantees nationwide delivery of letters, it lost its licensed monopoly on the delivery of up to 50g letters in 2008. Due to this, the German postal service may be about to change and first, mostly regional providers are cropping up. At the time of writing, however, the main provider for letter delivery in Germany is still by far the Deutsche Post.
In general, the German postal service is reliable and fast. More than 90% of all letters sent nationwide arrive on the following day. However, you should avoid sending cash by mail as there are better, not to mention safer, ways of money transfer in Germany.
One peculiarity of the German postal service is the concept of “acknowledged reliability”. It is generally assumed that letters sent by public authorities arrive at their destination. Reporting a change of address is your own responsibility as well. Forwarding is possible, but this must be arranged with the various postal providers on an individual basis. Thus, reporting a change of address in advance may be the easier option.
Sending a Letter
Unfortunately, the general availability of post offices is declining. Packages can be collected from home for an additional fee, and more and more services can be ordered online. The Deutsche Post has even introduced a new, so called E-Post in 2010, offering a secure, digital German postal service, including for example the option to send out digital letters that then get printed and delivered for you. However, this service is currently only available in German and most people still prefer to take their letters to a post office or drop them into one of the yellow public mail boxes.
When you get ready to send a letter or a parcel within Germany, keep in mind that writing the recipient’s address in a wrong format can slow down delivery. Although post offices do a good job in retrieving the correct address, it is important to stick to the established format (first and last name, street and street number, ZIP code and town). A correctly written address looks like the following example:
The German postal service Deutsche Post DHL offers a variety of services while its competitors usually limit their services to either mailing or packages. Stamps are available at all post offices as well as many tobacconists and newspaper stands. Most German post offices also have vending machines for stamps that are accessible outside business hours.
In the following overview, we refer to the prices and services of Deutsche Post DHL as of March 2014.
- The German standard letter costs EUR 0.60 for nationwide delivery (maximum weight: 20g, measures: 23.5 x 12.5 x 0.5 cm). Prices for bigger and/or heavier letters depend on the size and weight. Delivery of a standard, international letter will cost you EUR 0.75.
- Registered letters may be necessary if you need a written confirmation or proof that you mailed an important letter on time. The letter is only handed over to the recipient if he or she signs a form for the postal worker. The paper slip with the recipient’s signature may be sent back to you. Registered letters are mostly used for official documents and other important mail. Within Germany, a registered letter costs EUR 2.15 or more depending on size and exact service.
- Packages can be sent at different rates: deliveries of up to 2kg are sent with DHL and cost EUR 4.10. A basic package (up to 120x60x60 cm) costs EUR 6.99 or more, depending on its weight. Other companies offering national as well as global delivery are United Parcel Service (UPS), FedEx and Deutscher Paket Dienst (DPD). The various shipment rates then depend on destination, size, weight, speed of delivery and additional insurance fees. For deliveries outside the European Union, you need to complete a customs declaration and a customs invoice as well.
There is a range of other services available, from tracking your shipment to express delivery. The Deutsche Post offers discounts for large amounts of business mail or book deliveries. In accordance with German business culture, the majority of professional correspondence is done by mail. Special formats such as posters, oversized packages or even bicycles can be sent by mail as well. For a complete listing of all services, please see the official company websites of the Deutsche Post and DHL for letter and package services respectively.
We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.