Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Some Thoughts on International Mail

A few people have asked for more detailed information about sending letters and packages to Benin. Having never paid much attention to how a letter gets from one place to another, I started thinking, " How does this all work?" As it turns out, there is quite a bit to international mail.

The Universal Postal Union is the organization that coordinates postal policies between nations. It was founded in 1874 and is headquartered in Bern, Switzerland. The UPU became a specialized agency of The United Nations in 1948. Currently 190 nations belong to the UPU. Member countries agree to the same set of terms for conducting international postal duties. Among other things, the UPU decided that there should be a uniform flat rate (mostly) to mail a letter anywhere in the world.

Addressing international mail:

* Print the delivery address in all uppercase letters.
* Use arabic numerals and Roman letters (what we always use here in the U.S.)
* Addresses should be five lines or less

Line 1: NAME OF ADDRESSEE
Line 2: STREET ADDRESS OR POST OFFICE BOX
Line 3: CITY OR TOWN NAME, PROVINCE OR STATE, POSTAL CODE IF KNOWN
Line 4: COUNTRY NAME (the last line should be country name only)

Ths sender's name and address should be on the front, upper left hand corner of the envelope. Don't forget to include zip code and country of origin.



JIM RYBARSKI, PEACE CORPS TRAINEE
CORPS DE LA PAIX (this is slightly different from the above directions)
B.P. 971
COTONOU
BENIN


Postage:

The postal world has been divided into five zones, or rate groups. Benin falls into rate group number 5. The cost of a one ounce (or less) letter is 84 cents. A one pound package costs $9.75. You can access the postal service web site for the complete rate chart: www.usps.com.

Par Avion stamps: If you go to the post office to purchase 84 cent stamps, they will give you small blue par avion or airmail stamps. These are not postage stamps because they have no real value, but rather, they direct the post offices all over the world to put the letter on the airplane, not the boat. The official language of the international postal system is French, so all post offices will understand par avion.


In the last email we received from Jim, he asked us to send him letters only until he gets his own post office box when he's done training. He explained that since he will be living with a host family, he doesn't need anything for the moment.

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