Military/ DoD civilians and their families who are stationed overseas really luck out when it comes to shipping and receiving packages. When shipping items internationally, rates are often more than the item being shipped and it can take over a month for it to reach its destination by boat and ground. I know local expats who would kill to be able to shop on Amazon or receive packages from their families more than once a year.
What is an APO/FPO mailing address?
An Army-Air Postal Office or Fleet Postal Office mailing address is a convenient and cheap means for military and civilians serving in overseas assignments to use the United States Postal Service as if they still lived in the states. This means stateside pricing and often faster shipping times.
If you can get an APO mailbox then there is no reason not to. Those who have an APO mailing address pay cheap, domestic shipping prices for all their packages. It’s as if you still live in the states. A friend of mine wanted to mail my sister, who had just gone back to the states, a package that was half the value of the total shipping costs. Expats (foreigners living in Korea) don’t even try sending packages if they can help it, it’s just too expensive.
Mail also ships more quickly through APO than international. Any items that are too heavy, long or large may be shipped by boat regardless of their priority. I had a friend ship car parts to me and it was in a really long box. It was 6 long weeks of listening to my bad ball bearing grind at me on every left turn until I got my package and had it repaired.
Did you know you can get an APO Mail Box before you even get to South Korea?
That’s right! Military members will receive a sponsor shortly after they receive their unit assignment and commander welcome letter. Just ask your sponsor to set up a mailbox for you and your family at your unit’s Consolidated Mail Room aka CMR. You can use your APO mailbox as your new forwarding address right away through “Change My Address” form on the USPS website. Don’t have a sponsor yet and you are less than 60days from your PCS? Go to the 8th Army Korea Page and track them down.
DoD civilians may need to put their mail on hold until they get here to establish an APO mailbox.
Do my family and friends have to pay International Rates to send me packages?
Regardless of weight or destination families can send packages to their service members and families overseas for one domestic price. Just fit it all in the Priority Mail APO/FPO box and fill out a customs form. Click Here to go to USPS and learn more.
Can I send my family 3 bottles of Soju and a Pokeball shaped cellphone charger using my APO/FPO mailing address?
Packages shipping to and from APO/FPO mailing addresses are still under international and domestic laws. About a quarter of the packages I receive have the big red tape showing that it was inspected by customs en-route. Don’t go over the legal limits for any items and don’t try to ship hazardous materials. USPS.com has more information.
Which address should I use? My APO or my local offpost house address?
The answer is almost always use your APO. Your local Korean address does work, and it can receive packages but you might regret the costs and how long it takes for international packages to arrive. However, if you are buying directly from a local Korean/ Chinese retailer, the shipping will be much faster and cheaper. Korean online retailers like GMarket have many items that will only ship domestic so people with an APO address and who live off-post get the best of both worlds. Cheap international shipping and great domestic pricing on local products.
How do I use my APO address with Amazon and other online retailers?
Put APO as the City and AP/AF as the state. Some websites have different options for state like ‘other’ and ‘military’ so you may have to slowly go through all the options. Be sure to use the name of the military member or family members who are registered for the APO mailbox. A package sent to “Grandpa’s Little Angel” could be returned to sender.
They won’t ship to APO. What do I do?
Some retailers, particularly sellers on Amazon other than Amazon itself, Ebay, Target, etc, won’t ship to APO. If you can’t find the item elsewhere, can’t find a friend to buy it and ship it to you or if you really must have this particular item, there are online options to have items shipped to you anyway. These services will order the item for you then send it on to you after one of their centers have received it. I haven’t used these services so I can’t vouch for their expediency or security. Ask around and see if your friends can recommend one.
I need to return an online order but the printed label is for UPS? Where is the UPS on base?
There is no UPS drop off location on Army or Airforce bases in South Korea, just FEDEX. But Amazon and other online retailers are very accommodating for APO users. Send them a message that you’ll be shipping the item back out of your own pocket via USPS and you should receive a refund/ store credit. Amazon has wonderful customer service when it comes to returns through USPS and they send refunds quickly.
Can I use the FEDEX on base to overnight items?
Yes, but be prepared to pay an arm and a leg for this or other expedited services.
I have these really huge packages, should I use FEDEX or USPS?
Everyone always recommends USPS. It is often cheaper, faster and more convenient.
My Mom sent me a package through FEDEX? When should it get here? Can I pick it up at the FEDEX office on base?
Bad news folks, FEDEX packages are stopped in California and get slapped with a USPS sticker to take the long way around the world. Expect FEDEX/ UPS packages to take 4-6 weeks to arrive by boat.