International mail from China is reliable. Airmail letters to any place in the world should take five to 14 days. Express Mail Service (EMS) is available to many international destinations. Letters within Beijing arrive the next day, and mail to the rest of China takes a day or two longer. Domestic mail can be subject to search, so don't send sensitive materials, such as religious or political literature, as you might cause the recipient trouble.
Service is more reliable if you mail letters from post offices rather than mailboxes. Buy envelopes here, too, as there are standardized sizes in China. You need to glue stamps onto envelopes, as they're not self-adhesive. Most post offices are open daily between 8 and 7. Your hotel can usually send letters for you, too.
You can use the Roman alphabet to write an address. Do not use red ink, which has a negative connotation. You must also include a six-digit zip code for mail within China. The Beijing municipality is assigned the zip code 100000, and each neighboring county starts with 10. For example, the code for Fangshan, to the immediate southwest of Beijing proper, is 102400.
Sending airmail postcards costs Y4.20 and letters Y5.50 to Y6.50.
International Post and Telecommunications Office. Jianguomenwai Dajie, Yabao Lu, Chaoyang, Beijing, Beijing, 100005. 010/6512-8114; vip.fesco.com.cn/bipto/en.htm.
It's easy to ship packages home from China. Take what you want to send unpacked to the post office—everything will be sewn up officially into satisfying linen-bound packages, a service that costs a few yuan. You have to fill in lengthy forms, and enclosing a photocopy of receipts for the goods inside isn't a bad idea, as they may be opened by customs along the line. Large antiques stores often offer reliable shipping services that take care of customs in China. Large international courier services like DHL, Federal Express, and UPS have offices around Beijing.
DHL. 45 Xinyuan Jie, Chaoyang, Beijing, Beijing. 800/810-8000; 010/5860–1076; www.cn.dhl.com.
FedEx. 3/F, Golden Land Building, 32 Liangmaqiao Lu, Chaoyang, Beijing, Beijing, 100016. 010/6464–8855; 800-/988–1888; www.fedex.com/cn_english.
UPS. China World Trade Center, Bldg. 1, 1 Jianguomenwai Dajie, Chaoyang, Beijing, Beijing, 100004. 800/820–8388; www.ups.com.