Friday, August 16, 2013

Mail in Cameroon is Particularly Snail-like...

...and requires special instructions. So here goes! Rumor has it that making packages/letters with red pen, religious markings (crosses etc.), and insuring them makes them more likely to arrive. Since I'm rather dubious about superstition (though it's not my opinion that matters is it?), I'd push the insurance option. It doesn't cost much, and some volunteers have said it doubles their chance of receiving whatever you send. Some have also said that flat rate boxes are the cheaper option and are just as likely to arrive.

The estimated amount of time to arrive is something crazy like 6 weeks to 3 months. Until I start receiving stuff, I won't know how long it actually takes. Apparently patience is key (and we all know how good at that Patience thing I am).

The following suggestions and postal regulations may be useful:

1. Mail should be sent directly to the Yaoundé address, OR directly to your Volunteer's post address once training is finished (that'll be mid-November 2013 for me)

2. Both Volunteers and family members should number letters sent so that the receiver can determine whether any letters do not arrive.

3. Packages should be sent via air, not surface mail (surface mail has been known to take longer than two years to arrive.) <-- Did you get that? TWO YEARS

4. Sending packages to your Volunteer in Cameroon is a risky proposition. Theft of packages is not only a problem in the Cameroonian postal system, it also occurs on the U.S. side. Although occasionally a package arrives quickly and without problems, it may take months or it may get "lost" along the way. Therefore, it is not advisable to send valuables this way.

5. If you do send packages, bubble envelopes seem to work better than large boxes. They are less tempting to would-be thieves. The sender should clearly and honestly mark the contents on the outside of the package, but a general description of the contents is sufficient: "clothing and candy" rather than "Nike high top sneakers and 2 lbs. Godiva chocolate."

6. Express mail is an expensive option that may take just as long to get to Cameroon. Perhaps a more secure option than regular airmail for documents, checks, etc., it is subject to more scrutiny by Cameroonian customs than regular mail. For items other than documents, Peace Corps staff has to submit import licenses to customs, and clearance can take up to 10 days. Thus, you may not necessarily save any time by using Express mail. DHL and UPS operate in Cameroon for those important documents. Note that current prices for these services run around $100.00 for one pound or less.

7. There is a tax which Volunteers will have to pay on all packages received before they can retrieve them from the post office. This tax varies according to the size of the package. It might be a nice gesture from friends or family to send a six-pack of Mountain Dew, but it may cost a Volunteer up to $10.00 to get it out of the post office.

8. Packages sent to the Yaoundé office are sent regularly to Volunteer posts. This may delay delivery to the Volunteer by up to several weeks.

I leave you with this thought:

1 comment:

  1. Great article,
    I sell electronic parts and just got an order from Cameroon. Your blog is the one of the few article on the state of mail service and practical mailing advice.