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For any online retailer who is shipping internationally, it’s important to know how long shipping will take for each destination they are serving. This enables them to be transparent with their customers, and helps the customer to make an informed decision before they commit to a purchase.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at long international shipping takes from the UK to the most popular countries, and see how the different modes of transport stack up against each other.

We’ll also look at factors that might impact the time it takes to ship internationally, and what eCommerce businesses can do to reduce the time it takes to ship orders to overseas customers.

How long does it take to ship orders from the UK overseas?

Let’s take a look at how long it takes, on average, for orders from the UK to reach some of the most popular markets around the world. These shipping times will be broken down by mode of transport, and will represent door-to-door (the time it takes for the goods to arrive with the customer, rather than in the destination country).

Remember that the times below represent guidance. Bad weather, peak trading periods, and other factors can result in delays. Also, remember that the regions below cover a wide area, so specifics will vary depending on customer addresses.

UK to Europe shipping times

  • Truck freight: 3 to 7 days
  • Rail freight; 4 to 10 days
  • Air freight: 1 to 4 days
  • Sea freight (for certain peripheral countries and islands): 5 to 20 days

UK to US shipping times

  • Express delivery: 2 to 5 days
  • Air freight: 4 to 11 days
  • Sea freight: 25 to 55 days

UK to Canada shipping times

  • Express delivery: 2 to 5 days
  • Air freight: 4 to 10 days
  • Sea freight: 20 to 50 days

UK to Australia shipping times

  • Express delivery: 3 to 7 days
  • Air freight: 7 to 14 days
  • Sea freight: 40 to 70 days

UK to China shipping times

  • Express delivery: 3 to 7 days
  • Air freight – 5 to 10 days
  • Sea freight – 30 to 60 days

UK to Middle East shipping

  • Express delivery: 2 to 5 days
    Air freight – 3 to 7 days
    Sea freight – 20 to 40 days

What impacts the speed of international shipping?

There are many factors that might affect the time it takes for your parcels to reach their international destination. Some are preventable, some can be mitigated against, and some are out of your hands entirely.


It’s logical to assume that the further the end-customer is away, the longer it will take for their order to reach them. That’s often the case if you’re comparing two cities thousands of miles apart. For example, it’s safe to assume that an order going to Paris from London will arrive faster than an order going to Brisbane from London.

That said, the relationship between distance and shipping speed is less straightforward. Many other factors come into play, such as carrier efficiency, the location of hubs and depots en route, mode of transport, local infrastructures, laws and customs.

So, while distance is a factor, it’s not the only determinant of shipping time in international logistics.


At certain times of the year, heavy demand results in supply chains and transport routes becoming strained. The period from Black Friday to Christmas, usually referred to in the eCommerce industry as ‘Peak’, is a particularly busy time. There’s often delays to international shipments during this time.

A good way to combat delays due to seasonality is by getting all your stock in well in advance. This means you can keep delivery times to a minimum as you won’t have to rely on ordering in new stock while the supply chain is strained.

Carrier service

Carrier services are normally priced based on the timeframe you want an order to arrive within (although there are other pricing factors such as signed delivery, dangerous goods, ambient foods etc.)

In most cases, you’ll pay more for faster shipping, and less for slower shipping. The cost you’re happy to pay or pass over to the customer will depend on how quickly your shipment arrives at the end destination.

Some carriers are also more efficient than others. For example, one carrier might be the fastest shipping from the UK to the USA, but slower at shipping from the UK to Australia.

Severe weather and natural disasters

We’re not in control of mother nature. Floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, and volcanic eruptions will all impact the time it takes to ship an order through or to affected regions.

Even less catastrophic environmental conditions such as intense fog, rain, and high winds can result in delays if they’re serious enough to make delivery routes unsafe.

Other factors

A few other factors that impact the speed of international shipping include:

  • Improper packaging
  • Demand spikes
  • Address errors
  • Political unrest
  • Custom delays
  • Documentation / admin errors

How to speed up international shipping

Choose express delivery options

The most obvious solution to speeding up international shipping is to choose the fastest carrier services available. But it’s often undesirable to do this by default, as you’ll likely need to pass the cost onto your customer.

Depending on the size and weight of what you’re shipping, express international shipping could cost double, triple, or more than the cost of the order.

This could make your prices less competitive, especially if you’re competing with brands who are closer to your customer’s home country. They’ll likely be able to offer faster shipping at a much lower price.

Make your fulfilment process more efficient

The operational efficiency of your fulfilment process has a big impact on your shipping speed both domestically and internationally. That’s because the longer it takes for you to process, pick, pack, and dispatch your orders, the longer it takes for your orders to enter the carrier network.

Operational efficiency goes much further than simply pick and pack rates. It’s also about the tech at your disposal to speed up the process, the targets you set your workers, the quality of your inventory management, and more.

Position your inventory more smartly

The most cost-effective way to speed up international shipping is to position your inventory closer to your end customer. If you have customers across the world but only ship from one location, it’s impossible to offer quick shipping to everyone.

But, if you split your stock between fulfilment centres in multiple countries, you have greater capacity and flexibility to offer fast shipping to customers globally.

For example, let’s say you’re a UK-based business with 70% of your customer base in the UK, 20% in the US, and 10% in Australia. If your fulfilment centre is in the UK, 30% of your customers must endure long delivery times and huge shipping costs, and it’s likely that those customers will opt to use a store that’s closer to home.

But, if you decided to put 20% of your stock in the US and 10% in Australia, you could potentially match your delivery promise in the UK, while simultaneously growing your presence in those markets.

Unlock faster intentional shipping with James and James

At James and James, we specialise in providing international expansion opportunities to eCommerce businesses. With fulfilment centres in the UK, EU, USA and AUS (and there’s more on the way), we provide eCom brands with a risk-free way to reach customers faster.

In addition to enabling smart inventory positioning, we’ll also pick, pack, and ship your orders on your behalf, giving you more time and energy for other business activities, whether that’s growing your overseas marketing strategy, researching potential markets to venture into next, or developing exciting new products for your customers.

For more information about our global fulfilment solutions, please don’t hesitate to to give us a call on +44 (0)333 200 9954 or fill in our quick online form.

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