Receiving Post in the UAE

One of the things that most of us probably didn’t think much about when we decided to move overseas was post – I mean, why would we? But – whilst we may have grown up taking the humble postal service of our home countries for granted, it’s one thing that you quickly learn does exist – but certainly not as we knew it!

So… post in the UAE… How is it different?!

Well, firstly, there’s no such thing here as a formal street address system in the UAE for post to be delivered to. Directions and addresses in the UAE are given using landmarks: “take a right at the roundabout with the big coffee pot on it, past the Co-op and you’ll find it near the new hospital” is an example of a pretty normal way to describe a location!

1024px-Post_Danmark
Image credit: Tiberiu Ana

We can of course receive post here, although it can be a bit hit and miss. If you need to receive post or packages you basically have two options:

  1.  Use a PO Box
    Either use your company one or register for a private one, but if you need to receive bills from home, or friends and family want to send you any cards or letters, a PO Box number is what you need.
    Things to know:
    PO Boxes are available at post offices or in specific locations around the city (though there is a new service called ‘My Home’ or ‘My Building’ where in some areas you can now have post delivered to your door or building). Each individual box is locked and is just really a central location for your own personal letterbox. Try to find one as close to your home and as easy to get to as possible to make life as easy as you can – no-one wants to be sitting in traffic for hours at a time just to collect their post! Delivery to a PO Box number tends to be slow, although it does vary and sometimes depends on the location the mail is coming from too. I’ve had birthday cards sent to me from the UK that have taken anywhere between a week and six weeks to arrive, and we’ve had cards we’ve been told were sent from Australia that have taken over two months, and some that we never ever received at all. Delivery to a company PO Box will usually get delivered right to you at your desk as there will be someone (usually from admin) in charge of collecting the post from the actual PO Box and then distributing to the relevant departments. Delivery to a personal PO Box will require you periodically popping along to the box location to collect your post. You can nominate a person to collect on your behalf so there is always the option if you have household help (as is common here) to delegate this task.
    If you want to order something sizeable from overseas, you can also send it to your PO Box although I believe that this depends on the service you subscribe to through the post office… If your package requires a signature, as far as I’m aware (though please do let me know if you have any other experience of this) it can’t be signed for via a PO Box address, so you’d need to use a courier instead.
  2. Use a courier
    If you want to receive packages that require a signature, you’ll probably need to have it couriered to you.
    Things to know:
    If you use a courier, the good news is that you can get your package sent directly to your front door, as you just have to provide your street address – complete with any extra location details as required so they can find it! Of course with a courier, you always provide your phone number too, so what usually happens is that the courier will contact you to confirm your delivery location and a suitable time when they can deliver. Easy! This is the best way if your package will need a signature, and it’s also much faster if you’re in a hurry to receive your package! If you’re ordering things online locally from sites within the UAE, the company will usually either have their own in-house delivery people to bring your parcels to your street address or will use a local courier company. If you’re ordering from overseas – do make sure before you order whether your package will come via ‘normal post’ or be couriered so you can be sure whether it’s best to give them your physical street address or your PO Box.
    I had an issue recently when ordering from a company in the UK – I thought they were sending my package by courier so gave them my physical street address. Two weeks later I called them to find out what had happened to my order and they told me my parcel had been dispatched by Royal Mail… At this point I realised there was no way for this package to reach me at my street address and I should have used the PO Box address instead! I called Empost and asked them what would happen in this instance and they explained that any packages received to the UAE without a PO Box number via normal post (Empost / Royal Mail etc) would be returned to sender immediately. Thankfully, the next day the company contacted me to say they’d received my package back and were proceeding to resend it to me – but this time, to my PO Box address!

If you want to know about posting mail out of the country, that’s pretty much the same as at home – except you’ll always have to go to the post office to do it. You can’t buy stamps anywhere except the post office and there are no post boxes around the city in any locations except at the post offices themselves – you’ll find that post offices are fewer and farther between than at home  as they aren’t on every high street or in any malls which can mean they’re quite a pain to get to and will always require a special trip out of your way.

If you frequently want to order things from back home or other overseas locations (perhaps because they’re not available here) you can sign up for a shop and ship account. This basically means that you can order from companies overseas that otherwise wouldn’t deliver to the UAE (and other locations too). It gives you the use of generic addresses globally to deliver to, then shop and ship deliver from those addresses directly to you in the UAE (or wherever). Use your physical street address for this as your stuff will come to you by courier.

So that’s it really. That’s pretty much what you need to know about post in the UAE! If anyone has any other tips or experiences with the post here – I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

 

 

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45 Comments

  • You got it pretty well spot on Lindsey. However – i must share – a little miracle happened for me this week which made me very happy! It seemed that last time I visited the main Post Office some months ago – I had the vision to by extra stamps for postage to UK. Last Thursday – I took the bold decsion to stick these stamps on cards destined for the UK and posted them in an innocuous looking box marked ‘Empost’ – which i found near the office on Najda Street . Imagine my joy when, on Tuesday ( just 3 working days on) – i received texts from the UK saying the cards had a arrived. Shocked and stunned and so very happy! Why should i have expected less ? 🙂

  • My sister sent a courier from Australia with my physical address and P.O.Box of my work place. But I she hasn’t given a contact number along with it. How do you think I will receive it?

    • Hmm, an interesting one since the package has both addresses on it. But since it does have the PO Box, worst case scenario it should be delivered there with no problems. It also depends if your physical address is an apartment or villa. If it’s an apartment block they might deliver straight there as they’ll know there will likely be security on duty. Either way you should receive it ok. Fingers crossed! Also presumably your sister has tracking details for the package? She could always contact the company and update them with your mobile number to make extra sure. Let me know how you get on, I see no reason your package won’t be delivered safely 🙂

    • I hope you will receive your package Marina! If it has both physical address and PO Box on it and it’s coming by courier it should reach you, the UAE courier should know to ignore the Po Box fingers crossed.
      Varsha – perhaps you could let us know if you received your parcel in the end? We’d love to hear your update!

  • I’m waiting for a mail sent from UK through Royal Standard Mail without PO Box. It is already 25 Days passed and there is no way of tracking that mail. I spoke with Emirates Post and they said no mail has been received by them related to my phone number.

    How can I track the mail? what to do?

    • I’m not sure there’s a lot that you can do other than hope it gets returned to sender and that they will let you know when that happens. Packages received by Emirates Post usually do get returned if they have senders address on them so maybe check back with the sender. If it gets posted again just make sure to include the PO Box next time, that is the only way you can be sure to receive it. I hope you get your mail eventually!

  • Hi,

    Have any of you tried ordering stuff from the US/UK online and had them sent directly to the PO Box in Dubai? Were there any taxes or things to pay for ?

    Regards,
    Mo

    • Hi there, yes I’ve done that plenty of times and never had to pay any taxes or additional costs. I think as long as you’re not ordering large, expensive items (maybe jewellery, big ticket items etc) you’ll be fine. I’ve ordered books, small goods and a few kitchen top electricals not available here and never had any issues, in fact, often the items work out even cheaper than expected because the country of origin should take their tax off because it’s travelling outside the US or EU tax zones.

  • Hi, I ordered multiple things from Ebay coming from China, first batch of orders i put my company’s p.o. box no., it didn’t arrive, second order, i excluded the po box number and put the office address along with the building no. instead, still it didn’t arrive. All my parcels never arrived at all. Do you have any idea how can I get my parcels? Like is there anyone I can call or anywhere I can go to check personally where is it? I included my mobile number in the address but nobody called me. Also, when i checked the tracking number of one of my parcel, it shows that it already arrived at the destination country like 15 days ago.

    Thank you

    • You could try checking with the main post office but without any PO Box on the address the packages would most likely be sent straight back to the sender if their return address was included. There’s no reason why the first parcels with the PO Box shouldn’t have arrived – check the tracking on those and with your company is all I can suggest.

  • Hey, I want to send a gift to a person in dubai from the uk. But i dont want to send it to his work address. And that person doesnt have a private PO Box. Is there any chance i can send the gift to a local Post Office in dubai? and is someone able to collect a parcel from a local Post Office without having to rent a private PO Box?

    • Hi there, your best option is to send the gift by courier company to his physical home address then, that’s the only option if you don’t want it to go to his work PO Box. Anything sent without a PO Box number by local post will be returned to sender when it reaches the main post office here, you can’t collect post from a post office without a private PO Box.

  • I am facing so much problem with Shop &Ship (Aramex). I had the POBOX in Dubai, but for what I need now, it doesn’t make sense to keep with that. Because of that, I tried Shop & Ship, but I really would like to know if there is any other private courier in UAE that provide us a general address in US (and other country) and delivery the order in UAE. Do you know any other?
    Thanks a lot

    • MyBox from Postaplus is another service similar to shop and ship – someone told me it’s cheaper but when I’ve checked and compared that’s not been the case. I’ve never used them myself though, but might be worth a try. Good luck!

  • Hi, Ive recevied packages from the UK at my office P.O.Box all the time but this time I’ll be receiving an envelope from Finlad and I’ve given my office P.O.Box address again but im not sure if it’ll make it there and how will i know my envelope has arrived since all my previous packages could be tracked?

    • If you’ve received mail there before without issue I can’t see why there’d be any problem this time. If you can’t track the post I’m afraid though the only thing you can do is to wait and see. Good luck!

  • Hi, i sent a parcel to UAE with all correct information. However i dont want to to be sent to the person anymore. anyway you can tell me who is the local courier service that i can contact who usually receives parcel/mail from other countries so i can contact them and cancel the shipment and sent it back to me?
    thank you i really need help on this.

    • No idea on this one I’m afraid! I think once the item has been posted it becomes property of the mail system provider until it is delivered to the recipient so I’m not sure there’s anything you can do in this situation. Who delivers it locally will depend on how it was shipped originally. It should be Emirates Post if you sent by regular mail or if you used a courier any number of private postal services – Aramex, DHL, fetchr etc.

  • Hey,
    so I just ordered something from South Korea and gave my physical address. Only now do i question if my parcel will be successfully delivered to me since I havent mentioned any P.O.Box number. You think they’ll deliver it to my local post office since I have mentioned my emirate and then have the local post office contact me? Super nervous about this one, I’ve been very excited for this parcel!

  • Hi, everyone. In Dubai u can use public PO box, this service was provided about two years back. Just call to Emirates post to know the nearest one. You should include you phone number so they inform you when your parcel arrives. Cost from 4dhs and above.

  • Hi Lindsey, I’m from Abu Dhabi and waiting for my pin from adsense. I didn’t put PO box in my address. It’s been a month and so I know it wont reached me. How will I get a public PO Box here and how much would it cost me? I’m living in a flat opposite Al Wahda Mall.

  • I am visiting Dubai only for a few days to attend an exhibition and wonder….if i could somehow ship to myself a package or two with advertisment leaflets, visit cards and a few samples of products…nothing too heavy or huge. just to avoid carrying with me in my already overweight personal luggage. I would like to ship in advance from my country to Dubai so have it available uppon my arrival. Any ideas please? Maybe my hotel could give me such a service, at a cost ofcourse if needed.

  • Hi Lindsey. I have the same problem. I bought(online) something from the us. I only put my physical address here in abu dhabi and mobile phone number. It was sent thru USPS(first class international package service- which is the cheapest mode, it doesnt have a tracking number either). It has been 6 weeks now and i havent recieve my parcel yet. And upon reading your thread im feeling very nervous that my parcel may not be delivered to me. Although im still hoping that they would call me once it arrived here in UAE.

    • It can take a long time for things to arrive but I’m afraid I don’t know how USPS works. If it’s a courier service you should get it fine and they’ll call you no doubt too first. If it’s ‘normal’ post you may have difficulty as regular post can’t be delivered to physical addresses here, there are no postmen. You could try calling the main post office but it will be difficult without a tracking number. ‘Normal’ post with only a physical address usually gets returned to sender on arrival at the central post office here so maybe check to see if the sender has received it back? I made this mistake once and the company told me when they had received the returned item and were kind enough to send it again, but this time to a PO Box number I provided which I received ok. It’s just wise to check when ordering things online which type of post the company will use before placing any order to avoid these issues. Good luck, hope you receive your parcel eventually!

      • Tnx for the reply Lindsey. Can i use the P.O. box number of the building where i live? Or maybe i should go to the empost and ask them what is the p.o. box number i can use?

      • You’d have to ask your building if they have a PO Box for residents use, otherwise use your work PO Box or take out your own private one through Empost. You can find the options and pricing on the Empost website.

  • Hi there I ordered some items from a UK based websites and i opted for the shipping without tracking option cause the tracking option was expensive. How will I know if my parcel has arrived in my PO box?

    • I’m not sure, it depends on the service you have if it’s a private PO Box or if it’s through your company. Some services will let you know when post arrives but to check the process with the PO Box provider is your best bet.

      • So ask your company what the process is. In my experience they have a person who checks it periodically and brings it to your desk (if it’s a small company), or in a big company there’s often a post room you can check with.

  • Hi Lindsey, I ordered something from the UK and i think they have used the royal mail to post it and using their tracking number it says that it has been delivered. I used my husbands office po box and i have received packages their before. However currently it has not been received at my husbands desk. And i called the postal office and all they say is that they can’t track a regular post parcel. And at this point i have no idea where my parcel is. If you or any one else has experienced this could you help me out with some suggestions?

    • If it’s a tracked parcel was it signed for? There should be a reference on who accepted the parcel and when, depending on the type of tracking used. If you can’t find this information out then there’s not much else you can do but wait – perhaps it will turn up yet at your husband’s work (if it’s a big company it could be temporarily lost in the internal system), or failing that, if it’s gone to the main post office in error they will probably return to sender. Contact the sender and ask them to let you know if they receive it back.

  • Hey.

    Just adding a point, I’ve noticed that when using an ordinary mail service, where the tracking number starting with ‘U’ this type of shipments cannot be tracked in UAE and it is advisable to use a p.o. box (either company or personal) and if no p.o. box number is provided then the shipment is returned back.

    • That’s an interesting point you’ve noticed. I hadn’t noticed it was related to a certain tracking number, but I have definitely had packages returned to sender in the past, before I had worked out which address to use depending on who I was ordering from and whether they used ‘normal’ mail or a courier to deliver.

  • Hi lindsey,i have sent a birthday card to p.o box address in UAE with standard post from the uk 7 weeks ago but they have not still had it ? would you think it may have gone lost or there is still hope ?

    • It’s hard to tell. In my personal experience I have had cards arrive within a week and others taken several months. My all time record for receiving a card from the UK stands at one whole year (yes, it’s true!). A friend sent a congratulations card after my son was born in Feb 2015 and we received it just over one year later, I could see the original sent date on the postal mark, I think it must have got stuck somewhere on the way. So you really do never know. They may still receive your card when they least expect it!

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