Being a cruiser is often difficult when it comes to dealing with things you took for granted on land. A simple thing such as getting your mail and banking internationally can be a real challenge. For more banking information, see my post on ‘Accessing Money When Traveling’.
Getting mail forwarded proved quite difficult for us when we started sailing. We sold everything and didn’t have a family member whose mailing address we wanted to use. Not having an address in your home country can be problematic. We tried a bunch of different options before settling on a provider that is reliable and trustworthy.
Fast forward a few years, and new cruisers have a few more reliable options for getting mail forwarded than there were just five short years ago. If you are interested in shipping Packages and Cargo, see my post on ‘Getting Packages and Cargo Shipped’.
Getting Mail Collected
Family or Friends
Many cruisers have family or a friend whose address they use. We chose not to go this route as we didn’t want to be a burden. When we first left land, we still used to get loads of mail. Most of it junk, as much as we tried canceling things such as free trade magazines, they still kept coming. We didn’t want to dump friends or family with having to sort through a mountain of mail to decide what was important.
We got an address at a UPS Store, which worked well for a while. We had a friend keep the key, and when visitors came to join us, they went past our mailbox, grabbed the mail, and brought it to us at the boat.
We had the UPS store forward our mail to us, when we received notifications the mailbox was too full. The problem was, it was expensive, and they sent us all the junk mail.
The biggest problem with the UPS Store was that we weren’t able to deal with important mail, as it arrived. Someone constantly needed to go out of their way to check the mailbox. Or we had to call the UPS store and impose on the owner to look through our mail, for a particular piece of mail we were expecting.
This approach was expensive and time-consuming and is not one I would suggest unless you have a steady stream of visitors coming to the boat and mountains of mail you need to receive.
Mail Forwarding Services
St. Brendan’s Isle
St. Brendan’s Isle is the best option we have come up with. They are absolutely fantastic. The customer service is friendly and always helpful. They are the largest provider of mail forwarding services to live aboard cruisers in the world. They started off catering to RV’ers and now have many cruisers using their services.
They offer multiple packages. We are on the Cruisers Home Port package. For US$13.99 a month here’s what they do for us:
- Sort through the mail and shred the junk
- Scan and email copies of mail
- Hold and forward packages
- No additional charge to hold packages for 30 days, after 30 days there is a $0.10 charge per day
- Packages and any mail you want to be shipped to you, are shipped at actual US Mail cost plus a $2.00 charge no matter how many pieces are shipped
- Ship to any destination, we have received packages in the Caribbean, Panama, and Tahiti with no issues. Just give them the delivery address and they will send it
- Package tracking number emailed to you.
- Hold a credit balance for your account
- When your account balance is low they contact you and charge your credit card $100.00 and then use the balance for future charges
- If you no longer need their services your balance will be refunded in full.
- All your transactions are recorded in an online account that is easy to access.
St. Brendans Isle also has a Marine Supply Purchasing program – “We act as your purchasing agent. You select the items using a specific part and catalog number. Then, contact us with your order. We will secure the item and ship it to you, creating all the necessary documents for customs clearance into foreign countries. Whatever we pay for an item is what you pay. This is not a profit center for SBI but rather a service to our Cruising Clients.“
For US Citizens St. Brennan’s Isle also assists with:
- Renewal of your USCG Vessel Documentation
- Vessel Registration
- Florida Residency
- Voter Registration
- Vehicle Registration
- Florida Driver’s License
One of the best things about St. Brendan’s Isle is you aren’t restricted to a certain quantity of mail or packages per month, as with other plans that offer these types of services. We’ve used them for more than 3 years, and I can’t think of a single complaint.
Well, only one, and this applies to any US mail forwarding service. The US Mail 1583 form has to be completed. Make sure you get this completed before leaving the US. Outside of the country, a notary is required to sign the form. We tried a notary in Martinique, she wouldn’t sign the form because it was in English. In the BVI, the Notary wanted $200. We even tried an online notary, which the local post office service wouldn’t accept.
We had all but given up on the 1583 form when we climbed in a taxi in Golfito, Costa Rica. The taxi driver explained this was his hometown, and he had just returned after living in the US for 20 years as a lawyer! He took us home, went and found his stamp, and we were done for about 20 bucks plus the cab fare. The craziest things do happen when you are cruising.
Mailbox Etc has branches in many countries all over the world. Different branches offer different services. In the UK, Australia MBE offers mail scanning and forwarding services. Contact the offices closest to you to confirm which services they offer. When we were in Panama we used MBE for forwarding packages and mail so we could collect it at a local address.
For more information on shipping your packages take a look at my post Getting Packages and Cargo Forwarded When Cruising
Other Mail Forwarding Services
Please note I can not personally recommend the list below as I have no experience using them. The Mail Forwarding companies listed below all offer mail scanning and emailing.
|Country||Mail Forwarding Service|
|Australia||Mailbox Etc., Aussie Mailman, Hot Snail|
|Canada||Canadians are able to Use US service providers|
Canada Post will forward your mail to a US address although this is expensive
|New Zealand||Private Box|
|South Africa||Mailbox Etc, Anytime Mailbox|
|United Kingdom||Mailbox Etc, Capital Office, Mail Scan Services, Ghost Mail Drop|
|USA||St. Brendan’s Isle, Traveling Mailbox, PhysicalAddress.com, Earth Class Mail|
If you have used any of the above companies I haven’t tried, please leave a review in the comments section below. I would love to hear from you.