Sending Samples to China

Matthew Chipchura
Matthew Chipchura
Jan 23, 2023
12 min read
Packaging items on a table for sending samples to China


In a world full of products, it's interesting to ponder that every product in existence once began as a thought, then a drawing, then a sample and then eventually a product on a shelf. The journey from the inception of an idea into the hands of a customer is a lengthy one that often starts and exits from the continent of Asia.

Not surprisingly, China dominates the globes manufacturing sector producing almost 30% of the world's goods. It's no wonder that businesses around the world look to China for their sourcing needs.

If you're one of the many businesses using China as your product source and manufacturing hub, then you know that sending product samples to your Chinese suppliers is an integral part of the process.

Samples are the visual and physical representations that allow suppliers to see the exact item you need replicated, thus ensuring that what they produce for you meets your requirements before starting mass production.

This brings us to the important question of how do you ensure that your samples make it to China without getting delayed or stuck at the border?

In this guide, we'll explore the different options available to you and the key elements that will help ensure that your product samples arrive at their destination in China swiftly and safely.

Choosing the right shipping method

A FedEx Express airplane delivering packages for international customers

You have two main options available to you when shipping samples to China:

  • International Couriers like DHL, FedEx, UPS, etc.
  • Government Post Offices like USPS, Canada Post, Royal Mail, etc.

By understanding the pros and cons of both options you'll be better equipped to make an informed decision.

However, one of these choices heavily outweighs the other and is more favourable when sending samples to China. Below, I'll highlight both the pros and cons of both options so you can see for yourself which method is the obvious winner.

International Courier Companies:

Hands down, this is the shipping method that weighs heavily on pros, and light on cons.


  • Fast delivery: International courier services typically offer fast delivery times, ranging from a few days to a week, depending on the exact destination city and province in China.
  • Reliable tracking: Most international couriers provide real-time tracking information, allowing you to monitor the status of your shipment throughout the delivery process.
  • Flexible delivery options: International couriers often offer a range of delivery options, including next-day delivery, along with evening, weekend, and/or scheduled deliveries.
  • Increased security: International couriers typically provide higher levels of security for your shipment, including insurance coverage and protection against loss or damage.
  • Remote area coverage: International couriers often have a wider network of offices and delivery points, making it easier for your samples to arrive safely to remote or rural areas within China.
  • Flexible changes: International couriers often allow changes to delivery details such as the name or address of the recipient in the event of mistakes or changes in plans.
  • Customer service: International couriers generally offer superior customer support compared to the support that's provided by government post offices.


  • Higher cost: Compared to shipping samples via a government post office, international couriers are almost always going to be more expensive.

Government Post Offices:

This option weighs heavily on the cons, and light on the pro's.


  • Lower cost: Shipping samples to China via a government post office will be less expensive than using an international carrier, but they come with some huge risks you should examine before you race to your local post office to save a few dollars.


  • Slower delivery: Government post offices typically have slower delivery times compared to international couriers, with delivery times ranging from a week to several weeks or even months.
  • Limited tracking information: Tracking numbers are often not "converted" once they arrive in China, which leaves a sender with no way to monitor their shipment's progress.
  • Decreased security: We've heard of significantly more packages becoming lost or missing when samples are sent to China with a government post office vs shipments exported with an international courier.
  • Limited changes: Making changes to the delivery details, such as the receiver's name or address, can be challenging with government post offices, as they offer less flexibility due to packages being transferred to China Post upon entry to China.
  • Lack of support: Due to packages being transferred to China Post upon their entry into China, limited support is typically available from the government post office due to tracking numbers not being converted, making it nearly impossible to obtain accurate updates on where your shipment is.

These above pros and cons show the bigger picture of why you need to consider the associated risks before you let a lower shipping cost seduce you into sacrificing some very important factors.

Is it worth saving money to gamble on risking your shipment going off grid and getting lost?

When your package arrives in China is gets processed and handled by the Chinese Postal Service.

You have no means of tracking, therefore a greater risk of losing your package, the shipping fees you've paid, the loss of your product, and needing to start from the beginning again.

In contrast to the security that using an international courier offers:

  • Safer, faster, and more reliable transportation
  • Tracking number for the entire shipping journey
  • Offers better customer service and support

Yes, it's going to cost a bit more, but you'll have peace of mind using an international courier.

If you have a long lead time and the sample item you're sending has a low value, then you may feel more comfortable gambling with sending your sample through a government post office.

But if your timeline is tight, your sample value is high and you can't risk a delay or the potential loss of ability to track your sample, then hands down you'll want to elect for the more secure and more expensive option of using an international courier.

How to safely package your samples

A person packaging a commercial sample in bubble wrap before shipping samples to China with UPS
A person packaging a commercial sample in bubble wrap before shipping samples to China with UPS

When sending samples to China, the way that you package your product can greatly impact its safety during transit. Proper packaging will not only protect your product from damage but also increase the chances of a successful delivery to your Chinese counterpart.

Here are some tips to help you package your samples safely:

  1. Choose the right box: The right-sized box is crucial to protect your product from damage. Make sure to choose a box that is big enough to accommodate your samples and the packaging materials, but not so big that the product moves around inside.
  2. Use cushioning or padding: Proper cushioning is essential to prevent damage to your product during transit. You can use materials such as foam peanuts or bubble wrap that will help protect your samples by filling any empty spaces with cushioning.
  3. Seal the box properly: Sealing your shipment properly will prevent any damage from moisture or impact occurring during transit. Don't scrimp here. Use strong packaging tape to securely close the box and reinforce all seams, corners, tears, and openings.
  4. Consider insurance: When shipping valuable or delicate samples, consider purchasing insurance to protect your investment. This will give you peace of mind in the event that your package gets damaged or lost ⁠— which unfortunately does happen often!

Addressing the package

When it comes to addressing the package, it's important to ensure that you have the correct address and that it's written in a way that is clear and easy to understand for all parties involved in transporting your package to China.

Here are some tips to help you get it right:

  1. Label all documentation clearly: When completing any documentation, ensure that you use a legible font that is easy to read. It's best to avoid using handwriting, as it may be difficult for others to decipher.
  2. Write on documentation in English: When filling out documents, you'll be writing the recipient's company name and address in English or your country's specific language, not in Chinese.
  3. Include the recipient's name and title: In China, it's common to write the recipient's name first, followed by their title. For example, "Ms. Sukey Wei, Sales Manager".
  4. Include the Chinese address on the box. In addition to writing the address in English on documentation, it's wise to include the receiver's Chinese address on the package itself. English isn't widely spoken in China, so this helps ensure that the package will be delivered to the correct address or recovered in the event that it's lost.
  5. Include the receiver's phone number: If your package gets lost or if the courier is having trouble locating the delivery address, a phone number on documentation and the package will be extremely helpful. Be sure to confirm the correct number.

You likely aren't a master of writing Chinese characters, so the easiest way to do this is to ask the supplier for their Chinese address, print it out and stick it somewhere on the package.

Declaring the package for customs clearance

When sending samples to China, it's important to properly declare your shipment. This means providing accurate information about the contents of your package to ensure that it complies with Chinese customs regulations so it won't get held up, seized, or destroyed.

Here are some tips for declaring your shipment:

  1. Know the rules and regulations. Make sure to research the rules and regulations governing shipments to China. This includes understanding the types of items that are prohibited or restricted from entering the country.
  2. Provide an accurate description of the contents. When filling out shipping documentation, provide a detailed and accurate description of the contents of your package. This includes the type of product, quantity, and declared value.
  3. Be honest about the value of your shipment. It can be tempting to undervalue your shipment to avoid paying import duties or taxes. However, declaring a false value can result in fines, delays, or even the seizure of your shipment during a customs inspection.
  4. Include all necessary documentation. Depending on the type of product you are sending, you may need to include additional documentation such as a certificate of origin or a phytosanitary certificate. Make sure to research and include all of the proper documentation to avoid delays or risk your sample being rejected by customs officials.
  5. Consider using a customs broker. If you're not familiar with shipping packages overseas and you feeling overwhelmed about the process, it may be beneficial to seek the help of a customs broker or a product sourcing company with experience sending samples to China.

By properly declaring your shipment, you will increase your chance that your samples will be delivered successfully without costly delays or being rejected by Chinese customs officials.

The commercial invoice for China customs

Even samples of a low value require a commercial invoice. The commercial invoice is an important document that acts as a declaration of the goods being shipped. It provides information to customs officials in both the origin and destination countries.

In this section, we will discuss what should be included on the commercial invoice:

  • Name and contact information of the sender and recipient.
  • Description of the goods being shipped, including the type, quantity, and value.
  • HS code for the goods (Harmonized System Code, used for classification and tariff purposes), this will expedite the process for Chinese customs officials and support your samples potentially arriving faster.
  • Value of the samples/goods (Marking the commercial invoice with "Free sample, No commercial value" or "samples, not for resale" can improve your chances of not being charged any duties or taxes.)
  • Date of the shipment.
  • Signature of the sender.

A well-prepared commercial invoice is critical to ensure the smooth and efficient shipment of your samples to China. It provides important information to customs officials and helps to avoid potential issues such as delays, additional fees, or even the seizure of your goods.

It's also important to be accurate and truthful when completing the commercial invoice, as any inaccuracies or false information may result in your package being delayed or seized by China customs officials during the customs clearance process.

Marking and altering samples

When sending samples to China, it's important to make sure that the contents of your package meet the requirements for commercial samples set by the Chinese government.

Typically, this means marking and altering them in a way that makes them unsuitable for resale, as commercial samples are not intended for retail sale or consumption.

One way to do this is by permanently marking the samples with a label such as:

  • Free samples, no commercial value
  • Samples, not for resale

In addition to permanently marking samples, there are a variety of common alterations that can be used to make items unsuitable for resale and more obvious to customs officials that these items are samples and won't be resold.

Some of these alterations include:

  • A cut or tear made on the item
  • A permanent "X" marking on the item
  • A hole drilled through the item

These actions will limit the chances of duties and taxes being applied to your shipment. However, it's ultimately the decision of the inspecting officer to decide if import tax or duties will be levied on your shipment during customs clearance.

Frequently asked questions

What can't be shipped to China?

You can learn more about China customs regulations, rules, prohibited items, and what can't be shipped to China, by visiting the website of the Chinese customs authority, the General Administration of Customs of the People's Republic of China (GACC).

What is the cheapest way to ship to China?

Although it isn't recommended, the cheapest way to ship samples to China will be by using a government post office such as USPS, Canada Post, or Royal Mail, instead of an international courier such as DHL, FedEx, or UPS. But as I mentioned earlier, cheaper comes with greater risks.

What is the best way to send samples to China?

The safest and best way to ship samples to China is to use an international courier like DHL, FedEx, UPS, or your country's equivalent. DHL is our go-to international courier and is often a favourite among other importers and exporters. You can get a freight quote with DHL here.

How much does it cost to ship samples to China?

The cost of shipping samples to China can range from $50 for small packages to several thousand dollars for large or heavy items. The cost depends on various factors such as the size and weight, the mode of transportation, the chosen shipping company, the origin country and destination, and any additional services that you might require.


Getting a physical representation of your product in the hands of your supplier is one of the most important aspects of production. Do not overlook the importance of this step. If you do, you might regret it.

Take your time and make sure you follow the steps outlined. Lastly, congrats on taking the action to bring your idea and product to life. You're one step closer to getting your product on a shelf.

Matthew Chipchura
Matthew Chipchura
Founder, Advanta Sourcing

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