Understanding the eBay International Shipping Program

eBay international shipping program
Make sure you understand what items are prohibited in different countries. Getty Images

 Some new sellers may be intimidated by shipping internationally on eBay. And that is perfectly acceptable since the average person has never shipped a package out of the country. International shipping is nothing to fear. Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you are learning to ship internationally or want to expand your reach to other countries.

Evaluate the eBay Global Shipping Program

eBay developed the Global Shipping Program as a way to streamline and standardize international shipping.

Everything is shipped Priority International even if it weighs under 4 pounds and could be shipped First Class International. All items also have customs fees added, even if they aren't necessary. These two issues, Priority Mail International and customs fees can make the cost very high for the buyer. 

Make Sure the Item is Allowed

There are strict rules regarding what types of items are allowed in specific countries. It is the sellers' responsibility to know what can and can't be shipped to different countries. Usually, these rules originate from an item that is produced in that country as the home country is attempting to control imports. For example, Italy does not allow leather goods because many are produced there. They want their citizens to purchase leather items in their own country.

Another reason for prohibitions is that the country is trying to control disease from entering the country.

For example, perishable foods are not allowed in many countries because they may contain parasites or or be a biohazard in some way. Dangerous materials including firearms, explosives, radioactive items, or weapons. Here are some examples of other countries and items that they prohibit via international shipping, Australia does not allow used bedding.

 Brazil does not allow used consumer goods. Italy has a whopping 130 prohibitions:

  • Albums of any kind
  • Arms and weapons
  • Articles of platinum and gold
  • Artificial flowers and fruits
  • Bells and other musical instruments and parts
  • Cartridge caps; cartridges
  • Compound medicaments and medicines.
  • Coral mounted in any way.
  • Ether and chloroform.
  • Exposed photographic and cinematographic films.
  • Footwear of any kind.
  • Haberdashery and sewn articles of any kind, including trimmings and lace; handkerchiefs; scarves; shawls, needlework including stockings and gloves; bonnets, caps, and hats of any kind.
  • Hair and articles made of hair.
  • Human remains.
  • Leather goods.
  • Lighters and their parts, including lighter flints.
  • Lithium cells and batteries — including items containing lithium cells and batteries under 135.6.
  • Live bees, leeches, and silkworms.
  • Live plants and animals.
  • Nutmeg, vanilla; sea salt, rock salt; saffron.
  • Parasites and predators of harmful insects.
  • Perfumery goods of all kinds (except soap).
  • Playing cards of any kind.
  • Postage stamps in sealed or unsealed First-Class Mail International or First-Class Package International Service shipments.
  • Radioactive materials.
  • Ribbons for typewriters.
  • Roasted or ground coffee and its substitutes; roasted chicory.
  • Saccharine and all products containing saccharine.
  • Salted, smoked or otherwise prepared meats; fats; and lard.
  • Tobacco.
  • Toys not made wholly of wood.
  • Treated skins and furs.
  • Weapons of any kind and spare parts for them.


Refer to the list on the USPS website that shows the complete list of countries and prohibited items for each. Do your due diligence to make sure the item you are selling can be shipped to the countries you choose.

Understand Insurance Options

If you are shipping through the eBay Global Shipping Program, all items are shipped USPS Priority Mail with insurance. Tracking is not available because once the item leaves the United States, it is impossible to track it. Insurance is a way to recover losses if the item does not reach its destination or arrives damaged. If shipping direct, or not using eBay's GSP, you can self-insure.

There are several third party companies that offer insurance services. Most insurance costs around $1 per every $100 of value of the item. For example, if you sold a pair of shoes for $200, the insurance will cost around $2. 

Third party insurance is not tracking. It simply is a safety net in case the item is lost or damaged in transit. Companies that offer international shipping insurance include:

Third party insurance is affordable and a wise decision when shipping direct. It can be paid for with Paypal and filing a claim is fast and easy. If you are confused about how to ship internationally, this tutorial will help.

Updated by Suzanne Wells on December 26, 2016.