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Sending packages tips to save money

WHEN posting a parcel in France, the main option is Colissimo - La Poste’s parcel post for the public. It pays, however, to know its various options, including some little-known bargain rates, and services from rival firms.

Many post offices suggest pre-paid Colissimo Emballages boxes, but be aware that these often work out more expensive than making your own package (though they can be practical). They come in formats for sending in France or abroad (Colissimo Emballage International), are signed for on delivery and have fixed rates of compensation for loss and damage.

The main alternatives are Colissimo Recommandé (recorded delivery), also signed for and with a range of compensation levels according to how much you pay (from R1, €50, to R5, €800), the similar Colissimo International (with fixed compensation depending on weight or, optionally, up to the real value, up to €1,500) or, in France only, Colissimo France, which has a fixed compensation of €23/kg and is delivered without signature.

If speed is vital there is also the more costly express service Chronopost, which delivers in France the next morning and also has international options (delivery from 1-4 days).

If opting for Colissimo Emballage make sure you pick the right size, from: rectangular boxes M, L and XL (each with maximum weights); Souple - a heavy plastic envelope; P for up to 3kg of books or documents; Bouteille - for one, two or three bottles of a package for CDs/DVDs up to 1kg. International options are L (up to 5kg), XL (up to 7kg) or one bottle.

You will find the basic Colissimo France rate is the cheapest and recorded delivery may be more or less than emballage depending on insurance level and on whether or not you make full use of the weight allowances for your box. The latter point also applies to simple or emballage versions for sending internationally.

You can compare the main tariffs at: www.tinyurl. com/ColissimoPrices or use this calculator: tinyurl.com/ ColissimoChronopost To go further in money saving, consider the following tips:

* Get money off by paying the postage and printing off a label on the internet (you still need to go into the post office to send it). See: www.tiny url.com/ParcelOnLine

* For small items ask for Mini Max (tinyurl.com/MiniMaxRates), a rate for items not more than 1kg and 2cm thick which costs little more than a letter. Write “Mini Max” on the back and ask for proof of sending (preuve de dépôt). This is not the same as Lettre Max, a ready-topost box that costs more. A slim book or DVD sent as a letter is also likely to arrive, but has no compensation associated with it (Mini Max’s is as for Colissimo France).

* If sending a small package of less than 2kg internationally ask for “paquet prio international” rates (www.tinyurl.com/PaquetPrio). This is a budget rate, considerably cheaper than full Colissimo ones (you can pay extra for options that add tracking or recorded delivery benefits - paquet suivi international or paquet recommandé international).

* Another little-known option is the livres et brochures rate, for books or cultural, scientific or educational items. You can send such items across Europe for less than the normal letter post rates in France - €2.47 for 1kg in the EU. See: www.tinyurl.com/ LivresEtBrochures

* Try a competitor to La Poste, www.mondialrelay.fr A subsidiary of home delivery giant 3 Suisses, this uses 4,300 points relais - you drop your package at a participating shop near you and the other person collects it at another one. On average cheaper than Colissimo, this involves printing your label online, there are no guaranteed delivery times (Colissimo is two working days in France) and there is only a set compensation rate of €25.

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