International Shipping to Vietnam: An E-commerce Guide

Amanda Lim

  • Key information on Vietnam

  • 6-steps to cross-border shipping to Vietnam

  • Customs clearance in Vietnam

  • Payment preferences in Vietnam

Big players like Alibaba, JD.com, Shopee, and more have been investing in Vietnam’s e-commerce industry recently, giving the Southeast Asian country heightened attention. Vietnam’s e-commerce market is expected to bring in US$4.4 billion by 2023, with a compounded annual growth rate of 12.0%. If you’re thinking about entering an emerging market with great potential, it helps to have a bit of background on the country before shipping into Vietnam.

Key Information on Vietnam’s E-commerce Market

Most of Vietnam’s e-commerce orders take place within two of Vietnam’s most populous metropolitan areas: Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

To help you navigate the possible issues you might face when shipping to Vietnam, here are some steps you can take to ensure a smooth delivery experience.

6-Steps to Cross-Border Shipping to Vietnam

If you’re looking to start shipping to Vietnam, you’ll generally need to follow these steps:

  1. Finding the right shipping partner

  2. Packaging your goods

  3. Choosing the right level of service

  4. Providing shipping details

  5. Printing the shipping labels and documents and attaching them to your package

  6. Passing the shipments to the carriers

1. Finding the Right Shipping Partner

In any form of cross-border shipping, carriers tend to follow these few stages:

  • First-mile delivery – The shipment moves from the merchant’s warehouse to the airport or port.

  • Customs clearance at country of origin – Clearing goods to export from origin country.

  • Freight – The shipment is transported, either by air or sea, from the origin country’s airport or port to the destination airport or port.

  • Customs clearance at destination country – Clearing goods for import in the destination country.

  • Distribution – The shipment is sent from the airport or port to the domestic distribution centre to be sorted and assigned to vans and motorcycles for the last mile delivery stage.

  • Last mile delivery – The shipment moves from the distribution centre to the customer’s doorstep.

As an example, an Indonesian merchant could have their goods shipped via truck from their premises in Jakarta to Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (CGK) where it is cleared for export. Then, it is transported via air freight to reach Tan Son Nhat International Airport (SGN) and goes through customs clearance. After that, it gets transported to a local distribution facility to be picked up by the last mile delivery van or motorcycle. These vehicles then travel from the distribution facility to your customer’s address in Ho Chi Minh City.

One way to save money on shipping is to use multiple smaller, localised shipping partners at different stages of the delivery, but this may prove hard to manage, especially when there are so many choices. Fortunately, there are end-to-end 4PL couriers with wide networks of logistics service providers which provide great coverage in Vietnam who can manage these logistics partners for you at a similarly competitive rate.

With regard to international freight, you generally have two options to ship goods to Vietnam:

Air Freight

For many e-commerce merchants, air freight is the transportation of choice for fast and reliable deliveries. International shipments usually enter Vietnam via Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) and Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi (HAN).

Sea Freight

Sea freight is cheaper but much slower than air freight. Consider your delivery deadlines and shipping model before picking this option. Vietnam’s primary ports for cross-border shipping are Saigon Port (VNSGN) and Hanoi Port (VNHAN).

Domestic Network Considerations

Vietnam relies on railways and road networks for local transportation. However, it is estimated that 8000 new motorbikes and 750 new cars join the 45 million vehicles currently on the streets of Vietnam every day, creating more congestion problems on Vietnam’s road networks. On average, deliveries to places outside of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City will take an additional two to four days so this should be communicated to your customers in advance if they are located in these places.

Operators do not work on sundays and public holidays, which may delay shipments, especially during the Tet holidays, also known as Lunar New Year. This holiday period lasts a week from 3 February to 10 February in 2019. In light of all this, you should check with your shipping partner to see how deliveries might be affected by these dates and be ready to ease your customers’ expectations when these delays happen. You can find out when Vietnam has its public holidays here.

2. Packaging your Goods

Appropriately packaging your products with the right packing materials is important in cross-border shipping. Packages may be subject to rough handling during its cross-border shipment to Vietnam, so including additional packing materials like bubble wrap or packing peanuts helps prevent your products from bouncing around within the package during shipment. These practices help prevent damage to your product when shipping and can save you money on replacing damaged goods.

3. Choosing the Right Levels of Service

Carriers usually offer multiple tiers of service in shipping. These delivery options mainly differ in their offered features, such as:

  • Delivery time

  • Weight limit

  • Real-time tracking & tracing

  • Free pick-up at origin address

  • Compensation in the event of loss of shipment

  • Packaging service

  • On-call customer service

Typically, the more features offered, the higher the shipping fee is. Choose one that best suits your budget and shipping needs. When planning your shipment, you can consult your shipping partner for recommended steps in packaging your goods for transport.

4. Providing Shipping Details

Carriers will need merchants to provide shipping details to generate the documentation required by Vietnam’s customs. Additionally, the documents supplied have to be in Vietnamese.

The type of information most carriers require are:

  • Sender’s details and address

  • Recipient’s details and address

  • Country of manufacture

  • Declared value and the currency in VND or US$

  • Harmonised System (HS) Code of Item

  • Item description

  • Item weight and dimensions

  • Item quantity

This information will be entered into a Customs Declaration form and shipping label by either you or the shipping partner if they offer this service. Always check that this information has been entered accurately. Incomplete documentation may trap your goods in customs. It’s good to be as accurate as possible when preparing these customs documents. Additional shipping charges could arise if the shipping company returns the packages to you. Under-declaring the value of the items of your shipments on the commercial invoice could result in fines if the custom clearance agencies correctly suspect it. The courier may also charge you additional fees for undervaluing your goods.

5. Printing the Shipping Labels and Documents and Attaching Them to your Package

Print and paste the shipping label, which contains the information you’ve entered in the previous step, securely onto the parcel. The addresses and bar-codes on the shipping label must be in clear view for identification and customs inspection. Ensure the shipping documents can be found on the package. One way to do this is to place all supporting documents inside a clear plastic pocket and tape it onto the package. Do note that some of these documents, such as the customs declaration and commercial invoice, will require the sender’s signature.

6. Passing the Shipments to Carriers

Depending on the delivery option you’ve selected and service level the carrier offers, the carrier will collect the packages from you either at your specified sender address or at one of their drop-off points in your origin country. If your selected service level includes track and trace, you’ll receive a tracking code for your package after your carrier receives the package. Your customer can also use this tracking code to find out where the package currently is.

While the actions required usually ends once the package is in your logistics service provider’s hands, the shipping journey involves more processes that the logistics service providers carry out on your behalf.

Customs Clearance in Vietnam

Customs clearance requires you to have the right documentation at hand to avoid delays. Depending on the value of your shipments, you may have to pay customs taxes and duties.

Documentation

Vietnamese Customs require extensive documentation prior to clearing goods for import. If your logistics service provider is helping you clear your product through customs, they will normally engage with experienced customs brokers who are familiar with the procedures and required format of documentation.

Minimally, the carrier must present the following to the relevant agencies:

Commercial and pro-forma invoice

Packing list

If you are planning on shipping without a logistics partner who can clear customs on your behalf, you’ll need the following:

  • Airway bill/ bill of lading (whichever is applicable)

  • Insurance policy

  • Receipt of payment of import duty and import-related taxes

  • Other relevant permits, licenses, and certificates

Customs Duties and Taxes

If your shipment value is lower than Vietnam’s de minimis value of VND 2 million, you won’t be charged duties and taxes for your shipment. A de minimis value is a threshold where any shipment whose value is above it will be charged duties and taxes at customs.

If your shipment is valued above VND 2 million, you will have to cover the following duties and taxes:

Import duties also vary depending on the type of goods being imported. To identify the type of goods entering the country, Vietnam follows an internationally agreed upon method of classifying goods called the Harmonized System Classification of Goods (HS Codes). You can use this tariff finder on Vietnam’s official customs website to see how much duties your shipment will be charged based on its HS Code.

Once again, to ensure that your package doesn’t get stuck in customs, it is important to work with a logistics provider who is well-versed with the latest developments in Vietnamese customs regulations to better navigate the ever-changing landscape of customs processes.

Payment Preferences in Vietnam

A significant 92% of online shoppers in Vietnam prefer cash-on-delivery (COD) when it comes to receiving their products. Choosing to offer COD is a worthwhile option to consider if you’re thinking of breaking into the Vietnamese e-commerce market.

However, not every logistics provider supports COD because of the additional payments infrastructure and processes needed to offer this payment method. Should you decide to offer this payment option on your e-commerce site after weighing the pros and cons, you will need to find a logistic partner that is able to facilitate it.

With high growth potential in its e-commerce landscape and a young, educated, and digitally savvy population, Vietnam is a viable market to break into if you’re planning to expand your international e-commerce business.

All the steps involved in cross-border shipping to Vietnam may sound complicated but having the right shipping partners can greatly simplify things for you. By engaging with reliable and proficient shipping partners at every step, or even a single partner who can handle all the steps, you’ll be on your way to seamless cross-border shipping to Vietnam.

To find more on the latest news on logistics and e-commerce in Southeast Asia, consider signing up for our Janio newsletter.

If you’d like to find out more about how we can solve your SEA e-commerce cross-border delivery needs, come and have a conversation with us.

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