The other day I got an email from an old friend that I had not heard from in several years. He had moved to the Philippines several years ago. When he moved here, he shipped his stuff here in Balikbayan Boxes. It is cheap to ship Balikbayan Boxes from the States to the Philippines, or from Canada and other locations.
Now that he has been here in the Philippines for a few years, he has decided to move back to the USA. This is actually fairly common, I find that probably 50% of foreigners who move here end up going back home after a few years. Only a small percentage make it here for the long term.
My friend sent me an email asking how he could ship his stuff back to the USA. He had looked around and was unable to find anybody who would ship balikbayan boxes back to the US from the Philippines. I have heard this same question so many times over the years! It does not often come up on websites like LiP, but it is a common question, so I thought I’d share my email response.
Here is part of the email that my friend sent to me:
I now have read and heard many stories of the difficulty getting our things shipped back home. We kept our receipts and even our same balikbayan boxes in the event of this very decision and need. Who would’ve thought its so easy going one way only.
I’m certain those big cargo ships and containers are not leaving Manila empty. I’m thinking we will fill 15 or so of our big boxes when we can confirm a reputable shipping company is successfully confirmed. We don’t need a whole container unless it was somehow cheaper. Maybe there’s another party who’s also interested in and has similar shipping needs.
We haven’t yet purchased our tickets to return there. We will soon as we confirm our shipping company.
That’s where we really are need in need of your help. I’m hoping you know of or possibly have some contacts who know.
Well, unfortunately for my friend, shipping boxes from Asia to the USA is not nearly as easy to do or as cheap as he was hoping or expecting. Here is a copy of my email reply to my friend:
From the USA to the Philippines is very easy and very cheap. Shipping from anywhere in Asia is much more difficult and much more expensive, though.
The reason? Because boats going to the US from Asia are chock full of merchandise that is being imported by the USA. Imagine, how much stuff is imported from Asia to stores in the USA? It is a ton!
Think about this.. how much is exported from the USA to Asia? Almost nothing.
So, all of the boats going to the US from Asia are as full as they can load them. The boats coming back to Asia? Pretty much empty. So, if they can pick up things like Balikbayan Boxes to put on the ships, that gives them a little income to cover the cost of the trip back home. That is why it is cheap to ship from Asia to USA.
You can ship to the USA, but you will need to pay for a full, or at least a partial container (20′ or 40′). Your few balikbayan boxes will not come even close to filling the amount of space that would interest a company, though.
You could take them with you as baggage on the plane, but it will be expensive excess cargo.
I hope this explains why you have encountered a situation that was so unexpected.
So, if you move here and think there is a good chance you will be returning, think hard about what you want to ship here! It might not be easy to ship the stuff back, and if you do find a way to do it, it will probably be very expensive.
Good luck to you, my friend!