How Long Does Shipping From China Take? Find The Fastest Option Here!

How long does shipping from China take?

In this article, we compare:

  • Different freight forwarders and China shipping methods
  • How cargo weight and budget can impact shipping time
  • Shipping procedures to the US
  • Special circumstances that need to be considered when calculating lead time for orders

Read on to discover the best and fastest shipping option according to your needs here!

Different Freight Forwarders and China Shipping Methods

Different Freight Forwarders and China Shipping Methods

A freight forwarder arranges shipments on behalf of companies and clients in exchange for service fees. 

Usually, freight forwarding companies offer a wide range of international logistics services such as customs clearance, warehousing, trucking, documents preparation, cargo insurance, consolidation of cargo, etc.

However, freight forwarders are not the actual movers of cargos.

Instead, they negotiate the lowest price of cargo transportation routes with specific shipping companies, acting as a middleman between cargo carriers and shippers. 

Ultimately, the goal for importers is to choose a freight forwarder that provides the best value for money, after taking into consideration factors like shipping time, reliability, and rates.

Let’s explore the three common ways to ship cargo from China:

China Courier

How long does shipping from China take via Fedex Express

Courier services are by far the fastest but probably the most expensive way to ship cargo internationally. 

Due to the high volume of international trading activities between China and the rest of the world, almost all international courier companies have established their regional offices in China. 

Let’s look at some of the bigger names in the field that operates in China:

  1. Fedex, the world leading courier service from the US
  2. UPS, the oldest courier service established in the US
  3. DHL, the largest courier company founded in Germany
  4. TNT, acquired by Fedex but still operates on its own
  5. China Post, state owned courier service that ships globally, covering EMS
  6. Hong Kong Post, Hong Kong government owned courier service
  7. SF Express, Shenzhen based courier services that serves extensively in China

With so many options to choose from, it is quite easy to ship from China with courier services, but, how long does shipping from China take with courier services?

It really depends on the final destination but it normally takes from 3 to 7 days to ship worldwide from China with courier companies, directly to your door.

Learn even more about shipping from China in our China sourcing guide here!

China Air Freight

How long does shipping from China take via air courier

Speed and a reasonable cost are some of the main advantages of shipping by air.

In general, air freight from China takes between 7 and 14 business days (depending upon where they’re shipped to). Sometimes, the transit time can be comparable to a courier of just 3-5 days. This is significantly lower than that of ocean freight. 

 In today’s world, the speed at which products arrive matters even more than before.

However, unlike courier, air freight means the transportation of cargoes is from airport to airport.

You or your shipping agent are required to apply for customs clearance and local transportation to your destination or warehouse yourselves.

For this reason, it’s strongly advised that you plan ahead before using air freight services. 

One more reminder is that due to the increased demand for international cargo airlines, the rates are going up a lot so be sure to work within your budget when calculating the total cost of actually buying and shipping from China.

China Sea Freight

How long does shipping from China take via sea freight

Shipping by containers, or simply sea freight, is the most commonly used method of shipping, and probably the most affordable one

There are mainly two types of shipping arrangements:

  1. Full Container Load (FCL) means your goods fill an empty container, usually one that’s 20 feet or 40 feet long. This is particularly suitable for importers with large volumes as the average shipping cost per item would be the lowest among all options.
  2. Less than a container load (LCL), means your goods do not fill an entire container and therefore are shipped alongside other shippers’ boxes or pallets. Your goods must be consolidated at their origin port and then deconsolidated at their final destination.

In general, it takes a few days longer to ship LCL than FCL because more processing time is needed. 

Not from the US? Speak to us to learn about shipping times to your country today!

How Long Does it Take To Ship From China To The USA?

Let’s look at the average times here via each shipping method:

  1. Sea Freight (FCL) Around 40 days (Port to Port) Around 45 days (Door to Door)
  2. Sea Freight (LCL) Around 40 days (Door to Door) Around 50 days (Door to Door)
  3. Air Freight: 3-5 days (Port to Port) 4-11 days (Door to Door)
  4. Courier/ Express: 2-5 days ( Door to Door)
Port of Long Beach

However, as of November 2021, significant shipping delays due to the influence of the coronavirus are common.

For example, Long Beach Port is so congested that there are many containers yet to be cleared due to lack of space and manpower.

Always allow more time for your cargo to arrive due to increased logistics risks and uncertainty.

Custom Clearance Procedures in China and Other Countries

Customs in China

Customs clearance is a necessary step before goods can be transported and exported internationally.

China customs restricts certain product categories from being exported so it is important to know beforehand what you are importing is permitted to be shipped out of China.

After that, the following documents must be prepared and submitted to China customs:

  • Pro Forma Invoice
  • Custom Packing List
  • Country of Origin Certificate
  • Customs Invoice
  • Shipping Bill
  • Bill of Lading
  • Some other documents depending on situation

To make things easier and more efficient, the freight forwarder or customs broker is usually able to help complete these procedures and importers are required to pay the corresponding fees.

The next thing to take note of is the customs clearance in your home country. These documents are usually requested by most customs across different nations:

  • Bill of Entry
  • Commercial invoice
  • Bill of Lading or Airway Bill
  • Import License
  • Insurance Certificate
  • Letter of Credit

If you are not working with any freight forwarders or customs brokers, you would need to pay the import taxes or duties yourself and clear goods from customs on-site.

This might prove to be difficult for some importers if they live remotely from the port of destination.

New to importing from China? Read this informative e-book to learn everything about importing from China from scratch!

Special Circumstances That Affect Lead Times

It is no secret that COVID-19’s impact is affecting the proper functioning of global logistics.

Shipping delays are becoming a “norm” for most importers. However, there are several other factors that will also affect shipping lead times:

  1. Bad weather
  2. Unexpected events like the Suez Canal Blockage in 2021
  3. Demand and supply of airline routes
  4. Holidays (production is much slower before and after Chinese New Year)
  5. Types of cargo being shipped
  6. Service levels of different freight forwarders

In short, it really comes down to a wide range of relevant factors to determine an estimated lead time before shipping. 

Consult experienced sourcing agents if you would like to plan ahead for your shipping schedule.

Anakin Tam

Anakin Tam

Our China Sourcing Blog writer and head of marketing & sales shares weekly updates to help importers/e-commerce sellers avoid costly pitfalls and find the best products when starting their sourcing journey in China.

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