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There is an overwhelming number of Filipinos around the world. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority in 2019, there is a whopping number of 2.2 million Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) abroad already! This figure can increase up to 10.2 million if the number of permanent migrants is included. This overwhelming number of Filipinos overseas translates to over 7 million balikbayan boxes arriving in the country every year.
So what exactly are balikbayan boxes and why are they so popular among Filipinos overseas? This article has all the details about balikbayan boxes (BBB) and how to send them to the Philippines. We will cover everything from the items you can send to the unfortunate events that can happen. But before we dive into the specifics, here is background information on balikbayan boxes.
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- What is a Balikbayan Box?
- Rules for Sending a Balikbayan Box
- Documents Required
- What is Not Allowed in a Balikbayan Box?
- Shipping Options
- Best Companies for Sending Balikbayan Boxes
- How Much Does it Cost to Send a Balikbayan Box?
- Are There Things I Should be Wary of?
- Now, on to You
What is a Balikbayan Box?
When translated, the compound word “balik-bayan” means a return to the country. Balikbayan boxes came into fruition due to the large number of Filipinos working and living abroad who still want to keep in touch with their loved ones in the Philippines. To do that, they send boxes home from the country they are currently deployed in.
Family is extremely important in Filipino culture and Filipinos get to show this particular family-loving trait through sending balikbayan boxes.
Balikbayan boxes are kind of Pandora’s box, but a good one. These boxes are used by Filipinos overseas to send goods to their families, like clothes, toys, appliances, gadgets, and even non-perishable groceries!
Rules for Sending a Balikbayan Box
Anyone is free to send balikbayan boxes. However, only qualified Filipinos may avail of tax and duty-free privileges. According to the Bureau of Customs, three categories may qualify:
- Overseas Filipino Workers or OFWs;
- Filipinos who have temporary visas like Student Visa or Temporary Worker Visa;
- And Filipinos with dual citizenship who live abroad.
If you are (or know someone who is) in any of these three categories, then you have the ultimate freedom to send up to three tax-free balikbayan boxes per year to the Philippines! Your package/s can be received by anyone — family or friend — but they should be related to you to avail of the tax exemption.
However, if you do not qualify for any of the three, you can ask your Filipino partner or friends to send them on your behalf.
Here is a list of paperwork you need to prepare when sending a balikbayan box to the Philippines:
- A copy of their Philippine passport
- If they have dual citizenship, a copy of the Oath of Allegiance
- Information or Declaration sheet from the Bureau of Customs — this is very important, so make sure to download and fill it out! It will be required by your chosen cargo company
- Receipt/s of the valuable item/s inside the box
Now that you know who is eligible to send a balikbayan box to the country, you also need to know what you can and cannot send.
What is Not Allowed in a Balikbayan Box?
You can send anything as long as it is within bounds of the law. You need to remember these three classifications of items: hassle-free items, regulated import products, and restricted imports. The following information came from the Bureau of Customs, so you should keep it in mind for smooth shipping.
These are things that can be brought or sent to the Philippines without the need for a clearance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The following are for personal use only and must follow the allowed quantity set by the FDA:
- Childcare belongings must be no more than 5kg
- Toys cannot exceed 10kg
- Perfumes should be 5 pieces or less
- Lipsticks have a maximum of 10 pieces
- Shampoo, lotion, and bar soaps must not exceed 2kg each
- Assorted cosmetics must be 1kg or less
- Hazardous household products must be 5kg in total
- Vitamins and supplements should be 500g or less in total
- Processed food for a maximum of 10kg
- Liquor and wine cannot be more than 2 bottles that are not more than 1.5L each
Regulated Import Products
Here are the products that you can put in your balikbayan box and send to the Philippines. However, they could be subject to Customs inspection because they are regulated, as follows:
- Cosmetics – Regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
- Jewelry – Regulated by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR)
- Lamps and similar products – Regulated by the Bureau of Philippine Standards (BPS)
- Optical disk writers/drives, hard disk drives, DVD/CD recorder, duplicators – Regulated by the Optical Media Board (OMB)
- Lighters for cigars and cigarettes – Regulated by the Bureau of Philippine Standards (BPS)
These are things that you should not include in your balikbayan boxes. The Bureau of Customs is extremely strict when it comes to illegal materials that come in balikbayan boxes such as:
- Drugs and narcotics like marijuana, opium, heroin, coca leaves, and more
- Gunpowder, dynamite, firearms, explosives, ammunition, and related things as well as parts thereof
- Gambling devices and machines used for the distribution of money, cigars, cigarettes, and related products
- Roulette wheels, gambling outfits, marked cards, and loaded dice
- Lottery and sweepstakes tickets
- Opium pipes and their parts regardless of material
- Everything that is restricted from being imported
Being aware of what you can and cannot send helps you avoid sending restricted goods that can result in heavy fines and even criminal charges.
What are the Other Conditions?
Back in 2017, the Bureau of Customs implemented a new policy made to particularly address the illegal importation of goods in the country. This new policy requires the declaration of brand new, valuable items included in the box, complete with a receipt. Less valuable things like used items and groceries do not need receipts but should also be included in the declaration form.
You do not have to worry about the new policy because it does not affect your ability to send a BBB to the Philippines. However, you should take note of the total worth of the items included in your balikbayan box.
If the content of your box is worth ₱10,000 and below, then it will be classified as De Minimis Importation — meaning, it is exempted from duty and importation tax. If it does exceed the amount, then you may have to pay for duty and import tax.
In addition to that, your balikbayan box should not be worth more than ₱150,000 ($3,000 or €2,500) in value. That is the maximum amount your box should be worth or else it will not be delivered or worse, confiscated.
Your balikbayan box can be shipped through sea or air cargo. If you are going to choose sea cargo, expect at least a month or two for your package to arrive. You should also expect that the estimated time of arrival can be longer if the shipping address is far from the country’s capital city Manila.
Since you are now informed about what you can put inside your balikbayan box, you can now explore the different shipping options available to you.
Best Companies for Sending Balikbayan Boxes
Finding a shipping company for your balikbayan box is easy if you know where to look. If there are Asian grocery stores in your area, it is great to check them out for flyers or signs from trustworthy shipping companies that specialize in sending balikbayan boxes. Another easy way is looking up shipping companies on the internet.
Here are companies that you can trust to deliver your balikbayan boxes to the Philippines. Do take note that they usually require a minimum deposit once you order a balikbayan box. There is also no maximum weight limit, but it is best to keep your BBBs under 200kg if it is a mini box. Do not overload your balikbayan box to prevent damage in transit.
Due to the influx of OFWs in the UK, there are now more companies that ship balikbayan boxes from the UK to the Philippines. Here are some of the most recommended companies:
- LBC Express – They are the most popular shipping company to the Philippines. LBC has a door-to-door balikbayan box delivery and automatic insurance coverage for every shipment.
- Highlight Express International Ltd. – Aside from having a door-to-door delivery service, they also offer twin promos. You can also choose from 6 balikbayan box sizes: bulilit, medium, large, jumbo, mega jumbo, and super jumbo.
- Pooten Forwarding – They also do door-to-door deliveries. The typical estimated time of arrival of balikbayan boxes to Luzon is 8 weeks. If the destination is in Visayas or Mindanao, expect that it can take up to 10 weeks or more.
- DHL Global Forwarding – They have several locations in the UK. Though priced higher than others, you can expect your package to be delivered in 1 to 7 days. They also offer door-to-door delivery.
The United States of America
You have a lot of options in the USA! These shipping companies are guaranteed to deliver your package safely to the Philippines:
- LBC Express – They are a cheaper option compared to UPS and FedEx. Like in the UK branch, they also do door-to-door delivery of balikbayan boxes. A customer review stated that LBC Express has guaranteed speedy delivery — her LBC Mini balikbayan box took less than 10 days to reach Manila via airmail.
- Forex Cargo – With 30 years of balikbayan box service, Forex Cargo is one of the most trusted shipping companies for BBBs and has door-to-door service. The Forex Balikbayan Box comes in six sizes: red box, non-commercial box, forex blue 150, forex blue 300, forex blue 450, and jumbo box.
- Alas Cargo – This is also a trusted shipping company for balikbayan boxes, but they do not deliver to some provinces in the Philippines. The prices stated on their website are only valid for BBBs sent from South California and Nevada.
- Umac Express Cargo – You can check customer reviews on their site, stating that they are trustworthy and deliver packages quickly. However, some customers are disappointed that you can only track your packages once they arrive in the Philippines.
- International Package Shipping – They deliver anywhere in the Philippines through their affiliate company Penanship. They also offer premium express rates that guarantee 4 days of package transit — from the loaded container to the delivery itself.
- FedEx – One of the most known couriers in the world, FedEx provides stellar service in delivering balikbayan boxes with door-to-door service. Packages that weigh less than 68kg are eligible for early day or next business day delivery. On the other hand, packages that weigh more than 68kg can be delivered in 1 to 3 business days.
Sending a balikbayan box from Canada to the Philippines is now easier than ever. Some of the shipping companies that ship from the USA also have branches in Canada. Here are other couriers that you can trust to deliver your packages safely to the Philippines.
- LBC Mundial Cargo Corp – This is a well-known company when it comes to logistics. LBC has multiple branches scattered across Canada. You can easily locate them and have your balikbayan box delivered to the Philippines in no time.
- Air-ship International Inc. – With over 40 years of logistics experience, this company has become one of the leading couriers in bringing balikbayan boxes from Canada to the Philippines. They can ship via air, sea, and land, promising quick delivery of your package.
- Darna Cargo Express – If you are hoping for a guaranteed fast, hassle-free, and affordable balikbayan box shipping service, you can trust Darna Cargo Express. You need to set a schedule for when you want them to pick up your balikbayan box. Their rates range from CA$85 to CA$115.
- Manila Cargo Express – This shipping company ships balikbayan boxes weekly via sea cargo. They have two box sizes: the standard sea cargo box (18”x18”x29”) and smaller sea cargo box (14”x14”x21”). You can either avail their free pick-up service or drop off your package in any of their branches. For tracking and data accuracy, they have a reliable barcoding system.
- Triumph Express Service Canada Inc. – Founded in 1988, Triumph is a Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)-accredited logistics company. They offer sea and air shipping services. They are highly competitive in transportation and customs brokerage solutions.
- Reliable Cargo Express, Inc. – This logistics company focuses mainly on transporting balikbayan boxes from Canada to the Philippines. They have been in the business for over 30 years and are definitely one of the most trusted BBB couriers in the country. Their rates range from CA$80 to CA$115.
There are multiple couriers across Deutschland that you can trust to ship your balikbayan box to the Philippines. Most of them have straightforward company names and include:
- Malaya Balikbayan Box – They are accredited by the DTI of the Philippines. The company includes travel insurance with their selected cargo vessels traveling from Germany to Manila and Cebu. Their rates range from €75 to €110.
- Pinoy 24 Balikbayan Box Service – This courier offers a door-to-door service with rates ranging from €80 to €115. They have a transparent tracking system which can be easily seen on their website.
- RC Montervirgen Int. – The logistics company has been in the business for over 20 years and offers service throughout Germany despite being based in Luebeck. They offer a door-to-door service as well. If you are going to ship a BBB through them, you have to fill up a booking form for them to schedule the package pickup. Their rates range from €70 to €105.
- Bens Balikbayan Box Service – Although they particularly ship BBBs, the company also handles shipping of household goods, donations, building materials, and entire relocations to the Philippines. Their rates range from €74 to €120 for balikbayan boxes. They can be contacted via email, SMS, Whatsapp, or their Facebook page.
- Binger Balikbayan Box Service EK – This logistics company offers door-to-door service and has a transparent schedule of packages. Their rates range from €80 to €110. You can either contact them through phone or email to book a BBB pickup.
Just like in the USA and Canada, there are some shipping companies like LBC, DHL, and FedEx that offer balikbayan box delivery service. Here are other companies that you can trust to send a balikbayan box from Australia to the Philippines:
- Five Star Express – The company has been in business since 2004 and their rates range from AU$110 to AU$170. However, take note that they do not allow bulky boxes and do not have a door-to-door service. To receive your package in the Philippines, you can pick the box up from the shipping lines or the nearest bus terminal in your selected province.
- BM Express Australia – With more than 20 years of experience in the logistics business, the company ensures secure delivery of balikbayan boxes. They offer air and sea cargo as well as a door-to-door service. Their rates range from AU$105 to AU$140 and the estimated time of arrival ranges from 4 to 7 weeks, depending on the destination.
- Aussie Balikbayan Boxes – The first company to offer a balikbayan box service in Perth, they have been in the business for over 25 years. They provide an easy booking and tracking process. Their shipment schedule is transparent as well.
- Balikbayan Queensland – They offer land and sea cargo, with the estimated time of arrival ranging from 4 to 10 weeks, depending on the region of the destination. If you are going to ship your BBB with them, you first have to pick up the box from their store or have it delivered to you. Once you have filled it, you can contact one of their agents to pick it up. From then, you will have to wait until they ship it to the Philippines.
- Plus Cargo Global Forwarder – With 16 years of experience in logistics, the company promises fast, safe, and reliable delivery of balikbayan boxes. They offer sea and air cargo and their rates range from AU$80 to AU$160.
There are a lot of cargo companies scattered across Japan that can send your balikbayan box to the Philippines. Here are some you can choose from:
- Kabayan Cargo – Aside from shipping items and packages, they also offer things you can buy to include in your BBB. To ship a box with them, you have to fill up their pick-up form. Their rates range from JP¥1,570 to JP¥1,770.
- Global Services 21 – They offer a door-to-door service, with rates starting at JP¥10,000 for package pick ups along the Kanto area.
- Jolly-B Box Express Japan – Since 2001, they have been transporting balikbayan boxes via sea and air freight. To ship a box with them, you first have to fill up an online form. They will then give you an empty BBB and pick it up from your house once you have filled it.
- Philippine Express Cargo D2D Services – Established in 2018 by LBP Customs Brokerage, a logistics company with more than 20 years of experience in the industry. They are one of the most trustworthy cargo companies for your balikbayan box. Phil-Express ships via sea and air freight.
One of the countries known to have a large number of OFWs, it is no surprise that HK has a lot of cargo companies available for balikbayan box shipping. Here are 5 logistics companies you can choose from:
- Alin Cargo Express Co., Ltd. – This cargo company has 3 branches scattered across the Philippines. They offer a door-to-door service with rates ranging from HK$250 to HK$925. The estimated time of arrival of BBBs ranges from 2 to 4 weeks, depending on the destination.
- Quickbox International Co., Limited – Like other cargo companies, they also offer door to door delivery. Their rates range from HK$299 to HK$809.
- Focus Forwarders Ltd. – Founded in 1987, the company has been in the logistics industry for more than 30 years. They offer a door to door service with rates ranging from HK$157 to HK$1,747.
- FFC International Company Limited – With more than 30 years in service, they are one of the longest running shipping companies. They ship via sea and air freight and offer door to door delivery.
- Royal Cargo Combined Logistics (HK) Limited – They have over 40 years of experience in the logistics industry, so you can trust them to handle your package well. They ship BBBs through land, air, and sea freight. Check their website for more information regarding their rates and estimated time of arrival.
You now know what documents you should present, the things you can send, and your shipping options, but you are not all set to send your balikbayan boxes yet. Next, read up on the conditions and fees that shipping a balikbayan box entails.
How Much Does it Cost to Send a Balikbayan Box?
Upon checking the websites of the shipping companies listed above, balikbayan box shipping fees range from around ₱4,000 ($80) to ₱6,000 ($120). If you are planning to send a box, you should already allocate an adequate budget for the shipping fee.
Although not the fastest way to send things to the Philippines, BBBs are arguably the cheapest way to do so.
Take a look at this table of approximate prices of each box size and destination.
|Destination||Small BBB||Medium BBB||Large BBB||Jumbo BBB|
|Metro Manila||$35 to $60|
€60 to €70
|$60 to $75|
€80 to €90
|$50 to $108|
€90 to €100
|$85 to $118|
€125 to €135
|Luzon||$40 to $65|
€60 to €70
|$65 to $80|
€90 to €100
|$65 to $115|
€90 to €115
|$90 to $132|
€110 to €135
|Visayas||$40 to $65|
€45 to €70
|$65 to $85|
€110 to €115
|$70 to $125|
€110 to €120
|$90 to $132|
€140 to €150
|Mindanao||$40 to $75|
€50 to €75
|$70 to $95|
€120 to €125
|$90 to $135|
€120 to €130
|$105 to $135|
€150 to €160
The shipping rate is determined by the size of the box and the destination. The farther the destination is from Metro Manila, the more it will increase.
BBBs come in multiple sizes — small, medium, large, and jumbo — but the bigger boxes are the ones most used. Here are the most common dimensions of balikbayan boxes:
- Small – 17.5” x 9” x 16”
- Medium – 18” x 18” x 24”
- Large – 24” x 24” x 18”
- Jumbo – 25” x 23” x 17”
Some shipping companies have boxes larger than the jumbo size, so make sure to verify with your chosen courier.
You do not have to worry about the box’s weight — a 200-kg box will cost the same as 50kg. So even if your box weighs a pound or 50 times more than that, the price of the shipping stays the same. That is just one of the reasons why Filipinos love sending their love through balikbayan boxes!
You are pretty much all set to send your balikbayan box to the Philippines now! But you should also be knowledgeable about the possible unfortunate events that can happen to your box.
Are There Things I Should be Wary of?
Well, yes. Since you are not going to deliver the box yourself, you cannot guard it at all times. You can track its journey but you do not know how it is being handled and who is handling it. Here are some pitfalls that you should know in advance so you can prevent them from adversely affecting your shipment.
You can send balikbayan boxes whenever you want, but it may be more stressful during the Christmas season. This is a peak season for BBB sending due to seasonality. Shipping companies highly advise that you send your balikbayan box at least two months before Noche Buena (Dec 24).
To avoid the crowd, the first thing you have to do is to fill your balikbayan box in advance. Make sure that everything you want to send is in it and the paperwork has been completed.
Next, check with your chosen shipping company about the last shipment date that guarantees the box will arrive before December 24. With LBC Express, their cut-off dates are usually around the first or second week of October. If you are sending a box to Visayas or Mindanao areas, expect that the cut-off dates will be earlier than that.
To give you an idea of the balikbayan shipping cut-off dates, here are cut-off dates for 2021 from Forex Cargo.
|Destination||Virginia Warehouse||California Warehouse||Texas Warehouse|
|NCR||October 18||November 1||October 8|
|North Luzon||October 11||October 25||October 1|
|South Luzon||October 18||November 1||October 1|
|Visayas||October 4||October 18||September 24|
|Mindanao||October 4||October 18||September 17|
|Islands||September 27||October 11||September 10|
Loss of Goods or Items
The content of your package can get lost or stolen. If your box does not have extremely secure packaging, your items might fall out. On another hand, the people handling your box might steal an item, especially if it is of value. It is not that you cannot trust shipping companies, but you should keep this in mind when packing your boxes.
FedEx is a trustworthy courier when it comes to shipping valuable items. They also have insurance that can help cover in case your package is stolen or lost.
Fees at the Custom
This can be a real pain in the butt because of the astoundingly high amount. Custom fees can be as high as 150% of the original price of a valuable item or the box you are sending. To be exempted from duties and taxes, make sure your BBB doesn’t exceed the total value of ₱150,000 and the 3-times-per-calendar-year limit.
It is better that you don’t ship restricted imports to avoid hassle. Once they discover that you have restricted imports in your box, it will never be returned to you, so it will just be a waste of money.
Now, on to You
Balikbayan boxes are great, especially during the holidays! If you are planning to send one, remember the documents that you need to present, the goods that you can send, your trustworthy couriers, and the fees and conditions of a BBB.
BBBs are filled with various things throughout the year and typically sent during the Christmas season or any occasions important to you and your family.
Balikbayan boxes, small or large, enrich the gift-giving and family-loving culture of Filipinos. Make sure that when your loved ones open the box, they feel your love and care even from miles away.