Getting mail sent can be a particular problem for some but there is an easy way around this covering most of Europe and which is commonly called Poste Restante. Quite simply your mail is sent to a post office and held there for you until you collect. It’s normally kept about a month and is mostly free although some places such as Portugal charge a small ‘tax’ for the service. Some small post offices in the UK refuse to do it as they get no money from it, but all Crown post offices offer the service. You must take ID when you collect, preferably a drivers licence and passport.
It’s much preferred in the UK to check with the post office you are planning to use first and ensure they would agree. Many smaller places have not even heard of it, some simply refuse to do it, and some want to charge you which is wrong as there is no charge in the UK. I find the majority even if they had not heard of it before are fine if you pop in and let them know who you are and what you’re likely to have sent.
There is a protocol for addressing and collecting items and you must ensure the following protocol is adhered to:
- There must be a return or senders address
- Addressing must follow this pattern:
Post Office name
Post office Address
City and post code
- You must check with the post office first and ‘register’
- It is not to be used as a permanent address, it’s for use when you are visiting a place and need to collect mail once or twice
- Mail is only held up to 28 days
- You must provide preferably 2 forms of ID to pick mail up, 1 being photo ID, and sign a receipt
If you are not in the UK you should check each country you visit as they all have slight differences in their protocols. Portugal for instance requires mail addressed in this format:
Name of recipient
Posta Restante Loja (then name of the post office)
Address of Post Office
Postcode and place
They will also only keep mail until the first day of the following month when it was sent and Portugal is one of the few that charge a small ‘tax’ for this service. They will accept an EU driving licence as sufficient ID although I’ve found even in the same country many post offices ask for different things so it’s best to take a passport too.
In Spain it is not called Poste Restante or any variant of that it is called Lista de Correos and the address must reflect that. In the USA it is called General Delivery, and in most countries you will find that post is only accepted if it is sent by the national postal delivery service and not a third party courier. Having said that some accept post from firms such as UPS but only with the appropriate sticker attached by the sender.
Poste Restante works in almost every country in the world but where you can’t find it, or where the rules don’t fit your circumstance, I’ve found that any campsite will happily receive mail for you as long as you are booked on the site for at least 1 night. I found this helpful when I lost my wallet in Venice and I had to get a new driving licence, debit cards etc sent and then packaged up and sent registered courier to Italy. I had approached the campsite and they held the mail for a couple of days when it arrived so I booked on for that night to pick it up.
There is a post office in Venice itself by the new bridge Ponte della Costituzione (which is often called Ponte di Calatrava a Venezia) but I did want to try the campsite method and I’ve done that many times now.