The A to Z of Ways to Send Letters and Parcels in the UK

Our mail delivery system has come a long way during the course of the last century. It used to be the case that a simple letter or postcard would take several days to arrive at the recipient’s doorstep. There would be a single charge for the service, and in the UK, the only choice of service provider was The Royal Mail.

There are now several ways to send your parcels and letters – and which you choose will often depend on what you’re sending, how quickly it needs to arrive at its final destination and the sender’s budget.


Airmail consists of letters, parcels and postcards that are sent to their final destination by plane.

Certified Mail

Certified mail is the name given to a letter or package that has a specific record of its sending and receipt. In the UK, it is usually referred to as ‘Recorded Delivery’.


Cash on delivery (COD) is a system of posting parcels and letters that are to be paid for by the recipient at the point of delivery.


An express delivery involves the payment of a fee in exchange for a priority delivery service that aims to get a letter or parcel to its final destination more quickly than the standard postal service.

First Class

First Class is the predominant system in the UK used for sending envelopes and postcards. It aims to get mail sent within the British Isles to its final destination within two working days.


Freepost is a system of mail delivery in Britain that allows businesses to prepay postage on behalf of their customers. This is used in situations where a business directly benefits from the speedy posting of a document or product.

The Mail

The Mail is the generic term used for the system of letter and parcel delivery in most English-speaking countries.

The Postal Service

The Postal Service is the term used to describe the USA’s system of letter delivery. Its official title is The United States Postal Service (USPS).

Poste Restante

Poste Restante is an arrangement where you can have your letters and parcels redirected elsewhere in order to collect them whilst travelling.

Post Paid

Similar to ‘freepost’, post paid is a system of mail delivery that means the sender does not have to bear the cost of posting. The fee has already been paid by a business or the ultimate recipient of the item.

Recorded Delivery

Recorded Delivery is a system used by the Royal Mail which allows a sender to obtain proof of both sending and receipt of a letter or parcel. There is an extra charge for this service, which is in addition to the standard postal charge.

Registered Post

Registered Post allows people to send items which are covered by insurance. This is necessary for items that have a significant cash value.

Reply Paid

A reply paid envelope is used when the sender of a letter wants to pay for the recipient’s reply. This may come in handy if a quick response is required.

Second Class

Second Class is the second tier of postal service offered by The Royal Mail. Although cheaper than First Class, letters and parcels will usually take longer to arrive at their destination using this option.

Special Delivery

Special Delivery is a service offered by The Royal Mail that gives priority to parcels and letters over those sent by First Class post. Items sent by Special Delivery are usually guaranteed to arrive at their destination on the next working day.

There has never been such a huge choice when it comes to sending a parcel or letter. Individuals and businesses can now select the method that represents the most cost-effective way of getting an item to its final destination.

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