So, for a past few weeks I have been writing postcards and letters to friends and newly found penfriends. I have to say, it feels so wonderful! So far, I have written 27 inland letters and 7 Airmails…and as I write this blog, I’m getting more requests from friends, family and unknown ‘friends’ for letters!
Many enthusiasts wanted to know the process of posting a letter. How or where to get postcards? How to write letters? How to send them? What are the charges and blah blah…So I thought I should write the basics of posting postcards or letters.
Before I give you the Snail Mail 101, I would like to start with the questions that I’ve been asked the most, “Why am I doing this?”
Well, I don’t have an agenda for doing this. It was a whim that I decided to go with.
But if you are interested in the specifics, it all started when my mom handed me a postcard. Tearing my eyes away from my phone, I stared, with amusement, at what was the 1st ever postcard addressed to me! I was exhilarated (yes, in spite of being in my late 20s, such small things do get me excited to no limit).
I kept reading and re-reading the little card that prompted many discussions with my family about the “good old days”. My parents and grandparents brought out their old letters and were so happy to read the old memories written in them. That got me thinking, and I decided to write letters and see how this all goes. As I said, just a whim!
‘Am I getting paid to do this?’
NO, absolutely not! I don’t know why some of you would even think that?! I mean…does everything have to be about making money? You guys just surprise me…
‘Isn’t calling a better way to get news across?’
Yes, it is, obviously. Just because I’m writing letters doesn’t mean that I’ve given up my smart phone and I’m off to live on Mars! This letter writing is for fun and I don’t rely on these letters to bring you the news of me conquering the world!
I’m being very practical in my approach and if it sounds ridiculous to you, please ignore. Thank you.
Now to the basics of posting:
‘How to write a letter?’
Well, we have had enough practice of writing letters in school. So, stick to that. These are mostly informal letters so you don’t have to worry about the greetings and salutations. But if you’re writing to a pen pal for the first time, do not get over-friendly and share a little too much. Keep it light and casual and tell them a few things about yourself and ask them a few impersonal questions.
Get your addresses right. I know we used to fuss about them just to get marks in school, but they really do matter! Write them properly with correct ZIP/PIN codes.
‘Where to get postcards?’
You can get one postcard (the plain yellow one) for just INR 0.50 (50 paise) at any post office in India.
If you want to send picture postcards then the GPO (General Post Office) nearest to you may have them. The best way to collect picture postcards is on your travels!
I always do buy lots of picture postcards from all the cities/countries that I visit. Up till now they just served as souvenirs, but I’m actually using them and sending them across now.
But do keep in mind, postcards are not enclosed in an envelope and can be read by anyone. So if you want to write anything personal go for inland letters (blue self-enclosing envelopes) or letters (normal ones that you write on paper and then put in envelopes).
‘What are the charges?’
The charges depend on what you are sending and how big or heavy it is. But generally
- A postcard (yellow) costs: INR 0.50 (50 paise)
- Picture Postcard costs: INR 6
- Letter costs: INR 5
You pay the fees and stamps equivalent to the charges are pasted on your envelope. The yellow postcard comes with a printed stamp.
NOTE: the above prices are for sending postcards/letters within India.
You can send anything (greeting cards/drawings/sketches/books/etc.) as long as it’s legal and not banned in India. The charges differ according to the weight and size of the parcel. But since we are talking about sending letters, the charges should remain the same.
‘What’s the process for sending letters out of India?’
This can get a bit confusing. There are two ways of sending post across countries.
- Surface mail
The terms are pretty self-explanatory, but if you are unclear: surface mail is sent across by land and seas, while airmail is of course, sent across by air, planes!
So obviously, airmail reaches faster. No surprise there.
Now, surface mail is real cheap and you can send mail roughly at the same rates as your normal inland post. Airmail is slightly costlier and you may have to shell out something between INR 25 to 35 per letter. Again the costing depends on your country, the country of the addressee, weight and size of the letter and other things.
As far your letter/envelopes and other things are concerned, not much changes there. You can get the regular envelopes to send your letters or buy the special (with red and blue border and “Par Avion” and “By Airmail” written on it).
If you don’t have such envelopes, no need to worry. You can write “AIRMAIL” somewhere on top of the envelope but again no problem even if you forget it. If you have paid the Airmail charges, it will go by air!
‘Is there a way to track by letters?’
Yes, there is. While sending, you can request to register your post. Once registered it becomes a priority/urgent post and reaches the destination in almost half the regular time. The registration charges are INR 70 or 80 per post. You get a receipt and a tracking ID/ Barcode with it.
Both your inland and out of country posts can be registered at the same rates. That is INR 70/80 + the regular stamp charges. In simple words, your registered post can cost you something around INR 100.
‘How long does it take?’
Well, this really depends. And I can’t give you a sure shot answer. But your inland letters should reach anytime between 7 to 14 working days and your airmails will take a good 1 or 2 months to reach.
Yeah…I know, in this world of WhatsApp and long distance video calls, this really seems to be a “snail” mail.
But you know what, now I can fully appreciate all those “chithi ayi hai”, “likhe jo khat tujhe”, “sandese aate hai”, “chitthi na koi Sandesh” etc songs. I kind of understand what it must be like to wait for a reply!
GOSH….n to think of my reactions when my messages go un-replied for 0.0005 seconds…ufff!
I think I have answered all the basics. But still if you have any doubts, hit me up. I’ll try to answer it to my best knowledge.
If you want a letter, send me your postal address on firstname.lastname@example.org and you’ll get a letter from me!
Believe me, it’s fun… 🙂
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