EMS Vs. DHL: Meaning & 7 Key Differences That Can Influence Decision Making

EMS (Express Mail Service) and DHL are renowned companies when it comes to international shipping. Both couriers offer unique service options, so it can be tricky to say one is better.  

For example, EMS stands tall in terms of cost-effectiveness and custom clearance. DHL, on the other hand, offers better professionalism and faster delivery. 

If you want the best international shipping experience for your eCommerce, you need proper research and find common ground. This will help with knowing which courier is most suitable for a destination. 

Here is a quick rundown on how both global courier companies compare in terms of basic features like pricing, coverage, delivery speed, and insurance policies. 


DHL is an international courier specializing in global (cross-border) shipping in over 220 countries. Major shipping services offered by this company include: 

  • DHL Parcel – the regular (less expensive) option, especially for shipping pellets within Europe.
  • DHL Express – offers faster delivery (within a day or two) than DHL Parcel for an extra fee. 
  • DHL Same Day & Special Services – offers door-to-door delivery for time-bound or business-critical shipments. 


EMS is an international postal service provider controlled by members of the Swiss-based Universal Postal Union (UPU). It services over 180 countries — common ones include Saudi Arabia, Japan, and Singapore. 

Like USPS, EMS offers cheaper mail deliveries with less reliability and speed. Their services include: 

  • Standard Shipping – regular shipping option with size restrictions and up to 3 to 7 business days delivery. 
  • 2-Day Shipping – Up to 2 to 3 business days for deliveries anchored by UPS. 
  • Overnight Shipping – this mode of delivery is via UPS and should be completed within a day or two. 
  • Canadian Post Via USPS – offers shipping services to Canada’s ten provinces via USPS (2 to 4 weeks turnaround).
  • Military APO/FPO Addresses – a service for the U.S. Military addresses with delivery within 2 to 4 weeks. 

Differences between EMS and DHL 


While both EMS and DHL are international companies, their unique qualities differ. Here is a quick rundown of some of the major differences: 

1. Shipping and delivery cost 

EMS offers cheaper shipping and delivery than DHL. This is because it mostly offers door-to-door and postal service delivery, which may result in slower delivery. 

2. Delivery speed 

DHL is usually faster than EMS. However,  the desired route on the shipping option can also affect how quickly a delivery is completed. 

For context, most DHL shipments only require 1 to 3 working days to be delivered. This can extend to up to 7 working days with EMS, depending on the performance of the local post office. 

3. Insurance option

Unlike DHL, EMS does not offer fixed insurance for shipments. This means insurance will vary, depending on the country. DHL includes insurance (up to $100) on each shipment and has a return policy. You can also recall a shipment before its delivery. 

4. Customs clearance 

When it comes to paying taxes and customs duties, DHL is stricter. This is because DHL packages are seen as purely commercial shipments. On the other hand, customs clearance for EMS does not require paying too many duties. 

5. Weight and dimension restrictions 

With EMS Express, you can only ship packages with a maximum weight of 66 pounds. DHL can handle more weight. It can take up to 154 pounds. 

6. Coverage

Regarding reach, EMS is only available in about 180 countries and provides only postal services. DHL, on the other hand, is available in nearly 220 countries. It is delivered by land, air, and sea freight. 

7. Tracking and customer support

It is easier to track a shipment on DHL compared to EMS. DHL also boasts better and more responsive customer service. 


Is EMS shipping fast?

EMS is not fast compared to other standard courier services, which is understandable. Delivery via EMS may take up to 14 to 21 business days because it is an economy shipping service. 

Is EMS shipping free?

Free shipping automatically applies to orders worth $99 and above. This excludes taxes, the redemption of rewards, and shipping surcharges.

Does EMS ship to your door?

Of course, EMS ships door-to-door for most routes, especially for lightweight packages. On the other hand, heavy packages may not be delivered to a personal address.

What is the cheapest international shipping carrier?

USPS offers the most affordable international shipping services. However, it may not be the fastest or boast the broadest coverage.

Conclusion: Which is better?

There are numerous factors to consider when deciding between EMS and DHL. EMS should be your go-to option if you are on a shoestring budget and do not mind waiting a week before delivery. 

Conversely, if you prefer faster delivery (with tracking), responsive customer service, and do not mind the fee, DHL can help. Overall, DHL offers more in terms of reliability because it provides insurance. 

I hope you found this guide helpful. If you did, please see my guide on seven reasons why DHL is reliable

Thanks for reading.