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Royal Mail is the letters and packages delivery business. Post Office runs over 14,000 branches across the country. Some are stand alone, others are located within local supermarkets or news agencies. They offer a range of services beyond selling stamps - banking, currency exchange, lottery tickets etc. Parcelforce is the express parcel business.
The Royal Mail website has a wealth of information and it is worth checking before you send anything other than a local letter.
Ordinary letters are posted in red post boxes.
Postage stamps can be purchased at Post Office branches as well as most supermarkets and local shops, or from vending machines. They can also be printed from a home computer from the Royal Mail website.
Delivery times for letters within the UK is a matter of days. International delivery depends on the service used.
Parcels are delivered under a range of services so time frames vary - there are same day delivery options within the UK right up to 3 months for sea mail to Australia.
Letters within the UK are sent as regular or large letters using 1st or 2nd class stamps. 1st class stamps cost more but ensure quicker delivery. These stamps are printed 1st or 2nd, rather than with the actual cost (currently 39p and 30p for regular letters). Other stamps are available in a large range of denominations and are printed to show this value.
Letters sent overseas require an airmail sticker (or the equivalent written on the envelope). Parcels sent overseas may require a customs declaration - always check.
Philatelic products other than 1st or 2nd class stamps usually need to be purchased online or from a large Post Office branch.
Postcodes are a very important part of a UK address and narrow the delivery range to a handful of houses. Delivery without a valid postcode is difficult.
Royal Mail delivers 6 days a week. Most letters are received through slots in the front door of people's homes, rather than into an external mail box. This means they may be left stuck half-way through, often fall to the floor, or may be caught in a basket - bear this in mind when posting photographs etc. If any mail is too large to fit into the slot, the delivery person will attempt to deliver it to the resident by knocking or ringing the doorbell. If no one is home, a note is left to advise how to collect the undelivered mail.