Daniel here from the Shopify Guru team :-)
Honestly, our merchants use all of the options you presented for international shipping. UPS and FedEx are particularily popular as you can get shipping quotes from their websites. So if you have an average weight to go by for your products, you can choose differnet destination countries in your quotes to get an average idea of what shipping will cost internationally.
You're right, shipping internationally is typically very expensive. Odds are that the quotes you are seeing are correct, even if they seem high.
I would like to introduce Yakit, a top tier VC funded startup, that aims to remove all hassles of international shipping. We have a network of brand name logistics partners we work with all over the world and calculate the cheapest possible shipping charges for you to ship. Furthermore, we give you exact duties and taxes, no estimations or approximations.
And we bring all this through our Shopify app - https://apps.shopify.com/yakit. This app integrates with your shopping cart and displays the total charge (shipping, duties and taxes included) in your shipping options. We are also close to releasing a rule based setup where you can control the box size depending on the composition of the order (number of items, presence of certain large items).
Yes, we do require real time carrier shipping, but you can get it added to the basic or professional plans for an extra $20/month by contacting Shopify support. We guarantee that the shipping costs and customer satisfaction will more than make up for the 20 bucks.
Give us a try for free. We have a July promotion where your first five shipments - shipping, duties and taxes, are on us. Feel free to reach out to me or email@example.com for any questions.
As you have mentioned, shipping internationally is typically very expensive. Most of the time USPS stands out among the rest. USPS will almost be the cheapest option unless your package is heavy or there are any special shipments that USPS can't ship. But the problem is USPS tracking is slow to update or it doesn't provide tracking at all.
As Daniel has mentioned, you can easily get the approximate rate of international shipping with FedEx or UPS from their website. FedEx would be a good option since they are fast and provide excellent tracking info. Also, since you are shipping international, you need to take care of the customs duties as well, which is handled well in FedEx.
To handle FedEx in Shopify, you will have to use your own account. Also, you have to enable the Shopify carrier calculated rates to show the live rates at checkout. But, if you want to handle the complete FedEx shipping, you will have to use an app like FedEx Rates, Labels and Tracking app, since Shopify doesn't directly handle FedEx shipping, unlike USPS.
There is a huge population within Shopify who use the Postal service for International shipments as they have the cheapest rates. With Flat rates boxes(Small, medium) or First class service, the costs further go down. So yes, you can think of using these services as well. Regarding calculation of International Shipping costs before actually shipping items (since you are not using real time shipping option), you can use the Multi Carrier Shipping label app for it. You will get the costs shown in the app after which you can take a decision to go ahead with that service. Attached screenshot :