Most countries assign a mailing or postal code to areas within their cities as a means of sorting and delivering mail. The United States calls them ZIP codes. Other countries, such as Canada and Great Britain, call them postal codes. International mail uses country codes to designate the countries themselves. If you are sending something through international mail, you'll need both codes to constitute a complete address and ensure that your package reaches its intended recipient.
Finding Postal and ZIP Codes: United States
To send mail from outside the United States to a U.S. address, you need at least the street number and name, the ZIP code and the country code, which is US.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) used to publish a printed zip code list, but now posts the list on its website. Find a zip code by city or town by typing in the full mailing address, either residential or business, and pressing Enter. If you enter just the city and state, you may find that there is more than one ZIP code assigned to that municipality.
The postal service site also provides a reverse look-up function: If you know the ZIP code but don't know where it's assigned, enter the code and the system will return the city where it is active.
Finding Postal and ZIP Codes: Canada
Canada Post has a similar function on its site. Enter the address in the boxes provided and the system will return the postal code assigned to that address. A reverse look-up function lets you enter the postal code for a display of multiple addresses to which that code is assigned.
Finding Postal and ZIP Codes: Great Britain
Great Britain's Royal Mail website allows you to start your search with either an address or a postal code using the same entry box. Entered addresses provide postal codes and entered postal codes yield multiple choices of address. The Royal Mail site allows you to change the language to Welsh for searching addresses with Welsh variants. The site limits searches in any language to 50 a day.
Sources of Other International Postal Codes
The Universal Postal Union website lists postal codes for its 191 member countries. At the UPU home page, click on a country and you're taken to an information box with a link to the official postal entity for that country and a link to its search function.
For example, if you click on Australia, you will go to the Australia Post website, where you enter the name of a suburb, city or town to find its postal code or enter the postal code for a reverse look-up. Clicking on United States takes you to the United States Postal Service search function, and clicking on Great Britain takes you to the Royal Mail's search function.
Geonames.org provides a look-up function for 63 countries. Click on the country name to see a map of the country, usually sectioned off into states or provinces. On any country's page, enter either a postal code or a city. A city search returns a range of postal codes assigned to that city. Click on any of the postal codes and you'll see a satellite view of the area with corresponding geographic labels. You may switch to map view and/or turn off the labels.
Understanding Country Codes
The International Standards Organization (ISO) assigns the official two-letter code that identifies each country for international mail. The ISO's online browsing platform provides the code for every country with an assigned code. For reference purposes the site also lists codes that the ISO hasn't assigned.
Countrycode.org provides both the country code for international telephone calling and the ISO country code for international mail.
- USPS: Look Up a Zip Code
- Canada Post: Find a Postal Code
- Canada Post: Find an Address
- Royal Mail: Postcode Finder
- Universal Postal Union: List of Sites by Country
- Country Code: Country Codes
- International Standards Organization: Country Codes - ISO 3166
- The Free Dictionary: Postal Code
- Postal Codes: Hong Kong Postal Codes
- Geonames: Postal Codes
- CountryCode.org: Country Codes
- GeoNames.org: GeoNames
An attorney for more than 18 years, Jennifer Williams has served the Florida Judiciary as supervising attorney for research and drafting, and as appointed special master. Williams has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Jacksonville University, law degree from NSU's Shepard-Broad Law Center and certificates in environmental law and Native American rights from Tulsa University Law.