Country changes in address formats


by Merry Law

With each new edition of the Guide to Worldwide Postal-Code and Address Formats, I find a few countries who have established postal codes and there are some again with this edition. In the last two years, there have also been some changes in their addressing formats, particularly in the postal code and province name or abbreviation position. Some countries have made a variety of changes from establishing street delivery to minor adjustments in the address format. The number of minor adjustments has been unusually large and some of the changes are reversals of earlier changes or a return to an earlier format. Before we look at the country-by-country changes, we might want to consider why there are continuing changes and what this means for the future.

I believe there are two major reasons for the continuing number of changes to address formats. First, within countries with address systems (and that is most countries), the major components of the address are well known from traditional usage but the minor points may be subject to individual preference. Until addresses are standardized within a country, one person may give different information than another. The postal personnel who provide information on addressing are influenced by this. Second, the Universal Postal Union (UPU) continues to encourage the establishment of postal codes and the development of modern address systems.

Cameroon, El Salvador, Ireland, Dominica, Eritrea, Macau and Peru are in some stage of establishing a postal code. Cote d'Ivoire recently introduced street or building delivery of mail. began introducing delivery to buildings in 2005 and has extended it to all areas. With the UPU's recently launched initiative "An Address for Everyone", more countries are likely to introduced new addressing initiatives.

As countries test out these new elements, some find that the plan does not meet their needs. For example, Mauritius has discontinued use of its trial postal code in Curepipe. A national project on the creation and implementation of a postal code and addressing system is currently underway and is expected to be completed by mid 2013. According to a representative of Mauritius Post, "The new postal code system would take into account the wider needs of Mauritius and not just the processing needs of Mauritius Post Ltd."

Many countries hand sort all mail, domestic and international. Even in countries with automated mail sorting, international mail is often hand sorted because it is addressed in a "foreign" way. For example, South Korea hand sorts most incoming international mail because it is not addressed in Korean characters.

While it is unclear if the more minor changes discussed below will affect delivery, adhering to the format indicated by the postal authorizes certainly increases the chances of delivery. The importance of postal-code placement in hand sorting is arguable. On a practical level, the closer an address's layout is to the expected one, the more likely it will be sent on to its destination correctly.

There will be continuing attempts to introduce or refine postal codes or to fine tune provinces or province abbreviations for local postal needs. A few countries have begun ambitious projects to names streets and number buildings to create addresses for each location. All of these endeavors require the cooperation, or at least acquiescence, of the government. Some re-definition and change will occur, as systems are adapted to the practical realities of mail delivery. It is likely that more countries will participate in these efforts as the UPU initiative "An Address for Everyone" gains momentum. Expect the changes to continue.

What has changed?


Merry Law, president of WorldVu LLC, oversees their publications and international marketing programs. Merry is editor of the Guide to Worldwide Postal-Code and Address Formats. She can be contacted directly at +1 410-422-5223 or

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