Hey man, if you don’t know your sh*t, the customs will take advantage of you.
As a reviewer, I received a lot of packages, so I quickly learned how not to be taken advantage of. I once paid more on taxes and customs fees than the claimed value of the package.
I live in Serbia, and here everything above 50 euros of value is valid to be charged by the customs. This is how it usually looks when the package gets shipped by big companies like FedEx, UPS, or DHL:
10% customs fee
20% PDV (taxes)
40 euros forwarding agency
I personally believe that what you are calling “surprise fee” or “other things” is actually the forwarding agency fee. You have to understand that when a package gets shipped by UPS, DHL, FedEx, you must pay a forwarding agency to go through the customs clearance process. By law (at least in Serbia), you, as a legal person, cannot start the customs clearance process — a forwarding agency has the permit to do that. Otherwise (when shipped by local post), there is no forwarding agency required. That’s why I avoid DHL/UPS/FedEx at all costs. Not only is their service on the same level (speed) as the local post, but I actually found it to be slower and much more unpleasant. Not to mention that it comes with bonus fees
The “good” thing is that the forwarding agency charges a static fee, it is not based on the value. It will be 40 euros for a 50 euro package, and will be 40 euros for a 1000 euro package. Which means it is not exactly convenient when you are ordering small value stuff.
Also, if you are unlucky, the customs will estimate the shipping and either charge you that estimated amount, or will charge you taxes on their estimation of the shipping. This is what happened to me when I paid more for the fees than the stated value of the package… and they didn’t even ask me to tell them or show them proof of shipping costs. Basically they made up that the shipping cost 130 euros (from Slovenia to Serbia. lol)
Recently they (the customs) tried to take advantage of me, but since I am not as uneducated as I was before, I stopped them. You just have to read the law and use it in your favor, much like you would build a case in court. The customs know that people are uneducated, so it is not hard for them to take advantage of them (depends in which countries, but here in Serbia they seem pretty corrupt).
Hope this helps you for future international ordering =)