There are several ways to move your belongings abroad, but most people do so either via sea freight or air freight. The former is perhaps the most common method, as well as the most cost-efficient. You can choose between two shipment options: full container load (FCL) or less than full container load (LCL). Which one you pick will depend on how many belongings you need to transport. If you opt for an LCL, you will have to share your container with others. Transporting belongings via air freight has a higher price tag but is significantly quicker. Before you begin your move, there are a few things worth thinking about, including with regard to Covid-19.
What to take
It is important to consider which belongings to take with you and, on the flip side, whether there are some you should leave behind. After all, this could be a great opportunity to declutter and start afresh. Do you really need all your heavy furniture, for example, or could you sell some items and buy local ones that better suit your new home? Alternatively, you may wish to consider renting a storage unit, especially if you plan to move back one day in the not-too-distant future.
Ensure that you pack your belongings carefully, especially those that are delicate, and think about how best to stack them. The two standard shipping container sizes are 20 feet and 40 feet. A 20-foot container is usually sufficient to move one or two bedrooms’ worth of belongings, whereas you may be able to fit three to five bedrooms’ worth in a 40-foot container. Put together a comprehensive inventory and label each box clearly. This will not only help when it comes to unpacking, but also when you reach customs.
If you decide to take your vehicle with you, then remember to check the rules in your destination country. Driving abroad can involve a minefield of regulations and bureaucracy. For example, some countries specify that you need to keep certain items in your car, such as replacement headlamp bulbs. Also, make sure that your drivers’ licence is valid and that you have the correct paperwork. You may find that using an auto transport company could save you much time and effort.
If you will be taking a pet with you, then this will also require some additional thought. First off, make sure that you check your destination country’s pet import laws – for example, regarding vaccinations. The process can be long, especially as some countries stipulate that animals must undergo a period of quarantine. The current pandemic is also complicating matters, which you can read about in our recent article on moving abroad with pets. It may be best to use a pet relocation service. They can make the travel arrangements for you and ensure that you have met all the necessary requirements. You can also ask them for advice on how to help your pet settle into its new home.
Customs regulations vary between countries, and duty tax amounts and percentages change, so it’s important to check for the most relevant and up-to-date information. It may be worth calling the customs clearance company in advance, so that you can clarify any points you are unsure about. For example, do any of your items appear on the prohibited or restricted list? Failure to plan ahead could mean that you face fines, delays, or even confiscations.
You will be required to provide a number of documents, such as your passport, your visa, and an inventory of your possessions. You will also need any country-specific forms for importation – you can search for these online or contact your embassy. If you choose to use an international moving company, they should know about the customs clearance situation in the country you are traveling to. They may also include duties and taxes in their prices.
There are various websites that you can use to find moving companies, or take a look at what our partners can offer. Make sure that you opt for a package that suits your individual needs. You will usually be able to choose from the following services:
- door to door
- port to port
As well as handling the laborious process of packing, moving companies can sort out all your customs paperwork, giving you one less thing to worry about.
Follow government advice
Covid-19 continues to impact many aspects of our lives, especially when it comes to travelling. If you are planning to move in the near future, therefore, you will need to pay particular attention to the latest coronavirus developments. First, check the government website of the country you are leaving for advice on foreign travel – for the UK, this is Gov.uk, and for the USA, this is Travel.state.gov. Next, see what the restrictions are in your destination country. Make sure you follow any guidelines carefully, both on your journey and once you have arrived.
Communicate with your moving company
If you opt to use a moving company, then see whether Covid-19 has had an impact on their operations. For example, they may be having to offer an alternative to in-home pre-move surveys. Visit the company’s website for additional information, or else give them a call. It may also be worth checking whether any delays are expected, whether as a direct or indirect result of the pandemic. It may be that there is nothing you can do, but knowing what to expect and making early decisions can help make the move less stressful.
Try to mitigate the chance of getting Covid-19 during the moving process. For example, adhere to social distancing measures when packing up your home, and make sure that you use plenty of hand sanitiser. Also, remember that the rules may be different not only in your destination country, but also in any countries that you are transitioning through. If you do develop symptoms, then make sure you self-isolate, even if you don’t think it is Covid-19 – people present different symptoms, and it is not worth putting others at risk.
Consider taking out insurance
A final consideration would be whether to invest in insurance. We are living in uncertain times, with laws that are continuously changing. As a result, trip disruptions and cancellations are no longer a rarity, and you need to feel secure that, should unforeseen circumstances arise, you are at least covered financially. Travel insurance, health insurance and removals insurance are all worth considering, if only to put your mind at ease.
Overall, if you are planning to move your belongings abroad, then there are various factors to bear in mind, especially given the current climate. Think carefully about what to pack and which services to use, as well as how Covid-19 may affect your arrangements. We are currently living through a turbulent time, but with enough patience and forward planning, it is still possible to achieve your expat goals. Stay positive, keep abreast of the latest developments, and good luck with your move abroad.