Is emigrating from the UK the ultimate home-moving challenge?
Having done international home moves several times there is one thing that I can guarantee will happen. It will not go to plan.
There are nearly always extra costs or delays involved, a missed piece of paperwork, or a miscommunication, which is why thorough preparation and planning are so essential when moving abroad.
Most people would consider an International home move to be specialised, there are legalities and complicated logistics, not to mention cultural and linguistic challenges to be overcome.
Hence why the vast majority of people will very sensibly choose a reputable International Removals Company to manage the entire home move process when emigrating.
So, in this guide, we give you the planning tools you will need, and some essential advice, learned the hard way, to avoid common international home moving mistakes.
Mistakes to Avoid When Moving Abroad
#1You can never do too much research. This applies to every aspect of your intended international relocation. From the country you intend to live in, to the international removal company you will hire.
#2Plan and Organise to the last detail. Think through every aspect of the home move and plan accordingly. Missing a vital detail now could have a big impact on moving day.
#3Use time wisely. Moving day will be upon you before you know it. Don’t leave till tomorrow what can be done today. And should you have any spare time before moving day, use it to brush up on your language skills.
#4Don’t pack your items yourself. Your goods to be shipped must be properly and appropriately packed. There may be certain regulations as to how a specific item should be packed to clear customs, which a professional packer will be fully aware of. By employing the packing services offered by your removal company you can be sure that any inventory that is required to get your goods safely, and without delay, to your new home, will have been completed during the packing process.
#5 Pack an Open First Box. Make sure you have an open first box that will cover every eventuality, including your goods being delayed at customs. It could be that you are in your new home days before your goods arrive. Ensure that this bag or box does not contain anything that is prohibited by law in your new home country.
#6Have an Emergency Fund. Create a thorough home moving budget checklist, then double your contingency fund. Costs can mount rapidly if you have not factored everything in, especially if for some reason you need to stay in hotels en route to your destination or you incur some unforeseen customs charges.
#7Find a reputable International Moving Company. This will be covered in detail later but the importance of this cannot be over-emphasised.
#8Communicate. Especially with your removal company. Keep them informed of any details of your move that change, and if there is anything at all you are unsure about, ask them.
You may also like to read: A Week-by-Week Home Moving Checklist and Calendar. It is essential that you have a checklist of all the home-moving tasks that you need to complete. Here we have created a comprehensive checklist in chronological order to help you.
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The less you have to ship the lower the removal costs are going to be.
It could be, depending upon where you are emigrating to, that it is cheaper to buy new furniture, household goods, and even clothing, rather than paying shipping costs.
Some things you may automatically exclude from packing such as electronics which will almost certainly run on different voltages and plug configurations.
Although there are adapters you can buy for converting plugs from 3 to 2 pins, for example, but it is not always safe to use these as permanent fixtures, and in my experience they tend not to last very long.
Many European, and indeed international properties are sold furnished.
Equally, your flatpack furniture may look out of place in your finca in Spain, so again this may dictate what furniture you take with you.
Moving to a country with 360 days a year of sun? You will not need 10 different jumpers and coats then.
Consider the practicalities of everything you think you will take.
Do you need half a dozen pairs of high-heeled shoes if you are moving to a remote village where sandals or work boots are more appropriate?
Will your cooking pots be suitable for the oven in your new home?
You want to fit in with your new culture right? So do they eat with chopsticks rather than sterling silver cutlery?
Every single item you take will have a cost implication.
Also, bear in mind that something you consider an everyday item in the UK may be illegal to import to your new country.
Sometimes these can seem like harmless items, for example, did you know that you cannot import lottery tickets or alcohol-filled sweets into the USA?
Your removal company will provide you with a list of prohibited items that cannot be shipped internationally.
You may also like to read: The Epic Guide to Decluttering for a Home Move. The fewer items you have to pack and move, the cheaper your relocation will be. Personally, I have never moved electronics or furniture internationally and always take the very bare minimum. This guide will help you declutter your home as well as suggest ways to emotionally detach yourself from your possessions which is often the hardest part of decluttering.
Get an International Removal Company Price Estimate
How much it costs to ship household goods overseas is a key piece of information when planning your intended relocation.
Now that you have reduced the volume of items that you are taking with you, you will be able to request a more accurate international removal cost estimate. This is a quick and easy process.
Just follow this link to an international moving costs calculator and accurately complete the information that is required.
Within 20 minutes you will have usually received up to 4 home moving estimates from reputable international moving companies.
You may also like to read: Moving Brokers – What You Need to Know and Why. When searching for an international removal firm you may come across brokers. These are middlemen who sell your move to a removal company as they are usually not movers themselves. Some offer an excellent service whilst others will sell your move to the lowest bidder. This guide tells you all you need to know about moving brokers and what to look out for to avoid being scammed.
An In-Home Survey for International Home Moves is Essential
The next stage of your International Home Move is to get a free in-home survey completed by the removal company.
This is absolutely essential to ensure that your removal company has all the facts relating to your home move, can assess difficulties they may encounter on moving day, and will be able to discuss with you the other services they can offer to ensure a stress-free international home move.
This is also your opportunity to assess the removal companies’ suitability for carrying out your home move.
During the survey, the removal company representative will create a move plan. This will detail everything about your move and is designed to cover the majority of scenarios that may present themselves during your home move.
The insurance options available to you should be discussed at this point and it is worth doing your homework on what the available options are before the survey takes place, so that you can compare costs.
You may also like to read: Home Moving Insurance: Do I Need It? Having the right insurance cover is essential for an international home move, most people tend to under-insure their things and end up out of pocket when the worst happens. This guide tells you all you need to know about home moving insurance.
What are the Shipping Options for an International Home Move?
Your removal company expert may offer you options for shipping your household goods overseas, depending upon your destination.
Other than the obvious road transport for moving to Europe from the UK, you may be offered:
Shipping container. This container could be solely for your use or could be shared with another mover, depending upon the volume of the items you intend to move.
Airfreight. Although a faster means of transporting goods from A to B, it is generally more expensive.
How to Choose a Good International Removal Company
The criteria for choosing a removal company for international relocation is much the same as choosing a reputable removal firm for a UK home move.
However, there are a couple of notable additions when selecting the best international moving company:
#1 Ensure that they are a member of the British Association of Removers Overseas Group. You can find out what advantages there are to hiring a BAR Overseas Group member later in this article.
#2 There are two other associations that you should look out for, FIDI and FAIM (see below for more details).
#3 Does the International Removal Company offer the services of an International Move Manager? This can be essential for a trouble-free international relocation. They will often be experts in the country you have chosen to move to and will be a fountain of knowledge to offer you advice and guidance.
#4 Does the removal company offer door-to-door tracking of your belongings?
#5 Can the removal company offer you both International removal and storage facilities, should you require them?
#6 Does the removal company offer support in your new home country to ensure there are no problems with the final stage of the delivery?
#7 Ensure you know what items are restricted or prohibited to be imported to your destination country. Your International Move Manager will be able to advise you.
#8 Pay particular attention to the options you have for international removal insurance.
#9 You will definitely want to employ a removal company to ensure the safe packing of your home contents. During the packing process, the removal company will complete an inventory of each box’s contents for customs clearance.
You may also like to read: Questions to Ask Removal Companies. In this guide, we look at what happens during a home survey and suggest the questions you may like to ask during the survey to ensure that you pick the best removal firm for your home move.
International Removal Company Reviews
Reading reviews of international removal companies and relying on the real-life experiences of other expats is going to be crucial in hiring a reputable international home removal company.
However, a recurring complaint found in many international home moving reviews is delays in getting things through customs or the lack of compensation given for damaged items.
These are sometimes unfair reviews.
The removal firm has no control over customs although how they manage their communication with you they can control, so keep an eye out for reviews that mention excellent communication.
Many people fail to read the insurance cover they are offered which is not always adequate to cover their things. Be sure you fully read and understand the insurance policy you are offered.
You may also want to visit expat websites that are specific to the country you are moving to. A quick internet search will bring up sites specific to your destination with information from expats that you will find invaluable.
You may also like to read: How to Make Reviews Work for You. In this guide, we show you how to understand any reviews you read, the type of reviews to look out for, and how to spot fake reviews.
International Moving Networks and Associations
If you are moving outside of Europe then it is highly recommended that you choose a removal firm who are accredited by one of the International Movers Associations.
Some removal firms offer door-to-door services which means that the van that is loaded in the UK is the one that arrives at your new home. There is less chance of damage to your things and the company is in control of the whole process so communication tends to be better.
For moves further afield, to the USA, for example, there will be a contractor at the other end who actually delivers your things. This is where things often get delayed, and damaged, and there is often a lack of communication and accountability.
For that reason, if you are using a removal firm that does not offer a door-to-door service then ensure that they are a member of one of the following organisations.
BAR Overseas Group – Every year each member of the BAR Overseas Group is inspected to ensure that they meet strict standards.
This audit tests that all international removal services, including operational and administrational procedures, staff training, customer facilities, and removal equipment meet a required standard and ensure that customers receive a professional, quality overseas removal service.
All 50 members of the BAR Overseas Group also subscribe to an Advanced Payment Guarantee scheme that protects all customer pre-payments.
The protection of pre-payments and deposits is especially important for customers moving overseas who are usually required to pay in full, in advance of the home move taking place.
FIDI – For an International removal company to be accredited by FIDI, a company has to comply with over 200 quality requirements that cover every aspect of the administration and performance of an international removal.
The quality checks cover operations and services to customers, procedures, staff training, vehicle and warehouse maintenance, and facilities.
Periodic checks are made of every FIDI Affiliate when an independent assessment of their international moving activities is carried out.
These checks are designed to ensure that each FIDI-FAIM-certified company maintains this expected high level of quality at all times.
The assessment is performed by the external auditors Ernst & Young. If the company fails their assessment, they are terminated from FIDI.
FAIM – This is the quality award for FIDI members. Any International Removal Company that wishes to apply for FAIM must comply with mandatory prerequisites. These include for example
having operated inter-continental moving services for at least the previous 2 / 3 years (2 years for first-time applicants; 3 years for current affiliates),
having performed a minimum of 10 inter-continental moves per year as the booker
having appropriate and adequate insurance cover in place
having signed the FIDI Anti-Bribery and Anti-Corruption Charter (FIDI ABC Charter)
conducting internal FAIM Audits in their company to assess and determine if the company is consistently working aligned with up-to-date FAIM requirements
In the case of a first-time application, the company must be able to prove its financial health
You may also like to read: Removal Company Associations and Trade Bodies. In this guide, we look at each of the removal industry trade associations, explain which ones would be suitable for your particular home move, and the benefits of choosing a member for your move.
When to Schedule an International Removal Company
Try to organise your international home move as soon as you have a move date.
Bear in mind that if you have a specific date to be in your new country, that time will be required for customs clearance, the physical travel times, and any potential delays there may be.
As an example when moving from the UK to Australia, it can take between 9 and 14 weeks, door to door.
The answer to that is dependent upon which country you intend to emigrate to, and it is best to check with your International Move Manager and with the embassy of the country you are moving to.
This link will take you to a contact list of every foreign embassy in the UK.
This is easily overlooked, so just a reminder to ensure that everybody’s passport is still in date.
The link here will take you to the UK government passport website.
Can I Export My Car When Moving Abroad?
Vehicles can be exported to virtually any country in the world but the cost may be prohibitive.
Consider not only the shipping costs but also if any import taxes are applicable.
Equally, consider which side of the road you will drive on in your new country. It can be extremely dangerous to have the steering wheel on the ‘wrong’ side of the car, especially when overtaking, parking, or pulling out of junctions.
In my experience, most people end up selling their right-hand drive car soon after moving when they realise how dangerous and difficult it is to drive on the left with them.
Bear in mind also that a right-hand drive car in Europe for example is worth considerably less than if you sold it in the UK.
How easy will it be to get spare parts for your vehicle? Consider whether your new local garage will have a computer to decipher the problem with your car, or are they more likely to not even have a torque wrench?
Would it make more sense to sell your car in the UK and buy a popular local brand when you are in your new country?
For advice from DVLA on taking vehicles out of the UK follow this link.
You may also like to read: International Car Shipping – Your Questions Answered. From shipping cars to motorbikes to motorhomes internationally, this guide tells you all you need to know about the process and how to choose a good international vehicle shipper.
UK Driving Licence – Moving Abroad
To change your address on your UK driving licence you must be a resident of Great Britain.
And if you don’t tell the DVLA your new address you are liable to a fine of £1000.
You should therefore contact the driving licence issuing authority in your new country to comply with their laws.
For advice on renewing a UK driving licence when living abroad click here.
Is My EHIC Valid if I Emigrate to Europe?
Your EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) is only valid in Europe if you are visiting another country temporarily.
If you move permanently to another country, you are subject to the same healthcare regulations and conditions as the locals would be.
You can go to the Europa.eu website for more information on this.
In most instances, you will probably be advised to take out private health insurance or pay into the national healthcare system if there is one.
Whilst on the subject of healthcare, it is also advisable to research the availability of any specific dietary or medical requirements that you may have.
It is better to find out now if gluten-free flour is available than find out in-country that it is not.
You will have the opportunity to arrange a supplier from the UK before you move should that be the case. However, it should be noted that may UK companies will no longer ship to Europe since Brexit so check this carefully.
What Documents Do I need to Move my Pets Abroad?
Depending upon your destination, there will be different requirements such as international pet passports.
There are specialist pet travel companies who will be able to assist you in relocating your family pets.
If you have children, then their schooling in your new country is going to be of concern to you. Some websites can help you locate English-speaking schools around the world such as www.wintersschoolfinder.com.
In what countries is it legal to homeschool? For a comprehensive list of countries around the world where it is legal to homeschool click here.
You may also be interested in finding English-speaking universities around the world. For an interactive map showing 700 cities worldwide that teach 200 subjects in English go to this timeshighereducation article.
Clearly, there is the potential for many more things to go wrong when moving out of the UK. But because of that very fact, the importance of choosing the right international removal company to manage your overseas home move is critical.
The best advice we can give is double check every aspect of your home move and then check again. And again.
Spend time picking a good international removal company and although they will not be cheap, they will ensure that your overseas home move goes as smoothly as possible.
You generally pay for what you get, and this is really not the time to be cutting corners.
We hope our International Relocation Guide will help you to enjoy a safe and stress-free international home move.
If you are considering moving to Europe but are still undecided about where be sure to visit our home moving blog which features many country guides packed with useful information.
Good luck and bon voyage.
If you have any funny stories about your international home move, please share them with us in the comments below – we would love to write an article about amusing things that happen when moving abroad.