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On moving across continents

About a year ago, my husband and I started moving our things to Ecuador, a process which is still not finished because I still have quite a number of things in Europe (all my books!).

We moved to Ecuador by shipping a container, and it was quite a tedious process. If you are planning to move abroad, you might find this break-down of steps useful:

1. Contact shipping companies

If you are doubting between selling off everything you have or moving by container, you need to get an idea of the cost. Contact a number of shipping companies and see what they offer, what they require you to do, and how much it will cost. If you don’t have many things, shipping a couple of boxes on a pallet can be an option. If you’re moving a complete household, you’ll need most likely a full 40ft container.

2. Buy things if necessary

If it’s cheaper to buy in the country from which you are shipping, then take advantage of this opportunity. Before you go shopping, make sure that you can bring goods into your country of destination without needing to pay tax over there. Also, inquire if you can get tax exemption for the goods you buy in your country of departure which will not be used in said country.

3. Pack boxes and make detailed lists

The fun stuff. Everything needs to go into boxes that are strong enough to be going through a long trip. Your things need to be packed carefully to avoid damage (hint: pack your clothes in some plastic as well, the brown of the boxes can leave stains on lightly colored clothes if the boxes are in a humid environment). Number each box. Then, you will need to make a detailed list of every single item with an estimated value for the insurance and for customs.

4. Move everything to the port

If you don’t live in a port, you will need to rent a truck, load the truck with all boxes and appliances, maybe tow your car, and then take all of that to the port. You can rent fairly large trucks at U-Haul (for example), but a truck that is stuffed full will be moaning under the weight of all your things – and that might sound a little scary while you drive.

5. Fill the container

By now, you probably have very sore muscles. The last step of an intensive couple of days/weeks is filling the container. It can be interesting to put your boxes on pallets, and then wrap the entire pallet with plastic wrap to make sure the boxes won’t move around, and that you can easily take up the entire pallet from the container.

6. Paperwork, paperwork

The port of embarkation and the port of arrival all will need you to fill out a whole lot of paperwork. You might need to hire the help of somebody to make sure you don’t fill out something wrong, and then are faced with stubborn government officials who refuse to register your car in your new country because you put your passport number instead of your national ID number, even when these two numbers are the same. *gasp*

7. Take the container through customs at arrival

Customs will check that list of every single item in every single box. Lots of paperwork again.

8. Load a truck and drive home

The final leg of the trip! If you’ve passed customs, now is the time to fill up a truck, tow or drive your car, and go to your new home and start putting everything in place.

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This Post Has 7 Comments
  1. Good tips! I myself recently completed a long distance move to Sydney from Los Angeles, and let me tell you that was stressful. Much like yourself we shipped everything via cargo container and I was certainly nervous about the safety of some of my fragile items. One thing we did that gave me a sense of security was that we packed everything in plastic moving boxes. The rigid sides and interlocking tops of these boxes made me feel an increased sense of security knowing my things were being crushed. Also I had an irrational fear of moisture (as they were traveling by boat) so in the back of my mind having my things in plastic boxes seemed like a logical precaution.

  2. That's a great tip! We used cardboard boxes, and wrapped some of them with plastic wrap, but some of the lighter boxes with clothes got a little bit humid and the color of the cardboard stained some of my clothes (one round of laundry was enough to get the stains out, luckily!)

  3. In my opinion, moving internationally can be a lot more complicated than just moving from one state to another. Making a to-do list is the best thing to do to ensure that you don’t miss anything. Also, do your packing in sections, moving from one section of the house to another, so that the containers can easily be labelled and organized. Anyhow, I hope everything went smoothly from the delivery of all your belongings to the unpacking! Cheers!Clay Delgado @ World Packaging

  4. Fantastic article! I love packing. Making a list with all the stuff in the boxes could be a little stressful, though. I am going to move with my family to Australia. Best regards!

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