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.