Ever thought you would like to move overseas? Perhaps you were watching a holiday program on TV and imagined yourself on a tropical beach or in Europe’s rolling countryside… then, awake from the daydream, you look around the room and see furniture, books… odds and ends collected over a lifetime.
“Move all this stuff with me!?”
And the pleasant daydream vanishes. Much easier to stay put. Way too much effort.
Actually getting rid of your collections and furniture can be fun, liberating, and moneymaking. It’s also quick and easy. You can ship whatever you want to keep and hire a professional to assist you—just like moving house.
Assuming you take the decisive and bold step to see what life overseas can offer, you must consider every eventuality. Once you arrive overseas, it’ll be harder to fix something you overlooked.
With that in mind we created this list as a starting point with some ideas on what to consider before you move overseas. While some of the things here may seem obvious, cold, hard experience has taught us even the most basic and obvious things (the keys to your new house!!) can be forgotten.
Create A Packing List
Start at the beginning, and the best place is a packing list. There are websites and apps to help you create packing lists, although tailored more to holidays than moves.
It’s a good idea to create a packing list as early on in proceedings as possible. That way you can add to it as you go along, like new items you want to take with you. If you are moving with a partner or family, put the list somewhere they can read and add to it as well.
The best way to do a packing list is writing out different columns to populate. Create a column for every room of the house, and list the things you need for each room.
Be sure to consider the weather where you are moving. Lots of people chase warmer weather, meaning you can leave coats and thick jumpers behind. They take up a lot of room in suitcases so it’s is a way to make extra room for other items… perhaps bring only a coat and a jumper in case you decide to go traveling.
Speak with expats who have made a similar trip to see if your list matches up with theirs. Ask if they have anything they wish they had bought with them and what they packed but have never used.
Speak With Storage Companies
Hiring a shipping container is usually the cheapest way to get your belongings to your new home, should you have a lot of furniture to move. It isn’t always the easiest option though, thus it’s worth speaking with professional moving companies for sample fees.
Some countries allow you to import certain household items duty free as a residency sweetener… do your research to find out if you’re eligible.
Sell Whatever You Can’t Take With You
A handy way to make a little extra money for your trip, selling things you can’t or don’t want to take with you feels great, too. Decluttering is popular with psychologists, who recommend it as a way to improve problem-solving skills and reduce anxiety. You might also find some lost treasures to take with you.
Notify Your Bank/Cancel Direct debits
Closing your account is a mistake. You never know if—or when—you’ll need to return home to live. Even if you just plan to visit occasionally, having a bank account will allow you to avoid transaction fees you’d otherwise have to pay. Setting up a bank account abroad will be easier with an open account too.
Weigh the hidden benefits… e.g. ordering birthday presents is easier from your bank account back at home.
Take care of your direct debits before you move. It can be surprisingly difficult to get tasks like this done from overseas. Most importantly, you don’t want to be paying for services that you are no longer using.
Visit The Country Before You Move
Good advice bears repeating… and this is probably the best advice in this article: It’s incredibly important to visit before you commit to any move. If at all possible you should try to visit multiple times including out of season. If you’re happy living in your new country during their winter or rainy season, you are onto a winner.
Try and get a taste for what your new life will be like while there. Shop weekly, look at the amenities nearby, and, most importantly, get to know the area’s transport options.
Will you need your own vehicle to get about? Inquire about driving licenses—do you need to do a driving test or will your license allow you to drive? How easy is it to get your license switched over to the license of your new country?
If you are moving for work, drive to work as you’d do once you arrive. You might be close to your new office as the crow flies, but rush hour traffic can change that completely.
Counting Pennies Is The Way To Go
Work out a budget to get you through the first few months, then do everything you can to save even more. Chances are you’ll want to explore your new home and live well and bask in the celebratory feeling of life in your new digs. This celebratory mood can be expensive… and unlikely to endure if you find yourself quickly running out of money. Moving to a new country can be stressful and having no money will add to that.
Some countries require you to make a large deposit to open a bank account. Make sure you have enough to cover this before you move. Once you have your bank account open, you can avail of the deposit.
Secure An Income Stream
Tying into the point above, make sure you have a way to support yourself in your new life abroad. If your job’s paying you to move overseas, or you’re moving with a pension to support you, then that’s great.
If not, search online to see what your options are. In some countries it’s almost impossible for expats to get jobs and your only option may be to start a business. A certificate showing you can teach English is useful, although if a school doesn’t hire you it can be an unreliable income stream. Other reliable ways of making money overseas include blogging and an import/export business. If you are in a developing country look for gaps in the market to fill.
Set Up A Bank Account If Staying Long Term, If Not Get A Credit Card
If you’re staying long term in your new country you’ll need a bank account. This will make things such as paying bills and withdrawing cash much easier.
If you are staying shorter term, consider a credit card, or even better, two. Unlike debit cards, credit cards don’t charge you extra for taking out cash in another currency. A credit card will also help you build up a good credit score, always useful down the line. Having two credit cards provides you with extra security. Some places do not accept Mastercard while somewhere else Visa may not be accepted.
Do You Need Any Vaccinations?
Depending on where you move you might need to get some jabs before you leave. If you’re travelling to Europe you will need to make sure you have a MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccine. Hepatitis A and B plus typhoid are needed for much of Asia, and yellow fever is a risk in parts of Latin America and Africa.
Make Copies Of Your Passport Plus Other Important Documents
As you go about setting up your new life, you’ll be amazed how often you will be asked for you passport. When setting up bank accounts and utilities, you’ll be asked for a copy of your passport. In some countries police checks are common… if you cannot produce a passport with valid visa stamp, you will be in trouble.
Having a copy of the passport means you can keep the original somewhere safe. Losing a passport overseas can be a disaster.
Renew Your Passport
Speaking of passports… before you leave is the time to renew, especially if planning to be abroad long term. Avoid at all costs being overseas with an expired passport. Renewing overseas adds extra shipping fees to the process.
Apply For Residency Visa
The sooner you get your residency visa the better. While it’s possible to stay on a tourist visa, this often brings complications down the line. Trips to the border can eat into your time and savings. Immigration officials will sometimes get annoyed with these ‘border runs’ and, if you’re suspected of trying to stay illegally, you can be sent home—even barred for reentry.
Find Out Your Health Care Options
You need to research the local hospitals. Some countries have excellent public health systems, so find out about your destination and whether to get access to these facilities. Get your medical insurance sorted as quickly as possible—having an accident without it could be costly and might put your new life under strain before it has even begun.
You could travel with holiday insurance, which can be valid for up to six months. This will give you some time to get your medical insurance sorted out. But all this can seem overwhelming…
To help you, we have compiled the best resource on health care options in 21 top overseas havens. See the best insurance options, the state of public health care, and helpful guides to see which insurance type—or lack thereof!—makes sense for you, and save money in the process. Don’t let a mishap get in the way of your overseas dreams.
Find Out What You Cannot Buy And What Will Be More Expensive
For me, this was my favorite brand of tea (PG Tips) and brown sauce, which is not eaten much outside of the U.K. I found Indian curry powders hard to find in Panama, so I stocked up on spices when I was last in England. These comforts can make adaption smoother while providing a way to make friends by introducing people to flavors from home.
Stock Up On Prescriptions, Contact Lenses, Medications…
Some countries, especially in Asia, have a range of medications available far more cheaply than in the U.S. In other countries, like Italy, medications and prescriptions are significantly more expensive. You might not have immediate access to your prescription in your new country. Ask your GP for a month or two’s supply to allow you time to arrange everything without putting your health at risk.
Unlock Your Cell Phone
An unlocked phone will allow you to use local sim cards. Speak with neighbors and work colleagues to find out which provider they use and check that you can get signal at home. They can also give you useful information about promotions and customer service levels that you might not be able to find online.
Set Up Two-Factor Authorization
This will stop your online account from being locked out when your IP address shows you logging in from the other side of the world. It also gives you extra security: If anyone tries to hack your phone, you’ll get a notification email allowing you to take immediate action to stop them.
Buy An Electric Adaptor
An easy thing to overlook… but you don’t want to be without a charger for your smartphone or laptop for any longer than necessary. If you are moving to a country where electrical goods are expensive, bring your existing electronics with you with an adapter. The savings from small things like this can add up fast.
Contact Expat Groups
They will provide valuable information that can make your new life much easier. These folks have been there and done it all before. While locals can help you with places to eat and which service providers to use, they are unlikely to know an immigration lawyer or advise you on what taxes you will still need to pay in the U.S. Expats are the best people to ask.
If you are going to move you pets abroad with you, they’ll likely need vaccinations and a pet passport. Check with the local consulate whether you can bring your pet, as some countries place restrictions on certain animals. After that, you’ll need to speak with the vet to get the relevant certificates and jabs. Speak with airline companies to find out if you can bring your pet onboard. If not, you’ll need to check with the Air Transport Association, who will transport your animals, although this can be expensive.
Realize That No Matter How Much You Prepare, Murphy Will Have The Last Laugh
Sad but true. No matter how well you prepare, something will inevitably go wrong. Although you cannot plan for, you can gauge what your reaction will be. Plan to accept the rough with the smooth and be confident in your ability to make it through whatever your new life might throw at you.
This will keep your feet on the ground. Moving overseas can be a series of dizzying highs in the early stages, and something going wrong can be a major crash. By reminding yourself there will be tough times, you’ll be better equipped to deal with bad times.