Budget For Making A Move Overseas

The Capital Costs Of Launching A New Life In Paradise

We write all the time about how much it costs to live overseas, providing detailed budgets for expenses in different locations we recommend.

But…what does it cost to get there in the first place?

“This is all very enticing,” a reader wrote this week, “but what about the getting-started bundle? How much does one need to launch this kind of an adventure? Will it cost me US$5,000…US$10,000…US$25,000?”

As with any budget, there’s no one-size-fits-all live-overseas capital budget. The variables are great. Bottom line, though, your up-front investment in a new life overseas can be very controlled.

If you know you want to move full-time, you’ll have to invest in a residency visa. This can cost US$1,000 to US$2,500 per person, depending on the country and whether or not you engage the help of an attorney or manage the process yourself.

In some countries, Panama, for example, an attorney is required. You can’t submit a residency visa application without one.

If, though, you want only to dip a toe…to take living overseas for a test run before you commit…you can forgo both the cost and the hassle of the visa application process.

I recommend always that you rent first. To do this most places in the world, you’ll need your first month’s rent and another month’s rent for a security deposit. Some places may ask for a third month’s rent (the final month) in advance, as well. You can figure this expense, depending on how much it’s going to cost you to rent the kind of place you want in the neighborhood where you want to be living in the country where you’re looking to move.

If you want to bring all the comforts of home with you, you’ll have to pay for shipping. This can be a big expense (shipping a container-load of furniture across the Atlantic costs about US$10,000, for example)…or a small one (if you simply check two or three extra suitcases or packed boxes on the plane with you).

Rent furnished, and you can avoid this expense, too.

I don’t recommend shipping a car with you wherever you’re going. Often, you’ll find it inappropriate for use in your new home. Friends years ago shipped a van from Canada to Nicaragua and regretted the decision almost immediately. Nicaragua’s roadways chewed that van up and spit it out in a matter of months.

You might also find that it’s hard to find parts or experienced labor for repairs and maintenance for your imported vehicle, depending what you import where.

And, depending on the country and your residency (or non-residency) status, the import duty for a car can be significant.

Better, if you need a car in your new home, to buy it locally.

We just bought a new vehicle here in Panama City.

New to us. It’s a four-year-old Toyota Prado. Our experience in Panama has taught us two things:

First, any car you drive here is going to sustain regular damage. Traffic on the crowded streets of Panama City is a free-for-all, and fender-benders are everyday occurrences. We were involved in four in the past year (with our previous vehicle). You can’t avoid them, because, frankly, Panamanians drive like lunatics.

Second, if you intend to travel in Panama beyond the capital, you need a four-wheel-drive SUV. Anything else is silly.

Thus the pre-owned Prado. Buying new seems foolish, as no vehicle stays like-new for long. Buying Prado made sense, as they’re common. Any guy in any garage can manage a repair in an emergency.

Best case, of course, would be to avoid car ownership altogether.

In that case—assuming you’re relocating part-time at first, to try a place on for size…renting rather than investing in the purchase of a new home of your own…not bothering to import anything other than what you can carry in your checked luggage…and moving someplace where you won’t have to invest in a car—what does your total relocation budget amount to?

Your rental deposit…and your plane ticket. A matter of a few thousand dollars.

You can keep this really simple.

Kathleen Peddicord

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