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Shipping Belongings from the UK to Australia

Posted by By Bournes International Moves - June 29, 2017

Are you starting to think about shipping your belongings from the UK to Australia? This guide explains what you need to consider and how to get started.

In this post we will cover: 

  1. What to ship when you move to Australia
  2. What household items you CAN'T move 
  3. Fees and charges for Bio-security Inspections
  4. What items might not work in Australia
  5. Shipping to Australia vs. buying new
  6. Documents you will need for shipping your belongings
  7. Transit time for removals to Australia
  8. Shipping Options
  9. How to get a quote for International Removals to Australia

What to ship when you move to Australia and what to leave behind

aeroplane in the sky moving to Australia

Are Household Goods are usually eligible for Duty Free Entry when you're moving to Australia?

Yes. Providing you meet the eligibility criteria you are usually able to import your household goods as unaccompanied personal effects (UPE's) without having to pay customs duty or Goods and Services Tax (GST) when moving your permanent residence to Australia.

You are usually eligible when the items are:

  • Your personal property
  • that will be used by you in Australia
  • and have been owned/used by you overseas for at least 12 months (generally) prior to moving.

Cars, tobacco products and alcohol are not eligible for duty free concession as unaccompanied personal effects. 

Speak to your International Removal Company for specific guidance for your situation. 

What belongings can't I ship to Australia?

three sisters - Australia Image sourced from: freeimages.com/Gavin Terpstra

International Removals Company Restrictions 

There are a some items that most international removal companies won't allow you to ship due to UK export regulations, safety standards or because of risk of damaging other items in your shipment.

Always check with your mover if you need to move any of the following items:

  • Alchohol and food (Can be imported sometimes but varies by state and there are special considerations or restrictions we'll need to explain to you)
  • Combustible liquids (lubricants, alchohols, anti-freeze-cleaners etc.)
  • Compressed gasses (including aerosols or diving tanks)
  • Flammables
  • Firearms, ammunition and weapons
  • Narcotics and controlled substances
  • Corrosives (including some batteries)
  • Commercial goods
  • Animal, bird or plant products

Australian Customs Restrictions / Prohibited items for household moves

As an island nation Australia is very concerned about items entering the country. 

When your goods enter the country they are subject to Bio-security control and may be inspected by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

There is a strict list of restricted and prohibited items as well as common items of bio-security concern which may attract the interest of the Department of Agriculture and Water resources for inspection. If any of these items are found not to comply with regulations they may require treatment, re-export or disposal at your expense.

Check the items you want to ship to Australia against these lists and take action accordingly. This might mean obtaining special paperwork or simply making sure items are really clean with no traces of mud.

Find out more about Department of Agriculture and Water resources rules and regulations and tips for preparing your items here.

Fees and Charges applicable for Bio-security inspections.

australian customs inspection for bio security and household goodsImage Sourced from: Wikimedia Commons

There are some fees are charged by the Department of Agriculture and Water resources for the inspection of your goods to ensure they comply with import regulations. These are based on the amount of time it takes a Bio-Security Officer to inspect your goods plus any action that needs taking (e.g. treatment).

Paying inspection fees: 

If you're using a professional removal company ask how these fees are handled.

Some ask you to pre-pay this for a fixed fee (which won't always change if the actual cost is less / more or if your shipment is not inspected) others will let you know this is excluded and ask you to pay on arrival once the actual cost is known. Usually the reason for this is that it's not a fixed fee and can vary depending on your individual shipment, the time it takes to inspect and department decisions regarding treatment prior to release, if applicable.

More information on Quarantine fees associated with the clearance of personal effects can be found on the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources website - Deparment of Agriculture and Water Resources fees.

How can I minimise Australian Bio-Security Inspection Charges?

  • Follow the advice on the Department for Agriculture and Water Resources website
  • Don't pack anything that is prohibited entry into Australia
  • Don't pack anything that will require a treatment of some kind, unless that item is of particular significance and you are willing to pay treatment fees
  • Ensure your packing list is accurate and clearly identifies contents and matches the numbered boxes
  • Pack items likely to be subject to quarantine inspection in the same box
  • Clearly label to identify boxes that may contain items of quarantine concern
  • Ensure items that have been in contact with animals, plants and soil are thoroughly cleaned and free of quarantine risk material before they are packed.

If you are using a professional international removal company they should help you manage these risks. 

What UK items might not work in Australia?

As cost of shipping is based on the Volume of goods it's a good idea to check what will and won't work before paying to have it shipped. Here's an overview of some key areas: 

should you ship your washing machine to Australia

Electrical goods:

Australia’s power system runs on the same voltage as the UK (240), however plug shape is different. Items will either need a new plug or a travel adapter to convert original plugs to the right shape.

For fridges/freezers/washing machines etc. don't forget to check if any of these appliances are already built in to your new home, or if your items will fit into the space and be easily connected. 

TVs and DVDs:

Your TV will likely work when plugged in and you should receive a picture, but sound processing can be an issue.

Always check your specific make and model before you go. For some models you can use a SCART connection at the back to convert to Australian standards.

DVD players and games consoles will usually work fine as long as there’s the option to plug a video or audio cable into the back of the TV, but it is worth noting that Australia also have a different region code for playing DVDs.

The UK runs on Region 2, Australia is Region 4; therefore any DVDs bought here will work on your existing DVD player, but new ones bought out there won’t. The only way around this is to either try and convert your existing DVD player to be region-free, or buy a multi-region DVD player before you leave/when you get to the other end. You may have the same problem when it comes to playing computer games too. 


Typically Australian houses are slightly bigger than in the UK, so you might want to bring as much furniture as you can to fill the new space you have as comparatively speaking, buying from scratch in Australia tends to be more expensive than in the UK. 

If you’re taking garden furniture then the most important thing to ensure is that it’s CLEAN as regulations around importing outdoor items are particularly strict. Make sure there are no traces of grass or soil on any outdoor items you’re bringing with you (tents, tent pegs, trampolines, benches, sun loungers, toys – you get the picture).

You should also check the surfaces of any timber items for signs of insect infestation – if present then you either need to discard them from the move entirely, or treat thoroughly prior to the move.

Should I ship or buy new when I move to Australia?

There are a couple of things to consider:

  1. The cost of replacement vs. the cost of shipping
  2. The stress of buying everything new
  3. The value of having familiar things around you

Work out the cost of replacement 

According to the Association of British Insurers the average value of the things we own is around £35,000. If the cost to replace everything you own in the Australia was similar then this would be far higher than the cost to ship everything. 

  1. Make a list of the items you are considering not shipping
  2. Research cost of replacement in Australia
  3. Evaluate if you could sell your used item in the UK to contribute toward replacement cost
  4. Deduct money from selling used items from the replacement costs to get your cost of replacement. For example if you had an Ikea 3 seater sofa you could buy this new in Australia for $699 (£396). If you could sell your old one in the UK for £100 then the cost to replace is £296. 

Don't forget to be realistic in researching new items - look for replacements you'd be happy with, that are to your taste and are available in the area you're moving to. 

Get a quote for shipping

The cost of shipping is made up of a number of things such as where you're moving from and to, access to your properties, the speed you want to get your items to Australia as well as the amount of items you have to move.

Every move will be different. The only way to get an accurate quote for shipping is to ask an international removal company -  quotes and surveys should always be free and no obligation.

Ask the international removal company to provide you with two quotes if you are unsure about taking some items - one quote to include all the items you're considering leaving behind, and one without. This will help you evaluate which is the more cost effective option.

Get a free removals quote

Weighing up the costs of shipping to Australia vs. buying new

Once you've got these two figures you can do an easy comparison - here's a simple example: 

  • Cost to ship everything - £5000 / Cost to ship essentials only £1000 - Saving = £4000
  • Cost to replace all non essentials new in Australia - £7000
  • Shipping would be the cheaper option by £3000

Consider the stress of buying everything new when you get to Australia

If you love shopping and won't be starting work right away when you arrive, then this may be not be a concern to you, but if that's not the case think carefully about how easy or hard it might be to go out and buy everything new. 

What will you do for furniture while you're waiting for your new things to arrive? Will you need to stay in temporary accommodation and how will this affect your costs? Will you have credit in place if you don't have funds to buy outright? Are the shops you need close by? Are you good at making decisions and visualising what will work well in your new home? Do you have time to find the best stores and the best prices? Can you take time off work to take delivery? 

Don't forget the hassle of getting rid of everything in the UK too. If you're selling things take into account the time required to list your items, negotiate with buyers and arrange delivery/collection. If you're disposing of items take into account the cost/time required to do this before move day. 

Consider the value of having your own things around you in your new home

family settling into a new home with their belongings shipped from UK to Australia

Don't underestimate the power of familiarity when making your new house feel like 'home'.

For some people this doesn't matter and lots of new stuff is far more exciting, but for others the transition to a completely new life in a new country is made a little easier by having their familiar items around them while they settle in, particularly when you have kids. 

documents you will need for shipping household goods to australia

documentation and paperwork for removals to Australia

You will need to complete a number of forms when you ship your belongings to Australia, your international removal company should inform you which documents you will need and help you to complete them. 

Depending on your individual move circumstances and what you are shipping the forms may vary, but it will almost certainly include the Australian Customs Service B534 'Unaccompanied Personal Effects Statement'. This is used to clear your belongings through customs and is a legal declaration made to the Department for Immigration and Border Protection AND the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. 

If you are insuring your goods for shipment (which is strongly advised due to the level of risk involved in international transportation) then you'll likely need to complete an insurance application and valuation too. 

You'll need to make sure everything in your shipment is well numbered, labelled and inventoried.

bournes international removals labelling items for shipping to australia


You will be required to provide a detailed inventory of your shipment including clear labelling. If your removals company are providing packing services they will complete this on your behalf and provide you with a copy. If you are doing this yourself ensure you label your boxes clearly so the removal company can reference these properly on the inventory with a list of items contained in each box.

If you have identified any items that the Bio-security inspectors may be interested in it is a good idea to pack these items together and separately from the rest of your items that are not of concern. This way the inspectors do not need to unload/unpack your entire shipment to perform their inspection.

If you are using your own packing boxes be sure that these do not pose a concern on their own – for example used food packaging that may have been in contact with organic substances and do not use straw/sawdust or wood products for packing or filler. Ensure any previous labelling on boxes is removed or covered if you are using second hand boxes to avoid misunderstandings or confusion during inspection.

If you're using an international removal company they will handle the official processes for you.

an international removals move manager

Your removal company will make sure you've got everything done in advance, make all the arrangements for shipping and import and on arrival of your belongings in Australia they will handle the process of clearing the customs and bio-security inspections on your behalf, using all the correctly completed paperwork so your belongings can be delivered to your new home. Which brings us to..... 

Get a quote for Removals to Australia


transit time for shipping household goods to australia

container ship moving household goods to australiaImage Sourced from: freeimages.com/Karen Winton

The transit time on the water can vary depending on which shipping line your removal company uses, there are fast and slow options available which can vary the price you pay too.

Once your items reach Australia there is a bit of time on top of that for being unloaded from the ship, processing through customs and being collected by your shipping company for delivery to your new home. This can take around 2 weeks.

So, door to door you could be without your belongings for a while. If your using an exclusive service with your own container you could be looking at around 8-10 weeks for most major cities like Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide etc. or up to 11 weeks for areas like Hobart. You'll need to add on more time if you're moving farther from a major port. If you're using a shared container service then typically you'll need to add some time at the beginning for your removal company to consolidate other shipments to go in the container with yours, each company has different timescales for this but with Bournes this timeline moves to around 12-16 weeks door to door.

This means you'll probably need to find temporary furnished accommodation while you wait. Some people stay with family before departing, arranging a new home in advance and timing their arrival closely with the arrival of household goods, others (more typically) find a temporary furnished rental or short term let (sometimes even a holiday home or serviced apartment) when they first arrive which gives them time to find a more permanent home before all their belongings arrive.

If you need a few items quickly small air freight shipments can be a great idea.

options for shipping household goods to AUSTRALIA

There are several options for international removals to Australia including shared load or full container services.

Check out our Ultimate Guide to International Removal companies to find out everything you need to know about your different options for shipping and how to find reputable movers. 

Download the Ultimate guide to international removal companies

Always use a professional international removals company. 

international removal company carrying box up stairs

Moving house locally is hard enough, but moving internationally is a whole different ball game! It's pretty complex for a novice, but professional international removals companies have the knowledge and experience to guide you smoothly through the process and make sure everything gets to your new home safely, reducing the risks of damage, hidden costs and headaches!

Most companies providing international removals to Australia offer a range of services to suit a range of timescale and budget requirements, from exclusive full containers big enough for your whole house contents and cars to shared containers for those who are only shipping a few key items. Check out our Ultimate Guide to International Removal companies to find out how to choose a reputatble company that's right for you. 

Get a quote for international removals to AUSTRALIA

If you're moving from the South East of England to Australia we'd love to provide you with a free, no obligation quote for your move. 

Get a quote for Removals to Australia

If you're moving from outside of the South East of England where we are based check out the FIDI FAIM international movers directory for a list of reputable movers in your area. 


Topics: Australia

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