A Guide to International Removals

The ultimate guide to finding and choosing great international removal companies to help you move house overseas.

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The Ultimate Guide to International Removals

Written by Kirsty Parsons • Reviewed by Andy Greaves

It can be confusing working out which international mover to entrust with getting your most important belongings overseas.

This guide helps you through the process of arranging international removals services giving you advice and tips to safely move your belongings overseas, while you save money and moving costs. It will help you understand what's available, how to choose the right company and how to get the most from your shipping budget for your big move abroad. 

In the guide:

  1. What do International Removal companies do?
  2. What services do International Removal companies provide?
  3. What shipping/transport options are available for household goods?
  4. How long does international household goods shipping take?
  5. How much do international removal companies cost?
  6. Shortlisting shipping companies
  7. Home surveys for international moves
  8. Comparing shipping quotes
  9. International moving certifications/accreditations
  10. Booking
removal company-1

What do International Removals Companies do?

International Removal companies pack, load transport and deliver your household furniture and personal belongings so they arrive safely and securely at your new home with as little stress for you as possible. 

Whether by sea or air, international removals companies take on most of the hard work that goes into making your physical move and guiding you on everything else to take away that stress for you.

As an overview your movers will typically help with the following:

  • A pre-move survey to understand what your move involves to give you an accurate quote and move plan.
  • Provide packing materials including crates for anything valuable or fragile. 
  • Give you advice and assistance in preparing for the move including telling you what you might not be allowed to take with you and help you complete all the documentation and customs forms. 
  • Pack and wrap your furniture and effects. 
  • Load ready for transport and deliver to the port. 
  • Keep you up to date with progress and keep you informed of key milestones. 
  • Clear your items through customs
  • Deliver items to your new home

We've broken this down and given lots more detail in our article "What do International Removal Companies do?" if you'd like to learn more about how they can help.  

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international packing services

What services do International Removal Companies provide?

Whilst most removals and shipping companies offer slightly different services, most will typically offer:

  • International Standard Packing
  • Loading and transport
  • Unloading
  • Unpacking 
  • Packing materials 
  • Storage
  • Moving vehicles 
  • Handyman services

Some removal companies can even help you find a new home, set up technology, relocate your pets or help you with the inventory check when you move into/out of a rental home! 

We've broken this down and given lots more detail in our article "what services do international removal companies provide?" if you'd like help choosing which options are right for you.


What transport options for shipping household goods are there?

Depending on where you are moving from or to your international removal may be transported by road, sea or air.

  • Road removals - possible where road routes are available e.g. from the UK to mainland Europe.
  • Sea Container (Exclusive use) - 2oft or 40/45ft steel containers are ideal if you are taking most of your belongings. 
  • Shared Sea Container - ideal if you are shipping fewer belongings and only need to pay for the space in a container you use. Many companies offer LCL or groupage shared load services. 
  • Airfreight - For a small number of belongings that you need quickly. Often used alongside a sea shipment for more urgent items.  

We've broken this down and given lots more detail in our article 'Container shipping options for household goods' if you'd like help choosing which services are right for you. 


How long does international household goods shipping take?

Door to door transit time depends on:

  • Method of transport - for sea shipments exclusive containers are the quickest, followed by LCL, with groupage typically being the slowest option. Air shipments are the fastest. 
  • Where you are moving from and to - this determines how long it will take for the vessel to sail port to port, plus any inland transport.
  • The vessel your goods are sailing on - some travel direct and others make stops at additional ports so sailing time can be slower.

We've broken this down and given lots more detail in our article 'How long do international removals take' if you want to find out more. 


How much do international removal companies cost?

International removals costs are individual to you based on your personal requirement and are made up of the following elements:

  • Volume. (check out our volume calculator to see how much you have to move) 
  • Timescales: How quickly you need the delivery and how flexible you can be with your move dates
  • Access: at both properties
  • Origin & Destination
  • Services chosen
  • Special care/handling items
  • Any additional moving costs: such as import duties/taxes if you are taking any new items you've not owned for 12 months or are not eligible for duty-free import, or container inspection charges if you are randomly selected.

We've broken this down and given lots more detail in our article 'How much do international removals companies cost' if you want to find out more, including why you may receive different costs from different international removal companies. 

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Shortlisting Shipping companies to quote

How do you choose from hundreds of search results to find reputable companies that are right for you?

  1. Check the FIDI Directory for movers in your area who are certified to the FAIM international moving quality standard to ensure you're moving with a verified professional company. 
  2. Ask for recommendations from friends and family, or online expat communities like British Expats who have made the overseas move before and have real experiences they can share.

Unless you already know who you want to move with then 3 is the magic number as 3 quotes helps you make good comparisons to ensure you're getting an accurate quote and best value for money. 

Check out 5 Steps to finding a reputable international removal company for more advice.  


Pre-Move Surveys

Getting a pre-move Survey is the best way to get an accurate and fixed quote for your move, with no hidden surprises. The appointment should be free and no obligation. 

Most international removal companies offer a choice of in-home or virtual video survey, with some also offering self survey forms. 

The aim of the pre-move consultation is to:

  • Understand what's important toyou
  • Explain how your move will work, the services they provide and your potential move plan
  • Take an inventory of the items you want to move
  • Check access for any unique requirements or restrictions
  • Advise on customs rules such as restricted/prohibited items

Find out more about pre-move surveys and how to get the most out of yours in our guide: "Your international removals survey - a guide to your pre-move consultation"

You can also check out our handy list of questions to ask international removal companies to help you find out what you need to know during the visit. 

Contract quote

Comparing and selecting quotes

Each removal company has their own format for showing costs so it's important to look for the key elements to ensure you're comparing like for like, including volume, transit time, method of shipment, inclusions/exclusions and additional fees. 

Once you're sure everyone has based their quote on the same information you can evaluate against what's important to you, including:

  • Move Plan
  • Quality
  • Pricing

Read our guide "how to compare your international removals quotes" to find out how to evaluate carefully to select the right mover for you. 


International Moving Certifications and Accreditations

Making sure you have chosen certified international movers is key to a great move experience as they have been independently pre-vetted to ensure they are qualified, experienced and meet high quality standards. 

The two main international removals industry-specific accreditations to look out for are:

  • BAR Overseas

Read our guide "Which certifications should my international moving company have?" to find out why.  

Contract quote

Booking your move

When should you book International Removals?

Most people start to arrange quotes for removals around 2-3 months before you want your items packed and moved. If your move date is likely to be in peak periods like summer or school holidays it's advisable to start the process ASAP to get the best rates and avoid your preferred mover being booked up.

If you don’t know your move dates yet don’t worry, let the removal company know your provisional or target dates and then finalise these once you know more. 

Paying in advance for your move:

Most companies will ask you to pay in advance for your move, typically on booking or at least 7 days before your move date. If you are worried, make sure your mover is a member of the British Association of Removers who offer an advance payment guarantee to protect your money once you've paid. 

Get an International Removals Quote

Our  quotes are free and there is no obligation so why not get in touch with us right away to find out how little it could cost you to enjoy an easy, simple, enjoyable move with Bournes.

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