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Moving to another country – Guide for aspiring expats

Updated on October 21, 2011

The only downside of moving to another country is the massive effort and work that goes into preparing and planning for the big move. I am armed with the experience of living overseas, moving through 2 countries and going through innumerable joys of living as an expat in the last 6 years. Here is a basic yet useful overview of the things to keep in mind before moving overseas to a foreign country.

Moving to another country? That's great but make sure you've got these points figured out before you hop on to that plane
Moving to another country? That's great but make sure you've got these points figured out before you hop on to that plane | Source

1) Have a 2-3 month buffer period

An impulsive idea about moving to another country is great. We all have those moments. But what you need to realize is that you won't have a perfect move if you don't have at least 2-3 months to do some hardcore planning and preparation for your move. As a general rule, make sure you have 2-3 months as a buffer period or a transition period as a prep time.

2) Reaffirm the motive for your move

Moving to another country simply because you 'feel like', 'you feel bored' or 'you want to do something exciting' can be a disastrous decision. Having a concrete motive for your move overseas is a good way to lay a foundation to the mental strength for your move. The last thing you'd want is to be discouraged or have regrets at the last minute and think "I wonder if all this is going to be worth it" Allow a seasoned traveler warn you, that's the worst feeling you can ever have!

3) Keep safety in mind

So you've picked an exotic country and location to move to, have you? That's great but have you checked how safe it is to be out there? Remote locations and certain countries may look picture perfect but there could be major safety issues when it comes to living there as an expat. Kidnapping, rape at gunpoint, gang rape, slavery, execution, held for ransom, being held in captivity for a long time, theft and murders are only some of the possible horrors of an unsafe foreign country. Check and double check with all your resources to make sure that the foreign country that you are moving to is considered to be a safe place for expats.

4) Establish the cost of living abroad

The lure of a stronger Dollar, Pound or Euro may be too tempting while deciding whether you want to move to a foreign country or not. But you must keep in mind that the country you are moving to will be your home, and not just another tourist destination.

  • It is best to keep aside a fixed budget for your move because being carried away in the scheme of things is very easy and tempting.
  • Daily supplies, transportation, utilities and all the other expenses that you incur in your day to day life should be accounted for.
  • If you are moving to a country which is less developed than your home country, you will have to fork out more money to maintain your current lifestyle.
  • Do you have a job lined up? If not, budget for the transition period.
  • You will incur administrative expenses in a foreign land. This includes things like a local id, driver's license, government forms and much more.
  • After all this, provide for at least a 10-15% buffer to accommodate for unknown costs of living in a foreign country.
  • Don't make the mistake of including an expected salary or an expected income that you may have in the foreign country. If things go wrong, your expected salary may never reach your bank account.
  • If you have the slightest of doubts regarding whether you can afford it or not, it is wise not to move.

5) Find a local contact

One of the first things that you'd want to do before anything else is find a local contact in the country that you are going to move to. Your contact should be reliable, trustworthy and accessible at all times. Your contact should also have a phone number, a physical address and all the other things that make up a real person. Don't rely on a simple email address or a Facebook profile. Your contact will be your whole and sole advisory for

  • Helping you with administrative issues including government agencies
  • Showing you around during the first few days
  • Local accommodation and transportation
  • It is best to have a single contact and you should be prepared to pay the contact for their services. Remember, paying or should we say, tipping your contact heftily will go long way in making them feel obliged to pull out all stops in helping you.

6) Start networking for working overseas

Unless you've just won a lottery and are planning to retire on the beaches of a foreign country, you will need to work. It is absolutely ok if you don't find a job before you land on foreign shores. There is absolutely no need to panic. What is more important is that you should have contacts in place that you can tap immediately after you move overseas. Build these contacts from online professional networks or from contacts of other friends and work colleagues.

7) Find a good local self storage facility

One of the biggest mistakes most expats make is that they bring all their belongings to the foreign country along with them. It is best to keep your belongings in a reliable local self storage facility until you are sure that you will establish a permanent base in the foreign country. Belongings that you may want to leave in the self storage facility are including but not limited to expensive appliances that you've not been able to sell off, expensive furniture that you haven't been able to dispose off, paintings and other sculptures in your homes and other things that may be difficult to pack in your suitcase.

8) Find a cheap courier

Travel light. If you've heard these magic words before, there is no better time to implement them. Besides the few clothes, documents and other important stuff that you will be carrying in your luggage with you, it is a wise idea to courier your other belongings before you travel.

  • If you don't have a physical address yet, you can tap the services of your local contact and ask them to hold on to your courier before you arrive in the foreign country.
  • It is also recommended to put some money aside for custom clearance for the goods that you courier. Yes, your courier guy may tell you that they send thousands of packages every day without any issues. But if your luck runs out, you may end up with the difficult choice of paying up to the customs of a foreign country or saying goodbye to your favorite clothes.

9) Find company

The world is full of expats and unless you are going to the most remote region on planet earth, you are likely to bump into someone from your side of the world to the country that you are going to move to. Simply type "Americans living in Bangkok" or "Australian expats in UK" in a search engine and you will find thousands of results. These were just examples.

  • Find genuine expats and hook up with them. You may even stumble upon people who are going to move to the country around the same time you are.
  • Finding company and people from similar backgrounds before actually hitting foreign shores is definitely one of the most comforting factors that add to the peace of mind of any expat.

10) Plan for your pets

Pets can be extremely expensive to take along with you if you are moving to another country. Depending upon the country you go to, there will be travelling and administrative costs that will drill a nasty hole in your pocket. So if you do plan to take your pet along, you will have to budget and plan for it well in advance.

11) Learn a few things about the culture of the foreign land

No rocket science here, ladies and gentlemen. Needless to say, before you move to foreign land, read up a little bit about the culture of the people. This will not only help you strike good conversation, but also help you learn the ropes of how the local community functions quicker.

12) Plan for local banking

Don't leave setting up your bank accounts for later. Get in touch with the local banks in the country that you will be moving to before you actually move. Some banks allow temporary or limited accounts to be set up which can be later converted to full fledged accounts with verification on arrival.

13) Plan for your driving permit

It is best to check up on the driving regulations and license laws of the country you are going to move to. It may be the case that the country may allow a valid driver's license of your home country, but it is best to have an International Driving Permit handy, just in case. Plan to carry both when you land on foreign shores so you can drive until you get a local license.

14) Plan for insurance

Facing injuries, illness or other medical emergencies in a foreign country can be expensive. On the other hand, insuring yourself as an expat can be expensive too! That's exactly why you should plan for it. Resources to tap for your insurance needs

  • Banks and insurance companies in your home country
  • Banks and insurance companies in the foreign country
  • Travel agents can be resourceful and point you towards the right contact

15) Contact your embassy

Whether required or not, it is best to contact your home's country's embassy in the foreign country before your move. Ask questions like "What should I be aware of" or "Are there any specific precautions that I need to take?" A local embassy will be your most important point of contact in case of dire emergencies and they can also provide you with much needed insight in to any peculiarities that you should be aware of.

16) Have a plan B

Not everything in life goes according to plan and moving to another country is no different. One of the best pieces of advice you will ever get before moving to another country is to have a Plan B. What if things don't work out? What if I don't like staying as an expat? What if I miss home? The list of 'what ifs' is long, but what you need to do is put away a chunk of money in your savings account in case you wish to come back or better yet, move forward to another country!


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    • sarahshuihan profile image


      6 years ago from USA

      I totally agree with finding a local contact. It has made a world of difference to me when I moved to countries where English wasn't widely spoken. I think sometimes people buy into the romanticism of being abroad that they forget that it takes work to make it a wonderful experience.

    • profile image

      Expat Aussie in NJ 

      6 years ago

      Very comprehensive list! Well done and a great tool for those planning on being expats! Like someone above, we didn't have the bank accounts lined up and this was a bit of an issue, as is getting credit ratings in a country such as US.. Look forward to more of your articles

    • profile image

      Aditi ghiya 

      6 years ago

      hub is a very very useful website. It is just lovely.

    • Availiasvision profile image

      Jennifer Arnett 

      6 years ago from California

      Which city is in the picture. I love it!

    • Sue Adams profile image

      Juliette Kando FI Chor 

      6 years ago from Andalusia

      Very good advice for moving abroad. Since childhood I have moved from Hungary to France, Holland, Germany, England and now Spain. Making friends with locals rather than just the expat community helped me to learn the languages and to adapt to new cultures.

      I still see myself as a perpetual foreigner though, a European if anything.

    • sabinepanneau profile image


      6 years ago from Rosario, Argentina

      I totally relate with all your points as I have made the move many times... IMO, points 4 and 5 are some of the most important in the long term, creating your support group or networking abroad can sometime be difficult and there is nothing worse than feeling alone in a foreign land!

    • princesswithapen profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago


      Greece, Philippines and England. Wow! Quite a diverse travelling experience.

      Except for the culture shock, you are lucky to have been supported by the government infrastructure throughout. Effortless moving sounds like a dream come true for most of us out here.


    • profile image


      7 years ago

      My father was in the Air Force and so our family moved frequently. Greece, the Phillippines, England. I am sure packing and unpacking was a huge amount of work for my mother (my father was usually sent on ahead and she had to manage us four kids and all our stuff), and there were some minor moments of culture shock...but the government took care of so much of what you mentioned in your Hub, we really had relatively effortless moves. Great advice for those hoping to live overseas who don't have a military structure to guide them and to rely on. Very thorough.

    • princesswithapen profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago


      Thanks for your appreciation and warm comment. It's always great to get a heads up about things that should be kept in mind while planning an international move. I've always been fortunate enough to have helpful friends who've been pillars of support when it came to everything to do with a move.


    • princesswithapen profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Hi NiaG

      Moving overseas and then being worried about finding a job in crunch time is a nightmare. It really steals away the excitement and enjoyment out of the move. So you are on the right track having made the decision of saving up to last you a year.

      6 months is more than enough time to begin planning and preparing for your more. If you are really quick and efficient at getting things done, a 3 month period is sufficient too.


    • profile image


      7 years ago

      This is a most valuable hub for anyone contemplating a move to another country. Sharing the wisdom that you have attained by personal experience is a very nice gesture. Hopefully many readers will take advantage of what you have learned from your exciting lifestyle. Great job and thanks so much for sharing the realities of being a world traveler. Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • NiaG profile image


      7 years ago from Louisville, KY

      Wow thanks so much princesswithapen. I plan on moving to Mexico in March of 2013. I'm looking to save quite a bit up until that time. I'm going to try save up enough to live there for a year so I won't be in a serious rush to find a job. In your opinion, how far in advance should I begin my serious planning of getting a bank account, contacting the Embassy and other things like that? About 6 mos. before or sooner?

    • princesswithapen profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Hi c1234rystal

      Yes, setting up a bank account before moving does help. It makes moving cash over to the foreign country easier and helps you manage your finances better. Which means one less hassle to worry about when you land on foreign shores.

      I'm glad you are settling in with your move. Yes it is a lot of planning and I hope you get to start enjoying the pleasures of your new home soon!


    • princesswithapen profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Hi SJmorningsun25

      I have moved from Australia through to two countries in Asia. I'm glad you found this hub interesting. As you can see, there are many not-so-interesting bits of things that you need to do before you physically move. But once you do, and with a strong foundation, there is little to worry about. Thanks for stopping by!


    • c1234rystal profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks for all the useful information. I've just made a move that I hope is permanent and made the mistake of not setting up a bank acount beforehand. Everything is settled now, but it is a lot of planning!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Really interesting! Thanks for sharing your hard-earned wisdom. What countries have you lived in?

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • princesswithapen profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Hi anjperez

      Packing, unpacking and all the other related things are the boring tasks, I agree. And that's why I like to travel light. But once you get past the boring bits and start experiencing the beauty of a foreign land, all the hardships seem to fade out in a blur.

      I'm glad you liked this hub. Thanks for reading and commenting!


    • anjperez profile image


      7 years ago

      travelling and moving is a really big task. i had too much of that in college. done some company related trips here and there. also had the chance to live for more than a year in a foreign country. packing and unpacking. just the thought of it makes me cringe. your hub is a really handy guide in planning or before making that decision. very useful... (,")


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