As soon as you know that you’re definitely moving, you need to decide how you are going to move your possessions to your new home. There are 3 main options: using a removals company, hire a ‘man with a van’ or buy/rent a van and do it yourself. There are numerous removal firms that make regular trips between the UK and Portugal. We would recommend choosing a member of The British Association of Removers Overseas or The Association of International Removers. Even better if you can find a company that has also been recommended by a friend of colleague.
One of the first things that you need to check is your prospective removal company’s insurance status. Does its policy cover possessions while in storage, awaiting removal? Does it cover possessions while in transit by sea (marine insurance)? Are your possessions still insured once they arrive in your new country and are delivered to you?
The best time to contact a prospective removal company is three to six months before the moving date. They will need to visit your home to survey your belongings for a quote and then fit you into their schedule. The better the company, the busier it will be! Check that the company will pack your goods – it is better to pay a few extra pounds and get your things professionally packed, especially as some removal companies will not guarantee goods unless packed by themselves.
You will need to make sure the removal company writes the contents of the box and the room they were found in on every box, and make sure you have a complete inventory of all possessions packed. Keep your essential items to hand at all time. All your possessions will be in transit for weeks, so you will need to pack carefully to make sure everything you need is kept in a safe place – because once they have been loaded you can’t access it! Put aside your keys for your current accommodation, car, office etc. Label them clearly and be ready to hand over them to the right people before you leave.
Using a “man with a van” firm is an alternative for small loads. Several advertise in English language newspapers in Portugal. A “man with a van” will likely offer a more personal service, though the cost of fuel, ferry and road tolls means it is unlikely to save a substantial amount of money unless the van space is shared between several customers in the same area.
Whether you choose a removals firm or a “man with a van”, the basic rules are the same: keep a detailed inventory with an approximate value of each item and ensure you have adequate, valid insurance. A lack of formal EU border controls means that you are unlikely to need this inventory for customs purposes, but it will be valuable in the event of an insurance claim. Make sure you insist that the transporter signs the inventory – and keep a copy for yourself.
Above all, exercise the same caution you would with any business transaction – ensure you use a company or individual you trust, seek referrals if required and, in the case of removal firms, ensure they carry BAR (British Association of Removers) registration.
The final option of using a van and doing all the work yourself is one that most potential expats consider at some point. If you are bringing pets it might make perfect sense – especially if a road journey to Portugal is already on the cards. There are, however, several factors to consider.
By the time you have added together the cost of EU motor insurance, road tolls, fuel and overnight stops, the price may be in excess of the quote from a removals firm. Driving a vehicle over also means you end up with that vehicle in Portugal so it will either need to be eventually matriculated (sometimes a difficult process) or returned to the UK.
Take your time, do your sums and compare all the options. Whichever method you choose will already have been experienced by an expat in Portugal already – so don’t be afraid to hit the internet forums and seek advice on removal firms, costs and routes.
Whatever method you choose, protect yourself from identity theft by shredding all those bits of paper, old bank statements and bills that you don’t want to keep. You could even use the shredded paper as packing material.
It is important to comply with regulations when your possessions enter a new country – and your removal company will give you a specific list of what can and cannot enter Portugal during your initial survey. Additionally, you will need to:
- Drain all petrol and oil out of lawnmowers and similar equipment before transportation so that they comply with fire regulation
- Remove all batteries (e.g. from torches and radios), as they can leak in transit and damage your equipment
- Clean any garden tools and garden furniture – items with soil on them may be denied entry at customs
You should also check your electrical equipment, and whether it will work in your new home? A good removals firm will advise you on this. Those that can’t be used can be sold or given to the local charity shop.
If you are not moving into your new home straight away, you will need to discuss storage; it may be cheaper to store your containers in Portugal rather than in the UK.