Only three days until I get on that plane, cross the Ocean and settle on my land in Guatemala!!!
As I am preparing the final details, I am trying not to forget anything before I go.
I am not talking about the material, people abroad eat, drink and dress just like you, so anything you forget, you can buy.
I am trying to prepare everything administratively, financially, etc. so I don’t have to call my mum for an emergency after a week. She is very kind and takes care of my mail while I am away, she scans the letters over to me, and I don’t want her to have much more to do.
Check-list for the ”old” country
Tell your landlord that you are moving
Sounds pretty obvious, but make sure you are early enough as some agreements require a couple of months’ notice. If not, try to negotiate with your landlord, if you find a replacement early enough, not to be penalized.
Close your accounts
Electricity, gas, internet, cable, phone providers, call them all to know the procedure. Again, it can take weeks, and you can be charged an early exit fee.
Keep your bank account
A bank account is hard to reopen should you come back, because you won’t have a proof of address or an employment contract anymore. So keep your account open, close any paying services, and ask about the fees you will be charged should you want to send money abroad, or use your credit/debit card in your new country.
Visit your doctor
You should still have a health coverage in your ”old” country, so go make sure everything is fine before you go, renew your prescriptions, and buy them all. Get the recommended shots for the new country. You will have a few months to start up a new policy, find a doctor and so on.
Moving your stuff
I have lived in five countries and usually get there with a bag of clothes and essentials, then buy furniture and sell when I move. If you want to bring your stuff with you, know that it will probably take weeks and be expensive.
Consider getting rid of your basic furniture, and getting some over there. You can also leave the nicer pieces in storage if you are coming back.
Time to clear customs, and you may live in an empty house for a while, so anything essential, carry with you.
Renew your passport and get an international driving license
If your passport expires soon, get a new one, specially if you are not going to live in a city with a US consulate. Also consider getting an international driving license to rent and drive a car abroad.
Check-list for the ”new” country
Learn how much as you can
Browse forums and start learning about security, habits, rules… If the new country is known for tourist scams, be extra careful. The embassy usually has a good list of things to do and avoid. Learn the basics of the language if you can. Check how much the currency is worth to avoid confusion. Have in mind the price of a taxi from the airport and a few basic things in order to be charged a fair price.
BEFORE you go, depending on the purpose and length of your stay, you may need a certain type of visa. For example if I (French) go to the US as a tourist, I get 90 days to stay. Should I decide to start working, I have to go back to France, apply for a working visa, then come back. Make sure you take the best visa to avoid a trip home and back.
Get temporary accommodation
I committed the mistake when I moved to the UK to get a 6 months rental. After two weeks I didn’t get along with my roommates, the location was unpleasant and I wanted to move out, but was stuck. Find a place for a month, again via Airbnb or Craigslist, and start exploring all the neighborhoods. Where will you work? How far is the bus/train stop? How convenient is it to live there? This first month’s rental should be more expensive but you will know the market better and find a nicer place with more times on your hands.
What to do with your house?
It all comes down to whether you are coming back or not. If you are taking a sabbatical, or traveling the world for a year, do you want to keep your house?
As a homeowner, you can rent your house while you are away, long term or short term. Both have pros and cons. Long term, the tenants may not want to move out when you come back, and short term, you would need someone to cover the cleanup and the check-in and out of the renters. Make sure you are properly insured.
In any case, you will probably want to rent a storage unit to keep your valuable items out of reach. Those are expensive and maybe a trip to your parents’ or friends’ before you go to drop your things off will be cheaper. I keep everything at my mum’s, because I never know how long I will be away for.
Set up your services
Get a pay as you go cellphone while you browse for a proper phone plan. Ask your employer to provide a reference to get utilities set up, and a bank account. Talking to other expats can help a great deal, they went through it too.
Bring your money
You will probably want to bring over a bit of savings to get setup at first. Usually when I open a foreign bank account I use currency exchange services to wire money, like Currency Online, as their commission is lower than normal banks (about 1% of the amount against 2%). it is also safer than carrying a lot of cash with you on your first day.
Make sure you have a nice emergency fund as there are many fees to cover when you first arrive somewhere. You need to fill up your fridge and cupboards, buy cleaning products, maybe bed sheets and towels, tuition for the kids, connecting fees for internet and your phone, buy a car, pay the first month and a month’s deposit on a rental, and so on. And if you are moving, like me, to a cheap country like Guatemala, you will be overcharged because you are foreign, until you learn the real price of things. Expect the first couple of months to be super expensive.
Do you have other things to add to a checklist before moving to a new house?
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