Friday 5 February 2021

What can go wrong with an international move? Things you don't get told.

From experience anything that involves sub contracting around the world is doomed from the start. It doesn't matter if you have 3 quotes, get everything in writing, have a personal consultation, take a personal recommendation, if something can go wrong it will.

There's also an element of 'How do I know what I need to know?' which is my biggest issue when trying to do anything.

Moving between countries means forget how everything works where you are now and start again. And know what you don't know such as in general where the local council in the UK is called a Municipality in other countries and things like electricity and water are government run and to get a sim card you're required to have an attested copy of all your documents or a physical entry stamp on your visa or buy from the airport on arrival and the breakdown you've been having wasn't necessary.

I will say if you cut out the middle man, HR and a relocation company who just refuse to deal with the spouse, despite it being the spouse that orchestrates practically the whole move, then things do go a bit smoother. The issues still happen, but the timescale of resolving the issues is reduced greatly as is some of the stress, by being able to yell at people directly, rather than yelling at your spouse to yell at HR and Relocation company to find out a delivery date.

So despite having done 3 International moves, here's what I've learnt I needed to know after the packing had been done and invoice paid.

UK to South Africa - Insurance is an additional 3-5% of the value of your goods. The value of replacing those goods in a new country and must be itemised.

Not only are you responsible for costs if your container is picked at customs for a check but you'll pay the storage costs for the delay.

If custom checked you'll need to know your container number, which you'll be asked to confirm on delivery also.

You can't ship your container ahead of you until you have a visa, either in place before you move as in South Africa. However moving to Dubai, your container can be shipped but not released until your visa is in place. This also means any air freight will arrive after your shipping container so don't bother and save your money.

Check yourself exactly what you can and can't take. For example food, alcohol and tobacco is a NO. You'll also be told you can't take certain items such as bikes and out door equipment to South Africa and into Dubai you can't take Christmas Decorations or your family bible, you of course can.

Ask for the contact details of the receiving agent in the UK. Contact them and ask for their time scale from when the container arrives to their delivery times.

A new one for us with this move of things we needed to know that we didn't know about are......

How to obtain a BoL from the shipping company. What is a BoL? Bill of Lading. It is one of 3 crucial documents used in International Trade to ensure that exporters receive payment and importers receive the merchandise. In other words, along with proof of insurance and and invoice, these documents should be handed to the shipping company ( you'll need to know who they are also) who should, in theory, pass this on to the receiving agent to get your container released from the port, after customs clearance.

To obtain the BoL you'll need remarkable detective skills and the help of total strangers off of Twitter to make calls on your behalf and do the job you've paid someone else to do. Whilst doing this your packing agents, receiving agents and shipping company will all tell you it's not their fault or problem, stop answering their phones and replying to emails.

You'll get the money back from the Insurance after threatening the company with legal action and the police.

Your boxes will be delivered at 6pm on a Sunday night, your sofa left in the neighbours garage and no one wants to take responsibility for the fact you've paid the agent for a full unpacking and rubbish removal service and for the first time ever the packing is done so badly you actually have lots of things broken and no insurance to make a claim from.

I'm left with a room full of boxes and packing materials to get rid of.

This is how items were packed.

These glasses were wedged together and could not be separated.

Placed at the bottom of a box without any packaging under neath to protect it.

I have sent an invoice to the company in Dubai I had the contract with for 6 hours work by 2 people to unpack to surfaces, the cost of removing the uPVC door to put the sofa back inside the house from the neighbours garage and the cost of removing the packaging totalling £624/AED 3,130. I've also informed them they are clearly in breach of contract and as advised by Consumer Law in Dubai that I will make this a matter for the courts on my return.


  1. ANY move is fraught with so many stressors and unknowns. I can't begin to imagine what it would be like to cross a major border with all my worldly goods!
    You amaze me!

    1. I'm astounded sometimes by some of the things we have to do

  2. What a nightmare! This is the last thing you needed #pocolo

  3. How awful them them to pack with such little care. I hope there weren't too many breakages like these. #PoCoLo

    1. breakages seem to have been confined to 2 boxes

  4. Oh my, what a nightmare. I know bottom line they're only things, but they're your things and you expected people to care for them as per the contract. #PoCoLo