Moving overseas can be a big upheaval.
If you are just moving yourself and a couple of suitcases, it’s bad enough. If you are moving your family, pets and a house full of stuff, it’s 9,000 times worse.
That is why, when I decided I was moving to Thailand from the United States, I spend a few hours creating a moving overseas checklist.
Once I had that, not only did it make moving abroad seem more real, it was also so much easier to make sure I did everything necessary before I eventually left.
Here is the moving overseas checklist I created. A list that, in another overseas move from Thailand to Austria, I used again with just a couple of minor additions.
Give away or sell everything you do not need
While doing this first was not something everyone does when planning a move abroad, for me it just made everything so much more simple.
After all, I knew I was leaving in two months, so I gave away everything I thought someone could use and I couldn’t sell at least six weeks before I left. The rest I sold in a huge garage sale and on Craig’s List a month before I left.
Sure, I sat on my apartment floor on pillows for a few weeks instead of my sofa (which was now owned by my next door neighbor!), and my drinking glasses were plastic McDonalds cups.
But I knew my peace of mind would be better once I had $1,200 from the sale of my sofa already safely in the bank ready for my trip, rather than having to think about selling it a week before I left.
And btw, do get rid of a lot more things than you think you should.
I saved 9 boxes of books, clothes and sundry items that I then left in my parents’ attic. Sixteen years later, and they’re still sitting at my parents and have never been opened.
Just think how much money I could have earned if I’d just gotten rid of them!
Is your passport up to date?
Most countries will not allow you to enter if you do not have at least six months left on your passport before it expires. Some airlines will not let you board your flight if you do not.
That’s why, with less than 11 months left on my passport, I decided to just renew it. That way I knew I had 10 years to travel on it anywhere in the world, and not be caught out and stuck somewhere once it expired.
Do you need to visit the embassy of the country you will move to?
If you are moving your entire family, plus kids, pets and furniture, you may need to arrange for an appointment at the embassy of the country you will be moving to before your move abroad.
That should be one of the first things you add to your moving overseas checklist, as appointments can sometimes take weeks or months to get.
When my family moved from the UK to the U.S., we met with American embassy officials to apply for visas.
I didn’t add this to my moving overseas checklist when I moved to Thailand though, as it was just me and a couple of suitcases and all I needed was a travel visa that I could get via the Internet.
Apply for visas if needed
It depends on where you are moving from as to whether you will need a visa to enter the country you will be moving to. It also depends on how long you are allowed to stay while work permits and permanent visas are processed.
When I moved to Thailand as an American citizen, I could have arrived at the airport in Bangkok with nothing but my passport. Thai immigration would have let me in and allowed me to stay for 30 days.
Knowing it would take longer than that to get a teaching job and have the paperwork processed, I opted to apply for a 90-day tourist visa instead.
That allowed me to stay in Thailand for 90 days while my work permit and annual visa was being processed. A 90-day tourist visa in Thailand can also be converted to an annual visa for residency requirements if you apply for it in enough time.
Check what visas you will need depending on the country you are a citizen of and apply for them early. You do not want to have a flight scheduled and then realize three days before you leave your mandatory visas have not shown up.
Book your flights
Book flights well in advance as this will allow you to get the best deals. Leave it too late, however, and you could find the cost of a flight double what it would have been a month ago.
Also find out if the country you will be moving to requires a return trip before they will let you in.
Thailand immigration often does. That’s why I booked a one-way trip to Bangkok and then a second trip leaving Bangkok and flying to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Once I got there, and had been admitted to the country by Thai immigration, I canceled the flight to Malaysia and got a refund as I no longer needed it.
Sell your car
It depends on where you live and what your local public transportation is like as to when you decide to sell your car.
I actually didn’t sell mine until a year after I had been living in Thailand as I just parked it on my parents’ driveway instead. That was only because, at the time I left, I still wasn’t sure how long I would be gone and buying a new car if I returned to the U.S. would have been an expensive hassle.
If I had to do it all again though, I would have sold it a week before I was leaving and rented a car for the last few days instead.
Set up online banking and get credit cards up-to-date
No matter what country you are moving to, it is usually best not to close your bank accounts in your own country. After all, you may need an account for a tax refund, final payments from any jobs you have or even for refunds for services you cancel.
Keep your bank accounts, but make sure your credit cards are up-to-date. That way you can use them when you get there.
I would not recommend telling your bank you are moving overseas anyway, as many banks (especially in America) do not allow you to have an account with them if you no longer live in the country.
In that case, try to use a family member’s address as your own country’s address so you can use the account as long as you need to.
Get any necessary vaccinations
You can find out about any vaccinations you might need from the CDC’s website. They have everything broken down by country with a huge amount of useful information for anyone moving or traveling abroad.
I didn’t get any vaccinations as I was moving to Bangkok and not planning on traveling in any jungle areas where I might catch malaria or dengue fever. In 15 years living in Bangkok, I never needed them.
You, however, may think differently — and that is entirely your decision.
Get medical records from your doctor
You never know when you might need medical care in your new country, so make sure you have your current medical records with you when you arrive. In most cases, your doctor will be able to give you copies of all yours in just a few days.
Make sure you refill all your prescriptions and, if you take on-going medications, ask your doctor if you can have 3 months supply as you are moving overseas.
That will allow you enough time to find a doctor in your new country, and be able to get any medication you need.
Pack your birth and marriage certificates
At some point in your new country, you will need to show immigration a copy of your birth and/or marriage certificate. Make sure both are on your moving overseas checklist and safely packed in your carry-on luggage before you leave.
You can also take photos of each document and both keep them on your phone and e-mail them to yourself. That way you have copies if the originals go missing.
Get health insurance
Whether you get travel insurance that covers your first month in your new country, or apply for health insurance there already, do that before you leave.
I chose to get a short-term travel insurance policy as I knew the school I eventually began teaching at in Thailand would probably provide health insurance for me (they did!).
If you will need to buy health insurance when you get there, or will be signing up with that country’s universal healthcare service (I had to do that in Austria), you are usually better doing it when you get there as you can make an appointment at the local health office and find out exactly what you coverage you will get.
Cancel your utility services
Don’t leave without telling your utility companies you are moving overseas, and making arrangements for your final bills to be sent to you.
I did that but made sure I told them I was leaving a day after than I actually was so my electricity didn’t get cut off before I had finished getting ready for the airport.
Cancel any other services you use
I’m not one for signing up for long-term services, so the only things I needed to cancel were my cable service and my newspaper.
I did both about six months before I left and saved a nice chunk of money towards my moving expenses by doing so.
You may have services like a babysitter, dog walker, gym membership, pool service, landscape gardener, Internet service and other things you pay for every month.
Make sure you stop all of them before you leave.
Find out about a drivers license in your new country
If you are like many people, you may want to drive when living in your new country. I didn’t as Bangkok’s public transportation is amazing. So is Vienna, Austria’s train, bus and tram system where I live now.
Many countries require you to have an international drivers permit to be able to legally drive on their roads before you apply for one of theirs.
You can get one of those with a quick search online, and then using one of the services that can get them for you.
You can also find out what you will need from the country you are moving to when it comes to being legally allowed to drive, and what you need to do to take their driving test. Most countries will require you to apply for their own drivers license within six months of arrival.
Thailand’s Department of Land Transport processes all that country’s applications for a drivers license, for instance. As a non-Thai in Thailand, you can find out more on that on their website.
Find a hotel or a temporary place to stay
If you do not have a place already booked in your new country, staying in a hotel is often a good first step. Be sure your moving overseas checklist includes organizing either a hotel, an Airbnb, or finding a short-term apartment on the Internet through other means before you leave.
When I moved to Bangkok, I made a two-week reservation at a small hotel close to the Victory Monument skytrain station. That way I could get around all over the city easily, and it gave me plenty of time to find a permanent apartment.
As it turned out, I found my permanent apartment a day after I got there and the original hotel was kind enough to give me a refund. But you may not.
You can also book an Airbnb apartment, if that is more to your preference.
Hand in your keys to your landlord
If you are renting an apartment or a house, make arrangements with your landlord as to where to leave the keys and what you need to do to get your deposit back.
In my case, I handed mine in the day before I left. Then I booked a night’s stay at a hotel at Los Angeles airport. That way, as my flight was leaving early in the morning, I did not have to deal with last minute apartment things at 4am or have a horrible last night’s sleep.
Instead, I got up at 5:30am, had a relaxing breakfast and a shower and was on time for my flight check-in at 8: 30 am.
Make arrangements to get to the airport
Finally, if you do not book a room at an airport hotel, you will need to book a taxi or arrange for a friend to take you on the day you leave.
You can use Uber but, as I am not a fan of that horrible misogynistic, unsafe, badly regulated company with its vile business practices and its poor treatment of its drivers, it is not a service I personally recommend.
In other words, if a friend can’t take you to the airport, book a taxi and contribute to a much better company’s financial security than Uber will ever be.
Other things to add to your moving overseas checklist
As I wasn’t moving furniture, kids or pets, I also did not have to worry about adding their needs to my moving overseas checklist.
If you are, you will also have to find a moving company that handles international moves, find out about new schools for your kids and, of course, figure out what paperwork is required to move your pet, get your pet’s medical records from your vet and find out if they need any vaccinations or a micro-chip — then find an airline that will take it.
For the latter, you may also have to find a hotel in your new country that also accepts pets.
This was my moving overseas checklist.
You will find there are other things that are pertinent to your move abroad, but this one should get you off to a rip roaring start.
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