13 Useful Tips for Moving Abroad

I bet deep down everyone had at least once or twice the dream of waking up in a brand new country with a fresh start ahead of them. I’ve been living with towards that goal since I was a kid, and I’m so grateful that I am finally able to make it real!

I’ve learned a lot from the experience of moving abroad and dealing with all the anticipation, that’s why I wanted to share a bit of my knowledge on the matter with you guys. You need to remember though, as with everything in life, careful preparation is the key in order to make sure that you do wake up to a bright future and not an absolute nightmare.

It takes a lot of preparation work and hereby are some tips that will make this life-changing move seem less stressful and more like a pleasurable moment of your life that you should enjoy at its fullest.

1. Where to?

Choosing a destination may be whether a difficult decision or an answer that lies right on the tip of your tongue. Make sure that wherever you’ll go, it’s not in a critical economical crisis or facing a terrifying unemployment rate. Only then comes the good things in life. If you’re an architecture lover, a cultural geek, passionate for crazy languages, searching  for soul enlightenment, or what have you, you should follow your gut! Go wherever makes you happy, even if it’s in the other side of the world.

2. Learn the lingo before you go!

That’s a no brainer. If you’re moving to the United States you gotta start learning English, if you’re moving to Sweden it’s better if you take a swedish language course, even if you’re moving to the UK you better start learning cockney and some other slang terms. You would be impressed by the amount of people that land in a new country without a clue on how to say even the basics.
Take some time to learn about the cultural aspects of your new country, or «when in Rome, do as romans do» or else you might face a cultural shock!

3. Get rid of most of the stuff in your apartment

Trust me, the process of moving out can be exhausting. Selling old household appliances and furniture sounds like a good plan before you leave your place. Cash converters are a great option to get rid of old electronics and furniture in your apartment. Most of your kitchen appliances, heaters and fans are practically new and less fortunate people don’t have enough money to afford them as new. It’s a win-win situation, you get a few bucks in your pocket for something that was too good to be thrown away and someone else can buy it way cheaper.

And what about all your clothes hanging in the closet? Turns out you can’t take them all with you. Yeah, it sucks. Make sure to take a couple of days or more to organize your wardrobe though. Select all the clothes you wanna give away and separate them from the ones you wanna keep.

And… I must remind you you’ve got a maximum weight limit for your checked luggage in your flight. That’s why giving away your old clothes for charity will not only help you clearing out your closet but also helping poor kids and families in need. I promise you you’ll be feeling super great after that!

4. Save money

I advise you to start saving some big bucks as soon as possible. Also plan the big day for when you have enough money. Making the move with a full wallet will keep you secure for the first couple of months. Especially if you have to rent a place, pay a forehand rent, tackle a new job and buy things for the new house, the greenies will definitely be your new best friend!

5. Open a bank account abroad

Try to get some useful information about opening a bank account on your chosen destination. It’s usually complicated because you are not a country resident therefore you don’t have a valid home address as proof as you’re living there. Basically it will take you 3 or 4 months to get this done. Some banks are now making this step easier by creating special accounts for foreigners.
For instance, if you’re moving to the UK I strongly recommend opening a Passport account at HSBC, it’s hassle free and you can activate it right as soon as you arrive and they will also provide you some cool information on how to settle in the new country.
Don’t forget to previously gather all the documentation needed such as a recent proof of address and letters from your previous bank.

6. Packing all the stuff will drive you cuckoo-bananas!

Your house will be a hot mess on the last couple of weeks, like a gypsy camp full of cardboard boxes and plastic bags with old stuff. Don’t worry about that. Turns out literally packing your whole life into one suitcase is not that easy. When packing you have  to be criterial but still flexible. Are you really gonna need that extra winter coat? Do you really need those pink glittery socks? Question, question, question.
Best thing of packing up is getting rid of all your boring clothes and keeping only the good ones, à la What Not To Wear show.

7. Get your vaccines up-to-date

Take also time for scheduling one or two medical check-ups, like going to the dentist or going for a full check-up at the clinic, and getting you vaccines up-to-date. You’ll feel relieved and get that task off your to-do list for the upcoming months!

8. Buy some plug adapters (or a dozen like I did!)

If you happen to move to a country with a different electricity voltage system, you’ll probably want to buy a few plug adapters so your electronics don’t short out. As an avid shopper, I’m drawn to discounts. I bought all my UK plug adapters on Ebay, for about 1$ each. Sweet deal huh?

9. Unlock your cellphone to all carriers

If you’re not thinking of buying a new one when you get to your destination, you might be interested in unlocking your cellphone to all mobile networks. Depending on the mobile phone you own, it’s pretty easy to get it done in a specialized shop or at your carrier and it’s not that expensive.

10. Canceling accounts

This will be one of your last tasks. Remember that in order to cancel amenities like electricity and water you have to submit the real usage measurement, only then they can charge you for the amount you used and cancel your contract. Usually most services require a minimum of 15 days before the canceling date.

11. Apartment bureaucracy

Whether you are renting a flat, bought a house or renting a room, you have to resign your contract and take care of all the paperwork. Save at least 2 months to accomplish this task, filing all the needed documents will take forever.

12. Cold feet? It’s normal to feel anxious and stressed out!

Life as you know it is about to change. You may be struck by cold feet, and start wondering if it’s really the right thing for you to do, if this comes in the right time, if you have enough money, it may be especially difficult if you have a family or boyfriend/girlfriend back home. Truth is that may be one of the biggest decisions of your life, that’s why it’s normal to feel anxious and stressed out by such a life-changing decision. But remember you can always go back to where you came from or move some place else.
Whenever you’re hit by doubt make sure to remember what made you want to move abroad in first place. Analyze all the pros and cons. Especially if you’re doing it by your own, you got to be fearless and very brave, which deep down you know you are.
Just smile, breathe deep and remind yourself that life is what you make of it, and the future you’ve been fantasizing about is about to come true.

Don’t live in fear and don’t let it consume you right in this moment when you should be savouring these awesome moments. Time flies so fast! Don’t wast it living in your fear. Step out into the unknown and risk it all for what you love.You must be ready for it, embrace and live those moments at they fullest!

13. Bidding farewell

Saying goodbye to your family and friends may be hard, so try to spend some quality time with them before you leave. Goodbyes are sad and awkward, and god knows how much I hate them. Plan a relaxed movie night at your place, a special homemade dinner with your family and casual lunches with your friends. Try not to get sad and gloomy though! It’s a celebration, not a funeral. Focus on your happiness. And remember nowadays you have Skype, emails, free text messaging apps and international phonecalls cheaper than ever, to keep you in touch with your beloved ones back home.


  1. Rita,

    thanks for writing this. Really.

    One thing I *gotta* ask, though… what about taxes? Are you paying them abroad or at home? I’m completely clueless in that regard and couldn’t find much info online. I’m pretty sure it varies from country to country, but have you both sorted that out yet?

    (btw, loving the layout… floating moving clouds?! YES, please!)

  2. We’re paying them there! If eventually we come back home, they transfer the retirement ammount to Portugal’s system (no luck for plain cash).. since we’re moving permanently it’s just better to transfer the tax payment to the UK because everything becomes hassel-free.
    If it turns out to be the right choice, we’ll let you know mate 🙂

  3. Hi André! Thank you for reading, glad it was somehow helpful to you!
    Well, about what you asked, that extremely handsome guy above already answered you exactly what I was about to tell you 😛 (thank you pete!)

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