How to choose a removal company for your international relocation

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Find a removal company for your move abroad

Moving overseas isn’t quite the same as moving house in the same country (understatement!). For a start there’s this big, wet area called ‘the sea’ to cross…

International transport options for moving your worldly goods are by sea, road or air; or a combination of all three.

If you are moving to another continent the bulk of your possessions will travel to your new home by container ship. This slow voyage means that you are without most of your belongings for quite some time. Depending on where you’re heading this could be about two months, possibly more.

Air freight is expensive and is charged by weight and volume. However, it may be worth sending a few items this way so they arrive before your shipment. This is not guaranteed though – as you can see from my personal experience.

Sending all your possessions by road is only really feasible if you’re moving within one continent!

Choosing a removal company

You need to find a removal company who is professional and organised at assisting international relocations.

If you are not on a relocation package that includes the services of a specific removal company, you’ll need to find your own. Here are some pointers to help you make this decision.

Plan ahead

Start researching as soon as you know you are moving overseas as the process can take time. Once you start asking for quotes, you may be given an estimate first. To get a true, accurate quote, the company needs to send an assessor to your home to calculate precisely how much needs to be packed. If you’re getting several quotes, this process alone will take time.

Try this excellent tool for FREE quotes…

Shop around

For peace of mind, choose a company that belongs to one of these two associations as they are bound by codes of conduct: The British Association of Removers or The National Guild of Removers and Storers.

Get in touch with at least three removal companies for quotes. What you are looking for is confidence in their abilities, professionalism, friendliness and efficiency. Find out what their services include.

Get recommendations

The best way to choose a removal company is to have friends and colleagues recommend one. If this isn’t possible, go with your instincts. You will be trusting all your worldly goods to these people, so you need to have confidence in them.


A good removal company includes insurance to cover against loss or damage during transit, so ensure this is included before making your booking. It’s also wise to contact your own home contents insurer to find out if your policy will cover your contents while they are being packed.

Don’t pack it yourself

Consider choosing a removal company that includes a packing service. It’s not too expensive and can save a huge amount of stress, time and energy that’s best spent elsewhere. Insurance is often cheaper if the company packs your items themselves. Plus they are professional packers and can squeeze far more into a box than you can. It’s quite something to watch!

While it’s quite daunting watching strangers move through your home with the speed and alacrity of locusts, it’s well worth it in the long run. There are a few pointers to take into account with this, and I’ve written about our own experiences in this post. Other interesting and funny mishaps are shown here too!

Find more resources here

Customs and delivery to your new home

Your chosen removal company will have contacts at all destinations and will deal with the customs clearance for you. Once everything has cleared customs, your goods will either be placed into temporary storage or delivered to your new home.

To sum up

  • Plan a long way ahead.
  • Get several quotes.
  • Choose an accredited company from the website links above.
  • Ask for with personal recommendations or your go with your instinct.
  • Insurance is vital.
  • Choose a professional packing service if at all possible.

To make your overseas relocation as smooth and hassle-free as possible, plan every step with care. Rely on your removal company to take as much of the inevitable stress away from you. They are the experts and can advise you on any specific questions you may have.

And now here are some resources to help you plan your packing:

Packing lists

A handy set of lists, tips and advice for organising your packing for a move abroad.

Comprising three sections:

  • Shipping container packing tips and advice
  • Air freight packing list and ideas
  • What to take in your luggage. Tips and advice for packing the suitcases you take on the plane

Find more resources here

Arrival eBook with packing lists to ensure a smooth arrival

Find more resources here

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  1. I’d like to share my shocking experience with Silverfox Removals of Moraira in Alicante (Spain):

    I contracted a part move of small personal items and clothing from Denia (Alicante) to Newport Wales.
    We paid well in advance 475 for the service and I thought it was a serious company as they work with a storage nearby where I used to live and they recommended him.

    His reaction is absurd and the most unprofessional and worst way of dealing with criticism.

    This would have never happened with a real professional, I’m including the two important emails just to show how they treat their customers when things go wrong.

    First of all the delivery was delayed and no one contacted us to let us know or inform us. When we contacted them, we were told there was no date as they had to offload a client’s stuff they had fallen out with (this now makes sense)

    When things finally arrived by a different British removal company and I opened the first box, things were literally smashed, then the second, then a suitcase so I tried to call them and as I got no response I sent a whatsup with the pictures and all upset for what I had found.
    The next thing I know is a message from the owner telling me he is driving and can’t see the pictures and to send him an email with a report. Also telling me that important stuff isn’t dealt over “whatsup”.
    I was texting from uk to Spain and didn’t expect him to reply immediately obviously if he didn’t answer, he wasn’t available so I sent them for him to see when he was.
    I was shocked to find out he texts while driving a truck!
    I sent him the email with all the details and pictures and mentioned he had been a bit out of order in those exact words. (In his text over “whatsup” he uses exclamation marks and remarks about not being able to see the pictures in a 3 inch screen, and to send a proper report via email, that is wasn’t possible as they do this for a living and it couldn’t be )
    and in his next email he is absolutely furious asking me to tell him where he had been out of order ignoring the report of the breakage and the pictures completely which he obviously hadn’t seen as he asks for them.
    I reply the email which is further down in this mail (this is all so unreal)
    From then on, no response. A week later I text him to please reply as I was being very patient and still no reply in those exact words. So a fortnight after I contact the storage that recommended him to explain what had happened and this is the professional response I get considering I am a client who has paid for a part load removal service:

    It is a copy and paste and doesn’t have a disclaimer statement:

    //Thankyou for your completely untrue comments to securistore. As you can see Securistore know of my reputation and the reason I have not contacted you is right from the start you were accusing and damning. Actually very stupid, as if you had contacted me in a professional manner rather than as a hysterical woman I would have dealt with it for you. But I do not deal with stupid people. I have never been aggressive, rude or arrogant. Show me one part of any email or message where this justifies your statement. In my opinion all your things were not packed correctly. We are a professional company and do not throw things around. But saying that if you had a problem I would have dealt with it and made a claim on my insurance. But as you were stupid enough to start insulting me from the start I have decided to ignore you. Do not contact me again as I have no interest in helping you further. You should have been more polite at the beginning and we would have helped you resolve the problem. Maybe a lesson for the future?

    You have made this into a problem by your attitude at the beginning. There was no need to start off this way. I will bock all future emails and calls from you as I have no wish to deal with your attitude any longer.//

    I have never, ever insulted this person neither in writing nor verbally (I have never met him in person) and he was not the only one handling the part load, it went through different people and another different company in the Uk so I never accused him directly of being careless.

    This is the part of my email that was so offensive to him previous to his “wonderful” email:

    //Morning Andrew,
    As I mentioned by whatsup, when I opened the first bag and box I found things were smashed. I tried calling but you were unavailable and that’s why I sent the message via whatsup.
    It seems the problem was with two boxes and the Green bag with kitchen stuff. I mentioned they must have been thrown because the things that have broken are not all that delicate and were wrapped in bubbles, film and padded with socks, cloths and inside a basket that was not damaged at all so the only way they could have broken is by being thrown flat from a hight. The boxes and the basket container are not damaged or bent and the items broken were at the bottom. It is logical for me to understand they must have been thown flat from a hight and broken from the impact.
    Your reponse is quite out of order considering I didn’t expect my things to be treated in such a way. I have used part loads from Madrid with very delicate items and never, ever had a problem. I used De Haans in those other 3 occassions in the past. And I repeteat, never, ever I received a damaged or broken item.
    I know they are not valuable but they do have a sentimental value and that’s why I brought them. I didn’t expect to loose them and pay for it on top.//

    Then I list the broken items and the pictures and videos.

    Very hysterical and insulting and rude considering my things were smashed and paid for it on top! just like his email where he calls me stupid and he says he doesn’t deal with stupid people but my money was certainly good enough for him and his responsability is out of the question, as if he is doing me a favour.

    A real professional would know how to deal with this situation and understand the clients distress at that time and would have looked into it to see where it when wrong and what could have happened.

    I believe in Karma 🙂

    1. This is a totally untrue review and “heavily edited” to suit the means of this lady. If you read it through you will see it is erratic to say the least. This is a review written by a lady who packed all her own things, most of them into suit cases and IKEA bags , not really suitable for removals. She immediately went into hysterical mode blaming us when her packing of fragile items into ikea bags and suitcases without telling us there was fragile things inside has led to some of her things getting damaged. But if you immediately start off in offensive mode then nothing is going to get sorted out and why should we be held responsible. When reading this review, please take a moment to remember that some people can be spiteful and dishonest with their reviews when this is an unfair representation on what has actually happened.

  2. Before getting on with your removal to/from Tbilisi you might want to double-check the market for removal. As events proofed, we were too hasty in hiring the services of Gosselin Group to take care of our personal belongings removal from Tbilisi to Kiev.

    While their packaging was fine, they proved unprofessional in the removal of goods from our place. In order to bring down a piano, all the specialised equipment they used were the bare hands of two crewmembers, not even ropes. As a result, they let it slip and the lid got a nice scratch which they then tried to cover by standing in front of the piano as it stood loaded on the truck: a scene more reminiscent of a TV cartoon than a professional activity. To be fair, we got some money from the insurance to try and repair it. But that was after exchanging emails with practically everyone in the company. That was the other thing with Gosselin: little, if any, personal contact where the person preparing your offer will be different from the one surveying your goods and again from the one answering your queries about the whereabouts of your removal and so forth until the goods finally turn up at destination.

    Packing and loading behind us, the actual transportation was the most “interesting” part of our removal. To set the picture, the removal was to be from Tbilisi to Kyiv during January or February 2015. At the point of leaving the stuff in their warehouse the routes proposed were the ferry (the truck does not need to unload) from Poti to Illichevsk (Ukraine) or Burgas (Bulgaria). We almost fainted when we learnt that the truck with our stuff was stuck, because of heavy snowfall, AT THE LARSI CHECKPOINT on the border with Russia. Indeed, in the winter of 2015 as the war was going in in Eastern Ukraine and lacking the understanding of world events of a teenager, Gosselin decided to send all our clothes, toys, books, etc. from Tbilisi to Kiev through the snow-covered Caucasus range and through Russia (!).

    After 4-5 days stuck at the mountain pass (luckily no avalanches) the truck made it into Russia towards Ukraine. Of course, the ordeal did not finish there. Gosselin had wrongly filled some of the shipment documentation, thus giving the customs officials a perfect excuse to “ask” for a bribe and the opening of the truck. Eventually, all boxes were accounted for in Kiev, but again, Gosselin staff was not particularly forthcoming in helping to unpack by sticking to the free “minimum services” of their offer.

    So, to summarize the highlights of hiring the removal services of Gosselin: not particularly cheap, poor skills at the time of handling items, lousy communication skills and ultimately they would disregard the basic safety of the belongings entrusted to them in the interest of maximizing profits.

    1. Thank you for your comments.
      I’m sorry you’ve had such an experience and appreciate you taking the time to warn others. I hope you are now settled happily in your new home.

  3. Just moved back to UK from Sweden and used Pearson UTS. After four international moves in 14 years this has to count as the worst. Failed to deliver service as promised and fail to reply to any correspondence. Just lodged complaint with the BAR organisation you list above in desperation.

  4. When moving to Australia we used a firm called dorreebonner. I cannot fault them. Our stuff arrived exactly when we were told it would. No unexpected charges and a very competative price, However been close to christmas it was delayed for 3 weeks by customs this end due to holidays.

    1. Glad to hear all went well with your move. Christmas does tend to disrupt matters though, doesn’t it?!

  5. Followed all the steps re choosing a frim and went with a local one connected to an international moving company.
    Here’s what when wrong:
    Moving day….December 23rd 2010
    ‘Right we need your visa number’
    Well I’ve never moved out of the UK before so how the hell was I supposed to know that was required, prior to booking the container on the ship. We didn’t have a visa at that stage so our furniture was removed 2 days before christmas we sent the following weeks until our visa was approved on January 11th with family and friends arriving in South Africa on the 19th January, to discover our furntiure wasn’t then shipped until February 1st instead of the beginning of January. We didn’t have anyone to borrow items from so a small fortune was spent buying essentials such as beds, kitchen ware etc

    Now this is where I was really annoyed. We paid the removal firm in the UK cash up front, as we were leaving the country. They’ve quoted, packed, called us in numerous times to complete customs forms etc, but not once did they tell us about the additional costs we would incur to release our container from customs.
    A week prior to our container arriving I emailed the UK company again to request the details for the agents this end, who finally called me on the Thursday to say the container had arrived but as they hadn’t heard from me and didn’t know where we were until this morning, they hadn’t processed customs forms and couldn’t arrange delivery till the following week. To be fair they had only been told by the UK company that morning who and where we were.

    So contacting the UK company to request the customs forms to be sent to the agents, to request the tag number for our container, we received no reply. Friday morning I’m informed by the agents here that we will incur customs charges if we don’t complete the papers by the end of the day.
    Called hubby, we drove to Joburg to agents to collect papers, we drove to Pretoria to Customs to complete forms, pay fees and drag a witness off the street to witness our signatures. Bare in mind we’d been in the country for 6 weeks, knew no one, had no clue where things were and how things worked and no reply from the UK company to provide assistance.
    Container eventually arrived on the following Wednesday, not a single item broken, but the unpackers were bloddy useless so we sent them away and did it ourselves, after insuring they’d moved everything into the correct rooms.

    I then made a complaint to the International removal company to inform them the UK agents hadn’t replied to emails, phone calls, requests for assistance and had failed to inform us of additional costs. I received a reply to say ‘we’ve contacted the Uk agents, they tell us everything is fine and you were told’ basically end of story.
    After 3 months of back and forth I gave up.
    Lesson learnt….will never use Britannia again

    1. Oh Suzanne 🙁 I knew you’d had massive problems but had forgotten the details in our own relocation palaver.

      Thank you for sharing it with us, that must have brought back some angry memories for you.

      1. Wow. My wife and I didn’t have as bad an experience as Suzanne, but our stuff did arrive a month late which meant sleeping on a borrow air mattress and eating lots of takeaway. Not fun. As a result of our experience, we started

        GoodMigrations ) as a place where people could review their int’l mover so others can benefit — I’d love for you to add a review on the site, Suzanne.

      2. Thank you Adam.
        I really like your site and hope it helps other relocators find a great company. I’ve contacted Suzanne so I hope to hear from her soon.

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