International moving guide: Packing, delivery and completing your move

International moving guide: Packing, delivery and completing your move

Packing up your life into boxes is one of the more stressful aspects of moving. Self-packing (also known as Packed by Owner) has a couple ramifications you should be aware of if you choose to go down this route.

First, as mentioned in the section covering insurance, you will likely only be able to purchase Total Loss insurance coverage, which isn’t as comprehensive as All Risk coverage. From an insurer’s perspective you are not an experienced packer and your things are more likely to get damaged.

Second, the more you self-pack the greater the odds are that your shipment gets held up in your destination for a customs inspection, which can have an associated cost and means you’ll wait longer to receive your things.

If the movers are packing, make sure packing materials are included in the quote beforehand. Otherwise you might get charged separately and this can be significant.

When they arrive at your home you should point out anything you want them to take special care with, such as artwork or glassware, and anything you don’t want them to pack - in fact, it’s a good idea to separate the stuff you don’t want packed so it doesn’t accidentally get loaded onto the moving truck.

As they pack, the movers should be marking down an inventory of everything they pack and provide a signed carbon copy to you when finished. They’ll also note the number of boxes (and should be labelling the boxes) for tracking purposes later.

If the inventory they provide shows 50 boxes but only 49 are delivered to your destination it’s easy to tell one is missing. This inventory should also indicate the condition of your things. And it’s a good idea to document the condition yourself by taking photos or videos. This way, if anything does arrive at your destination looking the worse for wear, you’ve got proof.

It’s important that anything you’re shipping is clean - this applies particularly if you’re taking garden equipment, tools, pet accessories, sports equipment, or hiking boots. Anything that can bring soil or insects into a country is more likely to be inspected. If this stuff is inspected and needs to be cleaned, you’ll be charged for this by the inspectors.

As covered in the section of the moving guide that discusses quotes, once your things are packed onto the mover’s truck they’ll take it back to their warehouse to weigh or measure the shipment and provide you with a final price.

Your shipment may then sit in the warehouse for anywhere from a day or two to several weeks depending on when the ship transporting your things across the ocean is available.

Once your stuff does ship out, the mover will provide you with a document known as a Bill of Lading. This details your shipment reference number, the vessel’s name, the container number, and the sailing details.

This is an important document so make sure you keep it safe (as with all important documents associated with the move, I recommend you scan and email them to yourself).

The mover will also provide you with the name and contact information of a Release Agent in your destination. This may be a local office of the moving company you hired or a different company they’re partnering with to complete your move (to learn why different companies may be involved, see the first part of the series: How moving abroad works).

The release agent - also known as a local agent, local partner, or destination agent - is responsible for receiving your cargo upon arrival at the destination port and organising delivery to your home.  

In some countries the release agent is able to clear your goods through customs while in others you may be required to meet the movers at the nearest customs office. Every country has different requirements and your mover should be able to tell you what’s required in your destination country.

When you receive your goods at your new home make sure you check everything off against the inventory sheet (given to you when your things were packed up) to make sure nothing is missing. You should also check the condition of your stuff to see whether anything was damaged.

Once your move is completed, please take a minute to review your mover on GoodMigrations. Your feedback will be a big help to future expats following in your footsteps.

Previous in the series
 How moving abroad works 
 Preparing for your move and getting quotes from movers 
 Shipping and container options
 Comparing quotes, choosing a mover, and insuring your move

Adam Vagley


Adam Vagley

Adam Vagley is co-founder of GoodMigrations (, which makes it easy to move anywhere in the world with free city guides and other resources for relocating abroad. He’s lived and...

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