Decide on a destination
If you’ve decided to move to Europe but haven’t chosen a country to reside in yet, make this your first port of call. Whether your heart lies in Italy or you’re dreaming of a new home in France, be sure to do your research so you know as much as possible about the culture of the country and you’re prepared for your move abroad.
Find out about the weather, the schooling system if you are moving to Europe with children, the property market and the realities of living there. Pay particular attention to all the things that will be important to your day-to-day life in your new country, such as employment, transport and taxation. It‘s also important to find out about the neighbourhood you’ll be living in, along with the city and the region – most of which you will be able to familiarise yourself with during the house hunting process.
As of 1st January 2021, UK citizens no longer have the automatic right to live in an EU country, so once you have chosen your destination it is important to research that country’s immigration rules.
Assess your finances
When relocating to Europe, working out your budget is a crucial step in the house moving process. Assess the costs of a European move well in advance to avoid any financial disasters.
The initial purchase or rental of your new property
Transportation costs for you, your family and your belongings
Costs for European Removals Companies
The costs of decorating and furnishing your new home
Any charges that might apply for setting up power, telephone and other utilities
Day-to-day living costs.
In preparation for your move abroad you should also check the exchange rates of the country you’re moving to. You should be aware of how exchange rates and inflation could affect your income and pension, and factor this in to your calculations.
Before you move abroad you should also consider tax liabilities regarding the UK and your destination country, as this may influence your decision as whether to keep UK-based savings accounts open or transfer your investments to new holdings overseas. Remember that you must inform HMRC of your intent to leave the UK, either by sending them a P85 form or via your tax return.
As daunting as it might initially seem, moving abroad should be an exciting time in your life that you look forward to. Once you’ve found your dream home abroad and decided on a location, start planning your move by creating a moving abroad checklist. This should help keep you on track and in control so you can complete all your tasks before you go.
Things to include in your checklist folder:
Time frame and deadlines – By creating a time frame you can begin working towards deadlines and setting yourself goals, making your move to Europe much more manageable.
Important contacts – Write down all the necessary addresses and contact numbers of the home moving services you might need – including your European removals company. Keeping these in one place will reduce the hassle of searching through papers when you’re trying to work through your checklist.
Important documents – Keep all your important documents, passports, visas, driving licences and financial documents together in one place. You will also need to obtain an Animal Health Certificate if you’re relocating with your pet and many pet transportation services can help with paperwork and veterinary requirements.
Find a European removals company
The best way to ensure a smooth move abroad is to find a reliable and professional European removals company who won’t leave anything to chance.
It’s strongly recommended that you use a removals firm that is a member of a recognised trade body such as the British Association of Removers (BAR), especially when moving overseas. Using a trusted and regulated European removals company to handle your move will give you peace of mind that your belongings are in safe hands – especially when they’re being transported halfway around the world!
Make sure you’re covered for any unfortunate damages and check what protection your European removals company offers. You should also consider taking out removals insurance that is tailored to your move to Europe, especially as most standard protection is often minimal.
Pack for your move to Europe
For a move as big as one overseas, it’s advisable to leave your packing to the professionals. Your European removals company will have experience in packing belongings that need to be shipped abroad and will be aware of any restrictions and local customs regulations. Hiring professionals to do this for you will be a small price to pay in the long run.
It's a good idea to get your removals company to conduct a pre-move survey of your belongings so they can advise on the best method of transportation overseas, especially if you have a specific budget or special requirements. Don’t be afraid to ask them any questions about your move to Europe if you have any concerns or queries.
The most common method of overseas transportation is by road. Remember that there may be the issue of narrow streets, parking regulations and difficult access if you’re moving to a new city, so make sure you choose a professional removals company who is aware of complications like these.
Direct Loads - In a direct load, the removal vehicle will only contain your goods. This is the more expensive option as it allows you to specify a delivery date and is exclusive to your move abroad. Your European removal company will transport your belongings directly to your new property, arriving on the day of your choice.
Part Loads - If your items do not fill the removals vehicle or you have a limited budget, a part load is often a cost-effective option. With this method, your belongings will share a vehicle with other movers and unlike a direct load, you will have to wait until all the removals vehicle is full before it departs the UK. This means it can take a few weeks for your belongings to arrive and you won’t be able to select a specific delivery date.
There are also alternative transportation options you might want to consider, such as shipping your goods by air or sea:
Sea Freight – Your belongings will be loaded into a secure steel container and loaded onto a container ship at the nearest port. Your removals company will be able to outline the different container sizes that are available as they vary from 850 cubic feet to 2400 cubic feet. The cost for this method of transportation will be calculated on the volume of your container load.
Air Freight – Goods are secured in special airline pallets which are transported in the aircraft cargo hold. Although a significantly more expensive method of transportation, air freight is a quicker option and is especially helpful if you’re relocating to a country with no sea access. The cost of air freight is calculated on the physical size, or by the volume of weight of your belongings so it is recommended that only high-priority items are shipped by air.
Bear in mind that on average, moving goods from a 3-bedroom property in Birmingham to Spain will take:
3-5 days by road and approximately £3,000-£5,400
8-10 days by air and starting at approximately £6,000
25-31 days by sea and approximately £5,300-£7,100
Take a look at our European delivery guide for advice on who will provide delivery services once you get to your chosen destination.
Your move abroad doesn’t end once you get off the plane and open the door to your new European home, there are lots of other considerations to think about prior to your move.
Working in Europe
Unless you’re moving abroad to retire, you’ll need to find a job in your new European destination. As of 1st January 2021, as a UK citizen, you do not have the automatic right to work in the European Economic Area without a work permit. Each country has different rules when it comes to emigrating and working there so make sure your prior research has covered work arrangements.
Due to withstanding agreements, you can continue to freely move to and work in the Republic of Ireland as before.
It is very important to be aware that some professional qualifications gained in the UK are not recognized in other European countries so you may need to retrain in your field once you get there. If you meet certain requirements, you can apply for an EU Blue Card, which allows qualified workers to live and work within the EU.
Getting a job in a European country might seem as daunting as the move itself, but with the right experience and recognised qualifications, you should be able to find a suitable job to enjoy in your new life abroad. It’s a good idea to secure your new job before you move to save extra stress once you get there, but if you don’t have a job before you move, be sure to have enough savings to live off until you start your next job.
The cost of living in Europe
The cost of living in Europe differs greatly between each country, and is always fluctuating. For example, the cost of living in Zurich in 2022 was roughtly 9.78% higher than London, yet the cost of living in London was roughly 21.2% higher than Paris.
Many EU countries like Switzerland, Denmark and Norway are much more expensive than locations such as Spain, Belgium and Austria, so be sure to factor this in when you make your decision to move overseas.
When calculating the cost of living abroad, you should also bear in mind the differences between European property prices, utility bills, transport and the general costs associated with daily life. Housing is generally more expensive in bigger cities and popular tourist areas, but with plenty of planning and research before you move, you’ll be able to factor all of this into your move abroad.
Schools and education
If you’re moving abroad with children, you’ll need to think about their schooling options. Our guide on choosing schools when moving overseas offers lots of useful advice, and the most important part is finding a new school abroad without disrupting their education.
Your children may be entitled to free language tuition in your new home country to help them adapt to their new school, but be aware that European schools can be very different to what your child is used to in the UK.
When you move abroad on a permanent basis, you will no longer be entitled to healthcare on the NHS and you’ll have to inform your GP prior to your move so you can be taken off the NHS register. Though UK-issued EHIC/GHIC cards are still valid for healthcare when visiting an EU country, you may lose your entitlement when you begin working and living there. You will instead need to register with the state-run healthcare system that your new destination uses.
The type of healthcare you will receive in Europe will vary depending on the country you choose to move to and it’s important to check what health services are available to you before you move. Registering for healthcare abroad can often take several weeks, so plan ahead and add this to your moving checklist so you can prepare this well in advance. The UK government has guides available for UK nationals wishing to access healthcare in Europe.
Living in Europe
With everything prepared, packed and planned for your new life abroad, it’s time to start looking forward to actually living in your new home country. There are many great opportunities that come with relocating abroad, not least because of the exciting culture differences and warmer climes.
Learning the language of the country you choose to reside can help to make you feel at home a lot quicker, especially as it can help with getting a job and making friends. Take evening classes before you go, practice with your family and enjoy learning from the locals in your new country – you’ll be on your way to speaking fluently in no time!
Living in a European country also gives you the opportunity to experience a different way of life and it’s important to embrace the changes you will experience, even if they might be out of your comfort zone. Bear in mind that it may take several months or even years to feel at home in your new country, so take your time and you’ll soon be living like a local.
Updated December 2022 by Jeremy Greer.