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20 Things To Do Before Moving Abroad

20 Practical Things to do Before Moving Abroad

Many people have talked about moving abroad, to have an adventure, live, retire or raise their families. Travel is a great way to grow our minds and learn about both other cultures and ourselves. It is a well known fact that travel broadens the mind and the intellectual and social challenges that come with traveling or living in a different country, not as a tourist, but as a participant in a different society, are good for us.  

Regardless of your reason for wanting to move abroad, and if you’re planning to move to another country, and expand your horizons, there are definitely some things to think about before you move. Here is a list of 20 things that you will need to get in order before you take off.

1. Take a visit  

I recently sold an international insurance policy to a man who was retiring in Mexico.  He had done his homework for sure, visiting Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Belize and Mexico before finally making his decision.  Wherever you are planning on living for an extended period of time, at least go on vacation there first. Make sure the reality matches your imagination.

2. Research visa requirements

There’s no point of moving to a country that will be impossible for you to actually stay in. You can’t just go on a tourist visa if you plan on living for an extended period of time.  Although I stayed on a tourist visa in Mexico, and left the country every 180 days to get a new one. In addition, the visa requirements for each country are different AND different if you’re going to be a tourist, a resident or a working resident.

3. Apply for your visa

Make sure you apply for your visa well ahead of time, many countries require you to have international health insurance in hand when you apply, or cash on hand, to show that you will not be a burden to the country you will be living in.  If you’re going to be working in Europe you may need to get a Schengen Visa. 

4. Find Work

 If you are going to be working you’re probably going to need to find a job first before you make a leap across the pond.  Start spending some time on expat websites with people in the country you want to go to.  Is there a big underground market for what you want to do?  Will you be living in your country of choice but working online like I want to do? Can you find a job with an employer that will sponsor you to get a visa.  Remember… work visas are very different and harder to come by than tourist visas.

5. Research the cost of living.

Every country is different, so it is important to research what areas you might save money and in what parts of your life you may end up spending more money than you are used to.  If you intend to live in another country, like you lived in the USA, with all of your same products and conveniences your money will not go as far as if you adopt local brands and customs, and your experience might not be as rich.

6. Start saving money

now for your escape.  Travel is expensive, from airfare, to paying rent and deposit on your future apartment or house to rent.  The more money you can take with you, the better, but also be aware that many countries have limits on how much money you can bring in. Figure that out ahead of time.

7. Apply for a passport

if you don’t have one, or check that your passport is good for at least 3 months. Many countries will not issue a visa if your passport expires too soon.  You can renew your passport by mail, but kids and first timers will need to make an appointment. Here’s the passport office website

8. Line up your lodging  

If you can afford to go, make an exploratory trip before you move to find a place to stay, either to rent your place or find a temporary place, set up banking, figure out your moving logistics, bus routes etc.   

9. Find schools for your kids.

If you are moving with your family make sure you have decided where they will be going to school.  Many expats choose American schools for their kids, but a local school will help your children learn the language and culture faster and will give them a richer experience overall.  

10. Buy travel insurance

 There are both long and short term plans available but realize that your plan here in the US is not good abroad, even if it says it will cover emergencies, you may have trouble getting reimbursed. The best website for this is

An independent agent can find you a plan that fits your needs and won’t just sell you the one company they get a commission from.

11. Practice the language

take a class, get a skype tutor, use duolingo or rosetta stone.  Don’t show up and expect everyone will speak English.  Making an effort to learn the language is part of the reason you are going, and it also shows respect.

12. Book your flight

or figure out how you will move yourself and some belongings.

13. Cancel any accounts

you don’t need. For example, your phone contract, bank account, Netflix etc. Figure out how to forward your mail.  There are mail forwarding services, but sometimes a parent or relative is the best solution.

14. Decide what to do about your current living situation.

Will you rent your house, if so find a reputable company to manage the rental. A rental property might be able to give you a bit of income in today’s tight rental market.  Or perhaps you are going to sell your home, selling a home is a big step and may take awhile, so be prepared. If you currently rent you will need to see if you can get out of your lease before you buy that plane ticket.

15. Sell things in your home

That you don’t need or find a place to store everything. Craigslist is probably your best bet for selling all your stuff. Remember that stuff is just stuff, storing it is expensive and when you get home you will probably wonder why you kept it in the first place.

16. Get a good credit card

to use abroad, and figure out how you will be doing your banking abroad.  Are foreigners allowed to open a bank account.  How will money be transferred?  Who will transfer money to you in an emergency?

17. Research what shots you will need

and go to a travel clinic or your doctor to get them.  Many countries have diseases you might not have even heard of.  Your international health insurance will cover you when you get sick, but it won’t pay for those shots before you go.  (But your current health insurance might.  Here is a list of suggested vaccines from the CDC

18. Get your cell phone unlocked

or buy a new unlocked phone. Getting an unlocked cell phone and swapping out the sim card has never been easier. It will allow you to set up cell service abroad.

19. Make copies of important documents.

 Birth certificates, visas, passports, drivers’ licenses.  Sometimes you can provide a copy instead of the real thing, making it less scary should it get taken away for some reason. (This is a common practice when traveling in Mexico for example)

20. Spend lots of time with your family and friends.

You don’t know how soon you’ll get to see them again. And finally, have a big party to say bye to everyone before you start the next chapter of your life.

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