Relocation options for moving to the Netherlands
If you're moving to the Netherlands, what's the best way to send your furniture, belongings or car? This guide explains air freight, shipping and international moving companies in the Netherlands.
Whether you’re moving from another European country or farther afield, there are many relocation options to move to the Netherlands an ensure your belongings arrive safely. There are, however, many factors to consider such as how to keep your relocation costs down, avoid damage and breakages and receive your belongings on time. But with good commercial ports, road links and numerous airports, getting your belongings to the Netherlands doesn’t have to be a painful process.
Which international moving option is best for the items you need to relocate to the Netherlands? This guide explains the pros, cons, timeframes for delivery and relative prices so you can choose the best international removal option for you:
- International removals
- Air freight
- Shipping companies
- Road freight
- Hiring an international moving company
- How to choose an international moving company
- Customs and importing a car into the Netherlands
When moving abroad a number of factors come into play, such as whether customs are payable or if there are restrictions or quarantine for items you import, besides the other usual issues to consider, such as safety of your items, how much work is involved in packing and picking up and the time period for delivery.
Cost is a big factor because certain relocation options offer substantial savings for large items, such as shipping your furniture or a car, compared to other relocation options that quickly add up for heavy items, such as air freight.
Another important question is whether you should hire an international relocation company. This question largely depends on how much time you have and your budget, as international moving companies typically take care of any potential issue that may arise which is ideal for time-strapped expats. How, then, do you decide which is the best international moving company and relocation option for you?
This guide answers all these questions below. You can also find Expatica's listings of moving companies and relocation companies in the Netherlands, or ask a relocation expert on Expatica's Ask the Expert free service.
Shipping your belongings to the Netherlands by air is relatively straight-forward, with most areas of the country well-served by commercial airports. The largest and most well-known airports in the Netherlands are Amsterdam Schiphol, Eindhoven, Rotterdam-The Hague, and Maastricht Aachen.
Air freight rates
Sending by air is the most expensive option. The cost of air freight depends primarily on the weight of your items, and of course the distance they’ll have to travel. Unlike sea shipping, air freight isn’t usually charged on size, but sending heavy items such as furniture and white goods can sometimes be cost prohibitive.
Air freight: Transit times
While air freight is expensive, it’s often the best option if you’re in a hurry or simply want to send some urgent belongings (with the rest following by sea/road). From elsewhere in Europe, you should be able to get your hands on your belongings in a few days if you send them by air. Air freight is also a good choice if you have left relocation arrangements later during your move as you can often send items at shorter notice than by sea.
How to find air freight for international removal
You have a couple of options when using air freight. If you’re only sending a few items and you’re travelling too, you might be able to take them along with you by paying excess baggage costs. Alternatively, you can use a worldwide courier company to send your belongings.
The most common option is to compare quotes online. But be wary: the price on screen won’t usually be the price you pay, as online quotes won’t typically factor in minimal transport costs and insurance. With this in mind, speak to a shortlist of shipping companies on the phone for a more accurate quote and peace of mind.
How air freight works
If you’re sending a full house load, air freight or removal companies will usually encourage you to use their door-to-door service. As part of this, they’ll visit you and survey your belongings before giving you a final, tailored quote. Once this is sorted, you arrange a date to have your belongings collected and you’ll usually be provided with flight details and tracking information.
Packing for air freight
Whether you’re lugging the cases yourself or using a shipping company, you’ll usually have the option to pack your belongings. If you prefer to play it safe, you can have your items packed by the shipping company at an extra cost.
Who should use air freight?
Air freight can be the quickest and most hassle-free way of sending your belongings to the Netherlands, but it comes at a cost. Think about your budget and how urgently you need your belongings before taking the plunge.
Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe with around 30,000 vessels arriving each year. Because of this, Rotterdam is the main hub for shipments from as far afield as Asia.
There are lots of variables that affect the cost of shipping freight or, more commonly, a combination of sea and road freight. While container shipping is generally cheaper than air freight and it is possible to move on a very low budget in some instances, each of the following questions affect the price you’ll pay:
- How far will your belongings have to travel by road from the container port?
- How big is your shipment?
- Are you willing to wait longer for a cheaper service?
- How much notice are you giving before shipping your items?
Freight shipping transit times
Shipping by container can be a long-winded process, with door-to-door journeys stretching between a couple of weeks (Europe) all the way up to a couple of months (Australia).
If you’re travelling a long distance (such as from Asia or Oceania), however, it’ll often be the most cost-effective option for you, especially with Rotterdam receiving direct shipments from all over the world.
Container ships: How the process works
There’s a lot of shipping companies servicing the Netherlands, and as with air freight, it’s easy to compare basic quotes online. First, though, you’ll need to know how cost is calculated.
Unlike with air freight, cost is calculated by size rather than weight in most cases, with most companies using set container sizes, typically:
- 20-foot container – fits the contents of a three-bedroom home
- 40-foot container – for contents of a four or five bedroom house, or enough space for a car
If you’re sending a much smaller shipment or are looking to save money, you can take advantage of grouping. Grouping is when you agree to have your items sent together with those of other companies. While you could secure a cheap deal, this isn’t the best option if you’re in a hurry – you’ll have to wait until the ship reaches full capacity.
Packing for shipping freight
Some shipping companies won’t insure your items if you’ve packed them yourself, so check the terms and conditions before diving in as rules vary from company to company.
Who should use shipping companies?
The Netherlands has an excellent setup to send your items by sea, with several major shipping ports and regular voyages from around the world servicing them. Container shipping is ideal for people planning well in advance and those on a budget.
While it’s not for everyone, if you’re moving from elsewhere in Europe — especially the likes of the United Kingdom, France or Spain — you could ship your belongings by a combination of train and road freight
From the UK, moving by train can be a quicker option than sending your belongings by sea freight via Calais, as removal companies will generally use the channel tunnel to ship your items and then deliver them by road at the other side.
If you don’t want your move to turn into a full-time job, hiring a relocation company to deal with the logistics can be the easiest option.
Naturally it’s likely to cost more than sorting things out yourself, but a full door-to-door service will deal with picking up and delivering your items, handling customs rules and inventory lists, and give you peace of mind that your belongings will arrive in one piece – or at least insured for damage.
In addition to complicated, long distance moves, using a relocation company can also be cost-effective for moves using more than one mode of transport (ie. a combination of shipping and road freight), where a ‘bundle’ deal might work out cheaper than arranging each element yourself.
Timeframes for booking a moving company
There are a lot of relocation companies but the best ones will book up quickly. Ideally, to plan a full door-to-door move properly you should allow at least three months between first searching for the quote and moving house, although these time-frames depend heavily on the distance you’re travelling.
Packing and international moving companies
Packing rules vary from company to company, with some organisations allowing you to pack your own items and others insisting on doing it themselves. As moving is such an important process, it’s worth considering using a professional packing service for peace of mind.
DIY relocation versus using a relocation company
Alternatively, you can take on the logistics of the move yourself. Before making the decision though, be warned that it can be a stressful and time-consuming task.
Before deciding to deal with the process yourself, ask the following questions:
- How much money are you likely to save by arranging the logistics yourself, and are you a good negotiator?
- How much time can you afford to spend on physical tasks (packing, booking different modes of transport) and administrative tasks (insurance, inventories)?
- How cautious are you about the move?
- How much of a hurry are you in to get your items?
Removals can be a lucrative business, and it can be difficult to separate a good company from a bad one in such a crowded marketplace.
Before short-listing a few companies and getting full quotes, find out if they’re a member of any industry organisations, such as the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations or the International Air Transport Association.
Next, ask the following questions:
- Does the company have good reviews?
- Do you know anybody who has used them?
- How long have they been providing their services?
- Are they prepared to provide a full itemised price list?
- Do they clearly explain the process to follow if something goes wrong?
A good shipping company should be experienced, knowledgeable and transparent. Ultimately, as well as cost and reputation, this kind of decision also comes down to gut instinct, so if you’re not entirely convinced by a company after speaking to them, keep searching.
Due to freedom of movement rules you won’t need to declare your personal goods at customs in the Netherlands if you’re moving from another EU country, as long as you’re not moving anything on the exceptions list — which includes things such as domestic animals and cultural property. Read more about bringing a pet to the Netherlands.
If you’d like to import your car, you’ll need to apply for an exemption from private vehicles and motorcycle tax (BPM) by filling out a Vrijstelling bpm form (only available in Dutch). Read more about claiming a tax exemption on an imported car, and find out if you need to exchange your foreign driver's licence and the Dutch rules for driving and parking.
If you’re moving from a non-EU country, you’ll need to declare your items to customs. It is possible to apply for an exemption for import duties. If you’re moving to the Netherlands to live and work, you should be able to get an exemption but check the full list of conditions here. You won’t be able to apply for the exemption yourself; this will instead need to be done by your removals company. To apply, you’ll need a signed inventory list, a certificate of registration for the Dutch personal records database and a document such as an employment contract, statement from your employer, work permit, rental contract or mortgage certificate. If you’d like to import your car, you’ll also need a copy of its registration certificate.
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