Relocation options for moving to Portugal

Relocation options for moving to Portugal

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What's the best way to move your belongings, furniture and car? This detailed guide explains the pros and cons of each relocation option for moving to Portugal.

Whether by land, sea or air freight, there are many relocation options to move your belongings safely to Portugal. But while relocating your possessions can be a fraught process, it doesn't have to be a nightmare if you have the right information.

This guide provides tips on how to keep your costs down, avoid damage and breakages and receive your belongings on time. Find out the best international relocation option to Portugal with this extensive guide:

International removals

When moving abroad a number of factors come into play, such as what customs are payable or if there are restrictions on what you are importing, besides the typical points to consider, such as packing and picking up your items, time period for delivery and so on. 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 costs, as international moving companies typically take care of any potential issue, ideal for time-strapped expats, but at a price. How, then, do you decide which is the best international moving company and relocation option for you?

This guide answers these questions below. You can also find Expatica's listings of moving companies and relocation companies, or ask a relocation expert on Expatica's Ask the Expert free service.

Relocation to Portugal with air freight

Air freight is usually the quickest way of getting your belongings to your new home but it’s not the best option for all items. 

Air freight rates

Sending your belongings by air freight can be very expensive, so if you’re on a budget it’s generally best used if you only have a small number of items to send, such as a few boxes or suitcases.

Prices for air freight are influenced by both weight and size, and you’ll need to complete a detailed inventory when you send your belongings. The inventory will itemise the contents of your shipment and their value. Always read the terms and conditions, though, as some companies don’t allow ‘valuable items’, such as watches and jewellery, to be shipped. 

Air freight: Transit times 

How long it’ll take depends largely on where you’re sending your items from, but if you’re in another European country companies will often be able to ship your belongings within a week. 

One of the key benefits of air freight is the ability to plan a little closer to the move date. While you might need to give a couple of months notice for sea transport, in some cases you’ll only need to give a few weeks notice to send by plane, or can pay for excess luggage when you fly. 

How to find air freight for international removal

Most companies will generate estimated quotes based on your location, the approximate size of your shipment and the date you want to move. Always compare quotes from at least three different companies before jumping in, and discuss your requirements over the phone after receiving your initial email quote; online quotes often only provide an outline of the cost and are unlikely to factor in other charges, such as insurance.

How air freight works

Once you have chosen a company, you arrange a date for your shipment to be picked up. You’ll then be given details of when it’ll be sent, and most companies provide an online tracking system through which you can check its progress. You should also receive contact details of the handling agent at your destination.

Packing for air freight

While companies will provide packing services at an extra cost, you’re usually allowed to pack your own items for air freight, although you should check this out with the air freight or removal company first. Naturally, packing your own belongings is likely to be less secure than having a professional do it for you. 

Who should use air freight?  

If you’re in a hurry and are happy to pay to get your belongings quicker, choose air freight. If you’ve got lots of items, plenty of time or you’re on a tight budget, consider other options. 

Relocation to Portugal with shipping companies

If you’re looking for a way of moving your belongings on a budget, shipping them via container to a Portuguese seaport can be a viable option.

There are 18 ports around the coast of Portugal. Some ports are better serviced than others, so you might need to shop around to find the most convenient option for you. 

Ports in Portugal include:

Freight shipping transit times

While it’s cheap, shipping by sea can take a long time – sometimes up to 12 weeks from the point of booking if the items are travelling a long way and you’re using a shared container.

If you’re moving your belongings from the UK or Ireland, shipping freight can be relatively quick, with some companies offering services that arrive in the Algarve eight days after leaving Liverpool or Dublin. 

Container ships: How the process works

For larger loads, shipping freight is often the most cost-effective option. Before booking, you’ll need to consider how much space your items will take up, as you’ll have several options: 

  • Full container load: this is where your belongings are loaded into a steel container and transported to the port for shipping. Full container loads are transported directly, so if you have the contents of an entire house to move, this could be the best option.
  • Less than a container load: if you have some belongings but not enough for a full container, you can have your belongings crated and shipped in around the same time, and for around the same cost, as a full container.
  • Groupage: if you’re looking for the cheapest method of sea shipment possible, you can choose to group your belongings with those of other customers. The downside of this method is that the speed of delivery depends on how many other people are moving belongings, too, so you may need to wait longer to receive your belongings if the container doesn't fill.

As a rule of thumb, a 20-foot container usually fits the contents of a three-bedroom house, while a 40-foot container is suitable for the contents of a four to five bedroom house. 

Who should use shipping companies? 

If you’re transporting a large load, are on a tight budget or are moving from the UK and can find a fast service, container shipping can be a good option.

Moving to Portugal

Using a relocation company: International movers

Using a relocation company might seem like the expensive option, but it also provides the greatest peace of mind. It’s difficult to predict how much using a relocation company might cost you, as it depends on a whole host of factors, such as distance, amount of belongings and the level of service you choose. 

Timeframes for booking a moving company

If you choose to use a relocation company, you’ll need to give them plenty of notice – ideally at least three months. This is because to provide a full door-to-door service the company will need to visit your home and survey your belongings. This consultation process will help you ensure you get the right insurance for your items. 

Packing and international moving companies

It’s often worth paying to have your items professionally packed, especially if you can get a good deal. A professional will be able to streamline your belongings and package them more safely than you are able to. In the UK, packing services are available from around GBP 10 per cubic metre. 

With some relocation packages, the company will insist on packing your belongings and won’t provide full insurance on any items you have packed yourself. 

DIY versus using a relocation company

If you choose to move your belongings yourself, you’ll be able to work at your own pace and avoid the long lead times sometimes involved with container shipping. 

It’s worth remembering though that relocation companies are professionals for a reason. They’ll deal with the insurance, relevant paperwork, inventories, packaging, customs, collecting your items and delivering them at the other side. While it’s possible to do this yourself, it’s worth questioning how much time you want to spend dealing with the small details. 

In some instances, the cost difference between using a relocation company and doing it yourself might be negligible by the time you’ve factored in time, vehicle rental, fuel, crossing charges and packaging costs. 

How to choose a relocation company 

You should choose a company that is registered with an official body in your country to give you peace of mind that they’ll work to a certain standard. International bodies include the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations and the International Air Transport Association. In Britain, companies tend to be registered with the British International Freight Association

Always get quotes from several companies before making a decision. The more information you can get the better, and references and testimonials should be used to back up your gut instinct about a company. 

Because there can be so many different costs involved – including packing materials, labour costs, loading and insurance – choose a company who will provide a clear price list, and ensure you won’t be stung by any excess charges. 

You should also find out what method you will have of tracking your property, and what recourse you have if the relocation company fails to deliver it to your new home undamaged and on schedule. 

Customs and importing goods to Portugal

If you’re moving from an EU country, any household items that are over six months old can be imported duty free. EU citizens will need to present a copy of their passport and an inventory of the items being brought into the country. If you're moving with an animal, read about bringing a pet to Portugal.




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