Home Moving to France Relocation Relocation options for moving to France
Last update on January 29, 2019

Moving to France shouldn’t be a headache – this detailed guide explains the pros and cons of each relocation option to find the best way to move your belongings, furniture and car to France.

Whether you’re moving from within Europe or overseas, there are many relocation options to transport your belongings safely and timely to France. There are, however, many factors to consider, such as keeping your costs down, avoiding damage and breakages and receiving your belongings within your specified time. But with good commercial ports, road links and airports in France, getting your belongings to your new home doesn’t have to be a painful process, particularly if you consider using the services of an international relocation company. You can also read more about moving within France.

Which international moving option is best for the items you need to relocate to France? This informative guide explains the pros, cons, timeframes for delivery and relative prices so you can choose the best international removal option for you:

International removals

When moving abroad a number of other factors come into play, such as whether customs are payable or if there are restrictions or quarantine on 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 how long you can last without your things. 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 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 listings of moving companies and relocation companies on Expatica’s listings, or ask a relocation expert on Expatica’s Ask the Expert free service.

Relocation to France with air freight

Depending on where you’re moving to in France, you can have your belongings delivered quickly by air freight. International air freight and removal companies cover the major airports in cities such as Paris, Nice, Toulouse, Nantes and Bordeaux.

Air freight rates

Air freight can be expensive because the price you pay is based on the weight of your belongings. For this reason, air freight is often more popular with people sending packages of smaller, more urgent items before sending their larger and less urgent belongings by a different mode of transport. One advantage is that your package won’t be charged on size, only weight.

Air freight: Transit times

The main positive about sending your possessions by air freight is the speed you’ll be able to get hold of your belongings at the other side. Whether you’re moving from the US or elsewhere in Europe, you can get hold of your belongings in less than a week, or instantly if you pay for extra baggage when you fly.

How to find air freight for international removal

You can compare quotes online, either through price comparison websites or through filling out contact forms on company websites. Be aware that the price on the screen will rarely be the price you end up paying. Once you’ve selected a few companies, you should call them to get an idea of a full quote including any minimum freight costs, handling charges, packing and insurance.

How air freight works

If you decide to use a door-to-door service, the removal or air freight company will usually want to visit you to see your belongings and give you a final quote. Once this has been sorted, you can arrange a date to have your items collected. You’ll then be informed about which flight your belongings will be on, and you should be able to track the freight online.

Packing for air freight

You’ll usually be able to pack your belongings yourself. If you do this, always err on the side of caution, especially regarding breakable and delicate items, and never over-pack boxes and cases. If you’d rather not worry about packing, most companies will usually offer a professional packing service at an extra cost.

Who should use air freight?

If you’re in a hurry or just want to send some priority items to your new home, air freight is the quickest way of getting them there. It’s not cheap though, so weigh up other forms of transport first.

Relocation to France with shipping companies

The Port of Le Havre (Grand Port Maritime du Havre), La Rochelle/La Pallice and Marseille Fos Port are among the main container ports in France.

Shipping costs

Shipping freight is the most versatile way of relocating your belongings to France but not always the best option for everyone. Shipping freight is much cheaper than sending items via air freight, especially if you choose to group your belongings with those of other people. Unlike air freight, shipping freight is charged based on size rather than weight.

Freight shipping transit times

Shipping can be a long-winded process, and depending where you’re sending your belongings from you could be waiting a number of weeks, or in some cases even months.

Container ships: How the process works

You’ll usually have several options when sending your possessions by sea freight, including:

  • 20-foot container – suitable for the contents of a three-bedroom house.
  • 40-foot container – suitable for the contents of a four to five bedroom house and a car.
  • Groupage – if you’re sending a smaller load, you can have your belongings grouped with those of other customers. While it’s cheaper, this can take longer as you’ll need to wait until the ship is at full capacity.

Packing for shipping transport

Some shipping freight or removal companies insist on packing your items themselves (for insurance purposes), while others will let you pack your own belongings. Depending on which is your preferred choice, ask about this before committing to a shipping company.

Who should use shipping companies?

If you’re looking for a cost-effective way of sending a large amoung of belongings, particularly from far countries, container shipping can be your best option. From elsewhere in Europe, though, you can consider more direct methods of relocating your belongings.

Relocation to France by road or train freight

Whether you decide to hire a vehicle yourself or get a man-with-a-van to deal with the transport, relocating by road freight can be an affordable option for a quick form of transport, especially if you’re moving from a neighbouring country or from within Europe.

If you’re moving from the UK, transporting your belongings via the Channel Tunnel or rail freight and then completing your journey by road can be the easiest way of getting your belongings to your new home.

Using a relocation company: International movers

There are lots of relocation companies who will be happy to handle your move to France, with most offering a door-to-door service. Using a relocation company may seem like an expensive option but it’s also the safest and easiest way of ensuring your belongings reach your new home safely.

Relocation companies manage the process from start to finish, from surveying your belongings to filling out all of the relevant inventory and customs paperwork and ensuring the goods are picked up from the airport or container port in a timely manner.

While relocation companies can be useful for any type of international home move, they’re a particularly effective choice if your move is either long-distance or complicated, for example, taking in several forms of transport.

Timeframes for booking a moving company

How early you’ll need to book depends on several factors, including the distance your belongings will be travelling, the quantity of possessions you’re sending, how busy the company is at that time and what your overall budget is.

As a general rule, however, relocation companies need to be booked well in advance of your move, especially if you’re choosing one of the most popular companies in your country. With this in mind, it’s sensible to allow up to three months from first searching for quotes to your final move date, especially if you’re using a door-to-door service.

Packing and international moving companies

There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to packing your belongings, and different companies will set their own insurance parameters. As mentioned earlier, some relocation companies will insist on packing your belongings themselves in order to be covered by insurance, while others will let you do this if you so wish.

DIY versus using a relocation company

It’s possible to instead manage your relocation yourself, cutting out the need for a professional removalist.

Organising your own move can be relatively straightforward if you’re only using one form of transport (such as road freight from another European country), but can become complicated once you start getting involved with sea or air freight.

Before deciding to do it yourself, consider how much time you’re willing to dedicate to the administrative and practical sides of moving your belongings, and ultimately work out how much better off financially you’ll be by arranging things yourself.

How to choose a relocation company

There’s lots of good relocation companies out there, which means it’s a competitive market offering plenty of options for consumers. Naturally, though, this means it can be difficult to differentiate between companies and their services when looking for quotes.

First, check that your shortlisted companies are registered with an industry body. Many will be registered with the body for their country, and others will be part of international organisations such as the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations or the International Air Transport Association.

Next, source any personal recommendations or testimonials you can find. Once you’ve done this, speak to each of the companies on your shortlist to find out how the service works, how you’ll be able to keep in contact throughout the process and what happens if something goes wrong. As with anything, there’s a certain amount of gut instinct involved, and the company with the best quote isn’t always the best option.

Customs and importing goods into France

If you’re moving from another EU country, you won’t need to pay any duty on your personal belongings, furniture or car if you’re moving for personal use – but you will need to do some preparatory work before you move.

In addition to your passport, you’ll need a valued inventory of the items you’re moving (completed in French) and proof of residence in France, as well as an attestation de non-cession, which will state that you’ve lived outside of France for at least a year, have owned your belongings for more than six months and will not be selling them for 12 months.

If you’re importing a car into France, you won’t be able to sell it within two years of your arrival date.

If you’re moving from outside of the EU, you can import your belongings tax-free provided you can prove the following:

  • you’ve owned the items for at least six months;
  • each item is itemised in a signed and dated inventory, with indications of their value;
  • you can prove you’ve lived outside of the EU for at least one year;
  • you have proof of residence in France, such as a letter from your new employer or an application to get a residence card.

Visit the French government’s website for the full information regarding customs in France, and read about the rules for bringing a pet to France.