Moving to France shouldn’t be stressful. Make things easy on yourself with this guide to relocation options for France.
There are few countries in the world quite like France. From the elegance of Paris to the sun-kissed glamor of the Riviera and, of course, the rustic magic of the French countryside, there is something for everyone. If you’re moving to France, you have plenty of relocation options.
However, whether you’re moving from within Europe or from further afield, you’ll have plenty of things to consider. Factors such as cost, time, ease, and availability can all have a big impact on how you make the move to France. But, while all this might sound like hard work, it doesn’t have to be. From freight options to relocation companies, our guide has everything you need to know, including:
- International removals to France
- Relocation to France with air freight
- Road and train freight
- Shipping companies
- Hiring an international moving company
- How to choose an international moving company
- Customs and importing a car into France
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International removals to France
It doesn’t matter where you’re heading, moving abroad comes with a whole host of things you need to think about. If you’re moving to France, what you need from your relocation will largely depend on your own personal circumstances. This is because where you’re relocating from and what you’re planning to bring can have a big impact on the process. For example, relocating an entire household, family, and car from Australia to France will, understandably, be more involved than if you’re a single person moving from within Europe.
However, there are other things you need to consider when planning your relocation to France. This includes whether you decide to fly your belongings across, or choose international shipping options. You’ll also need to think about quarantine periods for pets, restrictions at ports and airports, customs requirements, and timings in relation to your move. Due to all these moving parts, many expats moving to France choose a relocation service. Read on to find out more about all these options, and find out which could be the best for your circumstances.
Relocation to France with air freight
Depending on where you’re moving from, you can have your belongings delivered quickly by air freight. International air freight and removal companies operate out of most major airports in cities such as Paris, Nice, Toulouse, Nantes, and Bordeaux.
Air freight rates
Airfreight 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. One advantage is that your package won’t be charged on size, only weight.
Air freight: transit times
The main positive about sending your belongings by air freight is speed, especially when compared to international shipping. You can often get hold of your belongings in less than a week, or instantly if you pay for extra baggage when you fly. However, this will understandably depend on what it is you’re transporting.
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, as additional costs can soon add up. Once you’ve selected a few companies, call them to get a quote including any minimum freight costs, packing, and insurance.
How air freight works
If you use a door-to-door service, the company usually visits you to see your belongings and gives you a 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 are on so you can track them. The companies will then typically arrange onward transit to an address in your new home.
Packing for air freight
You’ll usually be able to pack your belongings yourself. If you do this, err on the side of caution, especially regarding delicate items. 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. This can take some of the stress out of your move, as well as saving you a lot of time.
Who should use air freight?
If you’re keen to get hold of your belongings as soon as possible, you’ll probably find that air freight is the best option for you. However, flying your possessions isn’t cheap, and can often be subject to more restrictions, so be sure to do your research before you sign up.
Relocation to France with shipping companies
If you have a whole household to relocate to France and time isn’t such a pressing issue, you might find shipping your best option. Shipping is typically the most versatile way to relocating and isn’t as restricted in terms of space as air freight. 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.
When planning your relocation to France, you’ll often find that shipping freight is the cheapest way, particularly when compared to air. This is especially true if you have a lot to send, or if you 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
Unfortunately, shipping can be a long-winded process. Indeed, depending on where you’re moving to France from, you could end up waiting weeks or even months to get hold of your treasured belongings on the other side. This is something to consider if you’re not keen on waiting.
Shipping belongings to France: how the process works
You have a few options when it comes to sorting out your shipping, from sending individual boxes to hiring an entire container. When it comes to containers, you typically have the following options:
- 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 removal companies insist on packing your items themselves for insurance purposes. Others 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 amount, container shipping can be your best option. From elsewhere in Europe, though, you might find more direct methods of relocating your belonging are better options.
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 another European country.
If you’re moving from the UK you have a couple of options. You can choose to transport your belongings in a vehicle via the Channel Tunnel and then complete your journey by road. Alternatively, you can also take a ferry across the water and then continue your journey from there.
Moving to France with a relocation company
Hiring a relocation company to manage your move to France will often cost more than arranging the individual parts yourself. However, it can also give you peace of mind that your belongings will make it safely and with the required paperwork (such as inventory lists and customs forms). This is particularly true if the journey uses multiple forms of transport.
Some relocation companies offer full door-to-door services, usually tailored to your needs – so think about whether you need the full service or not when getting your quotes. If you just need to sort out some shipping, you also have options when it comes to international movers. To give you an idea of what to expect in terms of costs and timeframe, check out these international logistics platforms:
Finding the right international shipping provider can give you peace of mind while dealing with the other details of your move. Check ahead of time to avoid any last-minute surprises.
Timeframes for booking a moving company
How early you’ll need to book depends on several factors, including the distance your belongings will be traveling, 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, start as early as possible. Typically, 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 getting quotes to your final move date, especially if you’re using a door-to-door service.
Packing with an international moving company
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.
How to choose a relocation company
There are 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 organizations 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.
DIY versus using a relocation company
It’s possible to manage your relocation yourself, cutting out the need for a professional removal company. However, the ease of doing this yourself will largely depend on your own circumstances. For example, it might be easy enough if you’re moving to France from another European country. If you’re coming from further afield, the process may be a little overwhelming if you’re using the sea or air to get your belongings to France.
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.
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 more interested in finding out the rules for your four-legged friends, read our guide to bringing a pet into France.
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 itemized 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.