An Expat Checklist for a Smooth Transition

January 11, 2016

Every journey begins somewhere. If you’re like me, it began on a piece of paper with a checklist. Big fan of the checklist. There’s just something about making a left-handed checkmark (some of you call this a backwards checkmark) next to a completed item that makes me want to celebrate. There are so many things to consider when you are moving abroad, so many questions to ask yourself. So when Alex, from Currency UK, reached out and asked to guest post an expat checklist I was alllll over that business. This list makes some great suggestions and I added a few of my own too.

* Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. I have not been compensated by any service or website linked here. All links have been reviewed and approved by DTWB.


For anyone who is planning to become an expat, either now or in the future (hopefully at least a few weeks in the future, because planning is always a good idea), this checklist is designed to do exactly what you might expect – make your move a smooth one.

I am from the UK and have lived in a few places – from France and Spain to SE Asia. Exactly how you cope with each move depends on where you are from and where you are going so not all of this will be relevant, but if you are soon to be making the leap and find just one thing in this list that you hadn’t thought about or question you hadn’t asked yourself, I’ll call that a win.

So here we go:

Moving Abroad Checklist

Accommodation (Home)


    • If you own a home, what will you be doing with it: renting, selling, or keeping as is?
    • If you are currently renting, how much notice do you need to move out?
  •  TIPS

    • If you are renting your home, find someone reliable that will help you manage it. You can’t come back to solve every issue and having a reliable person to help you will save you a lot of headaches.
    • Arrange a house sitter perhaps? There are lots of websites to help (i.e. Trusted Housesitters).

Accommodation (Away)


    • Will you be renting? buying? Staying in hotels?
    • Do you have money set aside for short term accommodations?
    • If you plan to rent, how does the rental market work where you are going?
    • If you plan to buy, how does the buying marketing work where you are going?
    • If you have a job lined up, are there any housing benefits they offer for relocating overseas?
  •  TIPS

    • Here’s a little more advice on buying abroad from Prime Location.
    • Check out long term rentals on sites like Flipkey or contact places directly. Longer rentals usually offer better rates than per day.

Financial Planning


    • Are you going to close your unused bank accounts and credit cards?
    • Have you paid off all of your debts? If not, how will they be serviced?
    • Do you need to think about transferring your pension overseas?
  •  TIPS

    • Keep at least 1 bank account open, so that you can still transfer money back and forth.


Money / Jobs


    • Do you have a job lined up? If so, will they help arrange your VISA? Finding a sponsored job differs between countries, so do your research.
    • If you plan to find a job once you arrive, have you prepared several copies of your CV?
    • Do you need to inform your home tax office that you are moving away?
  •  TIPS

    • Bank rates are expensive. Find a service (like Currency UK) to transfer currency to & from home.
    • Find all certificates for your qualifications; you may need them for job applications.

Visas & Passports


    • What will your VISA status be? Do you need a VISA?
    • If  so, what paper work will you need and how do you apply?
    • Are all of your passports in date and correct? Will any expire while you are away?
  •  TIPS

    • Make a spreadsheet on Google Drive of important documents and expiration dates so you could access it from anywhere.
    • Print out any papers that you might need, fill them out and have them ready in a stamped envelope. Leave them in safe place – even better with someone you trust to mail it – for when you need to renew.

Things To Cancel


    • Do some subscriptions work in the country you are moving to?
  •  TIPS

    • Close all utilities accounts (electric, gas etc) and pay off final balances
    • Cancel all memberships for anything you won’t be using (gym, clubs etc)
    • Cancel all direct debits that you don’t require



    • Have you cancelled your car insurance?
    • Will you be selling your car?
    • Will you be exporting your car? What are the fees?
    • Will you be buying / renting a car when you arrive?
    • Do you need a car in your new home country or is public transportation accessible?
  •  TIPS

    • Research public transportation in your new home. In simple races you could certainly get by without buying a car.
    • Some countries accept an international driving permit (IDP). Find out if you can drive on your home license? If so, for how long? Here is a list of countries that accept IDPs

Family / Schooling

  •  TIPS

    • You might want to consider taking advantage of living in a foreign country and sending your child to a school where they will learn the language.
    • This is a great resource of things to consider when you’re moving abroad with a family.
    • Hear what these mom-pats have to say about helping kids move abroad.

Schools Abroad



    • If you are taking pets, what paper work do you need? Here’s a little advice on Pet Passports.
    • Do they need vaccinations? (Some places only require a rabies vaccine and a health certificate, others require a quarantine period.)
    • Will they fly in- cabin or cargo?
    • How much does the airline charge for a pet ticket?
    • What fees are involved?
    • Are there services you could use to make the process easier? Forbes says yes.
  •  TIPS

    • Keep certificates safe and vaccinations up-to-date
    • Be honest for your pet’s sake. Some dogs will not handle traveling under the cabin or quarantine well. Make sure you are making the best decision for your pet and not a selfish one for yourself.
    • Different airlines have different pet guidelines. Check. Double check.

Healthcare / Medical


    • What vaccines, if any, do you need?
    • How does healthcare work where you are going? Who pays for it?
    • Will your new insurance cover you in your home country?
  •  TIPS

    • Get hold of your medical records.
    • Organise medical insurance and get all documents together.
    • Get your vaccinations up to date,

Important Documents


    • Do I have copies of important documents?
  •  TIPS

    • Don’t forget to put all of your important documents together in a safe place.
    • Take photos of all important documents.
    • Store them digitally with Dropbox so that they are accessible from anywhere.

Understanding The Culture


    • Are there any unusual local laws that you need to be aware of?
    • When are shops likely to be open and closed?
    • What is crime like where you are going? What precautions do you need to consider? Read up on some of the stats in your new country using the UNODC website.
  •  TIPS

    • Read up on common scams / cons that you should avoid.
    • Start learning the local language! Even a few basics will help a lot.
    • Make sure you understand local customs and avoid accidentally offending anyone. There are hundreds of pages on the internet which provide local customs. To get you started, here’s a fun read on pizza and other differences in culture.



    • Will your phone work abroad?
    • Is it “unlocked”?
    • What are your roaming charges?
    • Will you get a local sim card when you arrive?
    • How ubiquitous is Wi-Fi availability?
    • Will you have an internet connection available?
  •  TIPS

    • Smart phones are a great tool when you’re abroad.
    • Download apps like Skype or WhatsApp to make keeping in touch with back home easy, cheap, and do-able.


The Actual Move


    • What will you do with your stuff? Sell it? Store it?
    • How much will storage cost?
    • Will you be shipping anything to your destination? How much will it cost?
    • Are there any restrictions on what you can ship?
    • How long will shipping take?
  •  TIPS

    • If you aren’t sure about how long you’ll stay abroad, storing your things might be a good idea.
    • Some places have different ways of shipping and may be more economical. Between Dominican Republic and New Jersey we use a shipping company that makes it easy and super economical to ship things but that isn’t available from every state. Do some searching.
    • Look into CPS accounts.

The Little Things


    •  Have you informed all of your friends / family?
    •  Are you going to start a blog or diary to record your experiences?
  • TIPS

    • Prepare new address cards to make this easier? Here are some templates.
    • Take lots of photos and share with your friends and family on social media.
    • ave you informed all of your friends / family?

Reminders Of Home


    • What trinkets do you have to comfort you when you feel home sick
    • Have you signed your parents up to Skype and shown them how to use it?
    • Where do expats hang out near your destination?
  • TIPS

    •  Sign up to a local expat forum and make friends in advance.


This list certainly isn’t comprehensive, but if you can confidently answer every point on here, you might just be adequately prepared for the move.

The best advice I can give though is to accept that you can’t be 100% prepared, there will be surprises and you will sometimes be put outside of your comfort zone. So the one absolute must is to take a good sense of humor and a thirst for adventure!

Good luck!


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For daily #drinkingthewholebottle moments, advice, truths, and general fun sh*t,
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Photo Credits
Technology – Mervi Eskelinen

    1. Awww.. Thanks so much, Massiel. A teacher in a Facebook group recommended this site >> I don’t know anything about it but maybe it’s worth checking out. Good luck and keep in informed 🙂

    1. Thanks for your prompt reply. Btw love your blog and social media ! I guess I will look into schools and see what I find I really want to relocate by December.

    1. Hey Massiel. Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of information outside of International Schools / teaching abroad. As for the similar salary range, in my limited knowledge, I’d say be open to hearing offers. Our school doesn’t flat out pay as much as in NJ but they offer benefits that equalize the salary (housing, utility stipend, etc.) There are other expats here – not associated with our Int. school – that have specific skills (chiropractor, yoga, acupuncture, etc) that they make work abroad, but again, kind of out of my info range. Sorry I can’t be more helpful with this topic but let me know if I can help with anything else.

    1. Hey there awesome article! Do you have ant tips of finding work with similar salary ranges as here in the US or US companies that are abroad ?

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