Ideally, you need to choose removals company that is a member of The British Association of Removers Overseas or The Association of International Removers. A personal recommendation will always be a good way to choose, but it is good to remember that this in itself is not a guarantee of best practice.
One of the first things you need to check about your prospective removals company is its insurance status. Does its policy cover possessions while in storage, awaiting removal? Does it cover possessions while in transit by sea (marine insurance)? Are your possessions still insured once they arrive in your new country and are delivered to you?
The best time to contact a removals company is three to six months before the removal date. They will need to visit your home in order to survey your belongings for a quote and then fit you into their schedule. Usually the better the company, the busier it will be! Check that the company does all packing of goods – it is better to pay a few extra pounds and get your things professionally packed, and some removal companies will not guarantee goods unless packed by themselves. Check that quotations include all fuel costs, motorway tolls and ferry cages. We would recommend getting at least three quotes to enable you to compare prices.
Offload any items that you can do without, as removal companies will charge you by the m². Think carefully about what to take with you to Spain – ask yourself if you really like an item, or if you can really see it sitting comfortably in your Spanish home. Some items, such as furniture, will be expensive to replace in Spain, although you can usually find an Ikea not too far away.
For smaller pieces of furniture you don't have to go to specialist shops as often you will find attractive side tables, mirrors and small storage pieces in shops that may also sell clothes and decorative items. Generally, your life in Spain will be spent outdoors for much longer than in the UK, so garden or terrace furniture is important. Unless you have pieces of good quality, that will withstand hot sun as well as rain, you would probably do better buying these when you arrive in Spain. Larger supermarkets sell garden furniture, usually cheaper than the garden centres, though the choice may be limited. DIY stores also have a range of outside tables and chairs, but they will cost more than at B&Q or Homebase.
Most Spanish homes are not carpeted, but have tiled or wooden floors. You will probably want to bring your good rugs with you as it can get chilly during the winter months. Alternatively, you will find a comprehensive range of rugs in Spain to suit all budgets. Curtains tend to be lightweight, mostly to stop the sun pouring in on hot days and almost all Spanish properties have shutters, so interlined, heavy curtains are not really suitable in Spain unless your home is high up in the mountains. There are many local shops which offer attractive curtains, ready made or made to measure.
It is not worth bringing your plants or shrubs to Spain as many will not survive in the climate and although they are quite expensive to buy, there are good garden centres with a wealth of suitable plants for gardens and terraces. Do consider buying plants that require little water though, as the cost of watering can become very expensive unless your property has its own well from which you can draw water for the garden.
When it comes to white goods, most will work in Spain but you will have to change the plugs or buy numerous adaptors as the sockets are quite different from those in the UK. The price of washing machines and the like is higher than you will be used to, so if your existing machine is reasonably new, a well-known make and in excellent condition, it may be worth bringing it with you.
Remember, you might need spare parts, so bring only internationally renowned makes. Spain now only has digital TV, so you will need a decoder. If your TV is over three years old, it is better to buy one in Spain when you arrive. Search around as prices can vary widely. Smaller electrical appliances such as hair dryers, kettles, kitchen equipment will work in Spain with an adaptor. You will need to buy several adaptors!!
Spanish bed sizes are slightly different from UK sizes and their pillows are a different shape. It might be practical to buy extra bed linen in the UK before you leave if you are planning on bringing your beds and bed linen with you. Beds and mattresses are sold separately in Spain and can be expensive, though if you search around, some companies offer good "packages".
Remember to keep essential items to hand from the beginning. Allowing for at least six weeks in transit, you will need to pack carefully – once it’s loaded, you can’t access it! Sort out keys for your present accommodation, car, office etc. - and make sure they are kept separate, labelled and ready to hand over to the right people before you leave.
All boxes should be clearly labelled, with lists of inventory stating exactly what is in each box. Any reputable company will ask for this list in advance.
Protect yourself from identity theft by shredding all those bits of paper, old bank statements and bills that you don’t want to keep. You could even use the shredded paper as packing material.
It is important to comply with regulations when your possessions enter a new country – and your chosen removals company will be able to give you a specific list of what can and cannot enter Spain. You will also need to:
Drain all petrol and oil out of lawnmowers and similar equipment before transportation so that they comply with fire regulations
Remove all batteries e.g. from torches and radios, as they can leak in transit and damage your equipment
Clean and paint any garden tools and furniture – items with soil on them may be denied entry at customs
You should also think about your electrical equipment, and whether it will work in your new home. Your removals company will be able to advise you of this. Those that can’t be used can be sold or given to the local charity shop.
If you are not moving directly into your new home, you will also need to discuss storage; it may be cheaper to store your goods in Spain rather than in the UK.