Living: Top 10 tips on shifting your stuff

Ben Flanagan says that moving house is one of the most stressful things you can ever do – and all the more so if you’re crossing continents, rather than just a country.

According to a 2015 survey by the UK energy company E.ON, people in Britain list moving home as life’s most difficult moment. Six in ten people (62%) named moving house as their most stressful life event, more than those who said a relationship breakdown or divorce (43%), or starting a new job, was most stressful.

So how can you minimise the burden – both in terms of stress, and financially – when moving from the UAE?

Numerous moving companies exist in the country, serving the huge expat population that has grown over the past few decades. For long-term expats in the UAE, especially those with families, shifting their belongings via shipping container is often the only practical solution when moving home.

Chirantan Joshi, chief executive of E-Movers – which has operations in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Qatar – said that the typical cost of moving your stuff from the UAE to Mumbai in India is AED 12,000 to AED 15,000, or around AED 25,000 to the UK. That would include the sole use of a 20ft shipping container, door to door delivery, and packing and unpacking, he said.

But the costs for shipping your belongings can vary widely, other experts pointed out.

Craig Reilly, the chief executive of Dubai Arabian Shipping Agency (DASA), said it is difficult to give typical costs for a move, because it depends on so many factors.

“There are so many questions that need to be answered first,” he said.

The method of transportation – whether air or sea – and the precise destination obviously have a big impact on the cost of a move. But other factors include what exactly you are moving – whether it’s mostly clothes, furniture or electronics, for example – and the actual volume, something an in-house survey is required to determine, Mr Reilly said.

Another cost to bear in mind is insurance, something Mr Reilly said is “imperative” when shipping your stuff.

“Containers or crates can be dropped, fall off ships or get delayed. Mother nature can wreak havoc with personnel effects. Rough seas can throw your goods around as the vessel sways, or turbulence in the air. There are so many outside influences that we have no control over,” he said.

For those with fewer belongings, it is possible to share a shipping container with others looking to move goods to the same place. But that can be a lengthier process, as there is likely to be a wait as the container gets filled. “The down side to this is the much longer shipping times, as we need to fill the container with other shipments,” Mr Reilly said.

Mike Arnold, managing director for the Middle East at Santa Fe Relocation Services, based in Dubai, said that sharing a container can lead to significant discounts.

“Sharing a container is only possible to certain destinations. It is quite common to share containers to the UK for example, which we observe as the highest volume destination from the UAE,” he told Benchmark.

“The cost savings can be quite significant, depending on the volume you are planning to ship. The most marked downside to shipping in a shared container is the possible delay in shipment time. An exclusive shipment is typically dispatched days after packing whereas a shared shipment may take a month to complete plus shipping time. If you are not in a hurry to receive your effects this can be an economical option.”

One trend identified by some moving companies is that shipments to and from the UAE are getting smaller as, they say, an increasing number of young people start moving here.

“Most shipment sizes are considerably smaller than what we’ve experienced in the past,” said Mr Arnold.

“One of the major trends evident is the ever increasing number of millennials entering the workforce here in Dubai. They are typically light travellers, and don’t have much to ship. The majority arrive with a suitcase and leave with a similar amount at the end of their assignment,” he added.

“In regard to families, there is a growing trend in long-term rental of furniture while on assignment thus shipment sizes are also being affected. Companies are also stretching shipment allowances due to the recent business downturn across the Middle East and globally.”

But whether you’re a young millennial or middle-aged married couple, the key to avoiding stress when moving is planning it right, said Mr Arnold.

“If you plan on shipping your household goods, you should engage a moving company at least one month prior to your expected move out date,” he said. “Allow plenty of time for planning.”

Top 10 tips on shifting your stuff

Ready for the big move? There are numerous moving companies serving the UAE – but several things to look out for when choosing the right one for you. Here Craig Reilly, the chief executive of Dubai Arabian Shipping Agency (DASA), gives his top 10 tips when shifting your stuff.

1. Plan! Even if a professional mover will take care of your move, it is best to prepare yourself by understanding everything that a move involves beforehand and planning accordingly.

2. Schedule your move. If you can choose in terms of the time of the year when you can move, and the time during a given month, then we firstly recommend moving outside the peak season. The summer is usually the busiest time of the year for the moving industry, since most people with families choose (or need) to relocate during the school holidays. In addition, the end of the month is also usually busier because the conclusion of a house lease and other business practices is generally on the last day of the month.

3. Select your professional moving company. Maybe your move is being arranged by your employer who works with an approved provider. If not, it is important for you to find a reliable international moving company, and some research will be needed. We recommend approaching a few companies and comparing the services they offer before selecting the international mover whom you trust.

4. Get at least three separate estimates for your move. This will give you the opportunity to compare price, services provided and the mover’s availability. Although price is an important component, it is important to also take into account the years of service, the services provided as well as other people’s recommendations if they are available. For instance, packing materials may vary, some movers may offer specialised fine arts and antiques moving services, and so on. Choose the company that best fits your budget and service requirements.

5. Make sure you compare like with like! When you compare quotations between international movers, make sure you check what is and is not included to avoid any nasty additional charges at a later date. Often, quotes that look inexpensive may cost you more at the end. Do ask, therefore: Is the shipment method the same? Are your personal items being moved in their own container, or are they consolidated with other people’s? Have terminal and port handling charges been included? Is packing / unpacking included? Have they accounted for accessibility? Is customs clearance included? What time frame is quoted?

6. Are they a FIDI Accredited International Mover? FIDI is the primary association for international movers providing quality services worldwide. To be a FIDI Accredited International Mover, the moving company must prove that they comply with very strict quality requirements and they must be periodically assessed by an independent auditor. They must have protection measures and insurance in place to protect the customer.

7. Who will be providing the service at the other end? The person that visits you in your home and conducts the pre-move survey may be excellent and the packing crew at origin wonderful.  But ask them who will be the international mover that delivers the services at the other end.

8. Get recommendations. Ask your friends, family members and co-workers about international movers they have used in the past and you will soon gather a list of trustworthy international movers. Check reviews about their credibility and ask for testimonials from previous customers.

9. Additional service requirements. Consider the additional services you may require from your international mover. Do you need immigration assistance, currency transfer, a professional carton packing service, house cleaning, pet transport, car transport or a full unpacking service upon delivery? Perhaps even a handyman service to hang pictures, re-assemble playground equipment and so on.

10. Get everything in writing. It is unwise to proceed with any international mover if you do not have full terms and conditions and a detailed contract. Make sure that you obtain a no obligation written quotation and check all details are fully listed and all costs are clearly illustrated. Don’t risk unexpected charges or surprises on your moving day.