• how to move abroad tips for expats

The COMPLETE Moving Abroad Checklist for Newbie Expats

Are you planning a move to another country? Congrats! Waiting ahead of you is the exciting life of an expat, and although mostly fun and games, before you leave there are some loose ends you need to tie up. I was an expat in India (from the USA) for the five years, and I just made the big move from India to Mexico! I’ve obviously decided to make you an incredibly detailed list so I could include all my top tips in this moving abroad checklist. If there are things I missed, add them in the comments to make it even more comprehensive.

expat in india

Here are some of the things I had to take care of, or needed to remember to do later, before moving to India almost six years ago. Of course, it will be different depending on where you move, but in general, these tips can be applied to moving abroad to most countries.

The Complete Moving Abroad Checklist: Exactly what to do before you move abroad

Get Your Long-Term Visa

First of all, you need a long-term visa where you’re going. That will depend on your reason for moving to the country you choose. This could be a temporary residency, permanent residency, work, business, a tourist visa, or a variety of others. Check this link to see what visa you need and go ahead and order it.

It’s important to take necessary paperwork with you when you move. I keep photocopies of important documents on my computer, but luckily my parents can fax me something if I need it. If you don’t have someone back home to help you once you leave, you should take all important papers you have including a birth certificate or a copy of it, medical records and vaccinations, a copy of graduation certificate, and for me a copy of my massage certificate. Just put it all in a folder and keep it. If you have a family, do this for every member.

If your passport is about to expire, go ahead and get a new one. It’ll prevent you from having to fly home for one, saving you money later. If you are a frequent traveler, you can even look into getting a second passport which is allowed in some cases.

travel paperwork documents

Cancel Memberships

If you have a phone plan, cancel it. Make sure the year leading up to your move, or as soon as you know you’re moving. Don’t take an upgrade on your phone if you are eligible. Because I was due for an upgrade and didn’t take it, I could cancel my phone line without a fee AND without affecting my parents’ family plan that I was a member of. If you are unsure of your move, you can suspend for 90 days, two times in a row, and your plan with then be extended past when it originally would have ended (with Verizon). If you’re moving for good, though, you can just full out cancel your plan.

If you are renting, of course, you need to take care of canceling your lease and find a place for all your stuff. Mine is at my parent’s house much to their dismay. It’s best to sell items and make a little cash. I took only two checked bags with me to India, as I was moving into a furnished house.  When I go back this year I will be bringing more things with me in checked bags. Shipping costs loads of money and you have to pay fees to India upon arrival! If you are moving to Mexico from the USA, you can look at shipping via ground transport which isn’t actually too expensive.

Cancel your gym membership, your Cosmo subscription, and any other monthly fees you have. You can go back and check your bank statement to see what you are getting charged monthly for. Some you can keep like Netflix and Hulu; even though they are only for the USA, you can use a VPN to make the internet think you are in the USA and they will still work. Most around upwards of $7 per month.

Re-route Your Mail

Get your mail re-routed to your parent’s house or another family member or friend. You can go online and change your mailing address to re-route mail. Make sure to go to your last employer’s website and update your address with your parents so that your final W-2 comes in the mail.

Federal and State Taxes

Make a mental note to do your Federal and State taxes the following year. I almost forget this year, but it was a nice surprise because it was a little bit of cash I’d completely forgotten about. Plus, it’s the law. I did mine free on TaxAct from India for federal as in Washington state you don’t have to do state tax.

Once you make an income abroad, you’ll have to look into how your new taxes will be and if you’ll pay in the USA or your new country. Taxes for expats aren’t as scary as it seems. Just hire help! I used H&R Block’s expat services which are for Americans living outside USA. Prices start at 200 bucks, and the person assigned to you will help you know what to deduct like internet bill, classes, computer software, whatever blogging expenses I had. I had to mail her all my receipts for the deduction to count- so KEEP YOUR BILLS! I had a good experience with them and will use them again next year.

What is my travel blogging backup plan?

Make All Last Minute Health Appointments

Once you quit your job, you will be taken off their health insurance, dental, and vision insurance. Most places allow 30 days past your last day of work. Make all of your appointments now! Most likely you are on a small deductible and it’s worth getting everything checked before you move abroad. These are the FIVE appointments you shouldn’t forget to make.

  1. Vision. Just get a checkup
  2. Dental. Get x-rays and get one last cleaning
  3. Physical. Get a preventative physical. In my last one they found a heart murmur that I needed to deal with- luckily I knew ahead of time so I could do what I needed in India. Get labs drawn. Make sure everything is okay.
  4. Women’s Care. Girls get your checkup and get birth control for the next year before your insurance runs out. I waited until mine did then tried to buy birth control pills and found out even at Planned Parenthood they are really expensive. I now buy them in India but you need to see if they are available where you are moving.
  5. Dermatology. One that I don’t trust doing in India, I like to get my moles and freckles checked out for cancer.

Do you want to write and travel for Hippie in Heels? Apply Now!

If you are moving to India I can vouch that healthcare is great and cheap. Contacts are cheaper here, but glasses are not so cute so I’ll get those at home from Warby Parker for 100 USD using the prescription I got in India. Getting your teeth cleaned is cheap and easy (10 USD). Doctors here don’t seem to understand preventative care so I wouldn’t go for a physical. Birth Control is accessible and 10 USD a month. When moving abroad, try to start using that country’s medical like a local. For example, if you are a permanent resident in Mexico, you can then get on the national health care plan. If you don’t want to, you can stay on Obamacare in the USA (if you are in the USA more than 30 days of the year, you legally have to have USA healthcare now).

If you are on your parents’ insurance and under 26 in the US, you can stay on for health. With each policy, international rules are different so check with them on the phone.

I recommend getting World Nomads Travel Insurance while traveling, and while an expat in countries with expensive healthcare. I use this when I leave India to go on trips around Asia and the rest of the world!

Do Some Shopping!

Buy back-ups of what you need: make-up, favorite t-shirts, Pop-tarts… I’ve written quite a bit about packing to move abroad; you can start reading here to start a three-part series on what to pack. I also have a post on what luggage to take when you move abroad.

Change Your Car Insurance

Car Insurance will need to change, not be canceled, unless of course, you sell your car. Even if your car is parked in a garage unused you need to insure it. The garage could catch on fire or a tree could fall on it. I pay 60 USD for a whole year for storage insurance. If you know you aren’t coming back you should sell your car as they only depreciate.

Keep Certificates Up to Date

Healthcare providers: I know a few people in nursing read my blog because I get e-mails from you with questions about moving. What you need to do is keep your CPR up to date, keep your ACLS or any other extras up to date, keep at least one state license active and do the appropriate CEU’s online to keep it active. I do that with my Ohio nursing license. After three years, I did let my CPR and ACLS go as it seems like a waste of time at this point. But, if you think you’ll go back to nursing you should do it.

Get  Travel Debit or Credit Card

Get a debit card that is good for travel and living abroad. I use Charles Schwab debit card, which is not an international card and will be canceled if they see you “live” abroad and aren’t just traveling. So, don’t mention it to their customer service or they might give you trouble.

I stay under the radar because I travel a lot outside India and do spend a month in the USA each year. They offer no ATM fees anywhere in the world and don’t want expats taking advantage, according to a representative I talked to before moving. But do let the bank know you are “on a long vacation”. Then, in your new country, you can look into a local bank account. This is important because some countries like India, make it difficult to pay for things with foreign cards. For example in India, I cannot pay my electricity bill, buy tickets to the movie theatre, or transfer money to friends with a foreign card.

Flying and Moving Pets

While I didn’t move any pets from the US to India, I have recently flown my critters from India to Mexico, and it was a lot. I wrote about it in these two posts:

Other things to take into consideration: taxes in your new country, customs on shipping your belongings abroad, and voting abroad.

Moving to India? Here’s what my house in Goa is like.

goa house

goa house

goa house

If you’re coming to Goa, you can check out my tips on renting a house in Goa.

Ready for your big trip?

Check out Kiwi.com to find great prices on flights. I love flying with them because they use a unique system to find cheap flights that aren’t on the same codeshare. Here’s how it works. If you’re planning on using Airbnb when you first arrive, sign up with this link and save $40 on your first booking.

Pin this moving abroad checklist and tips for moving abroad for later:

moving abroad checklist and tips for moving abroad


About the Author:

Rachel Jones left a career in nursing and lived on the beaches of Goa, India for the five years. Now she lives in Mexico where she gives advice on the 40+ countries she’s visited in the last 10 years. She’s the author of two India travel e-books: Guide to India and Insider’s Guide to Goa. Her blog, Hippie in Heels, like its name, is a contradiction combining off-beat adventurous places with glamorous and bespoke travel. Hippie in Heels has been featured in ELLE, Marie Claire, Grazia, and Cosmopolitan magazines. She’s a writer for Bravo TV.


  1. DaniI' April 28, 2014 at 9:18 am - Reply

    I’m getting ready to move abroad myself for a year so these lists are always nice to have! Thanks for sharing your advice

  2. Jacki April 28, 2014 at 9:49 am - Reply

    As an FYI on cheap glasses, I use Zenni optical.
    You do need to know your pupilary distance as well as have your rX but it is super easy and VERY cheap.
    It’s best to know what ‘style’ of glasses look best on you.
    I have experimented with different colors and been very pleased! My red rX glasses with glare reduction and shipping were about $30usd.
    They do take 2-3 weeks to process and arrive so order before you go home if you can. They have some cute options!

    • Rachel Jones April 29, 2014 at 6:12 am - Reply

      thanks Jacki! I”ll look into that. I was looking at warby parker and they are 100, but 30 sounds better :)

  3. Rebekah April 28, 2014 at 10:46 am - Reply

    So many things to think about when moving abroad…. I’m a big fan of vitamins, I seem to catch terrible colds in other countries and vitamins keep me healthy. I also really wish I had brought some decorations from home, some pictures of lighthouses, seashells, pinecones… things that seem like Maine. Capital one credit cards don’t have fees on overseas charges too

    • Rachel Jones April 29, 2014 at 6:13 am - Reply

      decorations were something I missed too and a nice comfy blanket. I go back this week for a month so I’m going to get all kinds of stuff packed up!

  4. ellen Bak April 28, 2014 at 12:18 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much. Good advice I’m using. I’m planning on packing very light, smallest backpack for my RTW. If I’m planning to cruise through Nepal can I rent or buy a cheap warm jacket and then toss when I go back into the heat? I’m trying to plan for hot weather months mostly. Follow the sun around the world. . Thanks eb

    • Rachel Jones April 29, 2014 at 6:13 am - Reply

      Yes in Nepal and North India you can buy coats and gloves really cheap.

  5. Alex, Speaking Denglish April 28, 2014 at 5:32 pm - Reply

    I still recommend canceling Netflix, as I do use unblockers but on my oh-so-generous friends’ accounts. I also sue their AT&T Uverse accounts to sign into ABC.com and even HBO and Showtime #livingthedream

    This is a great list!

    If oyu want to keep your phone #, I recommend doing Google Voice. I porter mine so I can still text and call from it via Gmail and forward it to temporary #s while I’m visiting home :) :)

    • Rachel Jones April 29, 2014 at 6:15 am - Reply

      ahhh nice- I have unblockus too ( I think it’s illegal…?) but we hook it up to our playstation and can watch netflix and hulu on tv. It’s the BEST! I haven’t heard of At&T thing, but I may or may not illegally download hbo and showtime shows….. I read your post a while ago on google voice actualyl and it was about 2 weeks after I’d canceled my number!

  6. Heather April 28, 2014 at 10:42 pm - Reply

    Great tips! I’m currently preparing for my third international move and it’s so much less stressful when you are organized and prepared!

  7. J in Beijing May 2, 2014 at 10:36 pm - Reply

    Great tips Rachel. In China we have to have a VPN to access Facebook, blogs, some newspaper websites etc so that’s great for still being able to use Netflix. You can change the country you are in to get different films/shows and if you also want to watch Hulu in the US or BBC Iplayer in the UK you can switch it to whichever country you want. Are you going to open a bank account in India do you think? I have one here that my employer helped me open but my husband doesn’t have one. I’ve had one in Korea and Venezuela too but, again, my employers helped me. If you have a work visa it’s usually fine to get one.

    • J in Beijing May 2, 2014 at 10:39 pm - Reply

      Actually, I just remembered we didn’t even have a proper work visa in Venezuela because they were so difficult to get then. But somehow we still opened bank accounts… Haha how we did it I don’t know!

    • Rachel Jones May 3, 2014 at 9:49 am - Reply

      I always used VPN for a while, then switched to Unblock-us and can use netflix and hulu, but didn’t want to say in the post because it’s not legal! I don’t think I can open a bank account in India because you have to have a work visa I think?? My boyfriend is on business and can’t even open one. I didn’t realize you were married! (my bad, I should be reading closer), but thought you were only dating. how cool!

      • J in Beijing May 4, 2014 at 5:46 am - Reply

        Haha no worries- we’ve only been married less than a year but were together for years before! It’s funny with the VPN thing in China. FB, Twitter etc is blocked but so many of the big companies here have FB and twitter pages and the only way they can get them is obviously to use a VPN. I wish they’d just unblock facebook already!

  8. Jay Banks May 6, 2014 at 5:36 am - Reply

    A pretty lot to do! My daughter is moving to South Korea where she will teach English to kids so I am trying to check if there is something else she needs to manage or we should take care of. I would maybe ask one more thing: What about medicines? I’m quite mistrustful when it comes to unknown types in a foreign and very different country.

    • Rachel Jones May 6, 2014 at 4:17 pm - Reply

      I get all my medicine cheap in India and it’s the exact same branding and packaging. I am a nurse as well so I’m pretty detailed with my medications! S. Korea will have the same options- although sometimes they brand differently. Asia always offers cheaper meds than the US.

  9. Chantae August 21, 2014 at 2:23 pm - Reply

    Would have been helpful to read this BEFORE I moved abroad :) great advice! …definitely bookmarking it for my next move.

  10. Ivy Morrison August 13, 2015 at 6:17 pm - Reply

    I’m moving to France for a year at the beginning of the next year and your advices are going to be of a great help. I’m now planning and looking for all kind of helpful information to make my move smooth and less stressful. Thank you for sharing your experience!

  11. Alex October 8, 2015 at 5:17 pm - Reply

    Great post Rachel! Lots of people forget about things like changing their phone provider and taxes when moving abroad so it’s great to see you touched on those subjects. Good job! :)

  12. Lora Harris November 25, 2015 at 3:25 pm - Reply

    These are priceless tips and ideas for people moving abroad! I am so happy to find your post! I need to go to India for a year and the thought of moving there gives me both chills and excitement. I need to prepare my documents and do my medical check ups before moving there and you give me some great ideas! Thank you!

    • Rachel Jones November 26, 2015 at 5:36 pm - Reply

      Great happy to help. The move is exciting but also .. there is so much to do to prepare!

  13. Rubiana Alve Moreira May 27, 2016 at 9:25 pm - Reply

    Very good tips!
    Personally, I wouldn’t dare moving abroad before staying for a while at the aimed country in oder to have a grasp of the environment, though! ;-)

  14. […] mailing list of some companies or you have a friend who likes an old-school way of keeping in touch re-route your mail, either to the new address or your parents […]

  15. Ronald Maramba July 11, 2018 at 9:06 pm - Reply

    I need to go back to the USA for my health check up. Is one month more than enough? I live in Asia now. And I still am an American citizen.

  16. Amy Winters October 1, 2018 at 8:31 pm - Reply

    Thanks for suggesting that we get dental x-rays and one last cleaning before we move abroad. My husband and I are going to be moving to Australia for his work, so I’ve been looking into ways to make the move as smooth as possible. I didn’t consider getting last minute health appointments for myself and my husband, but it’s a great idea and I’ll definitely do it! Thanks for sharing these tips for moving abroad!

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