Moving abroad can be daunting – but there’s a reason why millions of people around the globe push through the anxiousness and pursue their adventure abroad. This experience can open up new paths in your career, allow you to meet new people, teach you about new cultures… the list goes on!

However,  many people can find it difficult to fully shake the one prevailing worry: is moving abroad right for you?

To help you find the answer to this lingering question, we’ll guide you through the pros and cons of moving abroad, the questions you should ask yourself before moving, and how much you should expect your move to cost.

A couple walking around a city

A couple finding their way around their new home abroad 

How many people move abroad?

It’s natural to feel nervous before you move anywhere, let alone to another country – but a quick glance at the number of expats around the globe should put your mind at ease. 

In 2019, a grand total of 4,729,088 people across the world emigrated to a different country – with 407,000 of those people leaving the UK. In total, the number of international migrants is estimated to be almost 272 million – with more than half of these people living in either Europe or Northern America.

What we’re trying to say is, wherever you end up moving, there’s likely to be a local expat community to help you get your bearings. There are expats in every nook and cranny of the world nowadays – check out the bar chart below for a better idea.

Data from the United Nations World Migration Report

Pros and cons of moving abroad

ProsCons
Explore a different cultureCulture shock
Opportunity for personal growthPossible language barrier
Meet new peopleFinancial difficulties
Learn a new languageHomesickness
See the world
New career opportunities

Questions you should ask yourself before moving abroad

1. Why are you moving abroad?

Whether it’s for work, family, a new adventure, or just because you fancy a change of scenery, it’s best to get this figured out before you make the big move. The reason behind your big move is likely to impact other factors – for example, you may need a longer or shorter visa, or you may need to complete a few extra documents. 

 

Below, we’ve listed the main reasons why people moved abroad in 2020:

Data from Statista

2. Where do you want to move to?

When it comes to location, you should consider a number of things: do you want a hot or cold climate? A city or countryside lifestyle? An English-speaking area? These choices will not only impact your overall experience, but are also likely to determine things like property prices and living costs.

3. How long will you be going for?

For some people, moving abroad can be a short-lived adventure – others, however, can’t imagine life as it was before their move. In fact, six out of 10 Brits living abroad have vowed never to permanently move back to the UK. We’re not saying you need to have this figured out before you move to your new country, but it’s good to start familiarising yourself with the different visa options, since some countries only offer visas that last a few years.

4. Are you moving abroad solo?

Whether you decide to travel solo, with a partner in crime, or with a furry friend, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience. It’s wise to get this decision set in stone before making any other major decisions. Having a friend, partner, or pet along with you on the journey might end up impacting the location, the type of property you need, whether you need pet insurance, and a number of other things too.

5. What visa do you need?

Visas can be complicated little things – and to make it a bit more challenging, each country has its own set of them. The type of visa you end up with usually depends on how long you’re planning to stay there, whether you’re moving through work, or if you’re moving for marriage. There are, however, lots of other options, depending on where you move. 

We recommend you do your research on the visas available, and figure out which one works best for you. The best place to find this information is usually on the country’s official government website, or you can phone an embassy to enquire.

6. How will you fund your move?

Although moving abroad is the opportunity of a lifetime, it can also be strenuous on the old purse strings. So, before you take the leap and move abroad, we recommend putting some money aside for shipping costs, the first month’s living costs (e.g. rent at your new home, food, entertainment), and a little something for emergencies. 

Once you’re settled in, you can crack on with some work. And good news – 74% of all expats increase their income abroad. If you want to learn some interesting tips on how to save money during your move abroad, head over to our ‘Cheapest Ways to Move Abroad’ page.

7. What are you going to do for work?

A survey in May 2020 found that 44% of expats relocated from the UK primarily for work/career reasons – if you’re part of this 44%, you can skip this question. For the rest of you, it’s worth considering whether you want to apply for jobs before you arrive, or once you’ve gotten settled in. Some expats might not even need to work, especially for any lucky retirees sunning it up in the likes of Spain or Italy

The typical cost of moving abroad

The cost of moving abroad will depend on a number of factors, including container shipping, removals, insurance, flights, and visas.

Shipping your belongings

It’s difficult to provide an exact price for shipping, since there are so many factors affecting it. There are five key things that can alter the cost of shipping your things abroad:

  1. The type of transportation (sea freight or air freight)
  2. How much you bring (the volume or weight of your goods)
  3. The journey distance (more miles means more money)
  4. The destination port (customs duties will vary)
  5. The time of year (peak season vs low season)

Depending on the variables above, you could be looking at anything from £1,000 to £5,000+.

Shipping containers at the dock

A container ship arriving at port

Packing and unpacking

Most shipping companies offer professional packing and unpacking as part of their service, so you can save all the heavy lifting for them. They also provide all the materials you’ll need, from industrial shrink wrap to good old-fashioned cardboard boxes. The cost of moving furniture abroad will be entirely dependent on the amount you take. 

Fees for a professional packing/unpacking and loading/unloading service generally start at about £100  for half a 20ft container (15 cubic meters), but more cargo means higher prices.

Private medical insurance

If you’re moving abroad, it’s always a smart idea to invest in medical insurance. Generally speaking, most public healthcare systems around the world are fairly strained, and often come with long waiting times. And even if it’s at the better end of the healthcare-quality spectrum, it might not be the easiest thing to access straight away. 

The cost of medical insurance will fluctuate, depending on your age, general health, gender, and the country you move to. That’s why we’ve partnered with Cigna for private medical insurance around the world. With four levels of annual cover to choose from and extra modules for more flexibility, Cigna will sort you out with a plan that suits your needs.

Start building a customised plan with a free quote to protect your most important assets – you and your family.

Of course, there are lots of other factors that might mean you have to fork out more money for your move abroad. Head over to our page on The 12 Key International Moving Costs for more information.

Most popular places to move abroad

We Brits tend to stick to what we know. That’s why four out of the top five countries Brits emigrate to are English speaking. Take a look at the table below to see where most Brits are relocating abroad – can you see yourself joining them?

RankCountry
1Australia
2USA
3Canada
4Spain
5Ireland

Although the countries listed above are either English-speaking or very close to home, you’re also sure to find British expats in a huge number of places around the globe. On the map below, we’ve highlighted British expat populations around the world – the bigger the circle, the more expats there are. 

Data from the United Nations 2019

How will COVID-19 impact your travels?

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has put a lot of travel plans on the backburner this year – but that doesn’t mean your move abroad is off the table!

Travel restrictions around the world currently sit on a spectrum, ranging from no restrictions at all, to complete border closures. Generally, Asian and South Pacific countries have placed stricter rules on who is able to enter and leave the country, whereas Europe and America have been much more flexible. 

To give you an idea of how different countries have dealt with travel during the pandemic, take a look at the map below:

For many of us, the next year or so holds a lot of uncertainty – but if your move abroad isn’t tied to a specific place, there are a lot of countries that are still allowing people to emigrate. 

If you’re concerned about how safe it is to travel to a new country in the midst of this pandemic, it might be worth considering moving to a country that’s dealt with the virus better than others (if you can get in, of course).

How will Brexit impact your travels?

Like many things to do with Brexit, it’s unclear how emigration will be impacted by the new rules in 2021.

The UK Government has stated that any expats that register as a resident in their European home before 31st December 2020 will be covered by the Withdrawal Agreement. This means you’ll continue to have the same entitlements to work, study, and access public services as before the UK left the EU.

For anyone registering as a resident after the transition period, this is where things get a bit murky. As it stands, the government has said people who fall under this category will have to meet the requirements set out by “a future immigration system” in order to stay in the country – although it has not set out how this system will work.

couple waiting at airport

An excited couple waiting to kickstart their new journey abroad

Summary

Hopefully, after reading this article, you feel a bit more pumped to move abroad – and if not, well, it’s better to have figured this out now, rather than on the plane!

For more preparation, make sure to check out our Moving Abroad Checklist and our page on Moving Abroad Alone.