Shipping your stuff from the US to Portugal

Written By Becky Gillespie

Moving to Portugal from the US requires a lot of planning and logistics. One important question to consider before you go is whether you will ship some of your belongings to Portugal via a shipping container. The answer for many people is a resounding YES! But then the next question is: how am I going to do it? And how much will it cost? We’ve created a guide below that will walk you through the basics of what to consider when shipping your things from the US to Portugal.

Preparing bins, Hiveboxx, Unsplash

What should I bring to Portugal?

The short answer here is that shipping your things abroad is expensive and requires detailed planning and coordination. You could hire someone to do all of this for you. Maybe you have a family member that you trust to go through all of your things. But a key piece of advice is to first go through your things and take the Marie Kondo approach. If something you own does not spark joy, you should seriously consider giving it away, donating it, or getting rid of it instead of paying to ship it to Portugal. Downsize, downsize, downsize before moving on to the shipping part of the equation. Do you really still need these things in your life?

Which shipping company should I use?

There are a number of shipping companies to consider when sending your stuff over to Portugal. Some of these include BRLogistics, Schumacher Cargo Logistics, PSS International Removals. Due to its high-quality reviews, specialization in self-pack international moving and shipping, and strong presence in the US, Canada, and the UK, we will focus on a company called UPakWeShip for the purposes of our guiding you through the shipping process.   

How long will it take for my stuff to get to Portugal?

Many shipping companies will quote 2-6 weeks, but it can actually take much longer. With all of the disruptions to shipping routes and issues with supply chains these days, your container may take as long as 3-4 months to arrive. Given this, it’s important to plan ahead and make sure that you bring your most important possessions with you on the flight over to Portugal. What do you absolutely need for those first couple of months and will it be enough to be comfortable while you wait?  

Please note that this is never a one-size-fits-all approach, and you will need to do some of your own research to ensure that your shipment reaches your new home in Portugal safely and securely.   

The shipping process

1. Get your shipping quote

Head to the UPakWeShip homepage and click “Ship to the US” at the top. You will need to get your quote based on the US State that you want to ship from.

Let’s use NY as an example. Please note that if your address is greater than 31 miles from the UPakWeShip transit center, you will need to pay about $300 more. You will also need to choose between two different services: U-Crate or Pallet.

  • With U-Crate services, you will be sent a crate in advance. When you are ready, UPakWeShip will collect it and ship it to your curbside overseas. With pallet services, you will provide your own pallet.
  • For an idea about the price differential between crate vs. pallet, we selected the U-CRATE 50, which has a total shipment volume of 50 cubic feet, dimensions of Length: 45 ”/Width: 45 ”/Height: 44,” and a maximum weight of 500 lbs per U-CRATE 50. We received a quote for the U-CRATE 50 of $2,453.

  • For a small pallet, the cubic feet and maximum weight are the same as the U-CRATE 50 but with dimensions of Length: 48 ”/Width: 40 ”/Height: Up To  45.” We received a quote for the small pallet of $2,103 – $350 cheaper than the U-CRATE.

If you don’t know your shipping address in Portugal, you can just put in XXX and update your address later. Please note that UPakWeShip will also need a minimum of two weeks in advance to arrange everything for a move.

Once you order your crate or pallet, you will be asked to pay a refundable deposit and sign a contract. You will also be asked to create an account and be assigned a booking number that you will use throughout the process when you have questions for the company and fill out your labels. UPakWeShip will also provide you with a dedicated shipping coordinator that will help you with everything from customs document preparation to packing tips.

2. Stage your crate

Before your crate gets picked up, you’re going to need to carefully prepare for the pick-up by “staging” your crate. In other words, you’re going to need to measure the dimensions of the crate or pallet and pretend that it is already in your home. We recommend drawing a rectangle on the floor and wall using masking tape to give you an idea of the space that you will have for your things. Even if your bins are empty at the beginning, you can still practice packing within the dimensions to make sure that you have space for everything. Watch packing videos from UPakWeShip to help you see the best way to pack your things.

3. Prepare your packing list

You will need to prepare a detailed packing list for shipping. Here is a tutorial on how to do this. There is also an app that will help, but please speak with your shipping coordinator to ensure that you are using the latest version.

Keep in mind that there are many items that are not allowed for international shipping.

If you have doubts, please contact your shipping coordinator. Also, keep in mind that any last-minute items will need to be added to an existing bin or box. Once you have submitted your packing list, you cannot add any new bins/boxes/items.

There are also weight limits for each pallet or crate, as mentioned earlier in the “Get your shipping quote” section. Excess weight fees of $2.00/lb will be incurred. Check with your UPakWeShip representative if you are unsure. We recommend estimating the approximate of each bin and then multiplying it by the number of bins, or alternatively weighing everything as you go.  

Should I take photos of my stuff?

Finally, take photos of everything you pack per bin. This could be a lifesaver later if you need to file an insurance claim. Also, keep all email correspondence from UPackWeShip. You never know when you will need it along the way.

4. Prepare your labels

For the U-CRATE 50, you will receive a pallet box top and bottom, metal straps, fabric cinch straps, heavy-duty cardboard sides, and a plastic sleeve. Now, you can start packing!

Once you know how many total bins and boxes you will need, you will also need to prepare your labels. UPakWeShip will provide a label-generator template to help you label all of your single items and bins/boxes.

Before you even start creating these labels, get the grand total of how many pieces (single items that need labels + bins/boxes) you have. This should only be done after you have staged your crate and are confident in exactly how your pieces are going to fit into your crate/pallet. After you determine the grand total of pieces, label each item as follows: Box 1 of [Grand Total # You Have].

Attach one label per item, but we recommend putting one label on each side of each box/bin so that customs can see the label from any side of an item if they want to inspect it. You may also want to use stretch film to keep all boxes together and ensure as little movement as possible for your items once they have been packed

It is crucial to state here that the numbers on your labels for each item MUST correspond to the numbers on your packing list. Double- and triple-check this so that you make it as easy as possible for customs. The last thing you want is for further delays in your shipping process. Imagine planning a trip outside of Portugal only to be told that your crate has been rescheduled to be delivered right in the middle of your trip.  

Your packing list and label templates will only be provided once you create an account and become an official customer of UPakWeShip by signing a contract. You will not be able to find these items online.

Boxes ready to load, Markus Spiske, Unsplash

Do I need insurance?

It is important to mention shipping insurance here. UPakWeShip can provide you with insurance. It is also possible to add insurance after you book to make sure that you get the proper coverage for the specific items in your shipment.  

5. Loading the final crate/pallet for pick-up day

When your crate/pallet is picked up, it must be on hard ground so it can be collected with a pallet jack and tail lift truck. A garage, driveway, or curbside is usually the best location to use as your packing location rather than inside the house since pallets and crates are larger than the doors of typical homes.  

6. Tracking your shipment’s progress

You can track your progress through UPakWeShip’s online portal. You will also receive an email once your shipment is on its way including the name of the shipping line. Your shipment will go through customs in Rotterdam, Netherlands and then a local company will contact you to arrange for delivery to your Portuguese residence.

A Certificado de Bagagem (Baggage Certificate) is not needed for your shipment. Once your crate clears customs, it will be delivered via truck to Portugal.

Your shipment on the way, Tiry Nelson Gono, Unsplash

7. Your shipment finally arrives in Portugal

You do not have to be physically present to receive your shipment in Portugal. However, if you arrange for someone to accept the delivery on your behalf, they must be at least 18 years old and be able to provide a Portuguese phone number, as the delivery company will only phone a Portuguese number to arrange the delivery date. You also need to give the name of this person to your UPakWeShip customer service representative in advance.

Before your crate/pallet arrives, it is a good idea to hire someone in advance to help with unloading if you think you’ll need it. The driver may not want to help you beyond opening the back of the truck. It may be ideal to hire at least one person, or even a crew, to help you unload once your crate arrives. Of course, this depends on the size of your shipment.

What do I do with all of those moving boxes and bins?

Last but not least, you must properly dispose of the pallet and any related cardboard on your own. You may also not want to keep all of your bins and boxes that came in your shipment. The easiest way to get rid of these when you are still new to a community is to either contact the local disposal company or try to get rid of your bins using local expat groups on Facebook.

Final Thoughts

To truly make your new place in Portugal feel like a home, it’s important to bring your most cherished possessions from the US. Having that special piece of artwork or antique furniture as part of your new life in Portugal will make a world of difference in making you feel comfortable—and it’s certainly not all going to fit in your suitcase. We hope that this brief guide will ease some of the pain that making a big move can incur. Remember, this is one of the hardest parts of the move. Once you get set up with all of your treasured belongings, your Portuguese adventure can truly begin!

All moved in, Weronika Janas, Unsplash
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