So you’ve made the big decision to move to Barcelona, but now comes a puzzler: how to get here. Weighing up couriers, van rentals and self-drive options is stressful, time consuming and about enjoyable as water torture. First things first: consider what you want to take with you, as this will determine what service is the most suitable. If you’re shipping very little, use a courier. If you’re moving the entire contents of a flat, consider removals or self-drive.
If you only have the contents of one room and no furniture, using a courier service to ship stuff in boxes is your best bet. Trusted companies such as FedEx, UPS and DHL cost more, but are reliable and usually offer better insurance policies. Interparcel offers heavily discounted prices as it has major accounts with big couriers, but only offers standard inclusive insurance cover of £50 for loss or damaged goods. If you’re sending something of high value, always take out extra insurance: otherwise you won’t be covered if it’s damaged or lost in transit. Get a few quotes direct from different company websites by entering the box dimensions and weights; bear in mind that the maximum box length for some companies is 60 centimetres. Do you really need all those old books and CDs? They’re heavy and costly to send, so may be better donated to a charity shop (or to mum and dad!).
All reliable companies will allow online tracking so you can keep tabs on where your belongings are. Ask friends who have moved abroad if they can recommend any couriers to you and always check the list of prohibited items (such as food, plants and, er, human remains)—you can be prosecuted if these are found in your packages.
BRING IN THE BOYS
If you’re moving the entire contents of a flat, boxes clearly aren’t gonna cut the mustard: you need wheels. A fuss-free choice for the lesser organised/inclined among you is to pay someone to do it for you. Removals for an average one-bed flat from the UK to Spain will cost from £1,000. Shiply.com lets you post your move details online allowing removal companies to view and send competitive quotes direct to you, meaning you can compare a great deal of offers easily and pick from the best. If you research online yourself, always get a few quotes, as prices can differ wildly. As with couriers, always check a company’s policy regarding insurance/damaged goods. Before the big day, consider the parking availability around your property. If you’re in a controlled zone, you may have to apply for a dispensation permit. You can apply for them in person at your council office and they can usually be collected on the same day.
DO IT YOURSELF
Self-drive is a great option if you want complete control over your belongings (no boxes vanishing mid-air); have bulky or heavy items, or have pets, plants or other perishables that cannot otherwise be relocated. However, taking control of the delivery of your goods means you have to take control of planning which is time-consuming.
Depending on what you’re moving, it could work out cheaper than a removal service but there probably won’t be much in it. Most of the big self-hire firms (AVIS, Europcar) don’t allow one-way hire within Europe, but there are a few smaller companies including Vanomos and Way2gohire (UK-Spain) that have filled this gap and offer Luton vans for around £120 a day. Insurance and breakdown cover is usually included in the cost, but ensure you read contracts fully before signing as not all accidents or damage may be covered (meaning you will be responsible for costs. Not a good start to your new life in Barcelona).
Driving through France to Barcelona will cost in terms of petrol and tolls. Get a good estimate for these costs (and journey times) at www.viamichelin.com, but bear in mind the quotes here are for standard vehicles. If you’re taking a large van, double the price! Carry as many different credit cards as possible; some of the toll stations in France do not accept Visa, so this will avoid hassles at the often unmanned toll gates. If you’re coming from the UK, bypass tolls and petrol charges by taking the ferry from Plymouth/Portsmouth to Santander (brittany-ferries.co.uk, three sailings a week); check prices ahead online.
If you do choose self-hire, consider turning your move into a mini break. Take a few days to enjoy the French countryside and plan some stopovers. A good budget hotel option in France is the Formule 1 chain (from €19 a double, a night). The less rushed your journey is, the less likely you are to have accidents too. Also, don’t forget GPS, maps and a radio (essential!).
And if all these options are still stressing you out, remember there is another one: just chuck everything you have away and log onto EasyJet for a one-way ticket!
TO DITCH THE LOT OR NOT?
Having a clean-out can be cathartic and makes practical sense, but it’s not always easy to let go of your beloved items. Consider these pros and cons before you say farewell to your bits and bobs…
• How much space is there in your new place?
• Get rid of any clothes you haven’t worn for the past couple of years.
• Is your move temporary or permanent? If you’re thinking of moving flats or even cities after a short stay in Barcelona, it’ll be easier to move with fewer belongings.
• Having a total clean out can be a great feeling and lets you leave the past behind. The less stuff you have with you, the less there is to worry out.
• Do you have friends that you can donate furniture to or will look after it for you?
• Putting things into storage is more expensive than you think… if you really want it, take it with you.
• While living in a new city is exciting, living in an unfamiliar environment can result in feelings of homesickness. Having some of your personal belongings such as photos, books, mementos etc) can be a comfort.
• Moving treasured items of furniture may cost, but it will save you paying out for new furniture once in Barcelona (avoiding the inevitable and dreaded IKEA dash).
AND DON'T FORGET
• Cancel all utilities/services (some, for example internet and telephone providers, require a month’s notice)
• Inform banks/credit cards of your new address.
• Redirecting post overseas is expensive – do you really need all that junk mail being forwarded to your new home?
• When planning your moving date, think about allowing time to get your deposit back (if you’re renting). Once you’ve left the country, it’ll be that much harder to chase it up.