Shipping to Australia: Frequently Asked Questions

It's unlikely that you've ever had to move to Australia before so it can be easy to compare the process to a move in the UK; both involve packing up all your belongings, loading them into a van and then unloading them on the other side.

However, there are many more factors to take into account with a move to Australia such as whether to take your electrical devices, the length of time you will be without your possessions and whether or not you will be required to pay any additional customs charges.

We asked John Mason International for their answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the process:

John Mason International Movers

What goods to take

Choosing a moving company

Deciding on policy options

What to do when your goods arrive

What goods to take

John Mason International Movers

Q: What should I take with me?

A: The vast majority of people moving to Australia will ship as much as they can. This is because replacing items can be expensive, and taking the time to sell or get rid of items might not be as beneficial as you think in helping you to furnish a new house when you arrive.

Start by asking yourself whether you would actually replace the item when you arrived, and then working out how much it would cost to ship the item versus replacing it. If you're unsure you would even replace it or it's inexpensive, it may not be worth taking. From there, organise items into different categories like "Charity Shop", "Friends & Family", "Bin" and "Recycle" to help you clear things out.

However, this can be a time-consuming process, and many people simply choose to ship as much to Australia as possible, and sort it out when they arrive and have more of an idea of their needs. In addition, many items hold sentimental value and cannot be replaced!

Q. What should I not take?

A: There are some restrictions on the items you can ship to Australia, or preparations you'll need to make to have them allowed. Foodstuffs should be avoided as there as many restrictions and it can hold up our shipment while they are examined, and alcohol can be subject to high taxes. Untreated wooden items shouldn't be shipped, and things like wicker/cane chairs and baskets can be subject to fumigation in Australia. This also applies to wooden Christmas decorations.

Candles made of beeswax are prohibited or restricted, so it's best to leave them behind. Other candles may melt so place them in a Tupperware container or don't pack them at all.

Outdoor items like bicycles, garden tools and sports equipment should be carefully cleaned and disinfected to rid them of any dirt.

Australia and the UK use the same current for electrical items, but you will require an adaptor for the Australian plug socket, so you may wish to get rid of some more inexpensive items and purchase new ones once you arrive.

Q: Is it worth taking my furniture?

A: Most often, it's cheaper to ship large items like beds, sofas and appliances than replace them so don't be too ruthless until you investigate the costs involved.

Choosing a moving company

Q: When should I be planning for removal?

A: Moving overseas is a big commitment, and will take more time to organise than moving within the UK. You should begin making enquiries at least three months in advance of your moving date. Many companies offer online quotes, and although these won’t be exact they can be a great starting point in planning your move to Australia. Consider a home survey, where a surveyor will do a walk-through of your home with you and make note of what items you would ship, possible costs, customs regulations, duty and tax, and possible moving dates. John Mason offers this as a free service with no call-out fee, and there is no obligation to use the service.

Q: Which company should I use?

A: Many companies offer a reputable removal service to Australia and it can be hard to make a decision. However, if a company has FAIM certification then it can provide a level of assurance in their practices, as this is the industry's leading quality standard for international moving companies. John Mason has this accreditation.

Q: What do I need to do before getting a quote?

A: Try to make a list of the items you want to take with you, not forgetting that there will be many smaller items as well as furniture. The more accurate this is the closer to the actual price your quote will be. You may want to consider starting to de-clutter at this time or at least think about which items are really necessary. If the process of figuring out which items should be included and what volume that might amount to is too overwhelming then you may want to consider a home survey.

Q: Can I get a quote online?

A: Online quotes are on offer from most removal companies, however they should only be taken as an estimate. John Mason has an Instant Quote System that allows you to select your property type and items that are relevant to rooms in your property and estimates the volume accordingly.

Deciding on policy options

John Mason International Movers

Q: Should I use a shared container or a sole use container?

A: Shipping items to Australia can be done in shared or sole use containers. Sole use containers are the most popular option, and mean that you have exclusive use of a 20ft or 40ft steel shipping container. It takes approximately 8-10 weeks from door to door. A 20ft steel container would usually fit the contents of a three bedroom house. You may need a larger container if you want to ship a vehicle or more items.

Moving your belongings to Australia in a shared container is a cheaper option. If you don't have enough things to fill a 20ft container you can split the cost with others moving items to Australia. Transit time is around 10-12 weeks door to door.

Q: Should I get insurance?

A: Accidents can happen, so we would always recommend you get an insurance policy to cover your items in transit and at the destination if they are going into storage before being delivered to you. Make sure you insure things for the full replacement value at the destination.

Q: What happens if I need storage for my possessions?

A: You can request a quote for storage in the UK prior to your items being shipped, and also upon arrival in Australia. There may be a handling charge as well.

What to do when your goods arrive

Q: How long will my order take?

A: The length of time it will take to move your belongings depends on which policy you choose and the final destination. Container shipment to Australia can be between 8-16 weeks.

Q: What happens when my goods arrive?

A: You will need to complete an Australian customs form to declare the items being imported into Australia. They may also be subject to quarantine inspection so it's important to consider the regulations when you're deciding which items to take, to avoid delays or having any items seized.