From Tourist to Expat: How to Smoothly Move to your Favourite Travel Locations?

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It's a giant leap, but there's just something about that last week-long vacation that made you fall in love with a new destination. 

It's so much more than a "plan next year's vacation before you leave" love. It's more like a "can't stop thinking about living there, experiencing it in dreams" kind of love. Just like that, you've turned in your two weeks' notice, packed up all your belongings, and said goodbye to your life as you know it. You're starting a new life in your favorite international vacation spot!

Except... it's not all fun and games. Moving to a new country comes with a whole host of challenges, from finding a place to live to getting a job and making new friends. But don't worry, we're here to help. Here are our top tips for smoothly transitioning from tourist to ex-pat.

From Tourist to Expat

This may very well be the most expensive adventure you'll ever experience. The more you prepare your budget and manage your expectations, the more smoothly the transition will go. Be sure to consider every aspect of your move, from the cost of your travel visa to how you'll find an auto shipping company to transport your car to your new home.

Do Your Research

Before making the big move, you must research and have a solid plan. This is one of those big moves you can't just wing by the seat of your pants. Significant moving parts can have legal fallout if you don't stay on track with them.

Immigration Laws

Different countries will have additional requirements for immigrating within their borders. It would be best to research what hoops you'll need to jump through, what visas you need to obtain, and what kinds of tasks are restricted with that visa. It would be tragic if you were to move to your dream home and get deported because of a misunderstanding.

Job Market

With certain visas, you will not be able to take on work, or what you are allowed to do is restricted. Other immigrant visas will require you to work a certain number of hours in a field you've designated in your application before being approved for a migration visa. Be sure to know the rules around working in your new home, and keep an eye on the job market so that you'll be able to afford your new lifestyle abroad.


Typically, when you choose a new home country, you've become familiar and comfortable with the language (if it's different from your native language). However, this isn't always the case. You'll find that immersion helps you pick up regional dialects and anecdotal phrases as you spend more time amongst your neighbors.

Cost of Living

The cost of living will vary by the country and community you choose to settle in. Be sure to look closely at the cost of living and readjust your expectations by comparing the new area to what things cost in your current community. Remember that stuff you're used to now may cost more because they need to be imported or sourced in different ways in your new location. Wages will also differ in new communities, so you must plan for these changes.

Get a Job or Start a Business

Unless you have a job lined up before you move, you'll need to find one once you arrive in your new country. Some countries require a job lined up and a contract with your new employer sponsoring your employment for a set time after your move. Unless you're fluent in the local language, this can be difficult. Starting your own business is an excellent way to get around this issue. This way, you can be your boss and set your hours. If you go this route, do your research ahead of time, so you know what licenses and permits you need to operate legally.

Make Some Friends

One of the hardest things about moving to a new country is leaving behind your family and friends. But just because you're starting over doesn't mean you have to do it alone. There are plenty of ways to meet new people in your chosen country, from joining social clubs and sports teams to taking classes or volunteering. Getting involved in the ex-pat community is also a great way to make friends and find support during the transition period. And who knows, maybe one day you'll be helping someone else make the transition from tourist to ex-pat!

Make a Move Without Breaking the Bank

When you move across the country, chances are you'll be able to pack your belongings into a truck or shipping container, send it on its way, and then unpack when you get to your new home. However, when you move to a new country, that process becomes much more challenging. Below are a few tricks we've found to make the big move easier for everyone involved.

Downsize - Sell - Declutter

Reduce the amount of stuff you'll be transporting. You can sell, donate, or dispose of most things before moving, taking only the most essential items. This process can be a little painful as we sift through the sentiment of our lives up to this point, but a fresh start will make it all worth it. Plus, selling some of your old things can add more cash to your pocket to keep you going while settling into your new home.

Keep Track of Vital Documents and Deadlines

Getting your visa and passport paperwork processed promptly is essential and can make or break your big move. These aren't things that can be procrastinated on, so be sure you're on top of deadlines. For example, processing a passport in the US for international travel can take up to 8 weeks on average. If you wait until just before you leave, your passport won't be legal to use as a form of ID in your travels. You'll also want to locate and secure birth certificates for you and your family before you leave. These are difficult to replace once you're out of the country of your birth.

Decide What You Want to do With Your Car and Home

When people move internationally, they typically sell their homes and car, but there are other ways to handle these assets. With your home, you could sell it and use the proceeds to purchase a new home in your destination, or you could hire a company to manage it as a rental to give yourself extra income in your travels.

Your car gives you a few more options. You can quickly sell the car in the private market and use that cash to buy a new car when you arrive. You could lend your vehicle to a family member or donate it to a reputable charity. Lastly, you could ship your vehicle to your new community and register it there.

Pack Your Things for a Long Trip

Be extremely careful as you pack the things you intend to keep. Wrap everything that's even a little fragile, so you don't open your shipping container to your life broken to pieces. Bubble wrap is inexpensive and dependable for padding your belongings and weighs almost nothing. You'll also need to carefully label every box, ensuring it is packed well and won't shift too much during transport.

Add essentials to your carry-on bags to settle in on arrival without digging through boxes. Alternatively, keep only a change of clothes and any daily medications in your carry-on, and plan to stop at a local store after you land to pick up the essentials. Essentials should include fresh bedding, a change of clothes, medications, hygiene products, toilet paper, and the things you'll need to get through the first 72 hours in your new home.

Try to Enjoy the Process

As stressful as this process tends to be, keeping things in perspective is essential. The journey you embark on is an exciting opportunity to explore new places, try fresh foods, and make new friends. So do your best to enjoy the ride, and remember that making a big move like this isn't something everyone can experience! Whether you're moving across the country or to a new country, these tips can help make your transition as smooth and stress-free as possible.

Welcome to Your New Home

Making the transition from tourist to ex-pat can be daunting, but it doesn't have to be if you're prepared. Research the job market, cost of living, and language barriers to know the challenges ahead. Once you have a solid plan, start building a new life by getting a job or starting a business. And finally, don't forget the importance of networking and making friends. By following these simple tips, you'll be well on your way from the tourist... to ex-pat!

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