We all know moving is a pain. I should know as I have moved more times in my 35 years of life than most normal humans on this planet.
Jetsetter lifestyle can be exciting and fun when you’re young, especially for students. It does, however, get exhausting the older you get. So since I have moved nationally too many times for my age and internationally to eight different countries, I have created a short list how to move with the least amount of stress, spending extra money and avoiding drama and illegal stuff. Especially moving abroad alone can be challenging for many young people.
Here is a short list to keep in mind when you move to a new apartment/ city/ country:
- Don’t rely on advertising. When I moved to Dublin to do my Master’s degree, I found an apartment online. Very expensive, brand new building with a jacuzzi on the roof. So I asked my friend in Dublin, Ireland to go check the neighbourhood, if it’s shady or not. He said, it’s a good neighbourhood. Once I arrived (and had already paid for full semester rent), I realised the “good neighbourhood” started from the end of the road. The other end was full of crackheads and drug dealers. 😆 This was a developing part of Dublin, they were cleaning out the bad neighbourhoods by building new fancy buildings, but failed to mention that 200 meters from the fancy area, you might get mugged by a crackhead. Obviously, my friend NEVER went to check out the neighbourhood hah. Also, there was no jacuzzi in that building. It was from the gym in the NEXT building. So don’t rely on advertising or your (lazy) friends. Similar false advertising fiasco happened to me in Barcelona too. A brand new luxury hotel I booked online, looked amazing in pictures, but once I arrived with my friend, we realised it was built in the middle of a shady neighbourhood. So instead of walking to the city, we had to take a taxi everywhere.
- Visit a country before you decide to move there. Don’t rely on your friends’ opinions. I moved to Ireland without ever being there, though some female friends warned me of some stuff. I also moved to Sofia and Malta without ever been there before. So to avoid disappointment, I would suggest to first visit once or twice a country you plan to get a permanent job in. It can be adventurous to move randomly somewhere new and exotic, but it is also very expensive to move around a lot and starting from scratch many times is exhausting.
- Get a proper moving contract. Movers can try to trick you by adding extra hours AFTER the job is done, so make sure you have a valid contract from a REAL moving company. Check their website. Don’t go for cheap and shady. Ask for references if possible.
- Get a crime report of the area. Even in “safe” countries and areas, there can be criminal activity and violence. In the States for example, there’s a great website to find out if your area has hate groups based on different ideologies, such as Neo-nazis, anti-immigrant, anti-LBQT, male supremacy etc., it’s called SPLC Southern Poverty Law Center. (Resource: https://splcenter.org/hate-map) In the States, there’s also a national sex offender public website, where you can check if your area is safe to raise children. (https://www.nsopw.gov) Unfortunately, most countries aren’t so organised with public safety, but you can always try to investigate on your own.
- Check local hospitals. In Europe, it’s relatively easy to move around because EU and ETA countries and Switzerland have a unified European medical card that permits EU members to receive medical care in another EU country like a local.
- Be cautious with Airbnb. It’s great for short term stays and sometimes even for longer terms, but make sure the apartment and landlord are real. In Airbnb, trust the reviews. The more the better. Also make sure if you are a female solo traveler that your Airbnb host is reliable.
- Do your research on subletting laws. When I moved to NYC for job-hunting, I was recommended to search for apartments in Craigslist. So I found a relatively cheap place in Manhattan, just to find out that it was actually an illegal sublet. In NYC, it was VERY common. You need to make sure that the apartment owner or the original rental contract permits subletting. Also, be aware that in NYC they also try to trick you with illegal rental apartments. If you find “a room in Wall Street for 1000 USD/ month” and go there to see the room and the “room” is a corner of a shared apartment without a window, it’s ILLEGAL. You are not allowed to rent a divided space (sometimes separated with just curtains) of another room or of the apartment as a room if it doesn’t have a window. You might think that 1000 USD/month is cheap in Wall Street, but even for that price, you really need to have a window.
- Ask for electricity bills before you move in. There are huge differences in electricity prices in different countries. So don’t assume anything when you move to a new country or even a new apartment. Even if it’s the same size or smaller, there might be some hidden costs that you need to check before moving in.
- Check if there is a water meter in the apartment. Read the small print in your rental contract. It came to my surprise that my tiny studio had a water meter. I was used to paying fixed monthly water costs in rental apartments in Finland, but then I was shocked when in my new apartment I got a HUGE water bill. I thought it was a mistake since I was already paying 20 euros/ month for water for one person, but then realised they charge based on the water meter (which is very rare in studio apartments).
- Check local laws and customs from local people AND expats. Local and expat reviews clash REGARDLESS of the country. 😄 Trust me, I’ve travelled enough to know this. So to get a full picture, ask both sides about your future homeland or city.
- Use a taxi instead of hiring movers. This obviously only works if you don’t have big furniture or a lot of stuff. It’s perfect for in-city moving, like NYC. It’s expensive to hire help, so just give your taxi driver a generous tip and you’re good. Especially in big cities like NYC, everything is expensive and distances are far, so be smart.
- Do your OWN personal research on the new country/ city. As I mentioned before, don’t rely too much on your friends or other people’s opinions. It’s good to ask questions and get advice, but then also keep in mind that a wealthy Western single man will have a different experience than a single young woman or a Middle Eastern male student, or a family with young children. So ask questions from people you can relate to and also do your own personal research. I was once recommended to stay in a hotel in the financial district in Bangkok. It was a very safe and comfortable yet affordable hotel, but also super boring for a female solo traveler. The hotel was full of families, couples and older tourists. I met some young tourists when I took a guided tour to go sightseeing and they told me that they are also traveling solo, but booked a hostel where they could meet other young solo travellers.