How Much Does it Cost to Move Overseas? Here’s Part 1 of an SA to UK Example

This article was written by Sam Beckbessinger.

Part 1 of 2.

Hello, grownups 🙂

How are you hanging in there, chaps? I’ve pretty much degenerated into a pile of snack-crumbs and blankets by this point.

Today I’m taking a question about the costs of moving to another country.

Hi Sam! I know you moved to the UK recently. I wondered if you’d be comfortable sharing a rough estimate of your moving budget? My husband and I are talking about making a similar move sometime next year, and it would help our planning to have a better sense of how much we’d need to save up for it. Why reader, I LOVE sharing my budgets! Queen of Overshare, right here.

TL;DR: moving myself, my partner and our cat to the UK cost us about R185,000. I reckon if we’d been a bit more careful about a few things, we could have gotten that down to R150,000. If we hadn’t been so extremely lavish about it, we could have done it for R30-R50k.

Here’s a breakdown of what we actually spent, line by line.

Some notes on our budget:

We moved in January 2020. Prices have probably changed a bit since then, already.
We moved from Cape Town, South Africa to Cambridge, UK. If you want to know why, I wrote about that decision here.
My household consists of me, my partner, and our cat (Sir Digby Chicken Caesar).
We did get a moving stipend from my partner’s new company, so we were a bit less frugal than we would have been if it was entirely our own money.
Your budget will depend on a few variables. Obviously, the biggest one is where you’re moving to, but five other factors are:

  • How many people are moving?
  • How complicated is your visa situation?
  • Are you bringing pets?
  • Are you bringing any stuff?
  • Will you have to financially emigrate?

Obviously, if you’re 22 and single and naturally nomadic and you’re just bringing your clothes, moving overseas is hella simple. I, however, am no longer 22, and I’m a nester, so my move required about as much planning as a space shuttle launch. Many spreadsheets were involved.

Moving the people

You might be tempted to book your flights far in advance so you can get the best deal on flight tickets. Resist this temptation. You can’t fly until your visas are finalized and your pets are approved to travel (if you have pets), and both of these factors are hopelessly unplannable. This can all turn into some pretty complicated schedule-Tetris, so flights should be one of the last things you book.

When you’re building your budget, anticipate that you might need to pay a bit more than you think, in order to find a flight that works with your timing.

It’s worth paying for a couple of extra pieces of luggage to bring with you on the plane. You’re not going to have anything except what you bring on the flight with you, for a long time.

Our flight costs for 2 people from Cape Town to London, including 1 excess bag, were R17,372.

Securing visas/residence permits

My partner’s an EU citizen (lucky bastard) so the entirety of his application took 40 minutes and was totally free.

My own visa situation was a lot more complicated, so we decided it would be worth paying immigration consultants to talk me through the Vogonesque application process. We used a company called Breytenbachs, who were knowledgeable and reassuring. There were one or two small hiccups in the process, mostly because I made the questionable decision to try to move to England mid-Brexit, just as all their rules were changing.

Overall, I was glad that there were people that I could call with my questions when things got confusing. That said, this did end up being one of the most expensive parts of the process. I’d suggest to someone else going through this process that it’s worth paying for some specific consultations to clear up questions you have, but do the actual application process yourself.

My visa ended up costing us R16,838, but if we’d done more of the process ourselves we could have kept this under R10,000.

Moving the cat

Transporting my pavement-special cat across the world is probably the single most boujie thing I’ve ever done. It was also, without a doubt, the most stressful part of the whole experience.

Would I do it all again? Absolutely. I love that little furry idiot.

Different countries have different rules about what you have to do to import pets. For the UK, they don’t have to be quarantined, but they do have to go for a series of shots and tests over the course of four months before they can fly. This ultimately ended up controlling our timelines – we were ready to go long before our cat was. So, if you’re bringing a pet, getting the clock started on this process is the very first thing you need to take care of.

It’s also worth knowing that there are completely different protocols for travelling on the same day as your pet (you don’t have to be on the same flight), or travelling separately to them. You have to decide early on which approach you’re going to take, and if you’re travelling together, don’t book your own flight until you have solid timelines for your pet’s.

I did a lot of shopping around, trying to figure out if we could move the cat more cheaply by handling a lot of the admin ourselves. Ultimately, it didn’t seem worth it, so we decided to go with pet transport company called PetPort who walked us through the whole process from beginning to end. I can’t recommend PetPort highly enough. They were proactive, helpful and communicative.

We also got some good advice directly from our vet, who really went above and beyond for us (including rushing out to do a last-minute panicked house-call on the day before we needed to fly because I couldn’t wrestle the damn hellcat into his carrier, and I had a one-hour window to get his papers signed by the state vet on the other side of town).

Overall, including vet bills, bringing our cat cost us (GASP) R25,613. Ja, I know. I could have left the little shit behind and bought a literal tiger cub instead.

In the next article, we will share the rest of Sam’s story, including what to take with and what to buy; finding somewhere to live; and info about financial emigration. Stay tuned for the second part.

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].