Why I Didn’t Choose to Use an International Moving Company

international move, moving,Miami, Nicaragua, cargo, customs, immigration

Who Likes Moving? I Sure Don’t

Let’s face it, moving sucks. The amount of crap that you manage to accumulate can be astounding. The thing is is that you don’t realize it until you have to put it in a box. I would have never imagined that I was going to need 132 boxes from Uhaul plus bubble wrap and tape. That doesn’t include some of the larger items that we either wrapped or just loaded.

If you can believe it, this only the second time that I have moved in my life. I moved out of my parents house after a little after college over twenty years and now for the move to León, Nicaragua.

For about nine months prior to leaving Michigan, I had been trying to minimize my life. I was trying to hang on to things that I needed, not things that I wanted. We held garage sales, sold stuff on Craigslist, gave stuff away, and donated to a few charities.

I thought that we had reduced our collection of stuff significantly – until we were staring at 132 boxes of personal items. In our defense, the purpose for the move to León is to open a business. We were going to need extra things to stock the place and didn’t see the sense in getting rid of a bunch of stuff just to have replace them once we got here.

Tools, for example, are expensive Nicaragua. Heck, they can be expensive back home, too, so I kept as many of them as I could. After over thirty-two years in the restaurant business, I have accumulated more than my fair share of kitchen items like plates, silverware, glassware, and gadgets. Much of that stuff will be useful here.

Why I (and You) Hate Moving 

Moving sucks. Everyone knows that. Most people have done it more than I have.  I was anxious about my new (ad)venture. Most people are nervous or least edgy about having to pack and relocate. Moving internationally is on a different level and more than disruptive. It is downright stressful. Every box needs to be labeled with its contents, number of pieces, valued, and catalogued.

 We Got Several Estimates

I contacted and received bids from four different moving companies willing and able to move our belongings to Nicaragua. Unfortunately, they were all very similar, the median price was $12,000. WTF!!!

Those quotes included packing everything. Legally, the company had to pack everything to ensure that I wasn’t smuggling any contraband. This part sounded nice. You’re telling me that I am not allowed to do any packing? SWEET.

They also told us that they would deal with all the paperwork and deliver our belongings to our doorstep in León, unload it as well, and remove any packaging.


Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute

I was genuinely shocked about how much stuff I was bringing. I didn’t realize I had that much property. Luckily, I started packing early and had much of our belongings packed, labeled, and valued without sealing the boxes so that they could be inspected by an international moving company. Every single package needed to have a label. We had labels printed with my name, telephone number, and destination. Every box, broomstick, couch cushion, and book shelf had multiple stickers on it.

Packing Myself

I explained to the moving companies that most of our belongings were already packed. They told me that as long as the boxes were not sealed they would be able to take responsibility. I packed everything myself to try to cut the cost of my final bill. It was an undertaking that I was not ready for. I simply underestimated how much stuff I had. I thought it would take a few days. In the end, it took a few weeks.

Just the kitchen glassware, plates, and pots and pans took a few days. I am going to hate bubble wrap for the rest of my life. But, I didn’t trust the  way other people were going to handling my possessions. I did a four year stint at UPS, I know how boxes are handled. Marked fragile or not, packages got tossed as far as they needed to be into the package cars. That’s what we called them, not trucks.

We were lucky to have made a few contacts through some friends of ours that knew people on both ends of the transaction. The company we worked with in Miami, T.A.N. Cargo, had an office in Managua. We rented 20 feet of space in a 40 foot container. It was less expensive by about $7 a ft. to rent the space as opposed to getting our own private 20 ft. container.

Our stuff went through Honduras before being trucked to Managua because we were told that it would be much quicker.  Our possessions were in Managua in nine days. We didn’t take possession, but they were there.  It was another two weeks before customs found the time to check, verify, and sign-off on our goods. We then hired a local transport company to deliver our goods to our front door.

In the end, we decided that making the move ourselves was our best option. Hiring an international moving company, to move us door-to-door was not in our best interest. The cost, of course, was the driving factor. Including all costs, we were able to make the move for  half of the price.


In an earlier post, Nobody Cares, I broke down the costs of moving ourselves. In my opinion, if have time and energy and stamina and are willing to put up without a few extra headaches, you can save yourself a boat-load of money.

Customs Agents

One additional cost that I didn’t mention before is the customs agent that we needed on the other end of our transaction to help us actually take possession of our belongings. Ours was very competent and cost us $500 USD, plus a few incidentals that ran us less than $100 USD. I have heard of people paying $1000 or more for their service.

Moving can be a stressful time, but moving internationally can be down right traumatic. The best thing to do is to be prepared and educated. Some of you may be lucky enough to have your company cover the costs. We were not that lucky. It all worked out in the end.

Viva León, Jodido!

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