Are you thinking about moving to Portugal? Do you plan to ship your things to Portugal? If so, this article may be helpful. I’m not a professional international shipping expert, so this article focuses only on my personal experience using UPakWeShip from the U.S. to Portugal. I’ve included some step-by-step instructions and images as well as a link to a video we found helpful.
When contemplating a move to another country, it’s important to take a good look at your possessions and decide if you need all of it, some of it, or none of it. In our case, Paul and I decided that we didn’t need very much of our stuff. As I mention in my article, How to Get Rid of Stuff, shipping your possessions overseas is expensive – and especially so at the time of this writing where fuel prices are skyrocketing, and there are supply chain and shipping delays worldwide. If you’re moving to Portugal, a lot of those big, oversized American items may not be worth the shipping cost, not to mention even fitting into your new space.
Adjusting my emotional mindset
I’m not here to judge anyone on what they feel is necessary to take with them to another country. Everyone is different with different priorities and different budgets. From my own personal experience, I had to do a little adjustment on my emotional mindset. I had to come to terms with the realization that I couldn’t realistically expect my life in Portugal to replicate my life in America. It was time to let go of stuff and the stupid excuses that can hold you back from moving forward. Once I came to terms with all of that, getting rid of things became a liberating experience!
Paul and I have always been do-it-yourself people whenever it makes sense not to spend money needlessly. So, once we decided that we weren’t going to take a lot with us to Portugal, we began researching shipping options for a small number of items. That’s how we decided on UPakWeShip.
This international shipper has been in business for over 30 years. They have offices in the United States and Europe with Walterboro, SC as their primary office. They have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). They’re the self-pack division of EuroUSA International Shipping.
Choosing a Pallet Size and Getting a Quote
The first thing we did was to log onto the UPakWeShip website to get an online quote. Although I had contacted them previously by email to ask about a quote, I was directed to the home page of their website to get it. Here’s what it looks like:
You select your country (Canada or United States), then your state and then your destination. Once you have entered that information, you click View Rates.
You are then taken to a page with several options.
1. The first section is for Door-to-Door PALLET SERVICES. With this service, you provide your own standard pallet(s) 48” x 40”. You pack up your pallet (take as long as you need) and then when you’re done, you contact the service for pick up and shipment. Sizes: You can choose from Small, Large, Large x 2, and Large x 3. Each option listed provides the total shipment volume (cubic feet) along with the allowed dimensions.
2. The second section is for Door-to-Door U-CRATE SERVICES. With this service, the company sends you the U-CRATE shipping equipment to your residence. You pack your crate (take as long as you need) and then when done you contact the service for pick up and shipment. Sizes: You can choose from U-CRATE 50, U-CRATE 100, U-CRATE 100 x 2, U-CRATE 100 x 3.
There is also another option in this category: U-CRATE 200 Terminal to Door/Liftvan.
Each option listed provides the total shipment volume (cubic feet) along with the allowed dimensions.
3. The third section is for Door-to-Door SELF-LOAD CONTAINER SERVICES. With this service, UPakWeShip arranges for delivery of a container to your residence. You get 2 free hours to load the container after it arrives.
Each option listed provides the total shipment volume (cubic feet) along with the allowed dimensions.
Note: With this option, you must contact them for a custom quote.
The option we chose
We chose the U-CRATE 100. I have redacted the quoted price because it is irrelevant as we asked for a quote in April 2021. Your pricing will differ depending upon where you live and when you ask for a quote.
When you click on the black VIEW SERVICE DETAILS bar, you can see the details along with photos of how the crate is packed. You can even print the details page or save as a PDF for future reference.
When you’re ready to book the service, click on the blue BOOK THIS SERVICE tab, simply follow the instructions for filling out the form.
If you are booking this service prior to having a Portugal address, you can put XXX in place of the address. This is what we did. Prior to having the U-CRATE picked up for international shipping, we then provided all the details of our Portuguese address and contact information.
NOTE: This post is long, so if you are reading this via email, you’ll only see part of the post. Email providers cut it off when the post reaches their character count limit. To read the entire post: Click on the header/title of this post above to read it on my website.
What we liked about UPakWeShip was that the process was step-by-step with excellent communication along the way. A company representative is assigned to you so if you have questions or concerns, you can contact them. Once you agree to the quote, you will be asked to pay a non-refundable deposit. This is basically to cover the cost to prepare and ship your U-CRATE equipment to you. In our case, with the U-CRATE 100, we were required to pay $750 USD. You create an online account and then you’re assigned a booking number which you will use throughout the process or if you need to be in touch and for labeling your items. You’ll also be required to sign a contract.
The company then arranged for shipment of the U-CRATE equipment to our residence in Arizona which consisted of:
Box bottom and box top
Heavy-duty cardboard sides
Fabric cinch straps
Packing it up
It was confusing at times when trying to figure out how to pack this crate. Paul had been thinking of ‘staging’ the crate inside our house, packing it (even if the bins were still empty) to see how much we could fit and how it would all fit. I thought that made a lot of sense as well, so he mapped out a spot in our entry foyer, setting the base of the crate and placing the bins and boxes in the space.
In the meantime, I happened to find a video from a customer who had shipped a U-CRATE 100 which helped us with a ‘visual.’ She showed how she staged it first in her apartment (to see what fit and how), and then on the street on the day the crate was to be picked up. Our circumstances were different only in that we lived in a house with a garage on street level, so we could finalize our shipment in the garage for pick-up and not have to worry about getting it all done at once (or on the street).
Getting the crate ready for pick-up
There are a few things that need to be done before finalizing the packing of the crate for pick-up:
Numbered Labels: UPakWeShip will provide you with a label-generator template that you will use to number and label all your boxes/bins and single items (like a rug or a basket). The template will have your name, box number and booking number.
The trick will be to know exactly how many items you will be packing to ensure that the numbered labels match the packing list (which is why it’s good to stage your crate first). You’ll have to indicate box/bin numbers like this:
Box 1 of ___ [whatever total number of boxes/bins you have].
Packing List: UPakWeShip will provide you with a blank packing list (they will send you a link to their online packing list). Follow the packing list instructions from UPakWeShip carefully. If you do this, you increase your chances of not having customs open and inspect your crate.
Attach at least one label per box/item. We attached 4 labels for each item – 1 for each side. If customs wanted to look at a box or bin, we wanted to make sure they could see a label from any side.
The number on the packing list MUST correspond with the number on the box/item. So, you should be certain that everything you want to ship is accounted for. If you have a ‘last minute’ item you want to add, you may have to find room in an existing bin or box for it. You can’t add additional boxes/bins after you have submitted your packing list.
You may have to do a couple of ‘dry runs’ before finalizing the list to be sure you have this correct – that’s what we did.
Please note that you must be a UPakWeShip customer to access the label and packing list templates and instructions. Once you have signed a contract, you will have access to all the online tools and customer support you’ll need. This information is not readily available on their website. It is intended for customer use only.
From the images above, you can see that the plastic sleeve is placed over the top of the crate and secured at the bottom with tape. Although not required, Paul used stretch wrap film which he wrapped around the entire crate several times prior to placing the plastic sleeve, to keep things tight. Then, Paul used the metal straps that were provided to secure the crate. He then used a little more stretch wrap film around the outside of the crate.
You can track the progress of your crate which will be shipped to the UPakWeShip warehouse until the crate is ready to board a freighter. Once it’s on board, you can continue to use your online account portal to track the progress.
Once your crate is on its way, you’ll receive an email with the details including the name of the shipping line. Once the crate has arrived it will go through customs in Rotterdam, Netherlands. A local trucking company will contact you to arrange for delivery to your Portuguese residence.
Our crate arrival
We hired Carlos to help us unload the crate, since we weren’t sure if the driver would be willing to drive around to the parking lot and drop the crate off at the entrance to the garage.
It turns out that the driver was happy to do this, and even helped Paul and Carlos guide the crate into the garage.
Word of advice: Be sure to be prepared and arrange to hire help ahead of time if you think you’ll need it.
Perfect condition on arrival
Our crate arrived in Portugal in the same condition as when it left our garage in Arizona! No breakage, leakage, or damage of any kind. I attribute this to Paul’s excellent logistical and packing skills. Our crate was neat, organized, secure, and well-labeled, thanks to Paul’s attention to detail. The crate passed through customs without a hitch. With the help of Carlos, we were able to unpack the crate in the garage and put most of what we didn’t immediately need in our garage storage unit. From delivery of the crate to finish, it took about 1 ½ hours.
Supplies we used
In addition to the U-Crate 100 shipping equipment that was provided, we used the following supplies:
Folding top plastic bins from Home Depot
Peel & stick shipping Labels
A few heavy-duty corrugated boxes
Stretch wrap film
Small step ladder
Curious about what we shipped? We shipped books, photos, framed artwork, some of my costume jewelry and a jewelry box, 3 pet cremains urns, clothing, shoes and accessories, household goods such as one cast iron skillet and cooking utensils, small table linens, food storage containers, one oriental area rug, home decor, antique baskets, one large silk plant/vase, Paul’s old camera equipment, office supplies, a teak bench, an antique side table, a linen storage rack, special occasion glassware, china teacups, serving plates, holiday decorations, and memorabilia.
Weight limits - There are weight limits for each size of a pallet or crate. You can be charged excess weight fees if you’re not within the limit. If you’re unsure of the correct weight limit for your shipment, contact your UPakWeShip account representative. In our case, we guessed. We estimated the approximate weight of each bin and multiplied it by the number of bins/boxes packed. We came in just at the weight limit.
Restricted items - There is a list of restricted items that you cannot include in your shipment. This link lists those items.
Customs - Your crate will go through customs in Rotterdam, Netherlands. A Baggage Certificate (Certificado de Bagagem) is not needed for this type of transport. Once your crate clears customs, it will be delivered to Portugal via truck. If you have concerns, contact your UPakWeShip representative.
Keep the emails - Do not discard any of the emails UPakWeShip sends to you. You will need to refer to some of these emails as you go along.
Insurance - Insurance of your shipment is optional. We chose a total loss policy through UPakWeShip. The policy costs 2.5% of the declared values you enter on your packing slip and 2% if the declared value is over $30,000 USD.
The minimum premium is $100 with a $250 deductible. Insurance is available only on shipments that are going door to door.
Take photos - We took photos of the most valuable personal items we were shipping. This included primarily artwork. We wanted to have some type of proof in case there was damage or loss.
Pet cremains - During the course of our marriage, Paul and I have had to say goodbye to 3 incredible dogs! Each one has been cremated, so we were concerned if we would be able to bring their urns with us. You are allowed to ship pet cremains with UPakWeShip.
Delivery in Portugal - You do not have to be personally present to accept your crate. Anyone over the age of 18 can accept the delivery. However, you will have to provide your UPakWeShip customer service representative in advance with the name of the person who will accept delivery on your behalf.
You must also provide a Portuguese phone number. The trucking company will only phone a local number to arrange a delivery date.
Shipping delays - It’s hard to predict when your shipment will arrive although the company provides an estimate. Circumstances can change this including weather delays, port delays, etc. Paul and I knew it would take at least 3 months to receive our crate. It actually took a bit longer because there was a shipping shortage. We arrived in Portugal at the end of August. We received our crate in the middle of November. We were prepared for this and made sure we brought enough clothing and other essential items with us on the plane to tide us over until our crate arrived.
Disposing of the pallet and cardboard - It’s your responsibility to dispose of the pallet and cardboard sides. Be sure to remove any identification/shipping labels on the cardboard before disposing.
Depending upon where you live in Portugal, there may be regulations as to how much waste you can leave in/near neighborhood recycle bins. Check with your local municipality or ask your landlord if there are special rules on disposing bulky trash. You don’t want to risk being fined.
What to do with moving boxes and bins - If you have too many moving boxes and bins that you don’t know what to do with, consider posting “free moving boxes” on local expat Facebook groups. Do a Facebook group search using the terms, “free” and “give/take/swap” to find pages to post your items on. Post on multiple group pages to get the most exposure.
I’m not an expert, but if you have any questions, leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to help.
Until next time…
This was an informative post, thank you! We are moving to Portugal in May from the West Coast US, getting quotes from shipping companies, and seriously considering UPakWeShip.
One clarification: you say you didn't need a "Certificado de Bagagem" because the shipment first arrived in The Netherlands, cleared customs there and then was trucked to Portugal. But, surely Portuguese customs still required the Certificado de Bagagem to avoid paying customs tax to get the shipment released in Portugal? Did I read that wrong?
Thank you for all the detail, this is so helpful.