What to Bring When Moving Abroad and How to Move It.

There Are Certain Necessities You Need Take With You



Kensington lock

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Most countries do not have a high crime rate, but  in areas where expats  tend to congregate there seems to be more petty theft.  Taking a small amount of precaution will go a long way for your peace of mind and security. Even if you are moving into a gated community it would be wise to discourage theft.
If you are bringing in electronics such as laptops, desktops, printers, televisions or other high valued tech items, I would highly recommend that you purchase security locks for them. (Update: They don’t sell them in Panama)

I set up a combination one on my laptop. It was easy to install and gave me peace of mind.

You can also register the combination with them so in case you forget it you can log on and get that info again.

These are really sturdy lock that can be locked on a computer through some other source of  furniture, making it impossible to steal. Just make sure you measure for how long of a cable you need and order the correct length. I would encourage you to buy these and move them with you so you can use them immediately. And of course do not position your electronics in view of windows where anyone can see inside and discover what items they may want.

The best part, is that these are very inexpensive in comparison to losing your laptop. I even bought one that is portable I can use in hotel rooms. You can go to Amazon and easily pick up a few. You can see their selection here  Kensington K64663US ClickSafe Master Keyed Laptop Lock. I personally like this one better than the tumbler one. Remembering a code and fiddling with the tumblers is awkward.

For my desktop I bought Kensington Desktop and Peripherals Locking Kit, Master Keyed on Demand (K64665US). This works great because you can connect all your items. I have my printer, monitor and hard drive all hooked together.

Also I would recommend that you purchase a really good  surge regulator not protector. These things are not the same. Here in Panama our incoming voltage is not the same consistency. Yes, it is good to have a surge protector when the power goes off but almost more importantly you need something to regulate the low amount of voltage coming in. That is what a regulator does. In many countries, power outages are a frequent occurrence. You would do well to be protected from these events as well. I did not bring these with us. And what I have recently found is that it is uncommon to find surge regulators in the United States, however they have them everywhere here and the prices are not bad. You can get one here for about $20.00. You need them on everything you plug in and run from televisions, Blue Ray, computers, some people even put them on refrigerators.

Most countries do not have alarm companies and so it is up to the individual to do what is necessary to protect your home and belongings. It may seem silly, but  I have also heard several people bring deadbolts with them, to be able to install on doors to deter thieves. (Update: there is now a company in Boquete that does installation of security systems)

I personally have a small fire safe that will go with me. I am trying to find out if it can be brought into customs with the door on it locked. If I can’t bring it with me, I will diligently look for a replacement as soon as I move and bolt to a floor in my new abode to hold all my papers and documents. Most banks at least in Panama do not have safety deposit boxes. There are private safety deposit businesses that do nothing but safety deposit boxes onsite, but the only ones I find in Panama are in Panama City which is about 8 hours from where I hope to be. Most of these are at a cost of over $1000 a year to have. I am sure its a great service but not exactly easy to get to. (Update: Okay to bring in safe, we just kept the door open and taped it shut, so inspection could see inside)Also worth noting: all hardware stores here sell safes, HOWEVER, they are not fire safes, they are security safes. Premise being that houses here all are made of cinder block and never burn down. You access your own risk with that one. I however am glad I brought mine.

Another great deterrent to being along with you is your dog. But more on that later.



These are the things I personally am bringing to Panama ,based on what I know about that country. I think these would be good things to have anywhere but you may decide differently. I know for a fact that there are occasional unscheduled power outages. With that in mind I have spent but a little to ensure that I won’t be to affected by them.

I am bringing with me, a radio that cranks for power and also can recharge with solar. I purchased one for under $30.00. Update: I am so glad I bought this. Last time we had a power outage I ran for the flash light to find out the batteries were no good. I am also bringing a crank flashlight  I purchased for under $30.00. Update: Again great purchase because there are no batteries to fail, drain battery acid, go rusty. As a side note: you can’t find these kinds of items here. Bring them with you. They don’t take up any room and worth the money. I got these two items at Amazon. Etón NFR160WXB Microlink Self-Powered AM/FM/NOAA Weather Radio with Flashlight, Solar Power and Cell Phone Charger (Black) and SOS Charger ® Hand-Crank Emergency Cell Phone Charger with 3 LED Flashlight

Also,over the last several years I have purchased rechargeable batteries. I have always used my plug in recharger but found one that can recharge on solar. Again it wasn’t much, but it will allow me to be able to recharge batteries without electricity for times when the power is down. Update: see below, but don’t bother.

What To Bring On Your Move Abroad

Photo Courtesy of Declan TM (Flicker.com)

I have also purchased a NEW wind up clock. It looks just like the old fashioned ones and it does wind up with no batteries or electricity. I am also moving my old wind up watch I got when I was 17. No batteries needed. I guess I figure why not have some things with me that I know will work in an emergency. I choose these particular things because most of these things can’t be bought easily in other countries, they cost but a little to purchase and they take up hardly any room to move.

I know some people even move huge generators and solar back up systems. However, I was informed that it is illegal to move large battery type things overseas as they can leak and or explode. So beware.


I have to say that I am basing what I move on where I am moving to. So in general, you can expect that my recommendations would apply to all of Latin America an Mexico. This will sound strange, but my face washcloths are going with me. In Latin America, no one uses them and you can’t buy them in most places. Don’t ask me why. So I am bringing good wash cloths and towels. Because bedding sizes vary where you are I am not bringing any bedding, except for my treasured Pendleton blanket.

It is really a good idea to browse forums to find out what people wish they had moved and what they realized they didn’t have to move. In general though, I thing most people agree that anything electronic you should bring with you. Imported electronics can be double what you would pay in the United States due to import charges. (Update: New law, any item whose value is under $100 does not have duty tax)

DVD Player

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Please also make note that if you have lots of DVD’s like I have that a new DVD player you buy in another country will likely not play your DVD’s. DVD’s in other countries are made differently and will not work on your player as well. If yours goes bust while in your new country, you will need to look for an “Multi Region DVD” player.

UPDATE 8/28/2013

Now being in the middle of the most humid part of the year, I have discovered many interesting new tidbits.

  • Bring as little amounts as you can, of leather things. I should have taken a picture yesterday of all of our leather shoes we had in our closets. These were shoes we had not worn since we have been here and yet, they were covered in green mildew. Since we had no problem from December until now, I did not think of checking things in closets we were not using. Alas, I spent yesterday putting vinegar on 3 pairs of cowboy boots, 2 pairs of good Italian leather shoes and 8 more pairs of leather shoes. And it wasn’t just the shoes. Three leather jackets were covered, as well as 5 baseball hats. What a pain. So now when they dry completely (if they can in this humidity) I have some left over SpaceBags I will put them in, since we don’t use these items at all. More air circulation in the rooms I think might help also.
  • Also I am doing a revised recommendation. Don’t spend time and money buying and bringing rechargeable batteries. It doesn’t matter what kind you have, batteries here will rust and eventually leak. We have a remote door bell. The devise sits on our coffee table. I kept finding it wet under the devise when I dusted. Finally I opened it up. Well the batteries were leaking. The end points they need to touch were rusty. So-no more door bell. Camera batteries-I have to put in new ones every 3 months.
  • From metal paperclips to USB metal ends, to headsets, to my sewing needles, they rust. I try keeping most things in baggies now sealed most of the time until I need to use them.
  • I would also advise, because I don’t have one is bringing down an oil lamp for power outages. It is nice to have a flashlight handy, but not when the batteries are corroded and not going to work.
  • Okay I am old. I admit it. Before I moved I needed a makeup mirror so I could see up close. I bought it at a Bed and Bath. It had to be a 10 X power so I could see. I thought I packed it. I did not. You can’t find anything over a 5 X here, believe me that’s how I got acquainted with downtown David, in search of this item. Today I still do not have one.
  • Even though you can get anything here in the way of over the counter drugs, please note the brands are not the same. You can’t just walk into a pharmacy and ask for Neosporin, Noxema or even baby aspirin. If these things are important to you bring a supply.

What I Have Discovered is Expensive Here?

  • Digital cameras
  • Food items from the states from your popular brand names
  • Computer accessories such as head sets, USB’s, even mouse pads
  • Electric tools


Moving With Your Pet 

I didn’t know exactly where to put this, but thought putting it under what to bring would be a good idea. When you are considering the idea of bringing your pooch, cat or favorite gerbil find out if the country you are moving to:

  • Allows pets into the country
  • Quarantines your pets and for how long and where
Each country has different restrictions, laws and guidelines.  The paperwork at least for Panama is quite extensive. The purpose of course is to not have dogs coming into the country bringing diseases. As an example, Panama requires that you have a health record from your vet with current shot records and a US Department of Agriculture form. You must take these forms and have 2 of  them endorsed by the state USDA vet (NOT MORE THAN 10 DAYS BEFORE FLIGHT). Hopefully this USDA vet is near you.
Then these forms must be sent or taken  to your state’s Office of the Secretary of State to be  apostilled. Then a copy must be faxed to Panama for them in advance of the dog being shipped. Of course all of these things take money.
Then when you pet lands at Aeropuerto Internacional de Tocumen they will be greeted by a Panama vet who will sign off on the paperwork.  If your flight arrives after hours of the vet working, your animal will be detained until the next day. You will need to pay a $19.00 inspection fee and a $50.00 fee to the Vet at the airport.
You must agree to a home quarantine for 30 days and pay the US $130 for quarantine fees at any Banco Nacional de Panama.

How to Move It to Your New Home

First off, you can research this to death to save a few thousand here and there. And just as you get a quote from a company, you might decide to add more or less to the shipment. Then the quotes are only good for a certain amount of time. I have seen people on forums spend gobs of time on this matter. While I do agree that saving money is good, I have to consider the reputation of a company that has the lowest bid. After all, these are your personal possessions and some irreplaceable.

You need to almost be a rocket scientist to figure all of this out. When I first started researching who I would have do it, I made an amazing discovery. Some places did not even call me back. So what I thought was going to be an arduous process, I discovered that they simply self eliminated themselves. My theory is that I should not have to chase after their business if they wanted mine.

I also noted that in forums, the people who had the best success with the move were people who used movers in their destination countries. That made sense to me. They would know the laws of the country with regard to import inspections, how the system worked. hey they might even know some of the people in that area that they talk with all the time and they knew the language. So instantly I decided that using an American company to move my stuff to Panama was not the way to go for me.

We decided early on, not to bring furniture. So that cut a big amount of space out. We narrowed it down to 55 large  boxes. Mostly clothes, kitchen ware, mementos, computers, dvd player, subwoofer, safe, movies and music. Not enough for a container or even half a container. The company would put all of our boxes on a pallet and bubble wrap it and send it.  We boxed it up ourselves, all except computers and dvd player. The local movers did that.

There local affiliate came to our home on time and within 45 minutes our stuff was loaded, we signed a piece of paper and away it went. That was October 1st, 2012. Since we did not have an address yet for them to send it to, we had them store it in Miami until we had the necessary paperwork done for the Visa as well as finding a new home for them to deliver it to. They said it should take about 6 weeks to get to Panama.

Once we gave them the address and the go ahead, it took almost 3 months. Though we were not waiting for anything critical to arrive. We were in constant contact with the movers as to where everything was.

When it arrived at the house it was on a truck still bubble wrapped. They took the pallet off the truck and we counted each box and marked it off. Inspected for any damage. Everything looked great. When we finally opened it all, nothing was broken and it was all there. I would like to here personally thank  Nobel International Movers.

Our cost for shipping and insurance $6,616.00 and $150.oo for storage in Miami until shipping.


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