I'm writing first to thank this site for existing. Because of it, I have managed to avoid getting ripped off on a few occasions. And because of that, I decided to trust the advice on the site when planning a very big move from LA to Sydney. So the second reason I'm writing is to tell you how it went and what to expect if you're trying to pull off the same feat.
#1: Use Southern Winds. I cannot say enough about how professional and honest and reliable they were. Michael Gilbert is a rock star.
Because all my stuff was already in storage with PODS, he agreed to give me a quote over the internet with photos I provided of my furniture, as long as I agreed that the price is based on size and weight and the stuff I didn't have photos of (kitchen and book boxes, etc.) could nudge it up. Well, the day after his wonderful packing company, California Relocations (more on them below) collected my stuff, he called to say the cost would be a bit LESS than he had estimated. Which, for a 20 foot container 8ftx8ft just for me, was about $7,000.00 . FYI a cheap sofa over here costs about 2 thousand dollars so I am SO GLAD I brought mine. They may not be shiny new but it means I don't have to lay out $$$ for new ones until I feel like it
Anyway, the personal service I got was friendly, prompt, reliable - I cannot say enough. It is one class act.
As for their packing company, California Relocations, again fantastic. Four guys came, unloaded my POD from the front yard, wrapped everything from lamps to art to tables in multiple layers securely taped and were gone in a couple of hours. The guys were clean, nice, obviously experienced, and careful.
The final proof was when my things finally arrived at my house in Sydney and the wrappings were all dry, in great shape (meaning my stuff was also dry and in great shape). None of the humidity damage I had been warned to expect by a few people who had "known people who had made ocean-crossing moves and knew". Of the entire shipment I had 2 things break. Two crystal tea glasses that were in the outside compartments of wine boxes I had packed myself. That's 2 pieces out of 140 pieces of crystal. Not bad. My insurance is paying btw.
And speaking of insurance - I had renters insurance and an art and antiques policy with State Farm that covered my things while in storage at PODS warehouse - and ALL THE WAY TO MY FRONT DOOR IN SYDNEY! Which was very cool because I didn't have to pay for additional insurance for the shipping. I had pre-checked to make sure there were no exceptions on the policy like oh sorry we can't pay for that because the policy doesn't cover pirates at sea or water damage from sinking. I made them talk to their underwriter and made sure ALL scenarios were covered. So if you have home contents insurance, look into it before you go for the additional insurance.
As for timing, from pick up to arrival in Sydney took 6 weeks and then it took Australian customs 4 weeks to clear my shipment so it could be released for delivery. The reason: they allocate 2 hours a week, on Tuesdays only, to go through personal shipments and at that time of year (December) they were overloaded. The delivery company here, Hellas Europe Australia, was also great. When my stairwell was too narrow to get my couches up to the second floor (they call it a 1st floor here) they figured out a way to get them up over the upstairs terrace railing and in through the sliding glass doors - even though they aren't supposed to have to do that - because they didn't want to just leave and leave my stuff stranded. ROCK STARS!
One note: The shipment arrived in Sydney on Nov 10 but I got a call from someone on Nov 8 saying it had just been cleared out of I think Taipei or something and would probably be due in Sydney around Dec 5. Two days later I got a call from Hellas saying the ship was a day away and would take about a week to clear the dock and go to customs. Which was what happened. On Nov 17 the shipment was sent to customs. So for what it's worth, I certainly had lots of people keeping me informed, which was great, but the info varied a bit, which wasn't a problem since it wasn't a huge variation. Just be aware of the potential for this.
Next item: Bill from customs. It was $700 bucks. This was a bit of a surprise because all my stuff passed inspection and they didn't have to destroy anything (like garden furniture with pests in the wood. etc) which they charge you A LOT for doing. But I was warned all the way along that there would be port charges and customs charges that would be extra and could not be guessed in advance. I guess 700 bucks plus 7000 bucks total is still a major bargain it just surprised me that it cost this much for customs to randomly (and neatly, don't worry) open a few boxes to make sure "kitchen stuff" really was in fact kitchen stuff.
Which brings me to the dog part. Probably cost me the same to bring my two dogs to Australia as it did for a 2 bedroom house full of furniture. Hold on to your hats if you have dogs or cats. It ain't cheap and that's if you do all the prep yourself. I won't go into major detail here, except to say it was about 8 grand for two dogs including: all the shots and blood testing and microchipping and health checking and import permit fees and airfare (they traveled in pet cargo on Air Canada - a flight that regularly has a fair number of pets so they have it down to a well-oiled machine and take good care of them) and transport to the quarantine station outside Sydney and 30 days stay and exercise appointments and gas to drive all the way out 3 times a week to visit them. I am SO glad that is all over. It was the most stressful part for me and my dogs, who are normally absolute love bugs but were too pissed at me to even look at me during my frequent visits. The quarantine station is as clean as possible and the staff is as nice as possible but the fact is they are living in a cement and chain link cell surrounded by barking dogs they don't know -- and they don't know why. They only know they don't deserve it. The good news is they forgave me the second they saw me arrive to get them on the last day (they were waiting in the going home area which must have been full of joy phermones or something because it was like they'd forgiven me before I even showed up. In the car the whole way home they stared lovingly at me. On the other hand they could have been wondering why I was sitting there on that side without a steering wheel in front of me but I prefer to think it was a loving gaze.) Their time in the clink did leave them a little tweaked but a couple of months later they are back to normal and not barking out of control at every dog they meet on the street which was a habit they picked up in quarantine (they are 8 and 9 years old Aussie Shepherds).
Important note: If you are planning to bring dogs to australia, get their rabies titre test done 5 months AT LEAST before you have to fly them there. Don't make the same mistake I did and neglect this. I had to push my move date back 4 months because I didn't realize that even though the quarantine for north american dogs is now only 30 days, the PROCESS still takes 6 months and it's just the LAST 30 DAYS of it that can be done in Australia in the quarantine station. I would not recommend having your dog in the station longer - no matter how complicated it is for you to change your plans. They are happy to have your dog do the whole 6 months at the station if say you had to move on short notice and had no one to look after your dog back in north america but as nice and animal-loving as they are at the station, it's not a happy place for the dogs and 30 minutes a day out of their kennel stall only 5 days a week is tough on their minds and their muscles.
Well, that's probably it. It's been a long process but it's all turned out very very well. Thanks again to Southern Winds, California Relocations, Hellas Europe Australia, Australian Quarantine, Air Canada, this site and the various other sites I got valuable dog-importation advice from.
Good luck with your move overseas - it's great over (down) here
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