GUIDE TO MOVING TO FRANCE
You’ve found your dream house in France, signed on the dotted line and a moving date is on the horizon. Kate McNally explains how to ensure your move across the Channel goes as smoothly as possible
Cover story If a move is on the horizon, read our practical guide with the key considerations
As most psychotherapists are happy to tell us, moving house is up there with divorce and losing your job as one of the most stressful of life’s experiences. So, we can safely say that moving family, pets and belongings all the way to France is likely to throw you a few wobbles – not least saying goodbyes to friends and loved ones, even if you know they’ll be out to visit in a few weeks. But with careful planning and keeping a focus on your new life ahead (rather than looking back on what you’re leaving behind), the moving process will be over before you know it and you’ll soon be able to start your new life in France.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Well in advance of the big move, you need to decide whether you’re going to hire a removal company or hire a small lorry and do it yourself. This will no doubt depend on your finances and how much ‘cargo’ you plan to transfer across the water. It is a good idea to start working out what you want to take a few months beforehand. A move is always a prime time to declutter, but equally you may need to leave some furniture and belongings in storage (either in the UK or in France) depending on circumstances, so this could affect your decision also. Either way, you will need to draw up a removal ‘inventory’ in advance, either for the removal company or to calculate what size vehicle to hire.
It pays to do your homework when choosing an international removal firm. Ask friends or acquaintances who have already moved abroad, or ask on forum sites for expats in France. Failing any first-hand recommendations, it may be prudent to opt for a registered affiliate of FIDI (the leading global alliance of international removals companies) or BAR (British Association of Removers). These companies will have experience of handling moves abroad, which can be very reassuring on the big day, and they will have the necessary insurances in place.
If you opt for the DIY route, make sure the hired vehicle is in good working order and insured for driving in France. If possible, view the vehicle in advance so you know exactly what you are getting. The last thing you want is a nasty surprise on the day if, say, it’s not as big as it looked in the website photos or the speedometer isn’t working. There will be too many arrangements in place to reject the vehicle on the day. Check also that the lorry will be able to gain access to your new home in France – many rural areas have small access roads to villages and hamlets.
Once you have confirmed the moving day with the removal firm or vehicle hire company, you will need to book your personal travel arrangements. Again, if you are taking your own car with you to France, make sure you have the necessary insurance cover. Keep car ownership documents and your driving licence with you or in the car.
You will no doubt need cash during the journey and on arrival, so don’t forget to stock up on euros a day or two beforehand. It is best to use cash to pay for petrol and motorway tolls as well. You can use your UK bank card if necessary, but each transaction will be subject to a handling fee. If possible, set up a French bank account prior to your move, or organise an international account with your UK bank – it will simplify financial transactions and save you money during the transitory phase.
Don’t forget to book any overnight accommodation if necessary. If you are driving, it is especially important to take your time and stay safe rather than increasing stress levels with a mad dash through the night!
Finally, check all travel bookings both a couple of weeks and the day before travelling to avoid any nasty surprises en route – French transport workers tend to call a strike fairly regularly and often at short notice.
If possible, set up a French bank account prior to your move
CHILDREN AND PETS
There’s a popular saying in the acting world, ‘never work with children or animals’. The same could be said about moving house,
particularly a house in another country! Obviously both will be coming with you to start a new life in France, however, it might be easier if they followed a few days later.
If you have children, it would be less disruptive for them to move during a school holiday period. You can register them in advance at the local school in France, ready to start at the beginning of a new term. This gives them time to say goodbye to old friends at the end of term and a short transition period to adjust ahead of what is a big, and potentially challenging, new adventure. Don’t forget to check their passports are valid well ahead of the planned move.
As for any pets, they will need a valid EU pet passport; proof that they have been vaccinated against rabies within 21 days of travel, and a veterinary certificate stating that they are in good health. Currently, you are only allowed to take a maximum of five pets with you, and they must be more than three months old.
The journey may be longer than planned depending on hold-ups, traffic and weather. Remember your Scouts or Brownies’ rules and be prepared! Keep the following to hand:
• Passport and tickets • Cash (euros) and bank cards • A map of France (the satnav is not always reliable in more rural and mountainous areas) • Driving licence • Vehicle insurance papers • European Health Insurance Card • French-English dictionary • Bottle of water and snacks • Toothbrushes, towel and a change of underwear/clothes • Mobile phone charger (you might need to liaise with the removal company and you don’t want to run out of battery at the crucial moment!) • Swiss army knife
You may want to consider also taking a small holdall with any particularly valuable personal items, for example jewellery or cherished family photos, as well as any important documents such as birth certificates and medical reports.
• Start to assess furniture and belongings –
what is going and what isn’t. • Check all passports are up to date.
• Begin enquiries for removal companies/lorry hire firms and request quotes.
• Confirm moving date with removal company and check ahead with the local mairie in France that there are no road repairs or street festivals planned for that day. • Book any travel arrangements.
• Put together a detailed inventory. For a DIY move, order packing boxes and/or start collecting cardboard boxes. • Inform schools, local authorities, doctors and
utility providers of your move to France. • Confirm starting date with schools in France. For primary schools, contact the local mairie. For secondary schools, contact the secondary school direct or the relevant educational authority ( académie régionale).
• Arrange any necessary move/travel insurance. Speak to the Post Office about redirecting your mail to France. • Make a start on clearing out the garage and loft, and recycle or throw away any unwanted items. • Book storage space in the UK or France if
this is needed.
• Cancel any deliveries. Remind the telephone/ internet provider to stop your service from your moving date onwards. • Start packing, it always takes longer than you think! Don’t forget to label your boxes, indicating if the contents are fragile. • Order your euros.
• Ask neighbours to leave space for the removal vans outside your house on the day of moving – if possible, put out red cones or dustbins with a ‘Moving House’ sign to block the space. If you have contact details for your future neighbours in France, make a similar request.
• Defrost the fridge, note meter readings for any utilities.
• Turn off the water, gas and electricity. Give the house keys to a family member or estate agent. • Leave yourself plenty of time to make travel connections.
fidi.org bar.co.uk ambafrance-uk.org/-Moving-and-travelling-toFrance gov.uk/take-pet-abroad/pet-passport
COUNTDOWN TO MOVING DAY – A FEW PRACTICALITIES…