How to Ship Anything to or from Germany
From entire households to smaller boxes and parcels, find out how to move all your belongings overseas or across Europe.
Organizing an international relocation may be challenging, not to mention very expensive if you don't do it right. There are a lot of "moving parts" involved in a door-to-door move, whether it involves transporting everything from entire households to beloved musical instruments, sports equipment or simply a couple of suitcases. When moving to Germany or any other country, it is important to find the right logistics solution to make the transportation of your belongings as easy as possible.
Ships, planes, trains and trucks
If you're relocating by yourself or taking the family along, you'll probably hire a moving, shipping or logistics company to handle all of the details. In the case of moving households, services often include door-to-door pick up and delivery.
The Long Haul
A long distance (especially across oceans) door-to door movement of household goods, appliances, furniture and other items relating to a "relocation" will normally be done by a combination of ships, trucks and trains. Air shipments are not often used in a "relocation".
Household goods sent by ship are most often loaded into standardized containers that are 8ft (2.43m) wide, 8.5ft (2.59m) high and come in two lengths; 20ft (6.06m) and 40ft (12.2m). Extra tall shipping containers called high-cube containers are available at 9.5ft (2.89m) high. Depending on how much you're shipping, you might be able to fill up a 20 footer or even a 40 footer. (The industry term for a full container is FLC – full container load) But, if you can't fill a container up, then your goods may be shipped with other items in the same container. (This is a LCL – Less than Container Load).
A container can also be moved by truck or train. A special "container truck" can deliver a full container to your door. Contents of a LCL can be loaded onto trucks and moving vans for the final leg of the door-to-door delivery.
Large loads overland
When moving overland to another country or within the same country, moving vans or trucks are by far the most popular and efficient door-to-door method. The size of the vehicle depends on the amount of goods to be moved. Larger trucks can easily accommodate home appliances and furniture as well as properly packed moving and storage boxes.
As with containers, larger trucks can sometimes be filled with goods from more than a single customer. Both full truckload (FTL or TL) and less-than-truckload (LTL) options have their place in the freight shipping industry. But LTL is probably not the best option when moving your household goods. You or your moving contractor should pick a properly sized truck and not worry about any leftover space. Delivery will then be carried out in the shortest time possible since it is direct transport.
Smaller loads overland
Commercial vans come in varying sizes and can often accommodate many household items. With the properly chosen van, you can move any large personal items, furniture and household appliances or even motorcycles. If it fits in the van, you can ship it. A box van for example has a load area of approximately 465 x 165 x 180 cm or 13 cubic meters and can carry up to 800 kilograms. A larger curtain-side van has about 410 x 210x 230cm of load area or 19 cubic meters and 1100 kilogram capacity.
The Van Delivery Service is a good solution for relocations, as you will have an entire vehicle dedicated solely to you. This means that delivery will be carried out in the shortest time possible since it is direct transport.
Post Office or other commercial delivery companies
If you are traveling light and need to send only a few boxes or suitcases, you may want to look into using the post office or another commercial delivery service that can ship cartons, boxes and even suitcases. There are generally size and weight limits for the boxes or suitcases. Weights can normally be up to 30 kilograms and the shape and size of the package is determined by the shipping company. The delivery time can be anywhere up to 7 days for shipping inside Europe. There are express shipping services available if you need to have your things moved quickly.
Preparation and packing
Decide which items will come with you.
First things first: Nail down dimensions. Before moving, you should check which household items and personal belongings will you bring along with you. Don't forget to factor in the possibility and cost of repurchasing some of the items in Germany versus the cost of shipping them. For more specific tips on moving to Germany see the article here.
Once you have your ultimate moving list ready, get out your tape and measure!
Once you know what you want to ship abroad and how much space you need, it will be easier to choose the ideal shipping service. It doesn't matter if you need to send just a few boxes of clothes or an entire bedroom set – many moving companies offer services to cater to every need. Most moving companies will offer a range of packing materials and cartons. The movers that show up at your door will be knowledgeable in the proper methods used to prepare furniture, appliances and other items to ensure safe and secure shipment.
Next step: explore for the right shipping service for you and get a price calculation from companies.
Shipping costs will vary depending on various factors, from package measurements, service selected, weight, location, and more.
If you are sending a few boxes or suitcases by post or through a commercial service here are some tip to pack them like a pro.
Keep in mind that proper packing helps to ensure your shipment will arrive safe and sound at the destination.
General packing guidelines:
- Wrapping a suitcase is highly recommended to make sure it is better protected and that the shipping label can easily stick to the surface.
- Add extra protection on wheels and handles since these are the most sensitive parts.
- For better protection, opt for packing your items directly into cardboard boxes. Make sure the box is sturdy (double-cardboard boxes are the best choice) and not damaged.
- Wrap your items in bubble-wrap, place them in the box and fill the voids with cushioning materials. Before closing the box, make sure the items are safely arranged and cannot move during transit.
- Seal the box with adhesive tape across all flaps and seams. For a last layer of protection, you can protect all edges or wrap the box with duct tape.
- Consider writing your contact details on the box or suitcase to avoid any inconvenience.
How long will it take?
When contacting a moving company, the question right after "How much will it cost?", is almost always "And, how long will it take?"
The first question can normally be answered quickly and accurately. The second question can bring about a lot of hemming and hawing and vague answers. Thats normal. It's because of the large number of variables at each and every step of the way.
The packers will arrive when they have the time. The truck will leave the container or goods at a depot to be loaded onto a train or ship. It may be hard to tell when they would leave on the next step of the journey. Schedules, location, availability of containers, availability of sufficient labor can all affect the delivery.
If the household items are being shipped across an ocean, there can be further delays. The COVID pandemic has severely affected the supply of containers as well as their locations in the various ports. The massive amounts of commercial goods being exported to other countries can also affect the availability of space on vessels for non-commercial goods.
These issues are at the departure side. On the arrival side many of the same conditions will determine when your goods will be delivered to your door. Other complications and delays on the arrival can occur at the customs office. Paperwork requirements as well as increased quantities of commercial goods can lead to delays in processing goods into the country.
For shipments made by post there can be delays due to all the above as well as weather issues, national holidays and other things.
When selecting a moving company, it would be in your interest to question them about just exactly and how accurately they can keep track of your shipment from the time it leaves your door to the time it arrives at your new home. This can offer some peace of mind if the company can quickly inform you of any changes in the original timetable and why there may holdups or delays.