Bringing a container full of household items to Uruguay: Our experience.

It’s finally here! Yesterday we were finally reunited with all our worldly possessions and it was/is glorious! Now here’s how we did it.

While thinking about moving to Uruguay we researched their immigration procedure, local customs, and obsessively scoured expat blogs on any information on Uruguay we couldn’t find on Wikipedia. All the information seemed to be the same, they speak their own version of Spanish, their food is mainly parrilla, and as an immigrant you are definitely going to want to take advantage of being able to bring in your own container of household goods. Everyone stated you would definitely want to bring your own beds and furniture. My mom was hesitant and believed that we could probably find something of quality here but luckily we were able to convince her otherwise.

So there we were wondering, now what? We had never done this before and didn’t know what to look for in a company. While in Miami we searched high and low for an international shipping company willing to take on our case but NO ONE would return our calls or was remotely interested in doing business with us. We decided we would just put all our stuff into storage and deal with it when we got to Uruguay. Maybe we would even find a moving company here that would help us (spoiler alert: we didn’t).

After living here a year and some change my husband and I went back to Miami to buy a few more things to put into storage before we would start our extensive search for a company to ship our things. During that time I started asking questions on the Uruguay Expat Facebook group (warning it is a private group so you’ll have to request to be accepted but they accept everyone) about the process of shipping ones container. We found out that in order to ship it WITHOUT having to pay a ridiculous 60% import tax was to ship it within the first six months of being in the country. Ummmm…WHAT?! We had already been in Uruguay for over a year. We couldn’t afford to pay 60% tax. A kind, well informed member of the group then informed us that a loophole around that is if you leave the country, even to lets just say Argentina for the day, and return the six months starts all over again. Thank God!

Once we got back to Uruguay we met with a few moving companies here in Uruguay and while everything seemed okay we didn’t take any steps in shipping our belongings. One day I got a message from a woman in the group and we started discussing shipping containers and all that and she shared the name of a company a friend referred her to. Ocean Star International was the name of the company. I decided to shoot them an email and see what happened. We talked to a sales representative named David and he gave us a good quote on door-to-door shipping. All we had to do was give some basic information and they would handle the rest. Since all of our belongings we already packed we were able to save some money. At the time we were teetering between using OSI and another company but OSI really fought for our business not just with competitive pricing but their amazing customer service.

Once we paid they came to our storage facility, emptied out our THREE storage lockers, wrapped our furniture and loaded everything into the shipping container. They were there from 8:00am to 5:00pm. Those guys are troopers and super heroes! From there it was sent to Port Everglades and all we had to do was wait for it to get to Uruguay. OSI has a company that they work with in Uruguay that helped us over here called Grupo Mudanzas del Sur that were great. They answered all of our annoying questions and were overall just so helpful with everything. It took a little over a month for our container to get to Uruguay and get through customs (I’ve heard some horror stories of customs agents trying to get money out of expats bringing in household items but we were blessed that ours didn’t even open our container).

When it came time to unloading the container they made sure they had 7+ guys on deck unload. They were so patient with us as we went through our manifest to make sure that each box went into it’s appropriate house. They were very respectful not only of our belongings but also of our home. I’ve had my fair share of run ins with movers and many of them have been crass and rude during the loading/unloading process but these guys were amazing.

Here are somethings you should know:

  • While bringing in a container prior to receiving permanent residence you have to pay customs (aka “la aduana”) a security deposit for your belongings. They do this to assure themselves that a person isn’t bringing in a container for business purposes. You receive your deposit back once you have official residency.
  • BRING FURNITURE! I cannot stress this enough. Uruguayan furniture is a lot of China factory rejects. They’re wobbly and awful. Trust me. SERIOUSLY!
  • Pack condiments/spices. Lots of them. Things like ketchup and mustard while not necessarily expensive are sometimes hard to find in large quantities. It must be the American in me but I don’t know how to live without a 64oz bottle of Heinz ketchup in my fridge.
  • Bring sheets/towels/pots/pans/anything kitchen and bathroom related. Yes they do have them here but again the quality is just awful.
  • If you are a family, or even just a young couple and plan at some point to have a child, bring baby stuff. Baby stuff is SUPER expensive and you’ll really wish you had things like a baby swing or decent crib. I got by without them but I can seriously tell you I cursed every day I didn’t have a baby swing. Bring bottles, pacifiers, toys, DIAPERS and WIPES. Even if you end up not using them someone will buy them because seriously they’re so expensive here.
  • People will tell you to bring appliances but if you come from the USA I wouldn’t bother unless you can get them with 220V (hello eBay!). If you come from anywhere else on the planet then YES BRING APPLIANCES (i.e., TVs, food processors, blenders, DVD players, Blu Ray, XBOX, Wii, WHATEVER JUST BRING IT).
  • DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK QUESTIONS! I can’t stress that enough. It took us so long to get our stuff here because we were so apprehensive at first to ask for help. Things happened when they were supposed to but I could have avoided an uncomfortable year and a half if I just would have ASKED QUESTIONS.

I hope that this helps some of you who may be thinking of moving to Uruguay. Now that our things are here I’m hoping that things are a little bit easier for us. I may have missed some steps so please feel free to ask me whatever you need. If any of you reading have gone through this process and have experienced something different please share.

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USAmerican immigrant living in Uruguay raising my daughters the best I know how. I plan on using this site to share our experiences and how I raise my daughters in a culture so very different from what I'm used to.

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