Saturday, December 31, 2011


So you've decided to move to Tortola (or elsewhere in the Caribbean) and you've got all your ducks in a row. You've got a job, a place to live, you have your work permit in order and you're working on getting your medical certificate completed. But what are you going to do about your stuff? I mean, it's not like you were living in a vacuum before. I'm sure you have a bed and some couches, probably some kitchen equipment, books, movies, clothes ...

When it comes to stuff, you've pretty much got two choices: leave it or bring it. Since HB and I knew his employer had secured a furnished apartment, and we didn't know how long we would be staying in Tortola, we figured it would be more economical to choose the first option. We left most of our stuff in a storage unit, and moved with two suitcases each.

Many furnished apartments in the BVI will not have "soft goods" like sheets and towels, and often will not have dishes or silverware either, so if you are planning on leaving your stuff, you may want to inquire with the landlord of your furnished apartment exactly what is included.

On the other hand, perhaps you know you love the BVI, and that you will not be leaving for 5 or 10 years, so it is totally worth it to you to bring every last piece of your well-loved stuff. You obviously can't bring a couch on a plane, so it looks like you'll need to ship your things by boat.

Tropical Shipping is the leading freight consolidator for the Caribbean, although Lazarus Services is another option on most Islands. You'll need to have your items properly cased, and preferably already on pallets, and delivered to the consolidator's warehouse in Miami. This means if you live somewhere other than Miami, you'll probably also have to hire movers to get your stuff to Miami. You'll also need to have a complete list of all the items you are shipping and their approximate value so the consolidator can complete a bill of lading. Once in Miami, for about $5 per cubic foot plus lading and brokerage fees, the consolidator will load your stuff into a container, put it on one of their ships, and sail it down to Tortola.

When your stuff lands in Tortola, the consolidator will call you to let you know, so you can go to the port and pick it up. The consolidator will give you all the necessary paperwork (Arrival Notice, Bill of Lading and Shipper's Invoice -- the list of items you gave to the consolidator) for you to take to customs and get your stuff cleared, and pay duty on all the things you're importing. Yes, that's right. In addition to the shipping costs you just paid to your consolidator, you will also be paying customs 15-20% on the value of all your own stuff.

Good luck deciding how much stuff to bring!

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