Retiring and Relocation to Mexico

Many people retire to Cuernavaca to enjoy a change of scenery, better weather, new experiences, access to affordable healthcare and a lower cost of living. However, once you have visited and found the city to be everything you would want in your retirement, there is the actual move itself; the packing, logistics and what happens when you and your belongs arrive in Cuernavaca. If you have ever moved – down the street, across town or even across the state or across the country, you know it can be emotionally and financially draining. Moving to another country can be even more overwhelming without some knowledge. This article will help take some of the stress out of the transition.

Relocation Service

You may want to consider a relocation service. The two largest in North America are North American Moving Services and Allied and either can be a good choice, and will likely have local offices near your current home, as they can help simplify the process by taking care of:

  • Planning – coordinating the logistics of your move
  • Packing – packing up your household, including disassembly of certain items, wrapping, boxing, bubble-wrapping and blanketing items for secure transport
  • Loading – moving your belongings from your home to the truck, container or plane that will transport your belongings
  • Shipping – transporting your belongings by truck, sea or air freight
  • Delivery – transporting your belongings to your new residence in your new country, or to a temporary storage unit if necessary
  • Unloading – moving your belongings inside your new residence
  • Unpacking – setting up your new household, including reassembly of certain items and setting up furniture
  • Haul away – removal of packing debris and moving supplies
  • Necessary paperwork – handling the proper paperwork throughout the process, including port-of-arrival and customs clearance (note: it is ultimately your responsibility to provide the correct documentation, so plan on checking well before your move with the embassy or consulate of the country to which you plan to move).

How Does It Work?

Plan on contacting a relocation service at least eight to ten weeks before your intended departure date so it has time to check documentation requirements, pre-book international transportation services and advise the destination agent of the upcoming international shipment. The relocation service will make arrangements for a local agent to visit your home and provide an in-home estimate (which is typically done at no charge). The agent looks at your household goods, determines a plan for packing and transport, and makes recommendations, such as whether your goods should be transported by truck, air and/or container ship.

The agent will also provide an overview of the paperwork that will be required, information about the company that will deliver your possessions overseas and advice on preparing for the move. Soon after this pre-move survey, the agent will contact you with a cost and time estimate for the move, based on the volume and weight of your items, the distance they will be transported, the method of containerization, routing choice, transit time and the level of service you have selected (e.g., a full-unpack will be more expensive than just delivery).

Once arrangements have been made, you have a big task: deciding what you’re going to take with you and what you’re going to sell, give away, donate, recycle or throw out. In very basic terms, a light shipment traveling a short distance will cost considerably less than a heavy shipment going a long distance. Because everything you take adds to the cost, it’s far better to leave things behind than arrive at your new destination, unpack something and decide you don’t need it after all.

Of course, if you are in your retirement years, you probably have a house crammed full of items collected over decades, including things stashed away in the basement, garage and attic, not to mention every closet, cabinet, cupboard and drawer. Deciding what to bring – and what to leave behind – typically takes a lot more time and energy than one would hope. Start early, make a plan and work room by room so you’re ready when the movers arrive. While each country has a list of prohibited items, in general, you should plan on not bringing:

  • Corrosives and explosives
  • Firearms and ammunition
  • Hazardous materials (aerosol cans, gas canisters or other flammables, matches and paint)
  • Materials such as wood, bricks, cement, rocks and any type of soil
  • Plants of any kind

When in doubt, ask your agent to determine whether a questionable item can be transported.

Ready, Set, Go!

On the chosen day, the relocation service will arrive to pack and load your items. Every piece will be inventoried, and you’ll be provided with a way to track your shipment and receive real-time status updates of where your shipment is and when it is scheduled to arrive.

Your agent should provide you with a destination contact sheet that explains what to do and whom to contact when you arrive at your destination. Depending on the level of service you selected, the relocation service (or one of its affiliates) will deliver, unload and unpack your belongings, and haul away packing debris and moving supplies.

Depending on your situation, you may require additional help beyond moving your personal items. Some international movers may be able to arrange assistance with tasks such as:

  • Automobile purchase and transport services
  • Childcare and school referrals
  • Cross-cultural training
  • Driving lessons
  • Financial and insurance providers
  • Home purchase and temporary living
  • Language training
  • Medical care and prescription replacement
  • Temporary or long-term storage

Contact your agent or the relocation service to inquire about these options. Some services may not be available in all countries.

Moving Your Pets

Relocating pets involves a different set of regulations and requirements. Most moving companies will not ship pets, so you’ll likely have to make separate arrangements. If you are planning on flying or driving down, you may want to bring your pet with you. For larger pets, the trip is short and should not prove to stressful. Your pet will need to be up-to-date on all vaccinations and need a clearance from your pet’s veterinarian for importation. Also, you may want to ask your pet’s veterinarian for recommendations on travel services for pets, or visit and the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA) to research pet shipping.

The Bottom Line

Many people fantasize about moving to Mexico during retirement, but let the unknown of moving a household overseas dissuade them. Moving is always stressful – even more so when it involves an overseas destination – but that’s no reason to give up your retirement dreams. An experienced and reputable relocation service can help you plan your move and ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible.

Also important: reviewing regulations and possible taxes on importing household goods into Mexico; these can differ widely on your circumstances.

About G. William Hood

G. William Hood is a writer, fine arts painter, educator and world traveler. He lives in Cuernavaca, Mexico.
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