Before we came to Vanuatu in 2016, I asked someone who travels here regularly (at least up to February 2020!) what he thought we should bring with us.
He advised us to "bring everything!"
As it turned out, this was not entirely a good idea. The rest of this email is partly lessons, partly cautionary tale for you...
We bought a 20-foot container. We decided which furniture and household items we really loved, and sold the rest. We kept our 1-year old high-end refrigerator, but sold the 7-year old old washer and dryer.
The purchase and shipping of the container was not cheap. At the end of the day there was no change out of USD10,000. Because our Mission Beach location in North Queensland, Australia was a long way from major towns, there was a lot of extra expense with truck and rail transport to get it to the port of Brisbane where it could be loaded onto a ship.
As always happens, we made a few mistakes. For example, when the container was packed totally full to the roof, we discovered a few bulky items that we had intended to put inside. Too late to repack it now, we sold them cheaply or gave them away to friends.
The container left our house about a month before we flew out. It actually arrived in Vanuatu a couple of days before we did, but the processing time to get customs clearance and delivery to our out-of-Port Vila location meant we had to make do for about a month before it was delivered and could be opened.
Most rental accommodation in Vanuatu comes fully furnished, but we knew in advance the house we would be living in was bare, and anyway, my wife Adeline wanted her own things. If you are a girl you know how she felt. If not, and you don't know already: the girls are like that!
Knowing this in advance, we had come with six suitcases. We had brought blow-up mattresses to sleep on the tile floor. When it became clear that the container would not be accessible immediately, we bought a small refrigerator and a few kitchen basics. It was like camping.
But the house is right beside the water at Teouma Bay, the swimming is great, and the sunsets over the ocean were amazing. There's that.
The first time the container was delivered, the driver said he could not place it where we wanted. He said this truck was the only automatic one they had, and it was less powerful than the others. They called it "The Lady." Also the container was loaded on a long trailer designed for a 40-foot container, and so it could not negotiate the turns needed to get down to where I wanted it (close to the house) and then back up the hill to the road.
He offered to unloaded it on the side of the road, about 100 metres from the house. I said no. He was cheerful about it, and said he would book it in for next time a smaller more powerful truck was available.
It was a week later that it turned up again. This time they could get it closer to the house, but still not really where I wanted and had prepared a place for it. I was reluctant to send it back and wait even longer. By now "camping" was getting old and we wanted our bed instead of sleeping on a tile floor!
So now the container was delivered at least. But hold it! We could not open it until the bio-security people had checked it out. Two days later they turned up and opened the container for their inspection. They did not unpack it all, merely took out a couple of items until they found a spider web under a chair. That was enough to require the container to be sealed up again and be fumigated!
So the next day the fumigation team came and set off their "bombs" inside. They said we had to wait 48 hours before the bio-security lot would return and finally open it and complete the process.
Are you counting? By now we are "camping," for six weeks, sleeping on the floor, with no furniture except 2 plastic chairs I bought. Oh, one of the blow-up mattresses sprung a leak after 2 weeks, so we'd take turns to sleep on the soft one.
I was able to create an "office" with some boards and a few blocks to hold the makeshift "desk" off the floor so I'd sit on a pillow on the floor to work. I had my laptop and used it hotspotted to prepaid internet data on my phone, so there was very little interruption to work.
Finally after six weeks we could unpack our gear and become civilised again.
Looking back now, there are a lot of things I would have done differently. I would have known it would take 6 weeks to get through this process. Instead of waiting hopefully in discomfort day after day, we could have lived in comfort - even luxury - elsewhere until the container was accessible.
And as for the things we packed. The fridge was a good idea. Although high-end refrigerators are able to be purchased here, they cost more than the one we brought. The sheets and bedding were a good idea. It's not easy to get good quality here without paying a fortune. There's just not the large buying pool to support retailers bringing in those items in bulk.
However, tools and hardware items and furniture are easy to obtain. Many items in that container are still there, the boxes unopened after 5 years. Upon reflection we could have brought maybe 1/2 of the "stuff" and still have been fine. Looking around now, I see the desk, day bed, sun lounges, sofa, table, we use were all bought here. There are shops that sell Indonesian furniture which is very solid and attractive. There are a few shops that sell the "nice things" that the girls like to decorate houses.
One thing that was in the container that has proven invaluable is the trailer. Yes, I packed a steel covered tool trailer in there! There are very few manufacturers here, and very few imported trailers.
As far as logistics goes, there's a logistics company owned by some associates of mine, and that part of it went very smoothly. I recommend them to my clients who want to move here, and every one has been delighted with their service.
Next time I write about the relocating process will tell you about bringing in pets. We brought our 2 cats. And that's a whole story for another day. Another story will be the finding and buying of a vehicle.
Of course, you need citizenship or permanent residency first. You start by booking a consultation here: https∶//in.vu/cal
Lance (having had a moving experience) in Vanuatu