Wednesday, January 21, 2009

5 things to do before you leave, pt. 1

Around October the move started to cast a shadow over me and I had to start making real preparations to leave.  I made one big master list of things to get done, and I'll share with you all the things that I accomplished before I left.  This is a list of things that, once completed, made me feel a lot more comfortable before I left.

1. VISA:  Make sure you know what the rules are for getting a visa where you're going.  Many of the EU countries work under the Shengen Laws which allow you to stay in a single country for up to 90 Days and you can't return to the same country until you have been out for another 90 days.  This also means you don't need a visa for stays of less than 90 days, as you can travel through out Europe on 90 day periods.

2. Passport/ID:  You should have paper copies and/or a scan of your passport so that you can reproduce the information if you happen to lose it.  In addition, its always useful to bring a bunch of extra passport sized photos for any other form of ID you want to get in the EU.

3. Driving:  I'm not big on driving, but in the off chance I want to take a road trip I don't want anything to stop me.  I got an International License from AAA.  There are plenty of websites that will get you an International License but AAA is the cheapest and easiest.  Go to their website and fill out a form, bring some passport photos and pay $15.  It took 15 minutes.

4.  Money:  I've been following the Dollar to the Euro for months, I can't rationalize it at all so I just hope and pray that while I'm using my Dollars they're worth something.  One thing I wanted and had to set up was a bank account in Belgium.  The primary method of paying rent is through the bank, so not having a bank account makes life a little more difficult.  On the same note, its not always easy to wire transfer money over seas.  My existing bank accounts (a local and ING) both had different issues with wire transferring.  You would think that because ING is a Belgian bank it would be easy to transfer and set up accounts but it is not, and the American ING does not transfer ANY money over seas.  Thus I found a bank (Citibank...) that allows me to make wire transfers ONLINE.

5.  Cancel/Sign up:  Talk to all your insurance companies BEFORE you leave so you make sure you aren't paying for insurance for no reason.  Also, BUPA is an insurance company from the UK that does pretty inexpensive insurance for expats.  Moving overseas is one of the only ways you can get out of your cell phone contract without paying a cancellation fee.  I put myself on Vacation Mode ($15 to suspend the account for 90 days) so that I keep my account for now and can turn my phone back on when I arrive back in the US.  Try to put yourself on paperless bills for all your credit card or other bills so that you get them in your email and make sure you can pay your bills online.  

Leaving the US has a lot of fun issues to deal with, and I will cover more eventually.  This was the first batch that I thought was most important to cover.  Leave questions in the comments and I will try to answer them in another post.

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