Moving stuff

Shipping our belongings to Brazil turned out to be far, far more complicated than anticipated. Seriously: How difficult can it be to ship 200kg of books, clothes and china ware to another country? Our first inquiries either led  skyrocketing offers – over 5000 Euro being the top – or the information that shipping wasn’t possible. Of course, it doesn’t help if you want to get your stuff to Maceio instead of Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paolo. Surprisingly, it would have been much easier if we had tried to move an entire household. Or, as one of the many people I spoke to asked: “Only 200 kg? Don’t you have furniture?” If we had been able to fill a container, or at least half a container, life would have been simpler.

Additional to learning that for airfreight only weight mattered and for seafreight only volume, we were told that only household moving companies have permission to ship used goods to Brazil. Logistic companies such as UPS or TNT do not qualify as moving companies. This meant for us – having to chose a logistic company if we did not want to pay more for the shipping than our belongings are worth – that we were facing the risks that an ill-disposed customs officer could refuse the material on the Brazilian border. The logistics company would then have to send it back to Europe. Obviously, at our cost.

So far, so bad. One way around this threat, as we figured after weeks of inquiries, was that it is possible to send material to Brazil declared as unaccompanied luggage. However, that does  not include a 100%  guarantee that a moody customs officer allows the ‘luggage’ to enter the country, and it means once the stuff is in customs, that you have to get it out. Now, an additional round of fun starts.

We succeeded in the end of shipping our belongings this way and got it out of customs. Here below is the list of documents we provided and a few useful things we learned on the way. May it be helpful to many people out there!


  • Copy of the airbill
  • Proforma invoice for unaccompanied baggage
  • Copy of an electricity bill and visa (Cédula de Identidade de Estrangeiro)
  • A printout of the flight ticket
  • Copy an official document showing the address in the former resident country
  • Passport.

For all documents, originals are needed, copies are not accepted. After arrival, goods will be stored under customs control, at the airports warehouse. The maximum storage period is 90 days; after this goods are put on a public auction. There is a storage fee, due to the airport administration, which turned out to be surprisingly low. We did not have to pay taxes – as it was used goods we sent. So basically, with all the documents, you go to customs, they release your goods and you pay the storage fee. Never forget however, that this is only possible on working days during working hours. Planning minimum half a day to get this done is a safe bet. And don’t ship anything not allowed into the country like food, plants or wood. Not even that old cherished trunk of yours that you have since more than 20 years. If you try, there are additional surprises for you in the pot!

All together, this particular experience with the (in)famous Brazilian administration, was managed by us successfully. Not too bad or as they say over here: que legal!


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