Moving abroad? Tips from a Cayman Islands Expat

Tips from a Cayman Islands Expat

Moving is stressful, no matter the location, but when you are moving abroad, to an island in the Caribbean, how do you prepare? Where do you start?

Affinity is moving offices this weekend, and although our new location is just down the road, there’s much to prepare, purge, and of course pack!

With that in mind, I thought of the many expats who pack up and move their lives to relocate to the beautiful Cayman Islands to start a new job. As a newbie on Grand Cayman, I wanted to share some of my tips on how my family and I made the move from Vancouver to George Town.

Make a list? NO! Make many lists!

I painted one of our kitchen walls with chalkboard paint and updated my list daily. This made it very visual, and my husband was also in the loop every step of the way. The best part was crossing off items; with every check, we were closer to the goal. Our son Bond loved participating too!

What to Ship

We chose to ship family heirlooms, artwork, clothing, and other items we simply didn’t have the heart to sell. Having said that, if I were to do it all over again, I would have sold the lot.

By the time we bought heavy duty boxes, wrapping materials, took the many days to sort and pack, paid for pick up, delivery and insurance, we ended up spending a small fortune on a pallet of “stuff”. However, it is nice to have some familiar things, to make our rental feel more like home.

What to Sell

We sold our condo, car and all of our furniture, knowing that all those items could be easily bought here. Plus the fact, most rentals come fully furnished, right down to the cutlery.

For the other “nicknacks” that we didnt’ have time to sell, we held a going away bazaar in our empty condo, and invited all of our friends and family to take whatever they wanted, sporting equipment, small appliances, picture frames, toys, etc.

The party was a hit, and by the end of the day, everything was gone but the contents of the fridge.

It was a great way to say goodbye, and show our appreciation for those wonderful friendships.

What to Store

This decision depends on what you decide to sell or not. If you own your home and opt to rent it, perhaps you want to put your furniture and keepsakes in storage.

Storage is also useful for tax documents and other items that you don’t need in your new location – like perhaps that snow blower, or winter sporting equipment.

What to Cancel

This is a tricky one depending on your length of stay. My family committed to a long term relocation and as such we had to cancel everything including our Canadian resident status for tax purposes (which doesn’t affect our citizenship). Employees do not incur income tax in the Cayman Islands; however, prior to our departure we researched the tax implications of moving to the Cayman Islands within Canada.

We cancelled magazine subscriptions, all credit cards but one, as we needed it for the first few weeks; cable, phone and internet services. If you want to take your cell phone with you (GSM mobiles work in the Cayman Islands), make your final payments and have your provider unlock it. Cancel your home and car insurance and all other services you will no longer need, like that gym membership.

What to take on the Plane

Depending on your carrier, it might be cheaper to pay for additional bags instead of using a shipping company. We checked 17 bags, weighing about 1000 lbs, for just over $2200. Bargain!

Shipping to Cayman is not as straightforward as you might think, this requires a lot of planning, and be sure to pay for insurance, there’s nothing worse than planning and packing for weeks only to find that your cargo is damaged or in pieces. Contact IMP Shipping for more information, they were a great help to us.

Organize important Documents

This process was the most tedious of all, but OH so liberating! It took days to sort, shred and scan 10 years of tax documents and mostly useless paperwork. It was an interesting experience as I took us back in time, revisiting our 10 years in Vancouver and our previous expat life in Dubai.

Documents you must carry with you

Before you travel, make sure that you have evidence of any professional memberships, and copies of your employment contract, university/college degree and immigration documentation.

References and copies of your bank statements from your bank and any records with credit companies. This will make it easier to open a bank account in the Cayman Islands.

Also, get a letter from your auto insurance carrier stating your no claim record (if applicable), as this will help with securing a better rate with an on island auto insurance provider.

Bring along your driver’s license. You will be able to drive with it for the first few weeks, after which you will have to take a driver’s test to get your Cayman driver’s license.

Documents that you must keep, such as tax history, house title, and other.

Decide whether you will take these documents with you or whether you will put them in storage. We chose to take it all with us, but instead of shipping boxes of paperwork, we made digital copies of everything and stored it all on an external hard drive.

We kept originals of the most important documents (birth certificates, marriage license) and shredded the rest.

Moving abroad is both exciting and nerve racking, so being organized and having useful information at hand is essential. Take a peak at the links below for more on moving and living in the Cayman Islands. Also, take advantage of your connections, Affinity was a wealth of information, giving us advice on where to live, where to buy a car, and even which days are best to buy groceries (Monday and Tuesday, because that’s when the ships come in).

Wishing you all the best in your new adventure!

The Letko Family

Useful Sites

Cayman Resident
Ecay Online
Cayman Islands Government
Cayman Islands Department of Tourism
Explore CAyman