Moving to the Philippines – What Should We Bring?

To Bring or Not To Bring?

While visiting the many forums and facebook pages related to life and living in the Philippines, one bit of advice seems to be consistent. Well, in the majority anyway. It pertains to the shipping of certain personal effects to the Philippines. There is no shortage of advice providers when it comes to moving to the Philippines. But when it actually comes to shipping household goods (HHG) or Balikbayan Boxes to the Philippines, there is the reality of it all and it should be well understood before hand.

Even Lola helps unpack
Even Lola helps unpack

Deciding to ship your HHG to the islands is one thing – exactly what you should ship, on the other hand, is an entirely different topic. As I’ve discussed in many articles in this blog, we personally shipped everything we could fit into a 20′ shipping container.  As it turned out, our shipping estimator was slightly off in his initial “cubic” volume calculations and after we liquidated everything we thought that we needed to, we were faced with having to ship an additional 8′ crate for our “overflow” items. Now that we have been here for just over 1 year, I can say with some certainty that we could have left some items behind.

Too Much Stuff! It took weeks to find a place to put it all. We gave some things away to family.
Too Much Stuff! It took weeks to find a place to put it all. We gave some things away to family.

Most everyone has accumulated something of sentimental value in their life that they feel they just can’t do without. Portraits, knickknacks, collector’s items, favorite tools, and teddy bears. Then there are the things you will have a hard time replacing like your favorite smoker/grill, special fishing gear, kayak, exercise equipment, wine racks, quality kitchen ware, and small furniture. You will definitely not be able to replace your higher-end quality furniture here in the Philippines such as bedroom suites and large-scaled living room or dining room furniture. I have yet to see a nice recliner for sale anywhere here. Anything you feel that cannot be replaced easily or without substantial cost should be considered for a consolidated shipment. I cannot tell you specifically whether your favorite footstool or your uncle’s hand-me-down Beer Stein collection is worth bringing…that decision will be entirely up to you. I can say this though – you should only bring as much as you think you can fit in your new living space. The squared living areas of apartments and condos here in the Philippines are on the small side and can become quite cramped very easily. If you already have a house or are building a home, then you should have a good idea of what will fit, and what won’t.

Thinks you definitely should consider bringing:

  • Quality kitchen ware and utensils, silverware, and good knives and cutlery
  • Rubbermaid garbage cans (indoor and outdoor)
  • Quality food storage containers (like Tupperware or the equivalent)
  • Quality pillows (and additional bed linens if shipping mattresses)
  • Small quality furniture and furnishings and unique art (or framed wall art)
  • Small favorite antiques
  • Professional books and libraries (hard to find here)
  • Personal hobby items
  • dual voltage electronics (laptops, printers, peripheral equipment)
  • Specialty garden tools, gas powered yard equipment (non-condo dwellers)
  • hand tools or compressed air tools (air compressors can be purchased here)
  • Small step ladders
  • Assorted “Bungee” cords
  • Favorite fishing gear and dive gear
  • Frisbees!  (very hard to find here)
  • Small Webber kettle grill (new and boxed)
  • Portable battery-powered “Boom Box”
  • rechargeable batteries and charger (all sizes – “AA”, “AAA”, and “D”)
  • Quality Electrical Generator (needs specific) if feasible
  • A good supply of your favorite specialty soaps, shampoos, razors, after shave, cologne, etc. as needed
  • Additional large sizes of underwear, t-shirts, shorts, and footwear (big and tall guys will have a hard time finding their sizes here).

Any breakable items such as glassware, dishes, vases, mirrors, etc., should only be considered for inclusion into a consolidated shipment using a qualified shippers or moving companies. You should never trust placing fragile items in Balikbayan shipping.

I can suggest to you some things that you should NOT consider bringing, and for various reasons. Gardening equipment like rakes and shovels, bicycles (unless you own high-end gear), lamps, fans, speakers, cheap furniture, and electrical appliances of the 110 volt variety. All of the above items can be replaced easily here at a reasonable cost. Some portable kitchen appliances can be expensive (especially name branded) so the decision to bring a favorite blender or food dehydrator can be a critical decision. Anything that requires 110 volts to operate like small appliances and power tools will need to be used in conjunction with a step-down transformer (available here). However, many of these items may not likely last here because of power issues, and as chance will have it, either you or someone else will eventually plug them up to a 220v outlet and you will have but a toasted paperweight to show for it. Just as sure as death and taxes, it will happen.

Of course, the location where you will be settling down will have much to do with your decision on what to ship. Living in or close to the large metropolitan areas like Manila, Cebu, or Davao, you will have little problem finding just about anything you need. Even living close to the larger provincial capitals will afford you with good availability and a variety of items from tools to furniture and home furnishings to appliances. Move out into the province and…well, whatever you feel you might need, you should probably consider bringing it with you. 

We brought most of it!
We brought our three grills!

If you are in the process of building a home, important things to consider for inclusion in you shipment would be quality electrical components like Romex (3 strand electrical wire) and grounded outlet plugs and switches. Some guys have even shipped breaker boxes and breakers to be included in their home’s wiring. Quality plumbing fixtures is always a good option such as good faucets, cutoff valves, and hose bibs. Plumbing seems to be the one thing that is in constant need of repair and or replacing around here.

Although we sold a lot of stuff that we felt we could do without, we did bring some odd ball things like board games, playing cards, frisbees, poker chips, etc. While you personally may not enjoy all these things anymore, the kids here sure will appreciate it. As it turns out, we could have left a few more things behind, 

The bottom line is this. It’s better to bring it and not need it than to not bring it and wish you did. For example, I never thought I would have a use for my 16′ extension ladder…I was wrong and am glad we brought it along. And don’t forget your ice coolers, koozies, bottle openers, wine glasses and corkscrews!  And for all the stuff you bring and don’t use, it sure makes for some good pasalubong for the family members!

Playing dominoes with the kids
Playing dominoes with the kids

If you wish to add a commet or have any questions pertaining to shipping anything here to the Philippines, please feel free to use the comments section below or contact me via the contact link on this site. 


2 thoughts on “Moving to the Philippines – What Should We Bring?

  1. Every kind of stainless, rust free things needed to take with for the kitchen! Pots and pans, knives and forks etc. In the Philippines it is hard to find a good quality in the same prices as back there home! Am I right, or didn`t I just find even there in Cebu!? Now our baligbayan box starting there tomorrow with many of those things! Thanks for sharing a nice and usefull article Randy!

  2. Hi Leo, sorry I didn’t come across your comment earlier. A must for anyone coming here would be a good quality cutlery set. And once here, you should threaten anyone you catch using your paring knife as a prying tool with their life! 😉

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