Shipping possessions to Brazil from North America is very expensive (with the exception of books, which can be sent quite cheaply by mail; expect them to take several months to arrive), but it might be worth it in the event that: (1) you’re employed by a company that agrees to pay for the shipping costs, or (2) you’re making a long-term or permanent move. Although bringing things from home can provide great comfort and familiarity, keep in mind that living spaces (usually apartments) are often smaller than those in North America and often have different configurations, which might make fitting all your furniture (king-sized beds, for example) a challenge. Also factor in the potential havoc that humidity, heat, intense sunshine, and termites may have on your belongings.
When choosing a shipping company, try to get one with good references. Most will come to your house and give you a quote based on the amount you want to ship. The most common and least expensive option is surface shipping, which will usually take anywhere between 30 and 90 days. It’s worthwhile to choose a shipping company (either Brazilian or North American) that has a branch both in your city of origin and in Brazil to facilitate logistics on both ends. Also helpful are shippers that come to your house and pack up all your belongings before shipping them off to Brazil where, after clearing customs, they will be delivered to your home and unpacked.
Customs is a notoriously sticky point when it comes to shipping. Often, possessions are held upon arrival in Brazil pending outstanding paperwork or payments (including the odd bribe). A brutal detail is the fact that import duties on your possessions will amount to 60 percent of their value. The only way of skirting this cost is if you’re married to or partnered with a Brazilian who by law is entitled to return to Brazil and bring all his or her home possessions without paying duty on them.
Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Living Abroad in Brazil.