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Retiring to Montenegro – Part One

The Recce

In 1999, my wife and I retired from careers as professional pilots. Shortly afterwards, my mother-in-law (who had lived with us) died suddenly and we were rattling around in our big house in Mid-Wales like peas in a pod. The fact that we are childless facilitated our decision to become expats. Hence we sold our property in Wales and bought a house in Primosten in Croatia. In 2004, we sold our Croatian place and in early 2005 moved to the coastal part of Crna Gora, better known as Montenegro.

Why Montenegro?

In the second half of 2004, I busied myself with a thorough reconnaissance of my chosen area and came up with the following data:

There is the pleasant Mediterranean climate and the warm sea. It is shorts and tee-shirt for eight months in every year and – except for the north-facing shore of Kotor Bay, where there is no winter sun – one can enjoy lunch on the terrace at least twice a week even in January and February. Then there is the countryside and the unique fauna and flora in it. Even at the height of winter the hills are bright yellow with flowering mimosa trees. Adverts thrash the slogan “Montenegro – wild beauty” with full justification. There is also the absence of pollution. They claim that Montenegro is Europe’s ecological state. Finally, owing to a bilateral agreement, British state pensioners receive full (as opposed to frozen) benefits anywhere in the former Yugoslavia.

So far, it does not sound different from Spain or Greece. But here go the additional attractions:

Montenegro is a tax haven. Foreigners may form Montenegrin companies without participation of Montenegrin nationals and hence can take advantage of the 9% rate of Corporation Tax. Furthermore, there is no capital gains tax in Montenegro at this time. The introduction of such levy is planned for some time in the future, but at a rate of only 7.5%, i.e. less than a quarter of the EU average. Stamp duty for the acquisition of real estate stands at 2% (as opposed to 5% in Croatia) and there are no restrictions on foreigners wishing to buy houses. (If they wish to purchase undeveloped land, they need to spend some €500 and form a Montenegrin company.) At the time of my reconnaissance (late 2004) property prices were still reasonable (but rising steadily) and construction costs were low and still amounted to only two-thirds of Croatian prices. As far as rates are concerned, property owners here pay €100 for every £1,000 they would have to part with in, say, Wales. The icing on the cake consists of low prices in the shops – such as €1.40 for a very drinkable one-litre bottle of Vranac wine or €5.40 for a kilo of rump steak – and very low utility costs.

The list of benefits goes on. Even branded (and not just generic) drugs, pills and potions are ridiculously cheap; medical treatment in private clinics (not in the state hospitals) is excellent and extremely good value for money, e.g. €100 for an appendectomy (and any special requirements that cannot be met locally are addressed efficiently in Belgrade, which is only half-an-hour’s flight time from Podgorica or 45 minutes from Tivat); there is a modern ophthalmic contact lens surgery in Podgorica; and as far as dentistry is concerned, I expect tourists coming for dental holidays any time now. The leading dental and implant surgery in Budva is equipped like the Starship Enterprise and offers fillings for €20-€50 depending on complexity, and their surgeon has more implants to his name than some patients have had hot dinners. Owing to a bilateral agreement, EU citizens have their medical expenses incurred in Montenegro or Serbia reimbursed by their national health services.

For the potential European immigrant, Montenegro can be reconnoitred easily and cheaply. From Budva, it is only 68 kilometres (41 miles) to Dubrovnik International Airport in Croatia, where reasonably priced hire cars are available. BA, Czech Airlines and Croatia Airlines offer APEX flights from a number of British airports. Alternatively, there are Ryanair flights to Bari in Italy with a ferry connection to Bar, Montenegro’s main port. In a few months time, the Balkan motorway will be operational as far as Makarska and will be extended to Dubrovnik Airport by 2009.

The country has a stable currency (the Euro) and good banking facilities. Funds can be moved unfettered in and out of the country.

These are the data as reconnoitred in 2004.

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