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Retiring to Montenegro

Retiring to Montenegro

In 1999, my wife and I retired from a career as professional pilots. Shortly afterwards, my mother-in-law (who 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 ex-pats. Hence we sold our property in Wales and bought a house in Primosten in Croatia. Last year, we sold our Croatian place and moved to the coastal part of Crna Gora, better known as Montenegro.

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 ex-pats. 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 8 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 in it unique fauna & flora. 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. of 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 for foreigners to buy houses. (If they wish to purchase bare land, they need to spend some EUR=500.– ($ 650.–, GBP=333.–) and form a Crna Gora company.) At the time of my reconnaissance (i. e. late 2004) property prices were still reasonable (but rising steadily) and construction costs were low and still amount to only 2/3 of Croatian prices. As far as rates are concerned, property owners pay here hundred Euros ($=130, GBP=67.–) for every 1000 Pounds Sterling ($1,900) they would have to part with in, say, Wales. The icing on the cake consists of low prices in the shops — such as EUR=1.40 ($=1.80, GBP=.94) for a very drinkable 1 liter bottle of Vranac wine or EUR=5.40 for a kilo ($=3.20, GBP=1.63 for a Pound) of rump steak – and very low utility costs.

The benefits continue. 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. EUR=100 ($=130, GBP=67) for an appendectomy  (and any special requirements, that can not be met locally, are addressed efficiently in Belgrade, which is only !/2 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 EUR=20.– to EUR=50.–  ($26 to $=65.–, GBP=14.– to GBP=34.–) depending on complexity and their surgeon has more implants to his name than some patients had hot meals.  Owing to a bilateral agreement, EU citizens have their medical expenses incurred in Montenegro or Serbia re-imbursed by their national health services.

For the potential European immigrant, Crna Gora 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.

I have lived in Montenegro now for just over 2 years and there have been discrepancies between the findings from the reconnaissance and my actual experiences as an expat retiree as follows:-

It is extremely difficult to obtain the status of a temporary Montenegrin resident and we expats drive across the Croatian border every 3 months for lunch and a new border entry stamp. With this method, (which is encouraged by the immigration authorities) we remain permanent tourists.  It suits me fine, because it enables me to maintain my Austrian residence and the Austrian health insurance, that goes with it.

My investigation of 2004 did not go deep enough for  a judgment on the Montenegrin people. Even now I have only met a tiny fraction of the 650,000 inhabitants. The following accounts is, therefore, not suitable for generalisation. Anyway, as an expat of the British community in Kotor put it:-  Montenegrin schools have 3 rs:- reading, writing and ripping off foreigners. Although violent crime is rare (I have not come across one instance during the whole of my stay), there are lots of Fagins and Jack Dawkinses about. On the other hand, there are also extremely honest people such as one market trader, who chased after me across the whole car park to return a 10 Cent coin, which dropped out of my pocket in front of his stall.

I started my life in Montenegro in rented accommodation. The choice was limited because I required access for 2 large furniture trucks and 1 trailer containing 120 cubic meters of personal belongings and I arrived with 2 dogs and 3 cats, which are not the lessors' favourite tenants. Anyway, I moved into the best accommodation, the agency could muster, and it was atrocious. Feedback on this and a number of other transactions can be found on http://place-in-the-sun.info (click 'feedback – read').

{mosbanner right}I visited my landlord some 3 weeks before my actual arrival for  occupation of his premises and I had a small cat basket in the boot of my car. He suggested, that I might as well leave it with him and he would store is somewhere in his garage rather than for me to carry it around on my journeys. When it came to settlement of the final bill, he charged me 1 month's rent for storing an item worth  EUR=3 for a  period of 23 days, and I had to pay it, because he exercised a lien on my furniture. The rent was supposed to be EUR=400.-  ($520.-, GBP=267.-) p. m., but it was nearer the EUR=800.- ($=1040.-, GBP=534.-) mark  after we had to buy a new kitchen (his looked like instant food poisoning) and pay storage rental for the already mentioned basket, and he tried to extract another EUR=600.– ($=780.–, GBP=400.–) for having the house disinfected because of our pets, which, as a matter of fact, are cleaner than many Montenegrin children.

My interface with Montenegrin people came under strain again  when we employed a young local woman as a housekeeper. She stole, embezzled and cheated and when we decided to dispense with her services, she even tried some extortion.  Further information can again be obtained from the 'feedback – read' section of my web site. My attorney submitted  6 writs against her, but nearly 1 year later the Court has not even issued the summonses as yet.

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