It’s easy to overlook Montenegro as a desirable place to live. Many still see it as an “up-and-coming” country, but this is far from the truth. Living in Montenegro as an expat offers plenty of great opportunities. It’s a country of great beauty and has some of the most attractive tax rates in Europe. In this guide, we’ll cover all you need to know about living in Montenegro, including taxes, investment opportunities, the best places to live, and details on healthcare.
Is Montenegro a good place to live?
Montenegro is a good place to live because of its desirable tax rates, high quality of living, and great natural surroundings. It’s well situated in Europe and many destinations are within easy reach. Plus, it’s right on the Adriatic coastline, so has good access for sailing.
After declaring its independence from Serbia in 2006, Montenegro went about establishing a place for itself in important circles. It’s a member of the UN, NATO, and the WTO. Currently, Montenegro is also in the process of joining the EU. Situated in the Balkans, Montenegro has some of the most rugged terrains in all of Europe. Much of its landscape is dominated by mountains, making it ideal for hikers and other outdoor sports.
Montenegro is a small country (around 13,000 square km) but it has diverse wildlife and all the terrain you need to enjoy life. There are plenty of mountains and beaches, and the Bay of Kotor is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And that’s not even mentioning the beauty of its major cities.
Like much of the Balkan region, Montenegro is a combination of Eastern and Western influences. You’ll find Italian influences in its architecture and artistic styles, but Turkish and Greek influences in its cuisine. In short, if you’re a fan of various European cultures, somewhere like Montenegro would be ideal.
What’s more, the weather is a big draw for tourists and expats alike. Many expect it to be chilly, but it enjoys much the same weather as other countries on the Adriatic Sea (such as Italy and Greece).
In high summer, temperatures can reach 27 C. Inland, during the winter, temperatures can dip below freezing, but the coast stays a bit warmer. Of course, higher elevations get colder, too.
The best weather in Montenegro occurs between May and September, but it tends to remain quite cloudy. So, if you like warmth without too much sun, Montenegro might be perfect for you. In short, Montenegro is a good place to live because of its expansive culture, beautiful scenery, and convenient location in Europe. Bear in mind, it’s still a relatively young country, so is still finding itself in important issues like healthcare and international relations. These shouldn’t be too much of an issue if you’re prepared, though.
Is Montenegro safe?
Montenegro is a fairly safe country and falls in line with much of Europe. Crime rates are higher in its major cities, but smaller towns and rural areas see little crime at all. If you feel safe enough living in a British city you should have little problem in Montenegro.
Crime rates in its capital, Podgorica, are mostly moderate. This includes burglary, theft, and drug-related crime. However, this is often the case for capital cities of any country, as they’re where large numbers of people congregate. Popular coastal towns, such as Budva, have much lower crime rates. All types of crime apart from corruption are rated low or very low. So, if crime is a concern when choosing where to live, opt for a smaller town. As a general rule, areas popular with tourists see higher rates of pickpocketing and theft. Again, this is common in any country so isn’t something to be concerned about.
How expensive is it to live in Montenegro?
Montenegro isn’t an expensive country to live in by European standards. Estimated monthly expenses for a single person are €450 or €1,500 for a family of four. In short, whether you’re working or retired, your money will go much further here. The cost of living in Montenegro is around 43% lower than in the UK or in the U.S.A; rent is 63% lower than in the UK and 71% lower than in the U.S.A. Of course, rent prices will vary across the country, with cities being more expensive. Even so, your cost of living will remain relatively low. Food is much cheaper and is of good quality. You’ll find farmers markets and supermarkets to cover all your grocery needs.
Utilities cost around €110 a month for a standard city apartment, which is nearly half the price of London. Internet is also cheaper but you won’t find good connection speeds outside of major cities. Rural areas still use older connection methods, but the country’s average download speed is around 59Mb/s.
As you’d expect, property prices will vary across the country. Even in its capital, the average price per square metre is €1,500. This is for a central apartment, too, so is probably the most you can expect to pay for property in the city. Some affluent coastal areas see property prices in the millions of euros. These are high-profile desirable areas, though, so you expect to pay for the privilege of living there.
One expense worth mentioning here is healthcare (which we’ll discuss later). A private insurance plan could cost around €300 a year per person but you can choose to pay out of pocket instead. A 15-minute appointment with a doctor costs around €23. Overall, the cost of living in Montenegro shouldn’t be a big concern. Everything simply costs less than elsewhere, and for the most part, you don’t have to sacrifice quality.
Where should I live in Montenegro?
Deciding where to live in Montenegro is largely a matter of personal preference. You have a choice between coastal and inland, mountain or plains, and rural or urban. But, if one of your priorities is choosing an expat hotspot, here are the best places for expats to live in Montenegro.
The Bay of Kotor is an impressive area where mountains border the sea. It’s a popular destination for cruise ships in the summer, so expect to see large groups of tourists during the busy season. Around the bay, you’ll find towns such as Dobrota, which is an affluent, family area, and Donji Orahovac. Orahovac is a tiny village and doesn’t have much in the way of amenities. Dobrota, however, has most things you need and features some very impressive properties.
Budva is located on the Adriatic coast and is a popular retirement destination for expats. The town can get very busy during tourist season, so if this is an issue consider looking further down the coast at places like Becici or Sveti Stefan. The Old Town of Budva is a beautiful location and nearby neighbourhoods have seen recent development thanks to the growing tourist trade. It’s a good choice for expats wanting to set up tourism-related businesses, as it’s still early enough to take advantage of the growing industry.
Tivat is on the outer edge of the Bay of Kotor and is relatively new compared to the surrounding towns. It underwent major development in the 19th century, which is reflected in its architecture. The old naval base became Porto Montenegro in 2007 and is now a home for luxury superyachts. As a result, the area is seen as quite fancy and you can expect to see some fairly rich people wandering its streets.
Ulcinj is a town in southern Montenegro not far from the Albanian border. The majority of its population are Albanian, and unsurprisingly the town has a more Albanian feel. It has a growing tourism industry but property prices are still very low. It has a different vibe from the other towns on this list due to its Albanian influence. As a result, it feels much less European than areas further north on the Adriatic coast.
It’s no surprise that the country’s capital city draws in expats. You’ll find expat communities from the UK, France, Germany, and Russia, among others. There’s typically a different type of expat in Podgorica: entrepreneurs looking to take advantage of business opportunities. Conversely, affluent expats looking for investment properties and retirement opportunities will settle around the coast. So, deciding which kind of expat you are will help you narrow down your search!
Taxes in Montenegro
A big draw for expats moving to Montenegro is its favourable tax rates: personal income tax is only 9%. Similarly, capital gains tax is only 9%, which is important for investors and savers. Montenegro has a double taxation treaty with many countries, meaning you most probably won’t be taxed twice on your income.
Finally, if you’re planning on moving to Montenegro to start a business, you’ll be pleased to know that the corporate tax rate is also 9%. It’s unsurprising that these tax rates – combined with low property prices – have drawn in many investors and expats in recent years.
The pros and cons of living in Montenegro
As you’d expect, there are several important pros and cons to consider when thinking of moving to Montenegro. Generally, the potential disadvantages are different from other European countries popular for retirement. Be sure to look over this list carefully and weigh everything up before making the move to Montenegro.
The pros of living in Montenegro
1. Competitive property market
There are plenty of options for real estate in Montenegro. If you just want to buy and move, you’ll have a choice of towns. But, if you’ve got a bit more time, you can buy a piece of land and build your own home. You’ll also find loads of options for property development, whether for personal or business use.
2. Low cost of living
Combine low property prices with affordable cost of living and you can see why expats would flock to Montenegro. Even relatively fancy areas benefit from inexpensive living, meaning your money will go much further.
3. Simple residency process
The residency process for non-EU citizens is straightforward. Providing you meet the initial criteria, you can be a full citizen within a decade. By that point, it’s likely Montenegro will be a full EU member, too. If that sounds like too much time, consider using the Residency Through Investment scheme, which we discuss below.
4. Beautiful scenery and convenient location
Montenegro has some beautiful scenery accompanied by pleasant weather. There are opportunities for those interested in an outdoor lifestyle, whether this is on land or at sea. What’s more, its location on the Adriatic Sea means it’s fairly easy to travel around the rest of Europe. This makes taking holidays a breeze.
The cons of living in Montenegro
1. The language barrier
English isn’t widely spoken in Montenegro outside of tourist hotspots (it’s not even that widely spoken there, either). It might have something to do with citizens speaking one of five official languages: Montenegrin, Serbian, Bosnian, Croatian, and Albanian. You’ll want to pick up some Montenegrin (the official language) to deal with admin and local tradespeople. Also, you need to pass a language proficiency test to gain citizenship.
2. It’s a young country
Montenegro has been independent for about 15 years now and is still finding its place on the international stage. While this won’t have much tangible impact on the citizen level, its location between Europe and Russia puts it in a political position many might not be used to.
3. Growing healthcare
Healthcare is an interesting topic in Montenegro. The country has 10 public hospitals and 199 doctors per 100,000 citizens, which is below the European average. As a result, many expats opt for private health insurance, which often includes out-of-country cover for more complicated procedures.
Retiring to Montenegro
Retiring to Montenegro is a fairly simple process. As it’s not yet a full member of the EU, there are fewer restrictions on non-EU citizens. We’ll cover residency options below, but it’s worth discussing them in relation to retirement. Other than obtaining a residency permit before moving on to full citizenship, there aren’t any special considerations for retirement.
The most important thing to consider is choosing the right company to assist with your move. Due to the growing expat communities, there are various real estate companies with property and moving services. Opting for one of these will help with the language barrier. Even so, be sure to hire a lawyer that speaks English to help you understand things. You’d never want to go into a property purchase or residency application without one, and, unlike European countries such as France or Italy, English isn’t widely spoken in Montenegro.
Montenegro uses the Euro, so you need to be mindful of currency exchange rates. Of course, you’ll want to open an account with a local bank, many of which are owned by larger European banking companies. You can open up a bank account before you’re a resident, making paying bills and withdrawing cash much easier.
If you’re thinking of retiring to Montenegro, be prepared to plan more than you would for somewhere like France or Italy. For starters, Montenegro is further away, impacting everything from buying property to actually moving your belongings. On the other hand, you will find that Montenegro is one of the relatively cheap countries to retire to and you can benefit from a lower cost of living.
Residency in Montenegro
The residency process for living in Montenegro isn’t that different from the rest of the Schengen area. You can stay in the country for up to 90 days without a visa if you are a citizen of certain countries. if you want to stay for longer, your options are: Employment visa, Study visa, Starting a company, Investing in property
You’ll also need to fulfil standard requirements, such as having a clean criminal record and proof of income. For retirees, the easiest route is the Residency Through Investment scheme. This is because there’s no dedicated retirement residency programme in the country.
Residency by Investment
Many countries offer a golden visa option, and Montenegro is no different. You’ll need to make a €250,000 investment in an approved property development scheme and a €100,000 donation to the Montenegrin government. You’ll also need to pay application and processing fees. It’s worth noting that the property investment increases to €450,000 in coastal regions and Podgorica.
Providing your application is successful, you’ll immediately jump to full Montenegrin citizenship, including holding a passport. If you have questions or need more information about your residency by investment options, contact us via our Advice page, we will be happy to help. If you’re interested in using investment to obtain full EU residence, see get more information in our European Golden Visa Guide.
Forming a company
Another option for gaining temporary residency is to form a company based in Montenegro. Forming a company and establishing yourself as an executive director is enough to fulfil the country’s employment visa requirements. While this isn’t a faster option, it’s viable for retirees who don’t want to get back into working. Being an executive director doesn’t mean you have to do much in terms of work.
Can foreigners buy property in Montenegro?
There are no restrictions on foreigners buying property in Montenegro and the process is fairly simple. You’ll need a law firm to complete due diligence on the property before completing the transaction, though.
You can either buy properties through real estate agents or privately. Of course, as a foreign buyer, it’s sensible to stick to official channels. It makes things much easier, particularly if you don’t speak the language. Foreigners can also obtain a mortgage in Montenegro with little issue. The standard deposit on properties is 10%, and many Montenegrin banks will happily set up a mortgage for foreign buyers.
You can also buy land to develop as a foreigner. However, for this, you’ll need to set up a company in Montenegro and buy it through the company. As mentioned above, this fulfils the employment visa requirements, so is a fairly good route to residency and property. Regardless of which route you choose, it’s not difficult to buy property in Montenegro as a foreigner. It’s important to find a lawyer that speaks English, as you’ll need someone to translate forms for you. There’s a growing number of estate agents that deal in English, but don’t rely on them entirely.
Healthcare in Montenegro
Healthcare in Montenegro exists, but it lags behind the rest of Europe. Montenegrin citizens have public healthcare, paid for by contributions to the Health Insurance Fund. The majority of expats living in Montenegro opt for private health insurance. It’s worth noting that although there are more facilities, private hospitals can suffer from the same issues as public ones. These include lack of access to basic medical supplies and a lack of personnel.
You’d be best finding private health insurance through an international provider, which would set you back around €300 a year per person. A well-known insurance company in Montenegro is Uniqa. Of course, costs will vary depending on age and health, so be sure to find some quotes before committing. Private health insurance is definitely worth it. A good plan will cover you for general and specialist treatment, emergency cover, repatriation, dental, and physiotherapy. Some even offer transportation out of the country if the procedure you need isn’t offered there.
But, speak to some expats living in Montenegro and they might tell you of their decision to pay out of pocket. A doctor’s appointment costs around €23, and the most expensive medication is roughly €10; much is priced around €5. While this might seem a more cost-effective option, it’s not without its risks. You won’t have any coverage in place and could be caught out if you need to go to the hospital. In short, private health insurance is the way forwards.
Final thoughts on living in Montenegro
Montenegro might not be everyone’s first choice for relocation, but it’s got plenty to draw you in. From its favourable tax rates and competitive property prices to its great location and culture, Montenegro won’t stay off the expat radar for long. Also, its likely entry into the EU makes it an attractive option for anyone still suffering the effects of Brexit. It might take a few more years, but Montenegro is on the way in rather than the way out.
So, if you’re considering living in Montenegro, be sure to do your homework first. It’s a different experience to other European countries and arguably requires more thought because of this. But, if it appeals, you could do a lot worse than Montenegro.