How to retire in Croatia

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How to retire in Croatia
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Croatia is a popular destination for retirees across the world. It has a low cost of living, high quality of life, small population, clean air and water, great food and wine, socialized healthcare and it is easy to get around. It’s also full of culture and things to do. For all those reasons, many people seek out Croatia as a place to live out their retirement.

Is Croatia an ideal place to retire? Maybe, maybe not. It all depends on what you want out of your retirement. Everyone is different. To help you make a decision on whether Croatia is the right place for you to retire, we’ve created a detailed guide that covers all of the most important things to consider when choosing a place for retirement.

It is important to note that the residency portion of this guide is focused on options for non-EU citizens (also referred to as third-country nationals). EU citizens are entitled to residence in Croatia automatically, without restrictions or limitations. If you are an EU citizen, then it is best to hop over to this post that explains how to get residence. That being said, you may find our information below on healthcare, transportation and taxes relevant if facing retirement.

In this post, we cover:

Let’s get started…

Temporary residence options for people who want to retire in Croatia

Croatia doesn’t currently offer a temporary residence permit specifically for non-EU retirees that would allow them to live in Croatia year-round indefinitely. This is a bit of a tragedy both for retirees and the Republic of Croatia.

Retirees pay into the system, while not competing for jobs. Croatia would be lucky to have more retirees here. I hope that this changes one day and if it does, I’ll be the first person to scream it from the mountain tops.

In the meantime, even though there is not a temporary residence permit specifically for retirees, that doesn’t mean people can’t retire in Croatia. There are other options. Several of them actually.

The easiest ways for retired people to live in Croatia are:

  1. Prepayment of rent
  2. Owning a property
  3. Volunteering

Each of these options is a basis to apply for a temporary residence permit. I’ll now go over each one in greater detail.

#1 Prepayment of rent

Retirees can be granted a 1-year temporary residence permit in Croatia when they prepay rent for the full year. Once you arrive in Croatia, you’ll need to secure a place to live that is not commercially-rented to tourists. It can’t be an Airbnb. It needs to be an apartment or home where the landlord will allow you to register the address.

You will need to get a rental contract from the landlord that states you can live there for the 1-year period. In some cases, landlords have agreed to note in the contract that you prepaid rent when in reality, you’ll pay month to month. Many police stations will accept a notarized version of this contract as proof of prepayment.

However, sometimes they will not. Instead, they will require an actual bank receipt showing you prepaid rent for this period. It’s best to be prepared for both scenarios. The rule of thumb in Croatia is not to offer up any information until it’s requested. Try first by showing prepayment in the contract. If they don’t accept it, you can go to Plan B.

What you should know about this permit

  • It is only for 1 year
  • You cannot work
  • There is no path to permanent residency or citizenship
  • You must leave for 90 days at the end of the permit period
  • You cannot apply for this permit again until 6 months and 1 day have passed from the time your previous permit expired
  • There is a limit of 2 consecutive permits on this basis

Regarding that last one, it’s important to note that this limit of 2 consecutive years is not in the law. It’s a discretionary limit imposed by MUP (the police who handle immigration). After 2 years, you will need to change your basis for a temporary residence permit or leave for 18 months.

You can learn all about this permit and find step-by-step instructions on how to apply here.

You can find tips on how to find a place to live here.

#2 Owning a property

Retired people can be granted temporary residence if they own a residential property in Croatia. The property cannot be zoned anything else other than residential and you must live in the property.

With this permit, you can stay in Croatia with temporary residence for 6 months out of each year. Plus you can tack on an extra 90 days each year as a tourist, which adds up to a total of 9 months per year in Croatia. There is no limit to the number of times you can apply for the permit. There are just two restrictions:

  1. You must leave Croatia for 90 days after the expiration of the permit
  2. You cannot apply for a new permit until 6 months have passed since the expiration of the first permit

This can be a great option for retirees as it gives them a solid home base in Croatia to which they can keep returning. Also, there is no minimum investment. It doesn’t matter at all what the purchase price is.

If you have a spouse with you, both of you will need to be on the ownership certificate filed with the land registry. Only owners can apply for this type of permit.

What you should know about this permit

  • It is only for 6 months per year
  • You cannot work
  • There is no path to permanent residency or citizenship
  • You must leave for 90 days at the end of the permit period
  • You cannot apply for this permit again until 6 months and 1 day have passed from the time your previous permit expired

You can learn all about this permit and find step-by-step instructions on how to apply here.

You can find instructions on how to buy residential property in Croatia here.

#3 Volunteering

Volunteering is a great way for any non-EU citizen to stay in Croatia, retirees included. Many of the retired non-EU citizens I’ve spoken to want to give back to the community as well as stay busy while in Croatia.

To get this permit, you must have a volunteer contract with a non-profit organization in Croatia. A non-profit organization is called “udruga” in Croatian. The term of the contract must match the length of time you want to be in Croatia, but no more than 1 year. The term of the temporary residence permit will match the term of the contract.

There are many non-profit organizations across Croatia that accept long-term volunteers. We’ve personally contacted organizations in both Split and Zagreb to find out which ones are open to giving contracts to foreign citizens. You can view them below:

What you should know about this permit

  • It is only for 1 year
  • It is only valid for people up to 65 years old
  • You cannot work for anyone other than the udruga
  • You cannot be given payment in exchange for your work for the udruga
  • There is no path to permanent residency or citizenship
  • There is a limit of 2 consecutive permits on this basis

You can learn all about this permit and find step-by-step instructions on how to apply here.

Residence options based on your nationality

If you’d like a fuller picture of all possible residence options, we’ve created residence guides for specific nationalities.

If you’d like to see a guide for your nationality, let us know in the comments.

Healthcare

Access to affordable healthcare is very important for everyone, but it is especially critical for seniors. If you’re planning to move abroad, good healthcare is probably at the top of your list of concerns.

I’ve been lobbying my mom to move to Croatia when she retires. She always says the same thing. “Sara, will I be able to get my medication? Are the same brands available? What happens if I have an emergency?”

All legitimate questions. Let’s dive into the different aspects of the Croatian healthcare system.

Health insurance

All residents of Croatia are required to have “obavezno” state health insurance through HZZO, the Croatian Health Insurance Fund. When you first apply for residence, you’ll need to show that you are privately insured. Most people use private insurance. EU citizens usually show their EHIC, which is prove of having state health in their home country.

Then once you are approved for residence, you’ll need to sign up for “obavezno” at HZZO. Obavezno is the basic state health insurance if you are a non-EU national. Signing up is done in person at the closest HZZO office to where you live. EU nationals have the freedom to choose if they want to sign up for HZZO or keep their insurance from their home country.

You can see everything that is included in obavezno insurance here.

Now, let’s turn to costs.

There are 3 healthcare costs you be aware of when planning a move to Croatia:

  1. Back pay
  2. Monthly premium
  3. Co-payments

Back Pay

All non-EU citizens are required to pay 12 months of health care premiums for the year before they arrived. Once your registration is processed by HZZO, you are covered. There is no grace period during which you have to pay into the system before you can get health care. That is why they ask for 1 year of back pay.

EU citizens need to prove that they were insured for the previous 12 months before arriving to Croatia. If they can do that, then they do not need to pay the year of back pay.

Monthly premium

The monthly premium is what you pay going forward each month. If you receive a foreign pension, then the monthly cost of your health insurance will be 16,5% of your monthly pension payment. To calculate the year of back payment, multiply this amount by 12 months.

Every month, you’ll receive a bill at your address. You can pay this at the post office, the bank or using a mobile banking app (as long as it is a Croatian bank). It should be noted that you can pay each year in one lump sum if you so choose.

Co-payments

If you only have obavezno health insurance, you will encounter co-payments. Luckily, they are small. The co-payment for most medicines and doctor appointments is usually only 10 kuna. For specialized diagnostics, the co-payment is around 50 kuna. If you have an overnight stay in the hospital, it could be as much as 2.000 kuna per night.

To eliminate co-payments, you’ll need a supplemental health insurance called “dopunsko”. Everyone should have dopunsko in case of emergencies, but it is especially important for those who need frequent healthcare and medications.

Dopunsko ranges in cost from 40 to 80 kuna per month. If you’re going to the doctor, picking up medication or having diagnostics more than 4 times per month, it more than pays for itself.

You can read all about dopunsko, what it includes and how to sign up here.

There is also a third type of insurance called “dodatno”. Dodatno is an optional supplement insurance focused on preventive medicine, diagnostics, and specialist treatments. This type of insurance is best for those with chronic conditions or those at risk of developing a serious condition. It is only offered by private companies.

You can read all about dodatno, what it includes and how to sign up here.

Croatian healthcare system

The Croatian healthcare system itself can be a bit bipolar. There are horror stories, but also great success stories. There are a lot of variables to take into consideration. I’ll share with you what I know.

  • Croatia has affordable access to preventative care. If you have both obavezno and dopunsko, all of your preventative care will be free.
  • Croatia has affordable access to medications, including name brands and generics. If you have both obavezno and dopunsko, most of your medications will be free.
  • Croatia is a world leader in organ transplantation, especially for kidneys.
  • Lovran has a great facility for orthopedics.
  • Croatia is a dental tourism destination due to its high-quality of services in combination with extremely low costs.

Now, I’ll share with you quick anecdotes from my personal life:

  • My friend was diagnosed and cured of Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at Split hospital.
  • My friend had a successful (and practically joyous) knee surgery at Split hospital.
  • My friend had a successful spinal surgery at Split hospital (but only after being put off for months). After his surgery, the state health insurance covered a 3-week stay at a rehab facility (more like a hotel) on the island of Korčula.
  • One friend of mine had a successful hip replacement surgery and the other a very successfully fix of a broken leg at the aforementioned orthopedic facility in Lovran.
  • My friend was misdiagnosed and ignored by ER doctors at Split hospital for multiple days, during which her bowel obstruction got worse and her pain grew. In the end, a doctor found her and treated her successfully.
  • Every story of someone giving birth has been absolutely frightening.
  • My family doctor gave me an ear infection. She was supposed to be cleaning out my ears, and instead made the problem worse, prompting an infection.

Family doctors are known for being a little incompetent. Their main purpose is to refer you out to specialists. Specialists are usually great at what they do, have ultrasounds in their office as a standard and extremely knowledgeable.

If you ever want to step outside of the public health system, Croatia has superb private health care. There are private “poliklinika” and hospitals all over the country. A poliklinika is a private clinic that usually contains multiple practices like family medicine, gastroenterology, ENT, gynecology, etc.

The cost for private health care in Croatia is a fraction of what it would be in the United States. A private specialist appointment can cost about 400 to 700 kuna ($62 to $108). An MRI or a colonoscopy through a private facility can cost 2000 kuna ($310).

Taxes

Before moving to any country, it’s important to know if you’ll be taxed on your income. If you’re retired, this may include pension, social security or investments.

Croatia taxes all residents on their worldwide income UNLESS the country where you are making the income has a double taxation treaty in place with Croatia. If your country does have a treaty, then you will pay taxes in the country where you live more than 183 days per year. If your country does not have a treaty, then you’ll need to pay taxes in both places.

You can see which countries have treaties with Croatia here.

You can see the current income tax rates here.

If you wish to have a full tax evaluation performed so you can know exactly what to expect, fill out the form at the bottom of this post. We can connect you to a vetted tax expert in Croatia that can gauge your liability and provide a report personalized to your needs.

Another tax you need to know about is PDV. PDV is the value-added tax (or sales tax) added to products and services. PDV is set at 25% for most things, 10% for tourist-related services and 0% for things like medical care, bank and social services.

You can read all about PDV and which rates are charged on which products here.

Transportation

If moving abroad, it’s important to know how you will get around. Most retirees want to limit their costs and one way to do that is by eliminating the responsibility of a car. Thankfully, it is very easy to get around in Croatia without a car.

To get around Croatia, you can use:

Public transportation

Most cities have their own form of public transportation, which is usually buses but some cities like Zagreb and Osijek also have trams. There are no metros currently in Croatia.

Inter-country transport

Buses – Croatia has an extensive bus system that connects all parts of the country. Buses between cities are operated by a number of private companies.

Buses are how Croatians travel when they don’t have a car. Even if they have a car, they will still use buses for longer trips as it is much more affordable than paying for gas and toll road fees. A round trip on a bus between Split and Zagreb can cost as little as 120 kuna ($19) in low season.

You can learn more about bus travel in Croatia here.

Trains – Trains are predominantly used in the northern part of the country, in Zagreb and Slavonija counties. There is a train line that runs from Zagreb to Rijeka, then goes down the coast ending in Split.

There has been a lot of improvement made to the train system recently, including a hell of a lot of brand new trains. I recently took a train from Split to Kaštela. I was stunned at how nice and new the train was. Felt like I was back in The Netherlands.

You can learn more about train travel in Croatia here.

Ferries – Croatia has 718 islands. Given this, there is an extensive system of state-owned ferries that usher people and cars to and from the islands up and down the coast.

The ferries are a fun and affordable way to travel as well. If you’re in Split, you can be on island Brač in under an hour for just 28 kuna ($4.34).

You can book all of your ferry travel online in advance through Jadrolinija here.

You can learn more about traveling by boat in Croatia here.

Flights – There are 9 commercial airports across Croatia, many of which offer domestic flights to other parts of Croatia through Croatia Airlines.

Croatia Airlines is a reliable and safe airline. It has to meet strict guidelines for operation and safety to be allowed to land in other countries. In addition to domestic flights, Croatia Airlines currently flies to 23 countries.

You can see the list of airports in Croatia here.

You can see our guides on how to get to and from each airport here.

Conclusion

With this post, I hope we have shown how Croatia could be a good place for retirement. Croatia offers a very high quality of life, especially for those coming from more populated, industrialized nations like the United States, Australia, the UK and Western Europe.

On top of the low cost of living, affordable health care and a laid back culture, the country is covered with a variety of diverse climates and landscapes. There are lakes, forests, mountains, deserts, meadows, vineyards, islands and seas.

It’s a nice play to relax and enjoy work-less days.

If you’ve got a question about how to retire in Croatia that we haven’t answered, please contact us.

Need help retiring in Croatia?

When moving to a foreign country, it can be hard to know where to start. Before arriving, it is critical to have a plan on how you will apply for residence once you do arrive.

We recommend that everyone use a lawyer when applying for residency in Croatia. Lawyers have connections within immigration, are able to skip common roadblocks and can identify any risks with your application. In addition, it is rare that the police (who handle immigration) will speak English to applicants.

Our expat-vetted immigration lawyers can review your situation and quickly determine if you qualify for residency, all in English. If you do qualify, they can also handle your residency application from beginning to end. This service includes:

  • Personalized consulting on your specific situation
  • Confirming latest immigration requirements for your nationality and basis
  • Assistance with putting together necessary documents
  • All communication with the police on your behalf
  • Assembly, submission and monitoring of your application
  • Answering questions and assisting you throughout the process

To consult with an immigration lawyer to find out if you qualify to retire in Croatia, please complete the form below and we’ll contact you as soon as possible.

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2 thoughts on “How to retire in Croatia

  1. Frank Markovich
    November 18, 2020 @ 6:34 pm

    Quick question for you Sara,
    As an American and Croatian citizen I assume I am able to reside in Croatia without any restrictions. However, I am curious about my income and taxation. I have spent my entire career in the US and plan on spending 3-6 months in Croatia annually in our home we purchased on Krk with my wife (who is not a Croatian citizen). Will my US income be double taxed by Croatia while I’m in Croatia. I have no problem paying Croatian tax but paying double seems crazy.
    Any thoughts or insights?
    By the way I enjoy your work on this site.

    Frank

    {reply}

    • Expat in Croatia
      November 24, 2020 @ 12:08 pm

      Hi Frank,

      Thanks so much for following the site!

      You are only a tax resident in Croatia if you spend more than 183 days per year here. If you stay under that threshold and don’t do any business here, then you won’t have the obligation to pay tax in Croatia.

      Cheers,

      Sara

      {reply}

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