About 7,000 Russians and Ukrainians stranded in Thailand

PHOTO: A group on Patong Beach protest the invasion of Ukraine that has left thousands of Russians and Ukrainians stranded. (via NNT)

While it’s common to discuss the influx of Russians as they pour into the country and are investing more and more in villas and homes, it’s easy to forget about the thousands of people who are not staying by choice in Thailand. Around 7,000 Russians and Ukrainians are currently stranded in Thailand due to the ongoing war between the two countries.

Many of them are in Phuket, an island that used to attract seven million overseas visitors every year. The collapse of tourism due to the pandemic has already caused a lot of damage, and, while the island is welcoming back tourism now, the situation with stranded Russian and Ukrainian tourists looms in the background.

The Russians have become the largest group of foreign visitors in Phuket, with around 17,000 arriving in December for example. Signs in Cyrillic script and restaurants serving traditional Russian dishes like borscht and pelmeni dumplings are now common sights in the area to cater to Russian tourists.

Not all are staying in Phuket by choice though. The conflict in Ukraine has left many Russians stranded, with airlines cancelling flights home. Many are opposed to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions and do not support the war, but rarely speak out for fear of persecution when they finally return home.

Money is a major issue for them as they cannot withdraw cash from ATMs or use their credit cards due to sanctions on Russia. Some have resorted to using Western Union or cryptocurrency to get cash, but these options are also becoming less viable by the day.

Local Russian businesses were busy at first with the influx of Russians, but as money access worsened, their shops and restaurants lost clientele as they were unable to pay. Some have offered payments through transfers within their home country, from one Russian bank account to another. And some hotels and hostels have offered discounted long-stay rooms and even free hostel beds when stranded Russians’ funds run out.

For Ukrainians who were in Thailand when the invasion started, the situation is even worse. They are unable to enjoy their stay in the country as they constantly watch and read the news about the ongoing conflict. Many were supposed to fly back to Kyiv but found their flights cancelled or were urged by relatives to stay in the safety of Thailand as long as possible.

While stranded tourists are being offered 90-day visa extensions, some worry that their money won’t last. The Ukrainian Embassy in Thailand has received more than 100 offers from Thai residents offering up free accommodation for war refugees. And some hotels and hostels have offered discounted long-stay rooms and even free hostel beds when stranded Russians’ funds run out.

The Thai government is still looking for methods for stranded Russians to move money out of Russia to Thailand to pay for their stay.

Phuket NewsTourism News

Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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