Thailand has suddenly found itself in the middle of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine as citizens of both countries now find themselves stranded in the Kingdom for different reasons and the government decided to allow complimentary visa extensions on compassionate grounds.
While citizens of Ukraine are now suddenly refugees of the horrible war, Russian citizens (common tourists who are NOT to blame for this situation) are unable to return home due to lack of flights.
At the same time, there is also an issue involving finances for these people, and Thai officials, as well as hotel owners, have taken steps to offer the affected tourists complimentary shelter.
Thailand is very popular with Russian tourists who have been consistently topping the visitor charts since the country reopened. Thailand also maintains a very good relationship with the government to the point of Thais being able to visit Russia without a visa, utilizing a rare visa waiver exception.
In the case of tourists from Russia their main issue is that their bank cards stopped working after the large payment processors Amex, Mastercard, and Visa have shut down operations in the Russian Federation at a pre-announced cut-off date, let alone the fact that the Ruble dropped steeply in value.
It’s now reported in Thai media that more than 7,000 tourists just in the holiday regions from both Russia and Ukraine are affected by the situation and now scramble what to do next.
The Bangkok Post reported last week that those ~ 7,000+ affected are now being aided by the government to extend visas free of charge to remain legally in the country and receive humanitarian assistance.
More than 7,000 tourists from Russia and Ukraine in Thailand are allowed to extend their visas without an application fee as the government is considering measures to offer humanitarian assistance to those affected by international flight cancellations. …
There are roughly 7,000 tourists from the two countries in four tourism areas, comprising Phuket, Koh Samui, Pattaya and Krabi.
To mitigate the short-term impact, tourists can extend their 30-day visa without paying the application fee, which costs 1,900 baht for both Ukrainians and Russians.
For tourists who are unable return home, whether due to suspended flights or political unrest, and cannot afford to stay in Thailand, the government plans to offer them shelter.
The possible locations are Phuket and Pattaya, depending on a survey tourism operators were sending out to their guests this week.
Regarding transactions via Russian banks and credit cards that are blocked, tourism operators are working with UnionPay, a payment platform from China, to offer this channel to Russian visitors.
Tourism associations also suggest the government consider the emergency use of cryptocurrencies to let tourists have an alternative payment system in this situation and for similar crises in the future.
Mr Yuthasak said another concern is tourists’ health insurance, with some private hospitals reluctant to offer medical services for Covid-19 patients from Russia because of financial sanctions and interrupted payment methods.
The government has to seek solutions to ensure that patients will receive proper treatment if needed, he said.
For those who want to return, the Russian government may arrange repatriation flights for their citizens, however Thailand will not deport any tourists back home without their consent.
Bhummikitti Raktaengam, president of the Phuket Tourist Association, said flight cancellations by two Russian airlines — S7 Airlines and Aeroflot — definitely affected the Russian market as their direct routes covered a large part of Russia, sharing around 70% of this market with Phuket.
The number of tourists will likely be a lot higher than 7,000 as this number didn’t include the Bangkok Metropolitan area as per this article.
Going through the hassle of Visa extensions is the smallest issue. The affected individuals could probably even be eligible to file for asylum in Thailand considering their home countries are presently at war.
It’s unclear how often these visa could be extended under this amnesty. It’s probably best to contact immigration before making a trip there unless an office is nearby such as in Phuket (Patong Beach).
That the discussion now moves to the Thai medical system yet again, claiming that hospitals are refusing to treat patients for Covid-19 over payment concerns shows the despicable side of Thailand’s medical sector. This wouldn’t even be legally acceptable in most countries and a strong reminder that it’s not a good idea to travel to Thailand without decent health insurance that can give a payment guarantee to the hospital in case of medical care being required.
Another article today outlines that many Russian tourists would actually like to go home but the lack of flight options makes this very difficult to impossible right now.
Thousands of Russian tourists in Thailand are struggling to find a route home, officials said Sunday, as international sanctions imposed over the war in Ukraine hit holidaymakers.
Russia’s invasion in February provoked a host of international measures targeting businesses and banks, with some Russian carriers cancelling flights and global payment firms suspending services.
Russians tourists have been among the largest group of visitors to return to Thailand’s beachside resorts since pandemic restrictions eased, but many now find themselves without a return ticket.
Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, the deputy governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), said 3,100 Russians were stuck in Phuket, while just over 2,000 were in Samui, and smaller numbers were in Krabi, Phangnga and Bangkok.
The agency was working on helping those who wanted to return home, he said, including “discussion on return flights which could be regular or special flights”.
Russian tourist and mother-of-three Evgenia Gozorskaia said her family discovered their return Aeroflot tickets had been cancelled.
“We are very nervous because the children are very small, we don’t have enough money to live here,” said the 41-year-old psychologist who arrived from Moscow with her husband and children — aged seven, four and two — on Feb 27. …
While Thailand has not banned Russian flights, international airspace restrictions have seen some firms — such as Russia’s flagship Aeroflot — cancelling services, leaving tourists to seek alternative routes, such as through the Middle East with different carriers.
Many tourists have also been hit by Visa and Mastercard suspending operations.
“We have seen instances of difficulty in card payments by Russians in Phuket due to how Mastercard and Visa have suspended services in Russia,” said Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, president of the Phuket Tourist Association.
He said officials were considering adopting the Mir system — a Russian electronic fund transfer structure — as well as digital currencies. Local communities across Thailand were also stepping in.
“We will pay for water, electric, everything for them,” said Archimandrite Oleg, representative of the Orthodox Church in Thailand, who said they were helping at least one family with four children stranded in Koh Samui….
Around 23,000 Russians travelled to Thailand in January this year, according to the TAT. …
I talked to one Russian tourist at a Bangkok hotel this week and she said that short before the payment systems were shut down her family asked the hotel to charge their credit card for the next two months of accommodation and meals (not sure it’s a great deal to eat overpriced hotel food for two months but whatever… ). Considering the decline of the Ruble their holiday suddenly got a whole lot more expensive I guess. I gave them some addresses and my phone number in case more information is needed.
Tourists who wish to seek a visa extension or avail themselves of other immigration services can find details on their website here or call 1178 for immigration information.
The local embassy should at least in theory be able to assist in most welfare-related matters.
- Website of the Embassy of Russia in Thailand (Surawong Area, near Le Meridien Bangkok)
- Website of the Embassy of Ukraine in Thailand (All Seaons Place complex attached to Conrad Hotel)
I wouldn’t expect much help from the embassies though especially in these difficult times.
It makes sense for Thailand to remain on good terms with Russia considering their strong economic ties. Tourists from Russia have contributed quite a lot to the Thai economy over the last 20 years as so many travel to Thailand each year so it’s quite easy and understandable to provide some assistance and not let people in need stand alone.
Tourists from the Ukraine and Russia will be able to use some assistance provided by the Thai government that officials announced would be available as a humanitarian effort to aid those stranded in Thailand.
Affected tourists might have to search a little to find someone who is willing to help for anything beyond immigration matters such as shelter and items of daily necessity. If nobody is able to provide information I would contact the TAT or the Embassy to ask for a proper point of contact.
The war that is currently underway is a horrific catastrophe and despite the awful pictures that reach us every day we should be mindful that ordinary citizens who go about their daily life either at home or now stuck abroad have nothing to do with this atrocity. The responsibilities lay solely with the politicians as so often. Let’s keep these folks in our hearts and minds rather than blaming them personally for what’s going on in the world and provide assistance when we can. I have no problem helping out either Russian or Ukrainian people in this situation if I encounter someone who needs support, their lives are miserable enough as it is under these conditions.