What do sanctions mean for Russian expats in Hua Hin?

Downtown Hua Hin, file photo.

Sanctions targeting Russia’s largest banks and financial institutions in the wake of the country’s invasion of Ukraine are having an impact on Russian expats in Hua Hin.

These expatriates aren’t wealthy oligarchs but ordinary people who, like many of us, have chosen Hua Hin as their home.

They run small businesses or are parents with young children who attend local schools.

Hua Hin has a growing Russian expatriate community of an estimated 1,500 people.

To date, Russians account for the largest group of foreign tourists to visit Hua Hin under the Test and Go scheme.

For Russian expats living in Hua Hin, they, like many of us, have a need to access online banking or money transfer services from back home.

They, like many of us, have become accustomed to being able to book a flight online in a matter of minutes.

But with the new sanctions, many of the services Russian expats in Hua Hin normally use to connect with their homeland are suddenly no longer available.

No direct flights

Hua Hin Today recently spoke to several Russian expats in Hua Hin to understand how they have been impacted by the sanctions recently imposed on their country.

“During this time, we [Russian expats] need to be more flexible,” said Kirill, who is visiting Hua Hin for the third time.

Kirill explained that while some banking services are no longer available to Russians, plenty of others still enable money transfers between Russia and Thailand.

Kirill, who is from St Petersburg but lives in Moscow where he runs a digital marketing company, which has a focus on social media influencers.

He arrived in Thailand on Saturday (Mar 6) on one of the last direct Aeroflot flights from Moscow to Bangkok.

Kirill explained that he is staying in Hua Hin and is still deciding what to do about his business.

“With many of the social networks now banned in Russia, I may have to change the approach to my business”, he said.

“This is what I mean when I say we have to be flexible”.

Kirill said that an inconvenience for him was with regards to flights.

“It is still possible to fly between Russia and Thailand but there are no direct flights”.

“Instead, we need to fly via Doha or the Middle East and most of the airlines have raised the prices of tickets”, he said.

Two fold price increases

Another Russian expat, Julia, who runs the Well Done restaurant in Hua Hin, explained that she was able to earn money in baht so can do without rubles for the time being.

It is Russian tourists in Thailand, rather than expats, who will be impacted by the sanctions the most.

Julia explained that there are several money transfer services, namely Qiwi, Union Pay and U Money that are still providing money transfer services to and from Russia – but only to those who have Thai bank accounts.

Julia said the biggest issue for her was the drop in the value of the ruble.

“Everything now costs double or triple what it did only a week ago”.

“Last week 1 baht was worth approximately 2 rubles, now it is 1 baht to 4 rubles,” Julia said.

Interestingly, Julia said that many Russians may now be eager to escape the political situation at home and look to countries like Thailand as somewhere to live.

Meanwhile, another Russian expat who spoke to Hua Hin Today on the condition of anonymity also said that tourists will be most impacted.

“Of course, no one was ready for this, and Russian tourists have certain problems.

“Expats usually have no problems, because they all have bank accounts in Thailand and this problem does not concern them much”, they said.

Marrakesh Hua Hin resort, popular with Russian expats and tourists.

Meanwhile, Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, has offered advice to Russians overseas regarding payments abroad.

“Payments abroad and in foreign online stores with Russian cards issued by Visa and MasterCard will be limited,”’ the company said in an email to customers.

“We recommend that Russians abroad withdraw enough cash in advance and pay large expenses (hotels, tickets) in advance.

“In a number of foreign countries cards of the Mir payment system are accepted (Turkey, UAE, Vietnam, Armenia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Cyprus).

“To pay for purchases and withdraw cash abroad, you can apply for a Mir-UnionPay co-badged card, which will be accepted both in Russia and in 180 countries that support Union Pay.”