Thailand will allow Russian tourists to stay visa-free for up to 90 days as of 1 November. The decision comes following Thailand’s Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing on October 16.
Russian tourists have had increasingly few options for travel, given Moscow’s war on Ukraine, the impact of sanctions, travel restrictions, and a weakening ruble. The period of temporary stay for Russian tourists to 90 days, from the original 30 days, will last until 20 April 2024.
Nithee Seeprae, the deputy governor for Marketing Communications at the Tourism Authority of Thailand said the decision to expand Russian tourist visas was based on high demand: “Most of them prefer to stay longer. So, to make it easy for everyone, we expanded the visa.”
Thailand has already seen nearly one million tourists from Russia this year and tourism officials hope that the extension of visa free status will help boost the number coming to the idyllical Southeast Asian country during peak season from November to March.
“The rate for ruble, things are more expensive, like the flight tickets. They don’t have a lot of choices for destinations when traveling because Europe closed [for Russian tourists]. They have some trouble with Visa and Mastercard, but now they can use UnionPay, a Chinese system, and a lot of customers pay by cash,” Igor Shchedrov, general manager at Svoi Travel, a Thailand-based travel agency, told Voice Of America (VOA).
Olga Polyakova, a Russian tourist from Moscow, was recently in Phuket and acknowledged that travel has become more expensive: “Now there’s not a good rate for the ruble, and now really traveling to foreign countries is more expensive than before, but traveling is an important part of my life.”
Russian tourists ranked fifth in the number of international visitors entering Thailand between 1 January and 1 October 2023, according to the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, with 994,431 people.
Despite sanctions, the Kremlin has continued doing business with Thailand. The Southeast Asian nation chose to abstain from a UN vote condemning Russia last year for its military intervention in Ukraine.