Most of you have probably already noticed the growing number of Russian expats and tourists that are here on the island. We recently met Olga Rudenko (Assistant to Russian Consul) to ask her about the Russian community on “The Pearl of the Andaman”
Can you explain how long you have been with the Russian Consulate and how did you become involved?
I have worked for the Russian Consulate for nearly 3 years now. The deputy of the Russian Consulate visited the Russian Federation 3 years ago and invited me to come to Phuket and work in the consul’s office. My education is as a national lawyer and that is how I managed to become involved. To be involved with the consulate at my level you do require legal expertise.
Can you tell us the number of Russian expats in Phuket?
Unfortunately, I cannot provide you with the exact figures to answer this question; because the Kingdom of Thailand and Russian Federation have pre-arranged regimes many Russian expats are living here without visas or get visas abroad, therefore we are unaware of the exact amounts.
Where is there main area of residence for Russian expats?
There is not one specific area, they are everywhere. Rawai, Nai Harn, Laguna, Chalong and Kathu all have large Russian expat communities.
What do they like to do whilst living here?
Most of them run their own businesses such as restaurants or real estate agencies. Many of the expats come to get away from the cold Russian winter. Generally, they like to do the same things as any other expats staying here. The busiest time for expats is between October and April when the weather in Russia is really cold.
Are there a lot of Russians who see Phuket as their home?
There are some who come here to live permanently but after 1 or 2 years they decide to go back because of the problems they see in Thailand. What I mean by problems is the corruption and also the police. They think they can have a business here, but then realise it’s very difficult. However, after returning for say 3 months or so, many do actually come back again as they realise that the lifestyle here is so much better for them.
What are the age groups of Russians wanting to come to live here?
There are two age groups really, the first being between 25 and 35 and the second between 50 and 55.
Why do you believe Russians are investing in Phuket?
I think the main reason is because it’s easy for them to do so and also because of the climate and lifestyle. For example, they can come here and buy a boat and visit the islands around Phuket. For Russians the cost of living is so much cheaper here than in Russia. Another factor is that in Russia there are so many police controlling people, which is something they don’t experience here.
Can you explain to us the lifestyle of Russian tourists?
Well usually the tourists come here on a package holiday so they are only here for 2 weeks. Whilst they’re here they like to do the same as any other tourists, they love the beach, like to visit shows such as Fantasea and Simon Cabaret, and they visit restaurants and go to nightclubs.
In the last year we have seen a large increase in the number of tourists coming to Phuket. This is because there are now a large number of chartered flights coming from all over Russia. Previously, flights were only available from the large cities but now the small cities have direct flights here too. Last year the airport report states there were 215,000 visitors, I’m sure for this year that number will be bigger. Previously it was a different type of tourist coming here, you would only get high class people but now the market is open for all classes of people.
What is the reason behind them choosing Phuket as a holiday destination?
The main reason why they’re coming here is because it’s cheap for them to do so and also because it’s a beautiful island with beautiful beaches. There is also a lot of marketing done in Russia by the Tourism Authority which makes so many more people aware. Previously, Russians were visiting places like Turkey and Egypt, but due to the political unrest in those areas, and the cost being the same, they are now choosing to come here.
What is the situation with regards to tour guides for Russian guests?
The problem with this is Thai people cannot speak Russian and Russians cannot speak Thai or English. They just cannot communicate. This problem has to be resolved somehow, but I cannot see how or when the problem will be solved.
What are the main problems they encounter when here?
Well the main problem is the language issue and the usual problems with tuk-tuks, taxi’s and jet skis. The problems they encounter are general problems anyone can encounter when on holiday; they are no problems they encounter just because they are Russian.
We would like to thank Olga for taking time out to speak to us.