According to Thailand’s Real Estate Information Centre (REIC), Russian citizens own almost 40% of foreign-owned condominiums in Phuket, valued around a combined 880 million baht.
Russians have become the primary condo buyers in Phuket, surpassing the Chinese. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Thailand, and specifically Phuket, has become a haven for Russian citizens. The number of Russians in Phuket has increased, with 233,000 arrivals reported at Phuket International Airport between November 2022 and January 2023 – approximately 3,000 – 5,000 new arrivals each day.
With the war entering its second year, more and more Russians are investing in real estate in Thailand. Some wealthy Russians have applied for the Thailand Elite Card, which allows for stays ranging from five to twenty years, with membership fees ranging from 600,000 baht to two million baht.
Russian citizens own nearly 40% of the condominiums owned by foreigners in Phuket, with some investing over US$500,000 (nearly 18 million baht) in seaside villas. Or, more specifically, 40% of the available condos for foreign freehold over a specified time which the REIC didn’t specify in their article.
As a result, rental rates for condominiums in the province have increased, with luxury condominiums that used to rent for 35,000 baht per month now costing three times as much. Some condo rates are now as high as 210,000 baht per month.
Phuket real estate agent Sofia Malygaevareal told Al Jazeera that her Russian clients are typically wealthy individuals aged 30 to 35. Some plan to stay in Phuket for three to six months, while others plan to stay long-term. Some Russians even purchase one-way tickets to Thailand, with no intention of returning to their home country, as they are fleeing conscription.
Russian citizens are not just moving to Phuket but are also opting for other popular tourist destinations in Thailand, such as Bangkok, Koh Samui, and Pattaya. According to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Pattaya, Mikhail Ilyin, Russian people have been arriving in Pattaya since October 2022. Many are young couples who are concerned about their safety if they remain in their home country.
However, the influx of Russian citizens has caused problems in the job market for locals in Phuket. Many business owners and residents have complained that foreigners, particularly Russians, have taken away job opportunities. Locals claim that many Russian citizens are working illegally and running tour agencies in the province. They have become taxi drivers, tour guides, chauffeurs for Phuket city tours, singers and musicians at bars, and even civil engineers.