Russian travelers in limbo in Bali amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

File photo of a surfer in Bali. Photo: Pixabay
File photo of a surfer in Bali. Photo: Pixabay

The invasion of Russia toward Ukraine has reportedly left Russian nationals in Bali in limbo due to the economic challenges as a result of the war.

According to a dance studio owner, who asked to be quoted anonymously, many of her Russian clients are facing financial difficulties because of the SWIFT sanction and other restrictions.

“SWIFT code banned, [they also] cannot accept [money] on PayPal, and their Russian banks are blocked,” she told Coconuts, adding, “Digital nomads from Russia cannot accept payments. Applying for ATM cards to Indonesian banks is also out of the question because they have tourist visas.”

The dance studio offers pole dancing classes, which, according to the owner, are particularly popular amongst foreigners, including Russians and Ukrainians. One of her clients, she said, could not receive money from her husband in Moscow due to the restrictions.

“Hallf of our students are from Russia and Ukraine who have expressed that they cannot join [classes] anymore. The Ukrainians want to save money for their families, while the Russians are facing financial restrictions,” she said, adding the Ukrainian students did not find pole dancing particularly enjoyable anymore due to the war.

She added that the Russian nationals are scared of going home but, at the same time, confused about what to do in Bali.

Speaking to Coconuts under a pseudonym, Oleg, a 27-year-old IT freelancer from Russia who resides in Bali, said that he is aware of the financial restrictions. Oleg traveled to his homeland mere weeks before Russia’s invasion and plans to return to Bali this week.

“I’m going to a bank office [in Russia] now and will take their JCB card. This is a Japanese payment system (like Visa). This type of card, we can use [abroad],” he said in a text message.

Oleg confirmed stories of financial restrictions that Russian nationals abroad (including in Bali) are facing. He revealed that there are types of bank cards that Russian nationals can use amid the restrictions, but they are not popular, and not many Russians have them.

Adding that he would also use cryptocurrency as a way to survive, he said that while he heard that many Russian nationals have applied for Indonesian bank account ownership, it was not legally possible.

“If I have this opportunity, I will do it,” he said, adding that he would continue finding clients and businesses abroad for the next few months.

“I like Bali and [even] without [the] financial problems, I would like to stay for a long time. But now it depends on my salary and financial opportunities,” he added.

Another Russian national who is willing to be quoted under the condition of anonymity said that they are aware of the international banking card cancellation. 

“Yes, we can’t use our cards [starting] from March 10 [Thursday],” they told Coconuts.

While they refuse to reveal more details due to the sensitivity of the situation, the Russian national said that with KITAS (limited stay permit), it was possible for them to obtain local ATM cards.

Coconuts have contacted the local bank in question for confirmation, as well as the Russian Consulate in Bali.

Russian nationals have traditionally been one of the top visitors to the Island of the Gods. 

According to the Central Statistics Agency, in 2020, 67,491 Russian nationals were among the 4 million international tourists in Indonesia. Despite the pandemic starting two years ago, 2,324 Russian nationals still traveled to Indonesia in 2021. In January 2022 alone, there were 1,147 Russian nationals traveling to Indonesia, and, since Bali reopened to foreign tourists late last year, Russian tourists made up the majority of  1,600 foreign tourists who flew directly to the island.

Also Read — Russians, Australians make up most of 1,600 int’l visitors arriving in Bali: senior minister

Just last week, Tourism and Creative Industry Minister Sandiaga Uno said that Russian and Ukrainian tourists could help boost Bali’s tourism sector, which has been devastated since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Sandiaga went further and said that the Indonesian government would not close its tourism hotspot for Russian and Ukrainian tourists and hoped the ongoing war would not hamper the island’s tourism business.

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