With its balmy beaches, laid back lifestyles and holiday vibe, the tropical paradise of Bali has much to offer any world weary traveler – let alone those fleeing a war zone.
So perhaps it should be no surprise that since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Indonesia’s most famous holiday island has once again become a magnet for thousands of Russians and Ukrainians seeking to escape the horrors of war.
Some 58,000 Russians visited this Southeast Asian idyll in 2022 following its post-Covid reopening, and a further 22,500 arrived in January 2023 alone, according to the Indonesian government, making them the second biggest group of visitors after Australians. Adding to their number are the more than 7,000 Ukrainians who arrived in 2022, and some 2,500 in the first month of this year.
“Whenever we get reports about a foreigner behaving badly, it’s almost always Russian,” a local police officer in the town of Kuta told CNN, declining to be identified due to sensitivities surrounding the issue.
“Foreigners come to Bali but they behave like they are above the law. This has always been the case and it has to finally stop,” he said.