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Alexandr and Kamila Razdobarov in their Phuket Tourist Police haven

Phuket Tourist's Nightmare Began With Palpitations in Departure Lounge

Friday, December 23, 2011
PHUKET: Young Russian tourists Kamila and Alexandr Razdobarov flew out of Phuket yesterday after a nightmarish finish to their holiday that exposed Phuket's language flaws and insurance shortcomings.

When Alexandr developed heart palpitations as the couple sat in the departure lounge at Phuket International Airport on Tuesday waiting to board their charter aircraft, Kamila feared her husband might die on the flight.

So she cancelled their passage home and called for help instead. A guide took them to Phuket International Hospital in Phuket City, where 27-year-old Alexandr was treated and found to be healthy.

When it came to pay the bill of 950 baht, it emerged that the couple's Russian insurance company nominates just one Phuket hospital for treatment - the public Vachira Phuket Hospital, which is also in Phuket City.

The couple had to use their last 1000 baht note to pay the bill, leaving them with just 200 baht as Alexandr was transferred by ambulance to Vachira.

The hospital has no contract with the Russians' insurers, but being a general public hospital it does accept all patients, regardless.

Alexandr didn't require admission. It appeared the couple were to be cast out into Phuket's streets, with just 200 baht to their names, when Vachira Phuket's international matron Methavee Maneesri intervened.

Using sign language, she took them down Yaowarat Road to the Tourist Police Headquarters, where there are two bedroom units for visitors in distress.

Kamila and Alexandr were alarmed at being handed over to police until much later when, eventually, a translator is found.

Russian-language speakers are rare on Phuket so the message that went to the tour operator was that Vachira were taking two of their customers to the police for not paying their bill of 2646 baht.

The Phuket tour operator sounded the alarm by calling Public Health's head office and alerting a Bangkok newspaper and other media to the terrible treatment of the Razdobarovs by Vachira Phuket.

Suddenly, kindly Khun Methavee and the Good Samaritan Phuket Tourist Police were fielding telephone calls asking ''Why are you treating these Russian tourists so badly?''

Yesterday, despite the bad attitude of one foul-mouthed representative of the tour company, the Razdobarovs resumed their journey home, leaving Phuket to ponder the mess.

Not enough people on Phuket speak Russian, so confusion is always going to happen until the tourism skill deficiency is overcome.

Another case involving Russian Nikolai Nefedov, who was struck this month by a speedboat propeller while swimming at Kata beach, exposed the travel insurance problem.

He could not pay the bill for his emergency treatment at Phuket International Hospital because his Russian insurance company specifies all treatment must be at Vachira Phuket, the island's overcrowded and overworked large general public hospital.

The same Russian insurance company, Phuketwan understands, has racked up a debt of 300,000 baht at Vachira Phuket, where cash flow is always vital.

What the Russian insurers are doing contravenes standard international practice and exposes all Phuket's hospitals - private and public - to a difficult situation.

Ambulances take people in emergencies to the nearest hospital, and they all respond by treating emergency patients. But who eventually foots the bill?

Russians heading for Phuket would be wise to carefully examine the fine print of their insurance contracts, and change their holiday plans if necessary.

Bon voyage, Kamila and Alexandr.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Good account of interesting story. I presume that no Russian natives are members of the Tourist Police nor in the Honorary Consul group? A company I take to be Russian (from a look at their website but I could be wrong, available in about 6 languages none of them mine) is much in evidence on San Sabai these days. Perhaps it would be in its interests to organise filling these gaps?

Posted by ssresident on December 23, 2011 12:47

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"Not enough people on Phuket speak Russian..."

I thought the place was full of 'em.

Posted by Eric on December 23, 2011 14:39

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With weekly reports about the increasing numbers of Chinese and Russian tourists a sensible person high up in the tourism industry on Phuket would make sure there are enough translators available that authorities or private entities can avail of when needed.

In most countries when dealing with the police, immigration or customs, such interpreters are provided free of charge to ensure just treatment of people, regardless of their nationality.

Phuket always prides itself on being a international holiday destination. This report highlights one of many issues where this "internationalism" has yet to make any significant inroads.

Phuket needs to realize that it's being fed by a large number of international visitors and expats alike and services need to be provided in languages understood by all parties.

Unfortunately paying for translator services is seen by locals as an unnecessary expense since no direct financial benefit can be extracted from it.

Posted by Steve C. on December 23, 2011 16:32

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If you can't speak english, then it's up to you to hire a local guide speaking your language, or travel with a tour company that offer guide and/or tour leader service. In the Scandinavian market this used to be the case and very much still is when it comes to tourists from Finland. To go to a developing country and demand they have translator service for you is just crazy. It's not a human right to go anywhere and be able to use your own language. The Russians and the Chinese or whatever must learn english, or follow the advice above. We already have an international language, english, and if you can't speak it you have to pay up.

Posted by christian on December 24, 2011 13:04

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The description of a nightmare is a bit farfetched. When one travels to another country it is up the traveler to know his insurance situation and visa situation, ect ect. It was not Thailand's fault they do not understand any language but Russian. English is a rule of thumb. I suspect Russians are on tours and babysat all they way through. If they would become independent and mature travelers they would be more prepared. The angry comments of the tour operator, only help bolster the opinion that Russians are a pain in the neck. If they where in France, USA or England would a Russian speaker immediately appear to to help them out. No - Russians are new to international Travel - This incidences will surely educate them and they will stop blaming everyone except themselves. I have tried chatting with the Russians in Phuket. All I get is a blank state of Incomprehension. As for only having 1000 baht - maybe if they carried a credit card or a Debit card the ATM as 99% of all international travelers have on their person. Phuketwan jumps the gun blaming it all on the Thailand hospitals, police, taxis, ect ect. How about a bit of personal responsibility. These were adult people not Children.

Posted by Soinanai on December 24, 2011 15:27

Editor Comment:

'' Phuketwan jumps the gun blaming it all on the Thailand hospitals, police, taxis, ect ect.''

That's not what we read in the article.

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"Russian-language speakers are rare on Phuket" ? Try google "russian phuket"

Posted by Sherlock on December 24, 2011 15:44

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200 baht to their name while on holiday that's all they got or just too cheap to go to ATM??
maybe that's why he was having heart palpitations after looking at his ATM account?? geeeez

Posted by Jimmy Rawai on December 24, 2011 18:03

Editor Comment:

Every been young and impecunious, Jimmy? Many people have. Merry Christmas.

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I'm surprised that Russians leaving Phuket still had 200 baht left in their account. Most would have a massive credit card bill run up. Even the Chinese and Malaysians have more money to spend than the Russians.

Posted by Gunther on December 25, 2011 00:03

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Well, well... Nefodov Can afford to travel to Thailand but cannot pay a bill for 15k at a private hospital... As if all Russian hospitals were instantly insured. No. Private hospitals do not come as cheap as in Thailand. Of course with the accident he should not have to pay, but the hospital is not at fault for his accident at all. It helped him get over it. But it is Thailand and he just run away from his responsibility. He just slapped the people into the face who saved his leg, because they were Thai. If he will go to further treatment in Russia, I am sure he will food the bill there. I still cannot believe he did not pay. Honor? And for the other couple... I do not believe they travelled without ec, visa cards. I do believe they know western union. What on earth do these people do? Come to Thailand broke? Guess not. Only feeling everyone else is at fault. It's their decision, no Thai to blame. Not at all.

Posted by Lena on December 25, 2011 03:22

Editor Comment:

Mr Nefodov did not run away from his responsibility. He couldn't even walk away - one leg had been badly wounded by a speedboat propeller. The driver of the wayward boat clearly should pay. Whether tourists have money or not has nothing to do with travel insurance. And that insurance should be comprehensive, as everyone expects it to be. Why blame the victims?

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Gotta agree with many comments here - You cant expect to go to a developing country and have translator services at your beck and call. I would be surprised if you could find 1 in Sydney very easily.

Another big problem I do see is that they only had 1100 baht left. Silly move on their part. I always ensure I have a few thousand dollars as a back up should anything happen and I always have a good understanding on what my insurance provides.

Cant believe I am about to say this, but I gotta agree with the editor's replies in these comments.

Posted by Joel M on December 25, 2011 08:50

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I've got a german based multiple 60 day travel insurance (pay all without USA) for 1 year that cost me 8 ?????????????? aka 350 Baht or so. A shorter travel days insurance would be even cheaper... Normally I pay first and get reimbursed after sending the invoice to them at home. I have to follow their instructions for a clear invoice and have a telephone number in case of longer stays in hospitals. I wonder if any insurance would take the task to pay for a 800 Baht bill in Thailand. My guess is, that that would be more expansive to do, then what it costs for them, so no.

If the Russians (and I think it may be a "all-incl." tour-insurance) take health insurance on the cheap cheap, they should be aware of its limitations, as every Thai/Whatever, who insures him/herself, must also be.

In case of Mr. Nefodov, I clearly see the boat driver to have to pay the costs and substantially more to Mr. Nefodov. But that is one thing. The other thing is, that Mr. Nefodov saved his leg and life thanks to Bangkok Hospital. He used their services and he was not properly insured so he should, as an honorable man, pay them for their services to him. The hospital is not at fault for his lousy insurance or the lousy police work and the lousy reaction of TAT to his accident. But Mr. Nefodov did like the hospital is. I in his place would be thankful for the emergency treatment and would pay them. Then I would try to get my money back from the sucker who did it or would shame my insurance to pay me back and if not, I would suck it up and pay my stupid tax, as I did this deal.

But maybe that is the unreasonable thing to do. Maybe you, Mr. Ed, are right to combine the two things and hold the Thai hospital accountable for the accident.

Posted by Lena on December 25, 2011 13:00

Editor Comment:

Lena, you've lost the plot. No hospital is responsible for any ''accident.'' And we're talking about Vachira Phuket Hospital and Phuket International Hospital, not Bangkok Hospital. The concept of insurance is simple and widely understood. To have an insurance company that does not meet bills at whichever hospital they are incurred plainly bends the rules to suit itself. And the driver of the speedboat is plainly at fault in Mr Nefodov's case.
You may certainly chase you own refund from the ''sucker.'' Good luck. Most people pay insurance to avoid that.

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I though the editor was going to shut up and let the conversation go where it may. You are not needed here Mr. Editor. Or maybe you are just another bored expat.

Posted by Soinanai on December 25, 2011 13:19

Editor Comment:

You thought wrong, Soinanai. I'm needed, if only to remind you that you've also posted under capealava and Mark Robison and you still seem confused.

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If you get only public hospitals covered in your plan, do not go to private ones, if you do not want to pay extra. Is that so hard to understand or why is that unfair?

Check your cover before you duck. My health plan in Germany covers only public hospitals. I do not expect a professor to cut me open.

International and Bangkok Hospital are private hospitals. And if you think public is enough or you do not care to check, then it is your fault.

As you can see with my example, it is not super expansive to get a private/public travel health insurance.

"And that insurance should be comprehensive, as everyone expects it to be." You are kidding right? If you go cheap cheap it is NOT comprehensive. That is comprehensive, is it not?

You get what you go for. But please, maybe it is an all-in tour offer, that mislead the tourists into thinking they get everything. But then better talk to the foulmouthed tour guide.

And btw anyone who ever bought a private Thai health insurance will laugh at this. For example: If you are pregnant and you have bleedings, they cover the costs if you loose your child, but if the doctors succeed and you can keep it, you pay, because pregnancy is not an covered. Also the cost caps... But that is also written in the fine print. Better check what you get. Seriously.

Posted by Lena on December 25, 2011 14:24

Editor Comment:

We are talking travel insurance, not private health insurance. Are you confused, Lena? Hospitals on Phuket are all obliged to treat emergency patients. Their outlook is governed by principle, not Money.

Reputable travel insurance firms do not specify which hospital. The public hospitals on Phuket treat everyone, out of principle, and are overloaded.

Any insurance company that specifies public hospitals on Phuket is dodging its responsibility and bringing the insurance industry into disrepute. Travellers don't read the fine print, and don't always understand what they are being sold, which is why standards need to be universal.

The insurance company is shaving costs and dodging responsibilty, just like the speedboat driver. The unsuspecting customer is the ''sucker.''.

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Well, they should.

It is their responsibility to know what they buy. I mean that not in a bad mood, it is vital, even for Russians, as accidents (with or without helmet) with crazy people or elephants can also occur on the streets.

Without a good travel insurance you may end up financially dead.

But to think that every travel insurance "should be comprehensive" is as unwise as to think a very good priced all-in travel package to Phuket has to include a five star hotel with beach view.

It could surprise with a hotel in Phuket City. But why read the fine print.

Posted by Lena on December 25, 2011 18:30


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