Pattaya is located about 150 km south east of Bangkok on the Gulf of Thailand and the region includes many great beaches and island resorts including Koh Samet and Koh Chang islands. Pattaya is best known for the beer bars and go-go bars but is hard at work to clean up this reputation and offer decent holidays for decent people. But the biggest challenges Pattaya has to face are very difficult to do much about – the government has allowed massive over-development and has not looked after its beaches. Sex tourism is still thriving in Pattaya too.
That said, there are some things that make it worth putting on your Thailand holiday itinerary. The massive development means that there is lots to see and do around the area, some great places to stay and eat, and of course the offshore islands are absolutely spectacular and a great escape from the tourist hordes.
There’s a lot of activities here that you just don’t find easily in other places in Thailand, like horse riding and bungee jumping, go-karts, range shooting and great golf courses. Water sports are also very popular in Pattaya so you can go scuba diving, snorkelling, wind surfing, water skiing, kite surfing and even sailing in small boats. If you love the water, you will like Pattaya.
Getting to Pattaya from Bangkok
The easiest way to get there from Bangkok is by plane from Don Meuang Airport where flights are available several times a day with Bangkok Airways for around 800 Bt. But there are also VIP buses that run from the Eastern (Ekamai) and Northern (Mo Chit) bus terminals in Bangkok to North Pattaya Road (which is actually in central Pattaya) about every 30-40 minutes, cost about 120Bt and take about two hours to get to Pattaya.
From Khao San Road backpacker district in Bangkok there are tourist mini-buses that run several times a day for around 400Bt. The most common departure times are 9 AM, midday and 5:30 PM, but just ask at any of the hotels or tour agencies around Khao San Road for the latest details. These are door-to-door services that will drop you at your hotel and take about two hours to get there.
On week days only there is a cheap train service between Hualamphong Train Station in Bangkok and Pattaya Station for about 30Bt. The train is 3rd class only, not air-conditioned and takes about 3.5 hours to get to Pattaya. It’s an interesting experience for anyone wanting to find out what life is like for the Thais. The train leaves Bangkok at 6:50 AM and arrives in Pattaya at about 10:20 AM. There is a return service from Pattaya at 2:20 PM which arrives in Bangkok at about 5:40 PM.
You can also get there by making your way to Hua Hin and catching a high-speed catamaran. This is a more expensive option at about 1600Bt and takes around three hours. It only operates during the mid and high tourist seasons and there are three services per week on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
Getting around in Pattaya
Pattaya is not a particularly difficult place to navigate as the main street runs along the beach and there are three major roads that run parallel to the main road, with four major cross streets. The confusing bit is that they name the sub-districts pretty strangely. South Pattaya is really the centre of town and Central Pattaya is in the north.
The main north-south roads are Beach Road (T. Hat Pattaya), Second Road and Third Road. They are crossed running east-west by North Pattaya Road (T. Pattaya Nua), Central Pattaya Road (T. Pattaya Klang) and South Pattaya Road (T. Pattaya Tai). Beach Road and North Road meet at the roundabout at the north end of the beach. Beach Road south of South Pattaya Road is a walking street in the evenings with lots of markets, bars and restaurants to enjoy.
There are two other districts outside the main beach area. Naklua is to the north of North Pattaya Road and is where you can find buses and trains to Bangkok and elsewhere. The beaches are quieter in Naklua, but there are also less facilities. Buddha Hill is to the south of South Pattaya Road.
You won’t find any tuk-tuks in Pattaya. The easiest and cheapest way to get around in Pattaya is by songthaew, a covered utility vehicle that acts a bit like a public bus. These utilities are dark blue and will beep at you as they approach to see if you want to jump on. The fare is usually 10Bt for trips within Pattaya. Don’t tell them where you are going unless you don’t know where to go, because they may try to negotiate a higher fare. Just knock on the inside window when you want to get off. There are also white songthaews in Pattaya that run along Sukumvhit Road and will take you to Si Racha and Sattahip for 20Bt.
There’s a local “Beach Bus” service that runs a circular route between Pattaya Floating Market, Chaiyapreuk, Jomtien Beach Road, Thappraya, Pattaya Second Road, the Dolphin Roundabout, the Northern Bus Terminal, City Hall, Pattaya Beach Road, Thappraya, then back onto Jomtien Beach Road and back to the Floating Market. It costs about 30Bt to ride this bus.
Although there appear to be metered taxis in Pattaya, they don’t like running the meter and prefer to bargain for a fixed fare. This is changing as the Thai government cracks down on taxi services but it’s still very common. A typical fare will be 200-300Bt.
Motorbikes and scooters are pretty easy to hire in Pattaya but beware of the traffic, which can be pretty chaotic. Read our 10 tips for surviving a scooter hire in Thailand before you do this! You can hire a scooter for around 150-300Bt per day at lots of places around Pattaya, but you usually need to leave your passport as security or pay a large security deposit. Insurance is often not included in the hire charge and you really need this in Pattaya because there are lots of accidents and lots of bikes get stolen.
Things to see and do in Pattaya
The main feature of Pattaya is Pattaya Beach, which runs along the main street. But if you want to get away from the crowds a little, take a look at Jomtien Beach (catch the “Beach Bus”) in the southern end of Pattaya over Buddha Hill where you’ll find less crowds, more water sports, amusement parks and a cleaner beach. Wong Prachan beach to the north of the city is also a very popular swimming spot and a lot more peaceful and laid back.
If you’re into religious icons, there’s plenty to see around Pattaya. Check out the big Bhudda Statue on Buddha Hill which also has great views of the surrounding area and is a good place to take photos.
There’s plenty of theme parks to keep the kids entertained in Pattaya:
- (1) Mini Siam is like the whole of Thailand in miniature plus some icons from around the world like London Bridge and the Eiffel Tower – entry is 250Bt for adults and 120Bt for children.
- (2) Romance of the Three Kingdoms Theme Park is a Chinese garden that brings to life the epic Chinese story of the Three Kingdoms – entry is 150Bt for adults, 80Bt for kids.
- (3) Pattaya Elephant Village lets you see the daily routine of working elephants and how wild elephants are caught and tamed – entry is 900Bt which includes a show, plus you can take an elephant ride and a river rafting ride for an extra 1800Bt.
- (4) Underwater World is a typical aquarium theme park with a 100 metre long glass walled tunnel and a special zone where you can see fish from the Amazon – entry is 400Bt for adults, 200Bt for children.
- (5) Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden on Sukhumvit Road is a 500 acre lush tropical paradise with intricately designed and manicured gardens, lawn statues and an elephant show for children. For more information, visit www.nongnoochtropicalgarden.com.
- (6) The Sanctuary of Truth is a highly sculptured temple on the beach in Bang Lamun, not far from the Garden Sea View Resort. It’s one of the few temples in Thailand made entirely from wood and has both Hindu and Buddhist themes. It looks quite old but was actually built by a local guy in 1981 – it has some nice aesthetic features and a great philosophy to try to understand. Entry fee is 500Bt.
- (7) Sriracha Tiger Zoo, located in Sri Racha district on the outskirts of Pattaya, is a questionable tourist attraction mainly because it doesn’t really have the space or the facilities for the animals it tries to house. But you can have your photo taken there with a tiger, a gibbon or even a crocodile if you want to and they do put on a good tiger show.
- If you want to visit a zoo in Pattaya, the (8) Khao Kheow Open Zoo, also in Sri Racha, may be a better option. The goal of this zoo is education so there are lots of themes to teach the kids about different animals.
If you or the kids are bored there are lots of activities available in pattaya including 10 pin bowling (on Second Road near Soi Regent Marina), a Paintball Park (on Thep Prasit Road), the Pattaya Kart Speedway (also on Thep Prasit Road), Tiffany’s Shooting Range (on Second Road near Moo 9) and a video game parlour with Playstation games (off Soi Buakhao near Soi Diana Inn).
The best shopping in Pattaya can be found at the Central Festival Mall on Beach Road near Soi 9. This is a typical Asian super-mall with lots of bargains including electronics, jewellery and clothing. There’s also some good places to eat and a supermarket in the basement. But save some money for the markets too, including the Thepprasit Market every evening from 6PM till Midnight on Thepprasit Road near Sukhumvit Road. There’s also a day market on Soi Buakhao each Tuesday and Friday, across from the Friendship supermarket.
Places to stay in Pattaya
Royal Twins Hotel is a popular 3-star hotel with 348 rooms on Second Road with 24 hour room service, a child-minding service, a poolside bar beside a stunning swimming pool and a kids club and kids pool. The location is very central, just behind the Royal Garden Plaza with lots of bars and restaurants close by. The rooms mostly have ocean views and it’s great value for money. It’s easy to find your way back to the Royal Twins Hotel because it’s about the biggest building in downtown Pattaya. Rooms are spacious and comfortable.
Pullman Pattaya Hotel G is a 5-star hotel with 353 rooms located on Pattaya-Naklua Road in the Wong-Amart Beach section north of town. Facilities include 24 hour room service, restaurants, bicycle rental, child-minding service and a poolside bar. Rooms are large and spacious with garden and some of the best beach views in Pattaya. Service is really good here, with friendly staff who seem willing to go out of their way to make sure you are happy. Take time to enjoy the Beach Club bar where you can watch the sunset over Pattaya Beach.
Siam Bayshore Resort and Spa is a 4.5-star resort hotel on Beach Road in South Pattaya between the Walking Street and the Bali Hai Pier with 24 hour room service, some great restaurants, a coffee shop, child-minding services and a poolside bar and kids pool. The resort is made up of 12 low-rise blocks nestled inside gardens and lagoons. It doesn’t look much from the outside, but once you get into the resort it’s very nicely presented and landscaped. It’s a great location if you’re into the nightlife and bar scene.
Places to eat and drink in Pattaya
Of course being one of the most developed beach locations in Thailand, Pattaya does have great (if sometimes seedy) nightlife and a great array of restaurants.
If you’re looking for cheap eats, consider the noodle stall next to the bus station in North Pattaya with meals around 25 Bt, or the Big C Food Court on Pattaya Klang Road near Third Road which has the usual range of cheap eateries and good Isaan food.
The restaurant at the Sailor Bar is always a good option (Soi 8 near Beach Road) for breakfast (eggs, bacon, toast, jam and coffee for 55 Bt). It’s also a pretty good option for dinner with hamburgers for 60 Bt or a t-bone with fries for 120 Bt.
If you’re looking for something special and romantic, try dinner at Breezeo where you can dine on a private beach and design your own cocktails. Breezeo is inside the Royal Cliff Grand Hotel grounds and has great seafood and Thai cuisine.
For some of the best food in Pattaya, try the Sraan Rest on Moo 12 off Thepprasit Road where you will find great Thai food and dine in open air gardens away from all the noise and traffic.
If beer bars and go-go bars are your scene, you’ll find plenty to keep you entertained in Pattaya. Beer bars are different to go-go bars, in case you didn’t know. At beer bars the bar girls are available for hire to keep you company and help you buy more drinks. Sometimes they will do other things too. Go-go bars have dancing girls in bikinis who do strange things with poles and pingpong balls. You will find the best range of beer bars and go-go bars along Walking Street.
If you’re like us and prefer a nice pub with live music you should check out the Hard Rock Cafe (inside the Hard Rock Hotel on Beach Road), the Lovely Corner Bar (on the corner of Beach Road and Soi 7), or the Blues Factory (just off Walking Street).
If you like the nightclub scene there lots to choose from around the Walking Street area including Lucifer (popular with young Thais), Club Insomnia (the place to go after 2AM), Lima Lima (the best DJs in Pattaya), MIXX (Rythm and Blues music and disco) or Marine Disco (like Lucifers but with house music). For something more sane, try the Beach Club afternoon parties every Friday and every second Saturday with theme nights and a variety of club music styles.