In a nutshell
The City of Sin, as it has been dubbed for decades, Pattaya has not yet lost its sexy fleur regardless all the efforts of the city authorities that try to reinvent it as a family-friendly destination. That said, the sights and activities the city offers for kids and families abound and while the red bars are still teeming with life any time of the year, rumours are heard that the famous Walking Street will soon give way to a wide seaside promenade.
Why go to Pattaya
Well, if put sex tourism aside, Pattaya promotes itself as a seaside resort. And while you do not find that crystal clear sea and white sand beaches there, Koh Larn island, 7 km offshore, caters for sun and sea revellers and there is a number of nice beaches with transparent waters and local flavour within half-an-hour drive from the city.
Nightlife is big in Pattaya, whether you are after drinking or dancing till you drop, and sundowners from a couple of stylish rooftop bars are unbeatable.
Family-friendly attractions include an abundance of pet zoos and farms – the Crocodile Farm, at least two different Sheep farms, a new Tiger Zoo and several elephant camps, just to name a few. If you explore further, you’ll discover the Turtle Conservation Centre and a Bear Breeding Reserve.
Harbor Pattaya, a relatively new shopping and entertainment centre, has a rollerdrome, a climbing wall, two large kids’ playgrounds and even an ice rink. The biggest beachfront shopping mall in Thailand, Central Festival Pattaya Beach, lures shoppers with boutique shops, restaurants and nice views from its terraces.
When to go to Pattaya
Pattaya is a 100% all-year round destination. While there is a rainy season which normally falls between September and October, days when it pours all-day-long are extremely rare. As a general rule, December to February is the best time to visit, especially if you are not used to hot weather. Evenings are often cool during winter period, and the sun is not so scorching hot.
March and April are probably the worst months as it can be either hell hot or rainy. But it is the period of blooming for many ornamental trees like golden cassia or pink crape myrtle, followed by flaming royal delonix, which all look incredibly handsome on the background of the blue sea. Summer months can be humid but are not so oppressing hot, plus it is the season for many local fruits including mangosteens, lychees and rambutans, and low tide is common in the morning.
Where to stay in Pattaya
When it comes to accommodation options, it’s hard to think about another town or city in Thailand – Bangkok being the only exception – which offers the similar range of options. Though backpacker oriented hostels and guesthouses started to emerge in recent years, the majority of hotels and resorts fall between mid-range and top end.
Depending on your objectives, choose the area of the city to stay in. Party animals and Isan beauties hunters should check the central part of the city between Pattaya North and Pattaya South Roads and Pattaya Beach Road and Soi Buakhao.
The northern part of Pattaya including Nakluea, hosts more respectable hotels and resorts and in general more quiet.
Heading south from the centre you get to Pratamnak Hill, green and picturesque, dotted with mid-range to top end hotels and boutique condominiums. Both Nakluea and Pratamnak are a good choice for those who are after the sea as these are the two areas where city beaches are more or less appealing.
Jomtien, further south, is more budget-friendly than the other areas and accommodates individual travellers and package tourists alike. Finally, Najomtien, which is a fair half-an-hour ride from the centre, is home to more relaxed and upscale hotels with their own territory and private beaches.
Where to eat in Pattaya
Everywhere! Pattaya eats 24/24. Street stalls, day and night markets, food courts in supermarkets, simple street eateries, Thai family restaurants, or elegant international venues – choices are endless. Being a popular destination for retiring expats from around Europe, America and Australia, Pattaya boasts a huge amount of restaurants serving authentic dishes from around the world. Wanna pizza? No problem! Need the best frozen margherita? They have it! Strive for local specialties from Isan? Just look around!
It is an ultimate foodie’s paradise, you bet!
Getting around in Pattaya
Rather unexpectedly, it is quite easy and cheap to move around Pattaya relying on public transport which has the form of songthaews here, or pickup trucks with two benches inside. A ride costs THB10 within the city (THB20 if you cross more than one zone, e.g. from Jomtien to the North).
Songthaew routes cover the whole city and are easy to figure out. They travel from north to south along the Beach Road and from the corner of Pattaya South and Second Road to Jomtien. In the opposite direction, songthaews start in Jomtien and proceed all way long to Pattaya North along Jomtien Beach Road, Thappraya and the Second Road. Roads going up from the sea, including Thepprasite Road, Pattaya South, Pattaya Cenral and Pattaya North are all served by songthaews, too.
White songthaews ply the main transport artery, Sukhumvit, whisking passengers up to Sattahip in the south. These ones cost THB20.
Getting in and out
Pattaya is easily reached from all the three main bus terminals in Bangkok, Morchit, Southern bus terminal and Ekkamai. Tickets cost about THB120, and the trip can take anywhere from two to 4 hours depending on whether your bus calls en route to Chonburi or Sri Racha.
Minivans do a faster job bringing you to Pattaya from Bangkok in less than 2 hours, but as everywhere van drivers are a tad crazy.
There is a direct service to Pattaya from Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok. Buses leave hourly and take two hours, arriving either to the Northern bus station (Bell Travel) or to Jomtien bus stop near FoodMart (Pattaya airport bus). In high season tickets sell quickly so if you want to catch a particular bus, book ahead or you can end up waiting for a vacant seat fro a couple of hours.
U-Tapao airport, which is actually in Rayong province, is the closest airport to Pattaya and is being massively enlarged at the moment. Right now it serves some charter international flights with local airlines slowly putting their foot there, too. Chiang Mai, Koh Samui, Hat Yai, Udon Thani and Nakhon Ratchasima are reached from U-Tapao. AirAsia have recently inaugurated their flight between Pattaya and Phuket, and Lion Air, another high rank lowcost regional airline, is struggling to make U-Tapao their hub.
Rather inconveniently, there is no large bus station or terminal in Pattaya. Many bus companies, calling to the city, use their own ‘bus stations’, and it is quite hard for a visitor to figure out where to look for buses leaving to a particular destination. In many cases it is easier get to Bangkok from Pattaya and then to catch an onward bus from there.
Some of the most popular destinations you can reach from Pattaya by bus include:
– Aranyaprathet (for crossing the border to Cambodia and further to Angkor; THB250) and Mukdahan (for Savannakhet in Laos; THB700) served by Yellow bus from Northern bus station;
– Koh Samui (the bus brings you to Donsak pier; ferry ticket is not included; THB800); the same bus company;
– Nong Khai (for Vientiane in Laos; from THB500); 407 bus company; bus station in Sukhumvit Road, city side, past Pattaya Central Road;
– Chiang Mai (from THB500); Nakhon Chai Air – one of the largest bus companies in the country with a huge fleet of buses of different classes of comfort; bus station in Sukhumvit Road, East Pattaya side, past Pattaya Central Road.
In 2017, a new catamaran service linked Pattaya to the royal sea resort of Hua Hin, on the other side of the Gulf. The ferry takes about two hours to cross the bay with tickets costing THB1200.
Safety in Pattaya
As many tourist destinations, Pattaya attracts different folks. Serious crimes against tourists are uncommon, but bag and lace snatching occurs on daily bases.
Another unpleasant situation (sex) tourists can find themselves in is arguments about bar fine in red bars. Ladyboys are often get in conflict with their clients when the latter discover the truth about sex of their vis-a-vis.
Otherwise you can come across occasional cases of double pricing or songthaew drivers trying to make you pay more for your trip than you have expected if hiring them as taxis, but in general if you practice common sense, Pattaya is quite safe.
There are three international hospitals in Pattaya providing high quality medical care at similar prices (from THB800 for examination), two cheaper governmental hospitals and many small private clinics (from THB150). Fascino and Boots pharmacies are well stocked with imported medicines, but Paracetamol, Nurofen and similar first aid pills and syrups are found in every 7/11 store which galore in the city.