Pattaya is notorious for its red lights districts, lady bars and obtrusive ladyboys hunting for easy victims under the stately coconut trees along Beach Road. For years Pattaya has been rightfully dubbed the City of Sin: poor Isan beauties have been waiting for their Western ATMs there, and Western ATMs – aka sexy men – have been looking for their true love burdened with her extensive family and a lonely buffalo grazing in the middle of endless fields of Northeastern Thailand.
Though sex tourism is still flourishing in Pattaya, the city has got a major facelift over the last few years and is now attracting a fair share of international package tourists, families and bangkokians who flood the city on weekends and during Thai public holidays.
Though Pattaya cannot boast rare or unique sights, the festive mood of the city never fails to conquer the hearts of its visitors. Restaurants of authentic cuisine from all over the world at astonishingly affordable prices and street food cheapies; first class international hotel chains and simple guesthouse rooms; elegant high-rises and traditional shophouses; modern shopping malls and entertainment centres and colourful night markets are all there. There is a choice of nearby islands which literarily transport you to that perfect island paradise and a growing number of family-oriented attractions secure Pattaya;s status of one of Thailand’s most popular vacation destinations.
How to get from Bangkok to Pattaya
One of the best motorways in the whole country, motorway 7, links Bangkok to Chonburi and Pattaya, so getting from Bangkok to Pattaya by bus, by taxi or by private car is usually smooth as silk.
From Bangkok to Pattaya by bus
There are three major bus terminals in Bangkok: the southern Sai Tai Mai, the northern Morchit and the eastern Ekkamai, the two latter being the most convenient option for getting from Bangkok to Pattaya due to their location. Buses to Pattaya leave throughout the day and seats sell out quickly as the route enjoys great popularity both with locals and foreign travellers.
Ekkamai bus terminal is the most logical starting point if you are heading to the Eastern Seaboard. It is conveniently located by the eponymous BTS station. Buses from Ekkamai may bring you to Pattaya in mere two hours, but to be more realistic, consider three hours as a norm as they often detour from motorway to let passengers get off in Chonburi, Sri Racha or Laem Chabang. Pattaya Bus operates three buses from Ekkamai – in the morning (9.30am), in the afternoon (1.30pm) and in the evening (5.30pm), all at THB127.
Morchit, located in the north of the capital, is a convenient choice if you stay anywhere in the area or arrive to the bus terminal by a shuttle bus from Don Mueang airport. Note that regardless the fact that there is a BTS station of the same name, you will need to take a bus or a taxi for a short ride to the bus terminal from BTS Morchit. Buses from Morchit take about three hours to reach Pattaya and also cost THB127 with Pattaya Bus company. There are three buses a day at 9am, 1pm and 5pm.
In Pattaya, buses arrive to the Northern bus station located in North Pattaya Road, 200m from Sukhumvit intersection. To get to the city from there you have a choice of songthaews (THB40 per person), motorbike taxis or normal taxis – always negotiate the cost of your ride in advance.
From Bangkok to Pattaya by train
Technically, it is also possible. There is a morning train #283 which leaves Bangkok at 6.55am and arrives to Pattaya at 10.34am. It makes plenty of stops on the way and in general not a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Prepare to spend about four hours in a third class fan seats only carriage and do not expect breath-taking views. But true, you will have a lot of opportunities for exciting people watching. Out of all Pattaya train stations the most picturesque one is probably Huay Yai train station. And yes, tickets are dirt-cheap.
From Bangkok to Pattaya by taxi
If you travel with a lot of luggage or with a large family or a group of friends, consider taking a taxi which will bring you from Bangkok to Pattaya door-to-door. PGS company offers smart solutions both for an individual and a group transfer. Choose their Toyota Camry for 3 pax at THB2,200 or opt for a roomier Toyota Commuter which accommodates up to 9 passengers and costs THB2,530 – which makes it a great option. The rates are all-inclusive – no extra tolls, no additional fee for pickup and drop-off in specific locations, and the trip should last no more than three hours – normally less, depending on your starting point in Bangkok.
Just arrived to Suvarnabhumi? Go to Pattaya from the airport!
If you enter Thailand through its main airport, Suvarnabhumi, with Pattaya being your next destination, use bus and taxi services to get from Suvarnabhumi directly to Pattaya without calling to Bangkok’s bus terminals. Bell Travel operates buses from the lower level of the airport near gate 8.
Buses depart every two hours from 8am till 6pm. Their VIP24s are comfortable enough – and much roomier than an economy seat with any of the air carriers. The whole trip lasts about two hours. In Pattaya, passengers are brought to Pattaya Northern bus station in Pattaya North Road.
Note: Tickets for the Suvarnabhumi-Pattaya bus can be bought on the spot, but note that the route is extremely popular, so in the overwhelming majority of cases you will not be able to get the tickets for the next bus and will have to wait till the next but one departure. If booked in advance, tickets cost THB272.
Tip: Right next to the gate 8 on the lower level of Suvarnabhumi, from where buses to Pattaya depart, there is a cheap Thai-style canteen, Magic Point, where you can refill your stomach with mouthwatering Thai favourites, including rice with chicken (khao man gai), rice with pork leg (khao kha moo), tom yam and the like at very moderate prices (starting from THB40 per dish).
Charters of PGS bring you to Pattaya from Suvarnabhumi door-to-door even with more comfort. You can choose between Toyota Camry for three passengers (THB1,980) and Toyota Commuter accommodating 9 people (THB2,200). The latter is a great option from the point of view of a price-quality ratio. Rates are all-inclusive, meaning no extra tolls, luggage or drop-off charges.
Songthaews are your prime choice for getting around Pattaya. They are cheap – one trip costs from THB10 to THB40, depending on the distance you go – and several routes cover the whole city. The most useful routes of blue songthaews are from the junction of South Pattaya Road and Second Road to Jomtien; from Jomtien to the Dolphins roundabout in the north; and a Second Road-North Pattaya-Pattaya Beach Road loop. White songthaews run along Sukhumvit Road and bring you as far as Sattahip. Songthaews also work as hired taxis – you have to agree on the cost of the ride before you go.
Motorbike taxis are ubiquitous and affordable. With city traffic getting worse and worse these days, motorbike taxis offer a great solution.
Renting a car or a motorbike is also an option. Rental shops are located throughout the city. Scooters cost from THB200 per day (from THB2000 per month) and small cars like Honda City go at THB1000. Scams when you are forced to pay for ‘damage’ after you return the vehicle are not common, but note that police often stops both cars and motorbikes to check drivers’ licences. Belts and helmets are a must, too.
More bicycles are seen on Pattaya roads these days, but with quite chaotic traffic it is neither safe nor pleasant to pedal between speeding cars, tourist buses and bikes.
Where to stay
It is always a matter of taste, but if you are after a happening nightlife with a seedy flavour, look for centrally located hotels and guesthouses around Soi Buakhao and between Beach Road and Second Road. The North and Nakluea house respectable five-start chain hotels. Jomtien is a realm of relatively cheap guesthouses and mid-range hotels and the Jomtien beach, though mediocre, is still ok for swimming and sunbathing. Pratamnak is a bit off the public transport routes, but the area is very green and tranquil, and there are several nice beaches there, including Cozy Beach. Ambassador City Hotel area is far from the entertainments of the city and can be considered only if a lazy beach vacation is your thing.
Thought there are decent beaches in Pattaya and the vicinity, it is definitely not the prime beach destination. Yet visiting Pattaya is a very diverse and exciting experience. Here is our TOP-5 things to do in Pattaya to ensure you have a great time in the city.
- Visit world-famous Walking Street: go-go dancers, roaring music and visitors from every corner of the globe any day of the week.
- Go up View Point Hill to catch a postcard perfect view of the city while taking a cup of coffee in a no-frills but relaxed and friendly cafe.
- Spend a day in Khao Khew Open Zoo admiring elephants, giraffes and rhinos – both children and adults will enjoy it.
- Take a THB30 ferry boat to Koh Larn, find a secluded bay and savour your own island paradise.
- Feast on seafood in a restaurant in Bang Saray while watching the fishermen boats sailing to the night or delivering their daily catch.