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Pattaya travel guide

The two most popular tourist destinations in Thailand are Pattaya and Phuket. Travelers often find it difficult to decide where to go. Let’s try to talk about Pattaya in such a way that it’s easier for you to make your choice.

Pattaya is known for its juxtaposition of two seemingly contradictory worlds. On one hand, it is known for its street debauchery, attracting millions of tourists every year; on the other hand, Buddhist monks are everywhere, along with a plethora of temples and spirit houses on every corner. This colorful juxtaposition doesn’t bother the Thais and fits their philosophy of a happy life — “sabai.”

Originally, Pattaya was a quiet and unknown village with barely 25,000 inhabitants, where locals engaged in fishing and coconut collection. Wealthy Bangkok residents would come here for relaxation. Only in the 1960s did American soldiers become fond of Pattaya. During the Vietnam War, Thailand sided with anti-communist forces, and American soldiers often rested in Thailand. During one of their leaves, a group of soldiers stumbled upon Pattaya, were struck by the beauty of its coast, and soon, thanks to word of mouth, the place was flooded with thousands of servicemen. This marked the starting point for Pattaya’s development primarily as the capital of sex tourism, and the once fishing village transformed into one of the main global resorts.

A photo of Pattaya from the observation deck on Pratamnak Hill, taken in the 1980-1990s
A photo of Pattaya from the observation deck on Pratamnak Hill, taken in the 1980-1990s

For those who want to get acquainted with the spiritual side of Pattaya, there are numerous Buddhist temples and shrines that have existed for many centuries. On the other hand, those looking for a wilder pastime can find different kinds of entertainment here: cabaret shows with transgender performers, erotic adult shows, and dozens of bars and clubs on the city’s most happening street – Walking Street.

The monarchy is deeply revered in Thailand. Not only are Buddhist traditions honored, but so is the royal family. Thais feel a profound sense of pride that their country managed to avoid colonization thanks to the wise rulers of the Chakri dynasty. Therefore, the reverence for the royal family is mostly genuine, not just for show. Insulting or criticizing the king and members of his family, or the institution of the monarchy itself, is punishable by three to 15 years in prison. It is forbidden to tear or step on banknotes bearing the image of the king, the same goes for photographs and paintings.

In 2016, Thailand’s revered King Rama IX passed away, whose portrait still hangs in every home in the country. He ruled for 70 years and was called the “father of the nation”, the “great king”, and the “messenger of heaven”. During his reign, he transformed an agrarian nation into one of the major tourist destinations in the world with a very successful economy. The king personally oversaw many reforms, prevented conflicts within the country, and was involved in political life.

Rama IX, during his seventy-year reign, transformed an agrarian country into one of the main tourist destinations in the world with a very successful economy. The photo shows a graffiti of a young Rama on one of Bangkok's walls
Rama IX, during his seventy-year reign, transformed an agrarian country into one of the main tourist destinations in the world with a very successful economy. The photo shows a graffiti of a young Rama on one of Bangkok’s walls

It’s worth mentioning a moment that underscores the unconditional, genuine love for the king. Rama IX spent a long time in the hospital for treatment. On the day of his discharge, he left the clinic wearing a pink jacket, on the advice of his personal astrologer. That day, the entire nation dressed in pink to congratulate the ruler on his recovery. And the king’s birthday is celebrated as Father’s Day.

Now, his son Rama X rules the country, and there’s a feeling that the people don’t revere the new king with the same fervor. Or perhaps time is needed to accept him. It’s a complex situation, which Thais prefer not to talk about. You can read more about the extravagant king on the BBC. After reading, it becomes clearer why some believe the Thai monarchy is showing cracks.

What to see

Before visiting Pattaya, it’s essential to understand that just 70 years ago, it was a simple fishing village – don’t expect elegant historical architecture. However, everything you need for a comfortable vacation is available.

Pattaya is a city deeply rooted in Buddhist traditions with many temple complexes and monasteries (also called “wat”). In temples and monasteries, a dress code is observed: clothing should cover the shoulders and knees. If you’re lucky enough to attend a Buddhist ceremony, you shouldn’t be positioned higher than a monk, so visitors usually sit on the floor. Most importantly, do not try to attract a monk’s attention or attempt to take a selfie – it’s considered highly disrespectful.

Many of the significant religious sites are located outside the city. To visit as many places as possible in one day, it’s most convenient to purchase a tour at any excursion stall or office. Costs depend on the tour program, with starting prices from 1000 baht (27.00 dollars).

The Sanctuary of Truth is a wooden temple built without a single nail, as claimed by the Thais themselves. Construction began in 1981 and continues to this day. Originally, a tourist complex was planned for this location, but Buddhist monks persuaded the millionaire owner to build a temple instead. All decor in the temple is handcrafted, and artisans continue to work, so each visitor is given a helmet at the entrance for safety.

The Sanctuary of Truth encompasses all Eastern religions, reflecting their culture and customs. Inside, the complex is divided into four sections dedicated to Thailand, India, China, and Cambodia. It might be challenging to understand the meaning of the frescoes, images, and installations on your own, so you can make use of a guide. Although there are signs in English near each area. Opening hours: from 08:00 to 18:00. Entrance is 500 baht (49.58 dollars), but you can purchase a ticket on Klook for 375 (37.19 dollars).All the decor in the Sanctuary of Truth is handcrafted, and artisans continue to work, so each visitor is given a helmet at the entrance for safety. Photo: Ivo Verhaar / Flickr.com, Bhanu Bansal / Unsplash.com

All the decor in the Sanctuary of Truth is handcrafted, and artisans continue to work, so each visitor is given a helmet at the entrance for safety. Photo: Ivo Verhaar / Flickr.com, Bhanu Bansal / Unsplash.com
All the decor in the Sanctuary of Truth is handcrafted, and artisans continue to work, so each visitor is given a helmet at the entrance for safety. Photo: Ivo Verhaar / Flickr.com, Bhanu Bansal / Unsplash.com

The Big Buddha Temple is best known for its gilded statue of Buddha. For donations to the complex ranging from 20 to 100 baht (0.54–9.92 dollars), one can have a monk tie a thread around one’s wrist and cleanse their karma by releasing a bird from its cage. Half an

The viewpoint on Phra Tamnak Mountain (Phra Tamnak Mountain Viewpoint) is located on another part of the hill where the Big Buddha Temple is situated. From the viewpoint, you get the best view of Pattaya and the sea with hundreds of yachts and boats. On a hot day, you can take shelter under the roof of Coffee Break Pattaya cafe, which is right next to the viewpoint, and refresh yourself with iced coffee or a fruit smoothie.hour is enough to explore the entire territory.

Operating hours: the temple is open until 19:00, but the complex is open 24/7 since there is an observation deck. Entrance is free.

At the Big Buddha Temple, you can have a monk tie a thread around your wrist and release a bird from its cage to cleanse your karma
At the Big Buddha Temple, you can have a monk tie a thread around your wrist and release a bird from its cage to cleanse your karma

The viewpoint on Phra Tamnak Mountain is located on another part of the hill where the Big Buddha Temple is situated. From the viewpoint, you get the best view of Pattaya and the sea with hundreds of yachts and boats. On a hot day, you can take shelter under the roof of Coffee Break Pattaya cafe, which is right next to the viewpoint, and refresh yourself with iced coffee or a fruit smoothie.

From the viewpoint on Phra Tamnak hill, you get the best view of Pattaya and the sea with hundreds of yachts and boats, and at the nearby cafe, you can refresh yourself with iced coffee or a fruit smoothie

From the viewpoint on Phra Tamnak hill, you get the best view of Pattaya and the sea with hundreds of yachts and boats, and at the nearby cafe, you can refresh yourself with iced coffee or a fruit smoothie
From the viewpoint on Phra Tamnak hill, you get the best view of Pattaya and the sea with hundreds of yachts and boats, and at the nearby cafe, you can refresh yourself with iced coffee or a fruit smoothie

The “Mini Siam” Museum is a park-museum of landmarks from Thailand and around the world in miniature – scaled down 25 times from their actual sizes. One part of the museum is dedicated to Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos. The second part focuses on European architecture. The ideal time for a stroll is around 5 pm: the sun isn’t too hot, you can catch the sunset, and then observe the lighting work – which is very well done.

Operating hours: from 07:00 to 22:00. Entry is 300 baht (29.75 dollars), on Klook it’s 245 (24.29 dollars).

In "Mini Siam", landmarks from Thailand and around the world are represented 25 times smaller than their actual sizes. Photo: Pictoluck / Flickr.com
In “Mini Siam”, landmarks from Thailand and around the world are represented 25 times smaller than their actual sizes. Photo: Pictoluck / Flickr.com

Walking Street is the main party street of the city, housing dozens of bars and clubs. There’s a feeling that some foreigners come to Pattaya just for it. It’s interesting to take a look here, even if you’re not planning to get blackout drunk or go to an erotic show – just to grasp the atmosphere. More about Walking Street can be found in the “Nightlife” section.

The “Tiffany” and “Alcazar” shows are a mix of the Brazilian carnival and the French “Moulin Rouge”. All roles in the dance and musical numbers are performed by men who have partially or fully transitioned in gender. Yet, many visitors are clueless about this. It’s full-on Thai burlesque, but without any vulgarities.

  • “Alcazar” show: ticket — 900 baht (89.25 dollars).
  • “Tiffany” show: ticket — from 1000 baht (99.16 dollars).
All roles in the dance and musical numbers in the "Tiffany" and "Alcazar" shows are performed by men who have partially or fully transitioned in gender
All roles in the dance and musical numbers in the “Tiffany” and “Alcazar” shows are performed by men who have partially or fully transitioned in gender. Photo: Tiffany’s Show Pattaya

Beaches

Pattaya is located on the shores of the Gulf of Siam of the South China Sea. The city has many good beaches suitable for getting a bronze tan; swimming is a bit more complicated. For those whose main goal is to bask in the sun, there is no need to travel out of town every day and waste time on the road, as there is a beach within walking distance in every area of Pattaya.

The most popular city beaches are Jomtien, Pattaya Beach, Wongamat, and Naklua; they are located one after the other, and it’s not always clear where one beach ends and another begins. Jet skis, canoes, paragliders, inflatable rings, and bananas, boat rides, sun lounger rentals, food, and drinks – these activities are available on any of the beaches.

The COVID times have benefited the beaches: the water has naturally cleared, and city authorities have improved some beaches and reconstructed promenades and pedestrian areas. However, despite the cleaner water, a lot of waste still ends up in the sea around the city, so it’s better not to swim here. However, this doesn’t deter many locals, expats, and especially tourists.

At the Military Beach (Sai Kaew Beach) or Dancing Girl Beach (Hat Nangram), the water is clearer, the sand is whiter, and there are fewer people. The infrastructure is less developed than in the city, but there’s the basic necessities for relaxation and water activities. The trip from Pattaya to the beach takes about an hour one way. There’s an entrance fee to the beach, starting from 100 baht (9.92 dollars) at the least. The Military Beach and Hat Nangram close at 18:00, at which time all cafes shut and activities wind down.

Lovers of white sand and clear water head to the beaches of Ko Lan Island, ten kilometers from Pattaya – more details about this can be found in the “Surroundings” section.The most popular city beaches are Jomtien, Pattaya Beach, Wongamat, and Naklua. They are situated one after the other, and it's not always clear where one beach ends and another begins.

The most popular city beaches are Jomtien, Pattaya Beach, Wongamat, and Naklua. They are situated one after the other, and it's not always clear where one beach ends and another begins.
The most popular city beaches are Jomtien, Pattaya Beach, Wongamat, and Naklua. They are situated one after the other, and it’s not always clear where one beach ends and another begins

Entertainment

Since tourism is one of the main sources of income for the local residents, Pattaya and its surroundings offer a wide range of entertainment options, from bathhouses and spa complexes to crocodile farms and river rafting.

Massage. Pattaya is known for its vast number of massage parlors, which alternate with bars every ten meters. In any district, street, or alleyway, you’ll find a massage salon. A foot massage costs 200 baht (19.83 dollars), which often ends with a complimentary short head and shoulder massage.

Prices for the famous Thai massage also start from 200 baht (19.83 dollars) for an hour-long session. However, it’s important to understand that the quality in such roadside massage parlors is not very high. Not every staff member there is a qualified specialist. But they are suitable for relaxation after long walks.

For quality service and a good massage, you should visit spa centers. Some of them are located in hotel complexes, for instance, in the “Hilton”. The prices for their services are two to two and a half times higher than those of street no-name salons.

Pattaya is known for its vast number of massage parlors, interspersed with bars every ten meters. In any district, street, or alleyway, you'll find a massage parlor
Pattaya is known for its vast number of massage parlors, interspersed with bars every ten meters. In any district, street, or alleyway, you’ll find a massage parlor. Photo: Roberto Faccenda / Wikimedia.com

Bathhouse. Saunas and bathhouses have long been a part of Southeast Asian culture. This tradition, which came from China, spread in Thailand and throughout Southeast Asia decades ago. At that time, Thai culture was heavily influenced by Chinese culture.

In Pattaya, there is the large bathhouse complex called Yunomori Onsen & Spa. You don’t need to bring anything with you, as they provide all the necessary bath amenities on-site. The complex has a hammam, sauna, and baths with different temperature regimes, additives, and minerals. The bathhouse itself is separate for men and women, but the relaxation area is shared. They also offer good massages, from a thorough questionnaire before the procedure to a relaxing tea afterward. Entrance to the bathhouse costs 550 baht (14.85 dollars), and massages range from 500 to 3950 baht (13.50–391.69 dollars).

Museums and galleries. Unfortunately, not all art spaces survived the pandemic with its lockdowns. Many unique art studios and galleries have closed. Most of the places that remain will likely be of interest to children. Amazing Art Pattaya and Art in Paradise are places where you can pop in to take photos for social media: like a giant eagle carrying you away in its talons or you jumping over a lava flow. Upside Down Pattaya is a classic “upside-down house” museum. Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” is another tourist classic — rooms of illusions, fear, a wax figure museum, attractions with clowns, the dead, skeletons, and zombies, as well as a 12D cinema.

In Amazing Art Pattaya and Art in Paradise, you can stop by to take photos with optical illusions. Photo: Art in Paradise
In Amazing Art Pattaya and Art in Paradise, you can stop by to take photos with optical illusions. Photo: Art in Paradise

Culinary courses. If lounging on the beach and swimming becomes boring, you can learn to cook authentic Thai dishes during your vacation. In master classes, experienced chefs will show step by step how to prepare pad thai, tom yum, or green curry.

Out of all the varied schools, we can highlight: Pattaya Cooking School — small groups of up to seven people and 1900 baht (188.41 dollars) for a three-hour master class. And courses at the Royal Cliff Hotel Group: a three-hour master class from 2500 baht (247.91 dollars).

Skywalk is a 226-meter-long glass bridge, situated in a picturesque location. The bridge offers a stunning view, but reaching it requires some effort. First, you’ll need to walk through the park for about 30-40 minutes to the top, where there’s a small temple, and from there, you’ll start descending to the bridge. Entrance to the bridge costs 40 baht (3.97 dollars).

Water Parks. For those tired of the salty sea water and seeking a bit of thrill, two major water complexes have been built: Columbia Pictures Aquaverse (formerly known as Cartoon Network Amazone) and Ramayana Water Park.

The “Columbia” water park was originally themed around “Cartoon Network” cartoons, but after the COVID hiatus, it was bought by “Sony”, and the theme was changed to feature popular “Columbia” franchises such as “Jumanji”, “Ghostbusters”, “Hotel Transylvania”, and others. The park has slides to suit all tastes and a massive screen where you can watch the studio’s films right from the pool. Tickets cost 1590 baht (157.67 dollars) for adults and 1290 baht (127.92 dollars) for children. If you have a foreign bank card, you can save by purchasing tickets online on the water park’s website or on Klook.

The “Ramayana” water park is the largest in Thailand and one of the biggest in Southeast Asia, designed in the style of ancient Asian myths and legends. The park has four major thematic zones, 21 slides, three pools, one with waves, and a 600-meter-long lazy river. Tickets cost 1490 baht (147.75 dollars), but there are often discounts, with tickets starting from 1000 baht. A significant advantage is that Russian tourists can reserve tickets online at a reduced price without a bank card and pay for them in cash upon arrival.

The "Ramayana" water park is the largest in Thailand and one of the biggest in Southeast Asia, designed in the style of ancient Asian myths and legends. Photo: Ramayana Water Park
The “Ramayana” water park is the largest in Thailand and one of the biggest in Southeast Asia, designed in the style of ancient Asian myths and legends. Photo: Ramayana Water Park

Shopping

After many global brands closed their stores in Russia, shopping during vacation has become quite an important aspect. The main shopping centers in Pattaya are Central Festival, Royal Garden Plaza, and Terminal 21. They have all the familiar brands — H&M, Zara, Uniqlo, and stores with Apple technology, Puma, Under Armour, Adidas. “Terminal 21” is located in the northern part of the city, while “Festival” and “Plaza” are in the center. The malls are arranged just like everywhere else in the world — parking, food court, children’s rooms, arcade games, and cinemas. From the “Plaza” food court, there’s a breathtaking view of the bay. When visiting shopping centers, it’s advisable to bring a sweater or warm scarf even in summer. The air conditioning in the buildings is so intense that lips turn blue, and shopping becomes a challenge. This advice is often relevant for all enclosed spaces in Thailand with air conditioning.

For those who are not just interested in the typical Uniqlo hoodies but also in local flavor, street markets are the place to go. The largest one is along the main street (Beach road), where you can find everything — from souvenirs to fried crocodile.

Money

It’s most advantageous to travel to Thailand with dollars or euros — there are many exchange offices in the city, but the best rate is usually found at the yellow kiosks of T.T. Currency Exchange. The exchange rate can vary slightly from one place to another.

The main rule — no transactions through ATMs, only face-to-face exchanges and cash banknotes. In Thailand, there is an option to receive baht through an ATM without a Thai card — you transfer the desired amount to an exchanger’s card, and they make a bank transfer in baht, which you can withdraw from the ATM. Unfortunately, this method is often used by scammers who simply disappear after receiving your money.

UnionPay payment system cards work in most establishments. You can also withdraw cash from ATMs; the withdrawal fee is 220 baht (21.82 dollars).

It's most advantageous to travel to Thailand with dollars or euros — there are many exchange offices in the city, but the best rate is usually found at the yellow kiosks of T.T. Currency Exchange
It’s most advantageous to travel to Thailand with dollars or euros — there are many exchange offices in the city, but the best rate is usually found at the yellow kiosks of T.T. Currency Exchange

Food

The popularity of Thailand as a tourist destination has meant that its local cuisine can now be considered global. And many tourists visiting Thailand for the first time are already familiar with Thai cuisine. However, it can vary significantly from what you are used to eating in Russian cities. Dishes will be much spicier, which is why most establishments have a spiciness rating on their menus. To ensure that your meal isn’t disappointing, it’s essential to know three key words: spicy (spicy), medium (medium), and not spicy (not spicy). Thais have long adapted to the taste preferences of tourists, and even in the most remote provinces, they will understand what is being requested.

Here are a few dishes that epitomize Thai cuisine:

Tom Yum. A soup based on coconut milk with the addition of mushrooms, seafood, greens, and spices. It is usually served with a side of rice to temper the spiciness of the dish.

Pad Thai. Fried rice noodles with tofu, eggs, and optional additions like shrimp, pork, or chicken. Vegetables, greens, and nuts are also added.

Fried Rice. A typical dish for Southeast Asian countries. Cooked rice is fried in a pan with vegetables and either chicken, pork, or seafood.

Pad Thai and Fried Rice are the most popular Thai dishes that can be found in almost any establishment.
Pad Thai and Fried Rice are the most popular Thai dishes that can be found in almost any establishment

Steamed Sea Bass. The fish is served in a soup bowl with a broth made of lemongrass, herbs, and chili.

Mango Sticky Rice. A special type of sticky rice is steamed, then mixed with thick coconut milk or cream. It is served with mango slices, and for those with a sweet tooth, it can be drizzled with condensed milk on top.

Roti. Originally a flatbread from India, it has become popular in many Southeast Asian countries. In Thailand, roti is more like pancakes – thin and crispy. Roti is served with fruits and various toppings. A classic combination includes banana and Nutella. However, roti can also come with hearty fillings: vegetables, eggs, shrimp, and even minced meat. These pancakes are typically sold in markets or in mobile fast-food stalls.

In Thailand, roti is more like pancakes - thin and crispy. Roti is served with fruits and various toppings
In Thailand, roti is more like pancakes – thin and crispy. Roti is served with fruits and various toppings

In Pattaya, there is a wide selection of different establishments – from street stalls with noodles and grilled chicken to elite restaurants.

At the night market in the Jomtien area, there is a huge assortment of seafood dishes – all of it is very fresh and affordable. There is also the famous stall of Mr. Boom where he makes pad thai noodles. Every day of the week, there’s a line for it. Moreover, the Thais realized that many Russian tourists get tired of the unfamiliar Thai food, so the market adapted to the demand – at the Jomtien night market they sell mashed potatoes for 20-30 baht (0.54–0.81 dollars), meatballs for 20 baht (0.54 dollars), and the Russian-style pancakes with meat (not roti). As an alternative, there’s the fishing district of Naklua – where there are concentrated small snack bars with Thai dishes.

At the Jomtien night market, there's the famous stall of Mr. Boom where he prepares pad thai noodles. Every day of the week, there's a queue for it

At the Jomtien night market, there's the famous stall of Mr. Boom where he prepares pad thai noodles. Every day of the week, there's a queue for it
At the Jomtien night market, there’s the famous stall of Mr. Boom where he prepares pad thai noodles. Every day of the week, there’s a queue for it

Since Pattaya is located on the coast, fish and other seafood delicacies are a customary part of the diet here. Most of these can be tried at the Sudkhet Thalaypao establishment in the southern part of Jomtien beach. For 399 baht (10.77 dollars), you are provided with a small grill with charcoal and unlimited seafood – crabs, shrimp, octopus, mussels, which you need to prepare yourself. The price also includes fruits, non-alcoholic beverages, and desserts. The place is very popular among the Thais themselves, so on weekends and holidays, it’s best to come at opening – later there might not be available seating, and the seafood might run out.At Sudkhet Thalaypao in the southern part of Jomtien beach, you'll be given a small grill with charcoal and unlimited seafood – crabs, shrimp, octopus, mussels, which you need to prepare yourself

At Sudkhet Thalaypao in the southern part of Jomtien beach, you'll be given a small grill with charcoal and unlimited seafood – crabs, shrimp, octopus, mussels, which you need to prepare yourself
At Sudkhet Thalaypao in the southern part of Jomtien beach, you’ll be given a small grill with charcoal and unlimited seafood – crabs, shrimp, octopus, mussels, which you need to prepare yourself

Affordable and filling breakfasts can be found at Cheap Charlie, near the Chonburi immigration service. An American or English breakfast will cost 150 baht (4.05 dollars). For those who love desserts and handmade sweets, it’s recommended to drop by The Chocolate Factory. At Surf Beach on Jomtien street, they prepare delicious waffles. The waffles are served with whipped cream, berries, fruits, and a topping of choice.

Most establishments in Pattaya, speaking of segments higher than markets, street vendors, and neighborhood cafes, offer European cuisine. However, every menu will inevitably have a section with Thai dishes.

Lunar — European and Pan-Asian cuisine. They have a good selection of regular and signature cocktails, which is rare in Pattaya.

The Sky Gallery — European and Asian cuisine with a decent wine list.

Horizon — European cuisine: you can order either the chef’s set menu or dishes a la carte. They prepare good steaks here.

Horizon — European cuisine: you can order either the chef's set menu or dishes a la carte. Photo: Horizon Rooftop Restaurant & Bar
Horizon — European cuisine: you can order either the chef’s set menu or dishes a la carte. Photo: Horizon Rooftop Restaurant & Bar

Edge — Japanese and European cuisine.

Cabbage and Condoms — authentic Thai cuisine.

Marco’s — a cozy family restaurant with a limited number of seats. Therefore, if you want to dine like in Italy, you need to book a table in advance, especially in the evening.

In the Jomtien Complex Condotel hotel, there is a Russian restaurant named Province.

When you don’t have the time or energy to search for a café, the small supermarkets like 7/11 or Family Mart come to the rescue. There, you can grab a sandwich, ready-made meals like chicken with rice, or prepare cup noodles and wash it all down with a cold coffee. Such a lunch will cost between 100 and 200 baht (2.70–19.83 dollars).

When you're short on time or energy to look for a café, you can snack at supermarkets like 7/11 or Family Mart, opting for items like a sandwich, chicken rice, bacon pasta, and drink it all down with freshly ground iced coffee
When you’re short on time or energy to look for a café, you can snack at supermarkets like 7/11 or Family Mart, opting for items like a sandwich, chicken rice, bacon pasta, and drink it all down with freshly ground iced coffee

Coffee in Pattaya is available through café chains such as “Starbucks” and Amazon. Interestingly, at the latter, they always ask about the sugar content — whereas in other places, sugar is added by default according to their own preference, making drinks in Thailand very sweet. Additionally, in any 7/11 store, you can get freshly ground takeaway coffee, which certainly isn’t inferior to “Starbucks”, with drink prices starting at just 30 baht (2.97 dollars).

Nightlife

Walking Street. Pattaya’s leisure is primarily geared towards beaches and nightlife. It has everything: from beach bars with live musicians to nightclubs. The heart of all the action is the one-kilometer long pedestrian-only Walking Street. Bars and clubs here follow one after the other. It’s not recommended for children to even walk on this street at night.

Here, establishments lure in customers with girls and transgender individuals in revealing outfits. Couples of all ages and genders walk hand in hand along Walking Street. Many tourists are taken aback by this and do not linger on this street, while others come here as a form of free entertainment – to playfully flirt with transgender individuals and observe what they consider “exotic”. People working in the bars befriend foreigners and coax them into buying expensive cocktails, earning a percentage from the consumed alcohol. Wallets and phones can be swiped under the pretense of charming conversations — caution is advised.

On Walking Street, bars and clubs follow one after the other. It's not recommended for children to even walk on this street at night. Photo: Hanny Naibaho / Unsplash.com
On Walking Street, bars and clubs follow one after the other. It’s not recommended for children to even walk on this street at night. Photo: Hanny Naibaho / Unsplash.com

The main entertainment with which they try to surprise tourists on Walking Street is the “Ping Pong show for adults”. Hawkers with flyers in hand approach every foreigner with an offer to visit the show. The price on the flyer is not indicated, but such a performance usually costs from 1000 baht (27.00 dollars). The ethics of visiting such places are for everyone to decide for themselves. The legal status of such entertainment is not quite clear.

Hot Tuna is a live music bar for lovers of old, old-school rock. Local musicians cover AC/DC, Scorpions, Metallica. It’s loud, drunk, and fun — this place is not about silence and conversations with friends. The Stones House and Zeus are two similar bars where they perform live pop music.

There are many clubs here for different tastes, styles, and genres. You can go from one to another, choosing based on ambiance and music. Entrance is free everywhere. But despite being known as the “liveliest street in Thailand”, by two in the morning all places, except for a couple of clubs, close, and the noisy street becomes a usual quiet alley.

Since 2022, medical cannabis has been legalized in Thailand, so marijuana is even more actively offered on Walking Street than before. However, the use of vapes and e-cigarettes in public places is prohibited and punishable by a fine of 12,000 baht (324.00 dollars) or even imprisonment. The main paradox is that they are smoked and sold everywhere. But there have been instances when tourists were detained for smoking e-cigarettes and were released only after “paying the fine on the spot”. It is said that regular Thai people report tourists to the police.
Girls and transgender people in revealing outfits entice people into the bars on Walking Street

Girls and transgender people in revealing outfits entice people into the bars on Walking Street. Photo: Aleksandr Zykov / Flickr.com
Girls and transgender people in revealing outfits entice people into the bars on Walking Street. Photo: Aleksandr Zykov / Flickr.com

Not Walking Street. If you want to have a drink with friends away from the noise and chaos of Walking Street, here are some more serene bars:

DIB. Cocktails, snacks, lounge music, and a fantastic view of the southern area of Pattaya. The bar is located on the 38th floor of the D Varee hotel.

Horizon. A bar with excellent service and a terrace where you can enjoy the sunset during good weather. The bar is situated on the 34th floor of the Hilton hotel. It’s better to book a table in advance here.

Beerfest. A brewery bar for those tired of Thai “Chang” and “Leo” beers. They usually have four to five types of their beer. There are always promotions, like happy hours or a 2+1 deal at specific times.

Lunar Beach House. In addition to regular cocktails, they’ve taken special care in presenting some drinks. The main advantage is that they put little ice in the glasses. The only downside – the bar is open only until 9:00 pm.

At Lunar Beach House, in addition to regular cocktails, they've taken special care in presenting some drinks. Photo: The Lunar Beach House Pattaya
At Lunar Beach House, in addition to regular cocktails, they’ve taken special care in presenting some drinks. Photo: The Lunar Beach House PattayaAt Lunar Beach House, in addition to regular cocktails, they’ve taken special care in presenting some drinks. Photo: The Lunar Beach House Pattaya

Where to Stay

In Pattaya, the cost of housing primarily depends on the area and season, and only then on the newness of the building and the interior design of the apartment. A standard studio with a separate bedroom and bathroom will cost 300–350 dollars plus water and electricity bills – approximately another 50–65 dollars. The price for housing will vary depending on the season: from November to March, the cost increases one and a half to two times.

In almost every relatively new condominium (this is what apartment buildings are called in Thailand) there is a swimming pool, a gym, and a hammam. If you are staying for an extended period, it’s better to sign a year-long contract: the monthly rental price under these conditions will be lower than renting the same apartment for half a year. Apartment owners in Thailand never bother their tenants; they don’t visit, call, or check anything. Typically, you can walk into any condominium you like and ask about the availability of vacant apartments at the reception. In most cases, there will always be a couple of apartments available for rent.

On Facebook, there are plenty of groups for renting apartments and houses; you just need to type a request in the search bar. For short-term housing rentals, standard real estate rental sites such as Airbnb, Agoda, and Booking are suitable.

In Pattaya, housing prices primarily depend on the area and season and then on the newness of the building and the interior design of the apartment. A standard studio with a separate bedroom and bathroom will cost between 280-330 euros plus water and electricity bills
In Pattaya, housing prices primarily depend on the area and season and then on the newness of the building and the interior design of the apartment. A standard studio with a separate bedroom and bathroom will cost between 300-350 dollars plus water and electricity bills

North – Naklua and Wongamat. Expensive, quiet, clean, safe. The best hotels and condos are concentrated in this area. These are quite self-contained areas with developed infrastructure: lots of shops, cafes, and restaurants, and many Thais speak Russian. You can live here without even traveling to other areas. Although it’s just a 15-minute tuk-tuk ride to the center. Naklua beach is considered one of the best in the city.

Downtown. Noisy 24/7, dirty, colorful, fun, drunk. Cheap rent compared to other areas. Suitable for young people, nightlife enthusiasts. Perfect for those who don’t want to deal with transportation. All major shopping and entertainment venues are within walking distance. A vast number of bars, massage parlors, and restaurants.

Pratumnak. Quiet, peaceful, clean. This is a family area; you won’t find go-go bars here. There are not as many cafes and restaurants as in the center, but every second one offers dumplings. It is considered to be a Russian district. The only downside is the remoteness of the hotels and condominiums from the main road where you can catch a tuk-tuk.

South – Jomtien. Convenient, reasonable housing prices. There are no major shopping centers, but buying basic stuff like flip-flops and shorts is, of course, possible. The famous night market is located in this area. Mainly Europeans, Russians, and a few Indians live here. No transportation problems. Unlike Pratumnak and Naklua, it has its own nightlife street with bars and clubs. Here you can find a balance between nightlife and peaceful rest.

Na-Jomtien. Clean, but far, so logistics can be tricky. It’s a completely autonomous district of the city, can be called a residential area. No nightlife, but almost all cafes and restaurants are new, with modern interiors and design. There’s no transport, so you have to rely on taxis; it’s good if your hotel has shuttle buses. If you rent an apartment in this area for a long time, you can’t do without a bike or car.

All areas have their own beaches, in terms of quality and services they are more or less the same. So, it doesn’t make sense to consider the beach when choosing a district to stay in.

Transportation in the city

The main public transport in Pattaya is the tuk-tuk (songteo). They operate on all the main streets of Pattaya, and they even have numbers and routes, no matter how chaotic this system might seem at first glance. The fare is ten baht (0.99 dollars) on all routes, except for the white tuk-tuks that ply Sukhumvit Road for longer distances, where the fare is 20 baht (1.98 dollars). It’s better not to pay with large bills, as the driver might try to be sneaky and forget to give you change. Tuk-tuks operate from early morning till late at night, and on popular routes, almost around the clock. At night, some tuk-tuks work as private hires, like taxis, so it’s better to ask the driver “taxi or tuk-tuk?” before getting in.

The main public transport in Pattaya is the tuk-tuk (songteo): a pickup truck with two parallel benches installed in its bed
The main public transport in Pattaya is the tuk-tuk (songteo): a pickup truck with two parallel benches installed in its bed

To hail a taxi, everyone uses the Bolt app. There are many cars in Pattaya, and the rides are cheaper than in Bangkok or Phuket. If you’re traveling alone, you can opt for a motorbike taxi, which is cheaper and faster than a car.

The most popular and convenient way to get around Pattaya is by moped or motorcycle. Renting a bike costs, on average, 5000 baht (495.81 dollars) per month. You only need an international driving license of category A. You can rent a bike without a license; many people ride with a prepared bill of 500 or 1000 baht to “pay the fine on the spot” in case they are stopped by the police. However, we don’t advise taking such risks. If you get into an accident on a bike without a license, your insurance will be void, and medical care in Thailand is very expensive.

The most popular and convenient way to get around Pattaya is by moped or motorcycle
The most popular and convenient way to get around Pattaya is by moped or motorcycle

You can get a Thai license (permit) to ride a motorbike in Pattaya by enrolling in driving courses, which cost from 7000 baht (694.14 dollars) for several days of training. Afterwards, in a couple of days, you can take the theoretical and practical exams. It’s not difficult to pass, and you always get a second chance if you didn’t make it the first time.

You can rent a car with an international license; a simple sedan will cost between 500 and 700 baht (13.50–69.41 dollars).

Surroundings

To travel around the Pattaya area, you’ll need to rent a bike, car, or book tours. You can use public transport, but it will take a lot of time.

Golden Buddha Mountain

20 kilometers from Pattaya

The Golden Buddha Mountain (Khao Chi Chan) features a rock-carved image of Buddha covered in gold plates. This site was created in honor of the 50th anniversary of King Rama IX’s reign. The entire project cost three million dollars. Local residents participated in the collection of money and gold, contributing cash, rings, and other jewelry. At the base of the mountain is a park, which is clean and well-maintained. Opening hours: from 06:00 to 18:00. Entry is free.

The Golden Buddha is a rock-carved image of Buddha, covered in gold plates. This monument was created in honor of the 50th anniversary of King Rama IX's reign. Photo: Endimione / Wikimedia.org
The Golden Buddha is a rock-carved image of Buddha, covered in gold plates. This monument was created in honor of the 50th anniversary of King Rama IX’s reign. Photo: Endimione / Wikimedia.org

Wat Yanasangwararam

20 kilometers from Pattaya

Wat Yanasangwararam is a Buddhist temple complex that houses what is believed by Buddhists to be a footprint of Buddha. It is also believed that by climbing the 300 steps to the footprint, one cleanses their karma. For a donation to the temple, monks perform a “Burial of Misfortunes” ritual. The participant is placed in a kind of coffin-sarcophagus, covered with a cloth, and prayers and mantras are recited. After five minutes, they are released with cleansed karma and reborn, as the monks say.

This temple is an excellent place for meditation enthusiasts: the park area, lake, and ponds are conducive to tranquility. The temple also offers meditation courses in English, which includes accommodation within the complex.

Wat Yanasangwararam is a great place for meditation enthusiasts: the park area, lake, and ponds promote tranquility. Photo: Amstrong White / Flickr.com
Wat Yanasangwararam is a great place for meditation enthusiasts: the park area, lake, and ponds promote tranquility. Photo: Amstrong White / Flickr.com

As part of a temple complex tour, tourists are taken to a Karen village. The Karen are one of the ethnic groups living in Thailand and Myanmar. They are known for the fact that some Karen women wear rings around their necks, thereby elongating them. There aren’t many activities here – only to watch locals work on a loom or carve wood. Nowadays, it’s more of a tourist attraction rather than an authentic Karen village where you can observe their genuine traditions. This should be kept in mind if visiting independently. If you purchase a tour, you’ll have to stop by and watch a Karen performance because visiting the village is included in most overview programs.

Nong Nooch Botanical Garden

20 kilometers from Pattaya

Nong Nooch is a vast area filled with a variety of plants and flowers, including cacti, palms, an orchid garden, bonsai, and much more. During the pandemic, the garden underwent significant transformation: it became cleaner, new installations and plants were added, and many sections of the park were renovated. The complex also houses the park owner’s car collection, ranging from vintage models to modern ones, totaling over 100 vehicles.

The botanical garden has repeatedly showcased its installations at one of the most prestigious garden art events in London, the Chelsea Flower Show. The professionalism of the park can be gauged by its grass sculptures and flowerbeds.

A walk through the garden takes a minimum of three to four hours. There are cafes, shops, and souvenir stalls located within the premises. It’s also possible to rent a villa or room and stay overnight.

The botanical garden’s operating hours are from 08:00 to 18:00. The entrance fee is 500 baht (49.58 dollars).

Nong Nooch is a vast area filled with a variety of plants and flowers, including cacti, palms, an orchid garden, bonsai, and much more
Nong Nooch is a vast area filled with a variety of plants and flowers, including cacti, palms, an orchid garden, bonsai, and much more. Photo: Rytikvv / Wikimedia.org

Koh Larn Island

11 kilometers from Pattaya

Koh Larn is the closest island to Bangkok with clean beaches and water, located just 11 kilometers from Pattaya. There isn’t much to do on Koh Larn besides the standard water activities: snorkeling, jet-skiing, banana boat rides, and paddleboarding. Sun lounger rental will cost 150 baht (14.87 dollars). You can order food and drinks from beach cafes without even getting up from your sunbed – a perfect option for a lazy day off.

There’s no point in staying on Koh Larn for more than a couple of nights. A hotel room or simple apartments will cost from 1000 baht (99.16 dollars). At the night market near the Na Ban pier, fresh seafood is sold. A dozen king prawns will cost between 180-200 baht (4.86–19.83 dollars), and they will be grilled on the spot.

Beaches. Most of the beaches are located on the island’s west coast, and they all seamlessly merge into one another.

Ta Wean Beach. The most popular beach among tourists – this is where excursion groups are brought. It can be crowded, but there’s well-developed infrastructure, plenty of cafes and shops, and even a 7/11 store. Clean white sand, transparent sea with a gentle entry and entirely without stones – perfect for families with children.

Koh Larn is the closest island to Bangkok with clean beaches and water, located just 11 kilometers from Pattaya
Koh Larn is the closest island to Bangkok with clean beaches and water, located just 11 kilometers from Pattaya

Tien Beach. Located on the other side of the island. It’s not as crowded as Ta Wean Beach. To get from the pier to the beach, you’ll need to take a tuk-tuk or a moped, and a trip around the island will cost 30 baht (2.97 dollars). There are no shops on Tien, but there are a couple of cafes and various water activities.

Samae Beach. A large beach not far from Tien. Apart from its long shoreline, it’s notable for its solar power plant right on the outskirts of the beach.

Sunbeds on all beaches cost 100 baht (9.92 dollars), but sometimes on the outskirts of the beach, you can bargain down to 50 baht (4.96 dollars).

How to get there

There are several ways to get to Koh Larn:

Tour. A one-day tour with a transfer, lunch, and reserved sunbeds for the group will cost on average 1300 baht (128.91 dollars).

Ferry. A one-way ticket costs 30 baht (2.97 dollars) and takes 40 minutes. Ferries depart approximately every half hour from Bali Hai Pier, which is close to Walking Street. It’s best to arrive at the pier 15-20 minutes before departure to calmly buy a ticket and get a good seat.

Speedboat. The main advantage is time. The journey to the island will take 20-30 minutes. The price is 150 baht (14.87 dollars) one-way per person.

There are two piers on Koh Larn where boats arrive: Ta Wean at the beach of the same name and Na Ban (Na Ban Pier). From there, you can take a tuk-tuk or a moped to get to the desired beach.

Approximately every half hour, ferries from Pattaya to Koh Larn depart from the Bali Hai Pier, which is near Walking Street
Approximately every half hour, ferries from Pattaya to Koh Larn depart from the Bali Hai Pier, which is near Walking Street

Khao Kheow Zoo

60 kilometers from Pattaya

Khao Kheow is a zoo located within a natural reserve. The animals are kept in near-natural conditions, appearing content and clean, without confinement in tight cages. In the zoo, you can encounter a vast array of animals: from meerkats to elephants, from binturongs (also known as bear cats) to giraffes. For 20 baht (1.98 dollars), you can feed a giraffe, an elephant, and a rhinoceros. Be cautious with the rhinos as they tend to spit.

The zoo spans over 800 hectares, making it challenging to traverse in a single day. For convenience and time-saving, you can rent a golf cart, with rental prices starting from 500 baht (69.41 dollars). Be extremely careful when driving the golf cart, as monkeys feel they own the place and can jump onto the road at any given moment. Also, refrain from leaving personal items in the cart, as monkeys might snatch them away. Admission to the zoo costs 250 baht (24.79 dollars) per person.

How to get there. Public transport does not go to the zoo, so there are only three options: a guided tour, taxi, or renting a bike or car.

Taxi. A one-way trip will cost 700 baht (69.41 dollars).

Guided tour. A one-day tour costs from 1000 baht (99.16 dollars) per person, including transfer, a guide through the zoo, and entrance ticket.

In Khao Kheow Zoo, you can encounter a vast array of animals: from meerkats to elephants, from binturongs (also known as bear cats) to giraffes. Photo: Sergey / Flickr.com
In Khao Kheow Zoo, you can encounter a vast array of animals: from meerkats to elephants, from binturongs (also known as bear cats) to giraffes. Photo: Sergey / Flickr.com

Tips

  • When purchasing sunscreen in local stores, pay attention to the description. Thais are fans of fair skin, so most skincare products have a whitening effect.
  • You can buy a SIM card in 7/11 or Family Mart stores. You need to provide your passport, and after filling out the paperwork, they will take a photo of you and give you the SIM card. With operators like DTAC and True, unlimited internet for a month at maximum speeds and with unlimited calls costs on average 500-700 baht (13.50–69.41 dollars). However, you can save by buying a SIM card without a plan for 40 baht (3.97 dollars) and connecting the necessary traffic and minute packages through the operator’s app (for instance, unlimited internet with True will cost 321 baht (31.83 dollars). In early 2023, 7/11 was selling promotional True SIM cards with unlimited everything for just 150 baht (14.87 dollars) – they sell out quickly, so they might not be available in every store.
  • You can fill up water at the cost of just one baht per liter from street water vending machines. Regular tap water is passed through a reverse osmosis system, resulting in clean drinking water.
  • Many hotels and condos do not have washing machines, but on the streets, there are often public washing machines with numbers from 30 to 50 – this is the price for one wash (0.81–4.96 dollars). The price depends on the volume of items that can fit; detergent and conditioner are not included, and you pay in coins of five and ten baht.
  • Be careful at pedestrian crossings: like in many Asian countries, it’s not customary to give way to pedestrians here.
  • Useful apps: Grab – food delivery, Klook – tickets for visiting attractions and other entertainment, often with discounts.
  • In cinemas, before the movie starts, they play the national anthem and ask everyone to stand up as a sign of respect.

How to get there

Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok (120 kilometers from Pattaya). Flights from all over the world land here. If you’re traveling from Europe, several major airlines offer direct flights to Suvarnabhumi Airport.

  • British Airways – This renowned airline offers direct flights from London Heathrow to Bangkok. The journey is approximately 11-12 hours, providing a direct link between the UK and Thailand’s bustling capital.
  • Lufthansa – Germany’s flag carrier operates flights from Frankfurt and Munich to Bangkok. A direct flight from Frankfurt typically takes around 11 hours.
  • Air France – Those departing from Paris can take advantage of Air France’s direct route from Charles de Gaulle Airport to Bangkok, a journey that usually lasts approximately 11 hours.
  • KLM – The Dutch airline offers connections from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport directly to Suvarnabhumi, allowing passengers a smooth journey of roughly 11 hours.
  • Turkish Airlines – Connecting Europe with Asia, Turkish Airlines offers flights from Istanbul to Bangkok. The journey from Istanbul is a bit longer, typically lasting around 12-13 hours.
  • Finnair – A popular choice for those traveling from Northern Europe, Finnair offers a direct route from Helsinki to Bangkok, with a flight time of around 10 hours.
  • Norwegian Air – This budget airline occasionally provides direct flights from select European cities to Bangkok, offering travelers a more affordable option.

From “Suvarnabhumi” to Pattaya, there is an intercity bus; a ticket costs 180 baht (17.85 dollars), and the journey takes two hours. The ticket counter is located on the first floor of the airport, near exit number 8. Another option is to book a taxi through Bolt, prices start from 1400 baht (138.83 dollars).

Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok (170 kilometers from Pattaya) receives flights from other Asian countries and provinces of Thailand. There are no direct buses from here to Pattaya. You will need to travel to the bus station in Bangkok or to Suvarnabhumi Airport to buy a bus ticket from there. Or order a taxi through “Bolt” directly to Pattaya.

From Bangkok to Pattaya, you can also take a regular bus from the eastern Ekkamai bus station or the northern Mochit bus station for 150 baht (14.87 dollars), or in a minivan for 200 baht (19.83 dollars). Buses depart every two hours, minivans slightly more frequently.

From Bangkok to Pattaya, you can also travel by a regular bus from the eastern Ekkamai bus station or the northern Mochit bus station for 150 baht
From Bangkok to Pattaya, you can also travel by a regular bus from the eastern Ekkamai bus station or the northern Mochit bus station for 150 baht. Photo: Ilya Plekhanov / Wikimedia.org

The most unusual but not the most convenient way to get from Bangkok to Pattaya is by the local train number 283, which departs every morning at 6:55 from the old Hua Lamphong railway station towards Pattaya. The train is interesting as it goes directly through Bangkok’s slums, and after leaving the city, the railway passes by many fish farm ponds and the local Grand Canyon – a flooded abandoned quarry.

The most unusual but not the most convenient way to get from Bangkok to Pattaya is by the local train number 283, which departs every morning at 6:55 from the old Hua Lamphong railway station
The most unusual but not the most convenient way to get from Bangkok to Pattaya is by the local train number 283, which departs every morning at 6:55 from the old Hua Lamphong railway station

U-Tapao Airport, located near Pattaya (40 kilometers from Pattaya), mainly serves charter flights. Around the airport, there are also numerous minibuses displaying their route and fare, usually transporting for 150 baht (14.87 dollars) straight to hotels. The cheapest way to get to Pattaya is by city bus, but first, you’d have to walk three kilometers to the highway and then catch an intercity bus – the trip would cost between 60–80 baht (1.62–7.93 dollars). A taxi or transfer will cost from 1200 baht (119.00 dollars) per vehicle, with drivers greeting tourists with signs in the arrival zone.

Thailand’s land borders with all countries are open, so you can also get to Pattaya by bus. This might be especially relevant for neighboring Cambodia.

When to go

Pattaya has a hot tropical climate with high air temperatures throughout the year. The period from November to February is considered the best time for a holiday. There is little precipitation, it’s hot (around 29–33 degrees Celsius), but not too much, and it cools down in the evening, making it comfortable to walk around.

The hot season starts in February and lasts until April, with typical temperatures around 35 degrees Celsius, which feels like 45. In mid-April, Thailand celebrates the Thai New Year – Songkran, where it’s customary to splash water in honor of the beginning of the rainy season. Tourists also get wet, so leave your gadgets in the hotel or pack them in a waterproof bag if you come to Pattaya for Songkran.

In mid-April, Thailand celebrates the Thai New Year - Songkran, where it's customary to splash water in honor of the beginning of the rainy season. Photo: Dominique Cappronnier / Flickr.com
In mid-April, Thailand celebrates the Thai New Year – Songkran, where it’s customary to splash water in honor of the beginning of the rainy season. Photo: Dominique Cappronnier / Flickr.com

From May to October is the rainy season. But it’s not continuous rain and gray skies all day. Usually, it’s a 20-minute downpour followed by sunshine. However, this can happen up to ten times a day. The temperature is around 30 degrees Celsius.

Every year, Pattaya hosts the Pattaya Music Festival – a large open-air music festival. For several consecutive weeks on Fridays and Saturdays, top Thai artists perform on various Pattaya beaches. Several large stages are set up for this festival, and there is a powerful sound system. Entry is free.

Every year in Pattaya, the Pattaya Music Festival is held — a large open-air music festival with free admission
Every year in Pattaya, the Pattaya Music Festival is held — a large open-air music festival with free admission
  • Text: Jelena Polischuk
  • Cover: Hanny Naibaho
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