Difference between revisions of "Pattaya"
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Pattaya (พัทยา) is a popular resort on the North Gulf Coast of Eastern Thailand, 150 km south-east of Bangkok. Most famous for its go-go and beer bars, it's also one of Thailand's best locations for all manner of sports and activities. Some of the beaches are lacklustre (by Thailand's high standards) and rampant over-development has long since destroyed any natural charms it once had, but its plethora of hotels and guest houses and convenient location with quick and easy access from the capital make it a popular weekend getaway. Catering for over 5 million tourists yearly, Pattaya is also able to offer an excellent range of eating choices and a wide variety of things to do and see.
Pattaya's name was originally "Thap Phraya", meaning Army of the Phraya - commemorating the surrender of Nai Klom's army to that of Phraya Tak (later King Taksin the Great), without a fight. Thap Phraya became Phatthaya (the name of the north-easterly wind at the beginning of the rainy season), and then Phatthaya (the true phonetic spelling).
Since 1978, Pattaya has been administered under a special autonomous system with a status comparable to that of a municipality by the mayor of Pattaya City, who has overall responsibility for policies, public services, and supervision of all City Hall employees.
Once a sleepy fishing town, Pattaya first boomed as an R&R spot during the Vietnam War and has been a sex tourism destination trying to improve its image ever since. Currently, Pattaya is booming again: TAT claims 5,338,000 visitors for 2005 (up 6.5% from 2004), of which two-thirds were foreigners, and the opening of the new Suvarnabhumi Airport (located to the east of Bangkok, alongside the expressway to Pattaya) has made visiting easier than ever.
Pattaya is popular not only as a beach resort and for its entertainment, nightlife and shopping, but also for the broad selection of pastimes it caters for, from golf and horseback riding to bungee jumping, karting and shooting - not to mention a wide variety of watersports such as scuba diving, jet-skiing, sailing, water skiing, windsurfing and kitesurfing, and a whole lot more. Pattaya is also very popular as a conference, convention and seminar venue, and the grapevine hosts rumours of future developments of varying degrees of plausibility, such as a horse racing track, casinos, and a tram system.
The Tourist Authority of Thailand (TAT) Information Office is just outside the centre, exactly 1 km south of the junction of Second Road and South Pattaya Road - proceed along Pratamnak Road, continue straight up the hill, and where the road bears sharp right part way up, turn sharp left into the small side-soi. Worth a visit if you're in Pattaya for an extended period and want to browse for fresh ideas for new things to do/see. Open daily 08:30-16:30, tel. +66-38428750 / 8990 / 7667 or use the TAT freephone number: dial 1672 or e-mail: [email protected]
Foreign language newspapers
"Greater Pattaya" occupies most of the coastline of Banglamung (one of the eleven districts that comprise Chonburi Province). It is divided into a larger northern section which spans the areas to the east of Naklua Beach (the most northern beach) and Pattaya Beach (the main beach) plus the Buddha Hill headland (immediately south of Pattaya Beach), and a smaller southern section covering the area to the east of Jomtien Beach (which lies directly south of Buddha Hill) including Dongtan Beach. Jomtien's beaches are much broader and generally in better shape, and the atmosphere locally is more sedate and family-oriented, than at Pattaya Beach.
In the middle are the three Pattaya Bay sub-districts, which share the main Baht Bus route (so most places are within 5 minutes / 10 baht of most other places, at any hour) and have much else in common, and hence in combination make up the main quasi-downtown zone:
Flanking the Pattaya Beach sub-districts are:
In practice, exactly where each sub-district ends and the next begins is a very grey area as none of the boundaries lie along major roads (and none of the many readily available tourist maps attempts to define boundaries at this level); nevertheless they do provide a handy rough guide to approximate latitude. Further inland, the sub-district names are used less, and locality/road names take precedence - for example, an address might state "Sukhumvit, Naklua" which is useful in that it makes it clear the location is to the north of the Sukhumvit / North Pattaya Road intersection, however the exact same place would not normally be described simply as being "in Naklua" as that would give the misleading impression of it being in the main beachside/tourism area further west.
Pattaya's downtown area is easy to get around. Running north-south, a few hundred metres apart, are Beach Road (Thanon Hat Pattaya, sometimes also referred to as First Road) which borders the main beach (Hat Pattaya), Pattaya Second Road and Pattaya Third Road (with the smaller but busy Soi Buakhao in between), and the main Sukhumvit Road coastal highway. Beach Road is one-way (southbound), likewise Second Road (northbound).
These are connected by the three major east-west aligned roads: North Pattaya Road (Thanon Pattaya Nua), Central Pattaya Road (Thanon Pattaya Klang) and South Pattaya Road (Thanon Pattaya Tai). North Pattaya Road is a dual carriageway and carries the highest volume of traffic to and from Sukhumvit Road.
Also connecting Beach Road and Second Road are a large number of smaller streets or "sois". The main sois are numbered from 1 to 16, from north to south. Sois 1-6 are between North Pattaya Road and Central Pattaya Road; sois 7-13 are between Central Pattaya Road and South Pattaya Road (including the "Pattayaland" sois, immediately north of South Pattaya Road); sois 14-16 are south of South Pattaya Road. Most of these east-west sois are (in theory at least) one-way.
Beach Road, Second Road, and North Pattaya Road (plus Naklua Road to the north) all meet at the Dolphin Roundabout landmark. Heavy traffic and frequent accidents here have resulted in a semi-permanent diversion being set up which, at peak times, prevents vehicles (except motorcycles) from continuing around this roundabout any further than the North Pattaya Road exit, pending the installation of traffic lights some time in 2006.
Second Road south of South Pattaya Road becomes Pratamnak Road, which shares a junction with both the southern end of Third Road and the northern end of the main road to Jomtien, Tappraya Road.
Beach Road south of South Pattaya Road is closed to vehicles in the evenings (currently 18:00-02:00) and is called Walking Street; it's the main tourist area, both for nightlife and shopping. Other major tourism areas include the section of Second Road between sois 1-4, and the sois immediately north of South Pattaya Road.
At the southern end of Walking Street is the New Pier, usually called Bali Hai Pier (sometimes "Pattaya Pier" or "South Pier"). The Old Pier, close to the junction of Beach Road and South Pattaya Road, is still shown on most maps but was dismantled and removed at the beginning of 2006.
Most visitors arrive by road from or via Bangkok, many having flown in to Suvarnabhumi (the "new" BKK). Much smaller numbers arrive direct by road from the north and east, by rail from Bangkok, and by air via U-Tapao from Ko Samui or Phuket in Southern Thailand or Siem Reap in Cambodia.
A surprising number of visitors inquire about ferries across the Gulf of Thailand - however no such services exist. Those determined to go by sea may find that local dive shops can help, if cost is not a consideration.
Pattaya has no commercial airport of its own, however access by air (especially via Suvarnabhumi) is very straightforward.
Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) is Bangkok's shiny new successor to Don Muang. Only 110km from Pattaya (40km closer than Don Muang), transfers by road are inexpensive and quick (currently around 80-90 minutes) and getting quicker as the upgrades to the connecting highway are completed.
Don Muang Airport (new code: DMK) was superseded by Suvarnabhumi on September 28th 2006, subsequently re-opened on March 24 2007, and currently handles Nok Air, One-Two-GO, PB Air and most Thai Airways domestic flights. The easiest way to transfer is by taxi; the most economical alternatives are to go by bus via Moh Chit (Bangkok's Northern Bus Terminal), or to go by train via Hualamphong (only practicable in the Pattaya to Don Muang direction).
U-Tapao Airport (IATA: UTP | ICAO: VTBU | tel: +66-38245295) is sometimes incorrectly described as "Pattaya Airport" - it's actually at Sattahip, just off the main Sattahip - Chanthaburi (Sukhumvit) highway, 30km south of Pattaya. Primarily a military facility, it's the closest airport fielding commercial passenger flights, but only to a handful of destinations. There are no commercial passenger flights connecting U-Tapao directly with Suvarnabhumi or Don Muang.
Schedules (all daily, as at January 1st 2006):
If speed and convenience don't matter, the ad-hoc option is to hop on virtually any bus on Sukhumvit Road. Going south, if it's a bus that terminates at Sattahip you'll have to swap buses or finish the journey by songthaew; if it's going further east (eg Rayong, Chanthaburi or Trat) it'll drop you off at the airport entrance as it goes by. Going north, wait for a bus that's going further than Sattahip and then you won't need to transfer. Alternatively, the white songthaews that ply Sukhumvit Road between Pattaya and Sattahip charge just 20 baht.
Or to buck the trend big time, go by rail (3rd class, weekdays only) between Pattaya and Sattahip, get off just before or after the line crosses Highway 3, and connect with the airport by songthaew or bus. The fare for the 40-50 minute train ride is 6 (yes, six!) baht - depart Pattaya 10:18, arrive Sattahip 11:00; depart Sattahip 13:30, arrive Pattaya 14:21 - but don't forget, no trains on Saturdays or Sundays.
First class bus
1st class buses from Bangkok to the North Pattaya Road bus station are air-con, almost always have an on-board toilet, are essentially direct (ie no stops), and provide a no fuss, no frills, hassle-free service. Departures from the Eastern (Ekamai) Terminal and Northern (Moh Chit) Terminal are frequent (every 20-40 minutes, depending on the time of day; more frequent still at public holiday weekends) and usually take 2-2.5 hours; those from the Southern (Sai Tai Mai) Bus Terminal are less frequent and take a little longer.
Departure times & fares (as at June 2006):
Fares may vary slightly depending on the route taken - for example, at busy times when the Moh Chit service uses the elevated express tollway, a marginally higher fare applies - however exact prices are always clearly posted at the official ticket counters.
All 1st class direct services to/from Bangkok use the recently redeveloped bus station on North Pattaya Road. These buses are usually full when they depart, and must be boarded at the terminus. Tickets are sold at the bus station; it's not possible to pre-book these services more than an hour or so in advance. Usually, if the bus that's due to leave next is already full, there will be seats available on the next one. The longest queues are for the very early morning departures from Pattaya - to get a seat on the first bus of the day you need to be in the ticket queue at least 30-40 minutes early; however the bonus is that these pre-rush hour services can take as little as 90 minutes to get to Bangkok.
From the North Pattaya Road bus station songthaews (a cross between a pickup truck, a share-taxi, a local bus and two pews) depart when full (every few minutes). The fare to anywhere on Beach Road ("the beach") is 20 baht; press the buzzer button on the underside of the roof when you want to get off.
Pattaya to the Eastern (Ekamai) Terminal: if requested, this bus will stop at the On Nut Skytrain Station (station map) on Sukhumvit Road. Depending on your final destination and the traffic conditions, you may want to transfer to the Skytrain (system map) there; if so, wait until the bus departs Pattaya and then confirm with the crew that you want to be dropped off at "On Nut". NB: this bus does not stop to pick up passengers at On Nut (or anywhere else) on the outbound leg.
Pattaya from/to the Southern (Sai Tai Mai) Terminal: if the direct bus is fully booked, take the Eastern (Ekamai) Terminal bus instead, and use the #511 (air-con, every 30 minutes 24/7, 20 baht) bus to connect between Ekamai and Sai Tai Mai.
Pattaya from/to Suvarnabhumi Airport - this service runs from Suvarnabhumi Airport Transport Centre, which is connected to the main arrivals/departures terminals by a free shuttle bus service.
Second class bus
2nd class services (air-con, usually no on-board toilet) don't use the expressways, and make frequent (and sometimes lengthy) stops, hence they take considerably longer than their 1st class counterparts (which at worst will only halt momentarily once or twice to let passengers jump off on the final approaches to their destination). As at June 2006 the 2nd class fare is 100 baht, so the difference in price doesn't amount to much.
Many 2nd class buses from Bangkok continue on to Jomtien, so may be worth considering if that's your final destination and you're not in a hurry. For travel from Jomtien to Bangkok they have the advantage that they can be flagged down and boarded as they crawl along Jomtien's seafront road (Jomtien Beach Road - Thanon Hat Jomtien), avoiding the need for a preliminary trip to the bus station.
The terminus for 2nd class services to/from Bangkok and other short-haul destinations is on South Pattaya Road, but in practice these buses pick up and drop off the majority of their passengers en route. Tickets are sold both at the bus station (although advance booking may not be possible) and on the bus itself.
It's also possible to travel by minibus to Hat Lek (for the southern-most border crossing between Thailand and Cambodia) but not every day of the week; this service may or may not go via Laem Ngop, depending on overall demand. As at January 2006: depart 07:30, arrive around 14:00, 700 baht, Tuesday and Friday only - but liable to change, so enquire locally for the latest schedule details.
Travel agencies (ubiquitous throughout Pattaya) plus many hotels/guesthouses sell minibus tickets, and tourist-oriented services such as these invariably include collection from your hotel/guesthouse/wherever (allow extra time for this - times quoted above are approximate transit times and make no allowance for the vagaries of the collection process).
To Bangkok - widely advertised in Pattaya at 800 baht (the lower price is because it'll be a Bangkok cab returning home), and easily arranged through most travel agencies and hotels/guesthouses. Minibuses can also be chartered taxi-style from around 1800 baht.
From Bangkok - prices range from 1500 baht (the official meter-taxi rate) to 1000 baht; arranged car services will tend toward the higher end, but licenced meter-taxis should be negotiable to the lower end of the range. Allow about 90-120 minutes, depending on where in Bangkok you're coming from; more around rush hour.
From Suvarnabhumi Airport - the official meter-taxi price to Pattaya is 1050 baht (1100 baht to Jomtien) plus the 60 baht highway ("motorway" or "expressway") toll. Allow around 80-90 minutes in favourable conditions.
Scams to watch out for when headed for Bangkok by taxi include being told that the pre-paid price is fully inclusive, but then, on arrival at the first toll booth, being told that the expressway fees are extra.
Many of the more upmarket hotels can arrange (for an additional fee) to have you met at the airport gate by a personal driver with a limousine, thus avoiding the need to negotiate with taxi drivers.
Provided it's a weekday, the most economical way to travel between Pattaya and Bangkok by public transport is by rail - the one-way fare is just 31 baht, and if you've never experienced a 3rd class Thai train, this is a good one to try.
From Monday to Friday, a single daily 3rd class (non-aircon) train departs Bangkok's Hualamphong Train Station at 06:50 and arrives at the main Pattaya station at 10:18, before continuing on to Sattahip; it then returns via Pattaya at 14:21 and terminates back in Bangkok at 17:40 (on Saturdays and Sundays it turns back to Bangkok at Chachoengsao, so is of no practical use for getting to or from Pattaya at weekends). Regardless of direction, simply turn up and buy a ticket at the station - this train can't be pre-booked.
Pattaya has two train stations, both just east of Sukhumvit Road:
At the main Pattaya Train Station, tickets must be bought before boarding and are only sold in the final 30 minutes prior to departure. The fare from/to Bangkok is 31 baht, from/to Sattahip 6 baht.
As the Pattaya Tai halt has no ticket office, passengers are permitted to board here without tickets and then pay on the train (32 baht to Bangkok).
The surcharge for transporting a bicycle (up to 20 kg) between any two points on this line (ie Bangkok-Sattahip) is 80 baht.
Tickets for other journeys can be purchased (up to a maximum of 60 days in advance) at the Pattaya Train Station ticket office between 08:00 and 16:00; the same tickets can also be arranged through Pattaya agencies, who will add on a 200-300 baht markup to cover their assistance and the cost of sending a moto-taxi to collect the tickets from the station.
From other regions
By road: Sukhumvit-route 2nd class aircon buses operate from Bangkok's Eastern (Ekamai) Bus Terminal and pick up and drop off on Sukhumvit at the Pattaya Nua / Pattaya Klang / Pattaya Tai traffic lights. Fares from/to Pattaya are Sattahip 20 baht, U-Tapao (Sukhumvit traffic lights, does not access the airport itself) 35 baht, Rayong (bus station) 50 baht, Ban Phe (Sukhumvit traffic lights, does not detour into the town) 60 baht, Chanthaburi (bus station) 115 baht, and Trat (bus station) 165 baht. Some terminate at Chanthaburi, however it's easy to transfer between there and Trat.
Tickets get sold very quickly! But it beforehand, a day or two ahead, seriously.
Roong Reuang Coach operates five Isaan services from the bus station on North Pattaya Road (the 1st class Bangkok bus terminal), all of which are air-con and go via Aranyaprathet (1st class 209 baht / 2nd class 162 baht / ~5 hours) and then either Buriram and Roi Et or Surin and Yasothon, and then terminate at Mukdahan (~13 hours) as follows:
By rail: it's possible to take the train from Pattaya to Chachoengsao (weekdays only) and switch there to a train to Aranyaprathet, or vice-versa, but either way the connection can only be made by spending the night in Chachoengsao. For trains to Nakhon Ratchasima (Khorat), Buriram, Surin, Si Saket, Ubon, etc, connect via Bangkok's Hualamphong station.
By road: it's possible to travel direct to/from numerous locations in Northern Thailand, however it's often quicker overall to go via the Northern (Moh Chit) Terminal in Bangkok. Much depends on final destination, time of travel, and available services; but if in doubt, the safest bet will usually be to stick with the 1st class buses and go via Moh Chit.
Nakhonchai Air Co. (tel. +66-38427841 / +66-38424871) provides "VIP", 1st class, and non-aircon passenger services (plus parcel services) to Chiang Mai and Mae Sai from premises on the southbound side of Sukhumvit Road (30/7 Moo 9), one block south of the junction with Central Pattaya Road.
To Chiang Mai (approx. 13.5 hours):
To Mae Sai (approx. 15 hours):
It's always worth considering pre-booking long-haul bus tickets, however more often than not seats will still be available an hour or so prior to departure.
By rail: it may be possible to use the one daily (weekdays only) train to/from Pattaya to connect with a northern line overnight train at Bangkok's Hualamphong station (pre-booking is advised for berths on overnight trains; this can be arranged at or via Pattaya Train Station).
The options for Southern Thailand are to fly to U-Tapao (near Sattahip) direct to/from Ko Samui or Phuket, or else to go via Bangkok. Note that a direct bus service between Pattaya and the Southern Bus Terminal in Bangkok was introduced in 2005; also that it may be worth considering using the one daily (weekdays only) train to/from Pattaya and connecting with a southern line overnight train at Bangkok's Hualamphong station (pre-booking is advised for berths on overnight trains; this can be arranged at or via Pattaya Train Station).
Apart from a handful of privately operated examples, Pattaya has no tuk-tuks and most ad hoc local transport is undertaken by a flotilla of over 700 dark blue coloured songthaews - pickup trucks converted to buses, also called Baht Buses. The official "bus" fare is 5 baht for trips within Pattaya, however foreigners are universally expected to pay 10 baht. Having the correct change is by no means essential, but does keep the potential hassle factor to a minimum. Flat fares only apply when operating as a bus; beware the driver of an otherwise empty songthaew, especially one that's parked up at the roadside, who might presume (or decide on your behalf) that you want to charter - in which case expect a much higher fare of 100 baht or more, depending on your negotiating skills.
The busiest route is the beach circuit: from the junction of Second Road and South Pattaya Road, north along Second Road to the Dolphin Circle roundabout; then south along the full length of Beach Road; then briefly east along South Pattaya Road to complete the loop. Frequency is virtually non-stop, and even at the most unlikely hours, average waiting time is literally no more than a few seconds.
The routes sometimes vary - for example with a left turn (from Beach Road or Second Road) into Central Pattaya Road; or no left turn at the Dolphin Circle roundabout (where Second Road, Beach Road and North Pattaya Road meet) and going straight on to Naklua (or even a right turn towards the bus station and Sukhumvit). The only way to know the route for sure is to ask (but don't let the driver mistake your asking as a charter request). Sometimes the driver will just decide to turn down a random soi for no apparent reason, or because he's just been hired as a taxi, but you'll still be expected to pay your 10 baht if you've ridden for more than a soi or two - however surprises such as these are few and far between.
It's also easy to catch songthaews along South Pattaya Road, Central Pattaya Road, and North Pattaya Road; in the case of the latter, there's often a songthaew waiting at the Dolphin Circle roundabout (they depart from here at regular intervals, or when full, and the fare to the bus station is 10 baht) and there's also a free songthaew service to the Tesco-Lotus supermarket on North Pattaya Road.
For Jomtien, songthaews wait at the beginning of Pratamnak Road (the continuation of Second Road, from the South Pattaya Road crossroads), and charge 10 baht.
For Naklua, take a songthaew up Second Road to the Dolphin Roundabout. If the songthaew turns left or right at the roundabout (ie it's not one of the few that continue straight on to Naklua), disembark immediately and cross to the north side of the roundabout, and either walk or take a north-bound songthaew (10 baht) from there.
White coloured songthaews ply Sukhumvit Road, going as far as Si Racha and Sattahip (20 baht); full-size buses to destinations as far away as Trat and even Chiang Mai also stop and pick up passengers on Sukhumvit Road (at the South Pattaya Road, Central Pattaya Road, and North Pattaya Road junctions).
If you're overcharged by a songthaew driver, note the three digit vehicle number (top left corner of the windscreen, also stencilled on both sides and in the back) and report the problem to:
By local bus
After long delays, a government-subsidised public bus system charging 30 baht/trip, 90 baht/day, 180 baht/3-day and 900 baht/month was test-launched in August 2005. The long-term plan is for six routes (three clockwise, three anticlockwise - map), with three air-con 34-seat buses per route making scheduled stops from 06:00 to 02:00 at 20 minute intervals. The introduction of facilities for wheelchairs, and additional open-top sightseeing buses, have also been proposed.
As at mid-2006 the green line has been suspended, the frequency on the remaining routes has been extended to 30 minutes, and the one-trip fare reduced to 20 baht. How temporary or permanent these changes are is unclear, but in the meantime, be aware that Pattaya now has a lot of shiny new bus-stop signs which make no attempt to tell prospective passengers that they are not in use. Brochures with details of the routes/stops (but not times) are available from the bus drivers; for updates, try dialing 038757340 /1 or e-mail [email protected].
By motorbike taxi
The quickest way to get around is by motorcycle (motosai). A moto-taxi will be less expensive than a songthaew charter, but arguably less safe. Roadside moto-taxi stands are scattered throughout town, and waiting drivers usually clap their hands or sometimes call out to attract the attention of potential passengers; alternatively just flag down the next available one that cruises by, as the drivers are easily identified by their coloured vests. Some will carry two (or more!) passengers - although this is illegal. Foreigners can expect to pay around 30-40 baht for trips around the inner parts of town.
Meter-taxis are a common sight in and around Pattaya. All are from Bangkok; their drivers bring passengers from the capital, and then operate locally until a return fare becomes available. There are also some car services and non-metered taxis that operate on an on-call basis; minibuses can also be chartered. These services are suited primarily to longer trips outside the core of the town or to another city, and can be arranged through most travel agencies and many hotels/guesthouses. Expect to pay considerably more than the cost of a songthaew charter, probably in the order of a few hundred baht.
If considering renting a vehicle, bear in mind that traffic in Pattaya can seem very erratic by Western standards, and that driving on the left can be confusing not only for those who have previously only ever driven on the right, but also for those unfamiliar with the common Thai practice (even the police do this) of motorcycling alongside the kerb on the "oncoming" side of the road, or the wrong way up one-way streets. The latter problem is especially prevalent in the Pattaya Bay area, where the majority of the roads in the main tourism zones are one-way; and the northern section of Second Road requires great care as some treat the right-hand "bus" lane as oncoming, while others do not.
Motorcycles and Scooters
Motorcycle rentals are a very popular way to get around, but not the safest, especially in the case of visitors with limited previous experience of motorcycling and Eastern traffic habits, and even more so in Pattaya given the large number of motorcycle-mounted holidaymakers who seem hell-bent on a Darwin Award. Also note that a motorcyclist carrying a shoulder bag, and anything placed in the front basket of a motorcycle, makes an especially easy target for bag-snatchers. Also beware the "No Parking" signs - fines are typically 400-500 baht.
Motorbikes can be rented without difficulty at countless locations in Pattaya, including many hotels and guesthouses, usually without having to produce a licence; however it's common for foreigners to be asked to deposit their passports as security (to avoid this, simply shop around until you find one of the many places that will accept a photocopy instead); cash deposits are also often required (1000 baht is not uncommon). Motorcycle rentals do not include insurance, and both motorcycling accidents and motorbike thefts are common.
Noks Bike Rentals..at the "TAKE IT EASY BAR", Soi 7/8.. British managed, open 24hours, also sells European bike helmets.
Cars and jeeps
Cars can easily be rented, and are a good way to explore beyond the city limits, but they are not such a practicable way to get around the busiest central areas as traffic can be congested, and parking spaces can be difficult to find in the evening and weekend periods. However the major supermarkets offer free parking, and low-cost parking is available at the major shopping venues such as Royal Garden Plaza, Central Festival & Big C on Second Road.
Rentals without insurance start from around 800 baht/day for small cars, and from as little as 600 baht/day for open-top jeeps; cars with insurance start at just under 1000 baht/day, and come down to around 5600 baht/week or 18000 baht/month in low season. High season prices (from early November) are generally a few hundred baht more.
Getting the correct type of insurance cover on any rental car in Thailand is extremely important. Commerical "Car Rental Company" First Class Insurance provides the absolute full legal cover (as opposed to limited personal or third party only insurance cover. Request a copy of the policy document and check that it states "For Comercial Use".
Bicycles could, until recently, be rented at Jomtien - however due to lack of demand the current options are to either bring your own, or buy one locally - see the Do | Sports | "cycling" section
Animals & zoos
There are two submarines (yellow ones, of course!) with tour operators in Pattaya:
Elephant shows & trekking offered by several operators, most located on Sukhumvit Road. These include Ban Chang Thai tel. +66-3870628 /91, Utthayan Chang tel. +66-38716379, Thin Chang Thai tel. +66-38756516 / +66-38756577, Suan Chang tel. +66-38756517, Farm Chang Thai tel. +66-38237825.
The three-kms. long, main Pattaya Beach, runs along the city centre. The beach is full of life with hotels, restaurants, shopping malls all along the road facing the beach. The street along the beach – Walking Street – comes alive with rock music as the night sets in. People throng the street to experience the night life, which is unique in all respects. There are hundreds of beer bars, go-go bars, discotheques around the area. Muay Thai, the Thai Boxing, an open arena in some of the beer bars are exciting to the hilt.
Another beach in Pattaya, Jomtien Beach, more popular among family vacationers, is on the Southern part of the city, and separated from the main Pattaya Bay by a hill. Jomtien is more calm and serene compared to the crowded Pattaya Beach and a paradise for water sports enthusiasts. Jomtien is also popular for its amusement park and tower, to keep children entertained. The one-km. long, Wong Phrachan Beach, situated on the Northern part of the Pattaya Beach is a favourite among swimmers.
Pattaya's main beaches are popular and busy places. For the thrill-seekers, activities include banana-boat rides, jet-skiing, water-skiing, parasailing, windsurfing, and the like; and anyone who just wants to enjoy a simple swim or a good splash around with a frisbee or rented inner tube will always find themselves with plenty of company. However, while in and beyond the surf, a wary eye does need to be kept on the more frenetic elements of the passing traffic.
For those more interested in inactivities there are acres of sand jam-packed with recliners and umbrellas (usually with an "in-house" supply of drinks), serviced by an army of laid-back but tenacious hawkers offering anything and everything from food (especially seafood, fruit, ice cream) to massage, manicure/pedicure, tattoos, lottery tickets, newspapers, herbs, flowers, gems, perfumes, sunglasses, CDs, watches, lighters, clothes, toys, souvenirs, handycrafts (it's a bit like TV shopping - as soon as you've declined one offer, it's time to consider another) and so on. Eventually you buy a very dark pair of sunglasses, and after that you just pretend to be asleep.
Beware of dirty, unclean, unknown objects in the beaches and sand, and pay attention to your children. There have been some cases where needles and injections have been found at morning on beaches when the night before teenagers or adults have been intoxicating themselves. But most of the time beach cleaners will clean and sort out the beaches early at the morning. But still pay attention.
Pattaya Beach (Hat Pattaya) is 2.9 km long and bordered by Beach Road. Due to its central location and extreme proximity to several hundred hotels, and because it's a relatively narrow strip of sand, it's crowded at the best of times (and even more so at high tide). Hefty fines for littering help keep the sand neat and tidy, however the sea is not so clean around here.
The northern end of Pattaya Bay (Ao Pattaya) is occupied by Wong Amat Beach, which is accessed from Naklua; and beyond the southern end, around the Buddha Hill headland that separates Pattaya Bay from Jomtien, are several more smaller beaches.
Jomtien ("Chom Thian", etc) Beach is a 10-15 minute (10 baht) songthaew ride south from the centre of Pattaya. Some 6 km long, it is especially popular with Thai families enjoying day outings. Places to eat and sleep line the opposite side of Jomtien Beach Road and the many sois that lead from it.
Dongtan Beach, at the northern end of Jomtien Bay, has a traffic-free promenade, and the area in front of the Avalon Beach Resort is popular with gay visitors.
Naklua Bay is immediately north of Pattaya Bay, with Rachvate Cape separating the two. Naklua Beach, to the far north, is the main strip, with the smaller Crescent Moon Beach and then Palm Beach further south. Beyond them is Wong Amat Beach which occupies the northern end of Pattaya Bay, but is accessed from Naklua. All are generally cleaner and more suitable for quiet relaxation than Pattaya Beach.
Cinemas in Thailand tend to be severely air conditioned - bring a long sleeve shirt, or jacket, or both! Otherwise, the two large mall cinemas in Pattaya are mostly up to Western standards. Some (but by no means all) Thai-language films are subtitled in English (check the billing at the theatre) and some films will have both subtitled and non-subtitled showings.
Cinema patrons must stand during the King's anthem; singing along is generally frowned upon.
Arcades can be found lurking behind the cinema at Central Festival (Big-C) and in the Tesco-Lotus complex on North Pattaya Road (but neither is worth getting excited about) and touch-screen amusement machines are scattered throughout the shopping malls.
Festivals & events
Songkran is the Thai New Year, celebrated primarily by everyone throwing prodigious quantities of water at anything that moves. Pattaya officially celebrates Songkran on later dates (April 18-19) than most of the rest of the country (April 13-15) - but in reality the fun just starts early and keeps on going that much longer. During this period many hotels and guesthouses have high occupancy levels, and public transport services (especially buses to/from Bangkok) are very busy, with more frequent than normal departures but also with appreciable delays due to the general mayhem on the roads.
For more on Songkran in general, including the more traditional religious and spiritual aspects, see Thailand | Holidays
Songkran in Pattaya follows the same overall pattern as seen elsewhere in Thailand, but is especially vigorous in areas such as Soi 7 and Soi 8. Expect to get very wet indeed and you're unlikely to be disappointed - regardless of where you go or what else you actually plan to do. Although things calm down considerably after dusk, it's still worth keeping anything that could easily be damaged (especially cameras, mobile telephones, passports etc) in plastic bags.
As is the case throughout Thailand, Songkran is a particularly dangerous time on the roads, and especially for motorcyclists and moto-taxi passengers. It's also a bad time to get caught without protection for your luggage while travelling in a songthaew, so if arriving or departing during this period, either plan ahead (bin-liners are invaluable) or else take a taxi instead.
Note that the banks in Pattaya close for three days on the "national" Songkran dates (April 13-15) and are open as normal on the Pattaya-specific dates. Pattaya Immigration Office also closes on the "national" dates, and for the rest of the period hands back all passports pre-wrapped in plastic bags, without being asked.
Pattaya has an abundance of massage shops; some are strictly non-sexual, others are not. The most common types of massage include Thai massage, foot massage, oil massage and reflexology massage. Three large "soapy massage" parlors clustered on Second Road, near Big C, offer a combination of bathing with a girl, body-to-body soap massage and sex.
Pattaya can provide for an entire holiday of sports and activities.
Pattaya Sports Club  (tel. +66-38361167) is primarily an organisation for local sportsmen/women and has good online resources for those seeking to play golf or other sports while in the area.
Billiards / pool / snooker
Flying, paragliding & skydiving
Golf is a speciality of the region, with more than 20 courses within an hour's drive (most within 30 minutes) of Pattaya, many designed by some of golf's most famous names, including Nick Faldo (Great Lakes), Jack Nicklaus (Laem Chabang), Gary Player (Sri Racha) and Robert Trent Jones (Eastern Star Resort and Country Club). All offer good facilities and value for money in the 500 baht (green & caddy fee) to 2500 baht range.
The International Pattaya Golf Club is non-profit organisation (membership 500 baht for 2 years, 1000 baht for 5 years) comprising five local golf societies, some of which rent clubs and footwear. One of these, The Pattaya Golf Society (PGS), has a website with useful general information and course guide pages. Membership is open to both long term residents and holidaymakers, and all are welcome, regardless of gender, age or handicap (bring proof of your current handicap with you).
Hot air ballooning
Muay Thai (Thai boxing)
Thai boxing matches can be seen at numerous locations, including several of the beer bar complexes off Beach Road and one complex on Walking Street.
Parasailing / parascending
Scuba dive training and trips for a wide range of ability levels and interests, certified by a number of different organisations, including both NAUI and PADI, are available through numerous dive shops. Dive sites
Waterskiing & wakeboarding
Windsurfing & kiteboarding
You're in Thailand, so you know shopping is never far away. There are numerous large malls, small malls, supermarkets, bazaar-style markets, and thousands of other shops. Sadly, you'll be seeing a lot of the same stuff over and over again - there's no endless variety here.
Pattaya is not a good place to go shopping for hi-tech products such as cameras, computers, etc - as a very rough guide, expect to see prices around 50% higher than the best prices advertised in the west. For Pattaya's best selection of electronics under one roof, see the Tuk.Com (Com City, South Pattaya Road) listing below.
Foreign currency can easily be exchanged for Thai baht at the many exchange booths which can be found in all areas popular with tourists - there are even mobile exchanges/ATMs in specially adapted minivans that are set up as and when and where the need arises. Note that the majority of exchange booths will buy foreign currency but will not sell it - if you need to obtain USD (for example if you're going to Cambodia) use one of the larger branches of a major bank, such as the Bangkok Bank branch on Second Road (almost opposite Soi 6).
Beware of buying fake branded and designer goods, since these are likely to be confiscated by customs officers at the airport. Five tons of counterfeit designer perfume was crushed by a bulldozer in front of press cameras at the airport in 2007.
Pattaya has a veritable trolley-load of supermarkets, including:
There are many bazaar-style markets in Pattaya where you can haggle 'till you drop, including...
...any many more, including one on Second Road near Soi 2, next to Tiffany's Show.
Convenience stores are everywhere, especially 7-Eleven and Family Mart shops (all open 24/7), plus countless independents. If you use the family run shops the prices aren't always marked but should be the same, or just a baht or two higher, and you'll have the satisfaction of knowing your money isn't flowing back to the USA or Japan.
Gold shops abound, with concentrations around the market on South Pattaya Road and around Central Pattaya Road near Second Road, plus numerous jewelry shops towards the south end of Beach Road.
Art Galleries are also considered to be rising business in Pattaya, most of the places will offer variety works and services including custom orders and art reproductions. These galleries in Pattaya have reputations in affordable prices and fine quality artist skills. The best and biggest is KC Gallery, located on Walking Street. Also worth mentioning is Narai Art Gallery (local crafts) on Soi 6, Phratamnak Road, which doubles as a nice restaurant.
Tailor shops are everywhere, but quality is variable. Ideally, make sure you get two fittings before buying.
You're in Thailand, so you know food is never far away. There are heaps of restaurants, food carts, food courts, food markets, motorcyle-sidecar hotdog and meatball vendors, fruit sellers both mobile and stationary, even a roaming coffee peddling tuk-tuk. OK, so the germ theory of disease doesn't yet seem to be widely accepted but don't let that stop you from ordering the sushi.
Many (although not all) non-Thai-cuisine restaurants also have at least a limited menu of Thai favorites as well.
Pattaya is internationally known for its nightlife. Although it's infamous as a sex tourist destination, there are ample opportunities to dance, drink, and observe humanity even if paid sex is not of interest.
prices - a very rough guide: small Heineken (330ml) / Bacardi Breezer (275ml)
In beer bars and go-go bars, drinks bought for employees - "lady drinks" - are (very roughly 50%) more expensive; the actual price is often posted on the wall and/or in the drinks menu.
Pattaya is especially famous for its beer bars (also called bar-beer), staffed by "bar girls" who are "for hire" to the tourists and ex-pats who drink there. Popular beer bar pastimes include pool, connect-four and shut-the-box.
Open-air beer bars can be found all over Pattaya, with the biggest and best known concentrations being along and around Soi 7 / Soi 8 and Walking Street, at numerous points on Second Road, Beach Road, Soi Buakhao, and in smaller numbers just about everywhere else, including along the southern end of Naklua Road and at Jomtien. Although the staff of a typical beer bar will usually all be prostitutes, customers who have no intention of paying a "bar fine" (money paid to the bar so that the girl can leave with the customer) are generally very welcome and indeed make up the majority of the clientele.
Indoor beer bars can also be found all over Pattaya, the most notorious areas being Soi Yodsak (Soi 6) and parts of Soi Post Office (Soi 13/2). While some of these bars are much more "bar fine" oriented, in most cases customers who simply want to buy drinks are still welcome.
The official closing time in "entertainment zones" is 01:00 (in practice usually somewhere between 01:00 and 02:00, depending on the location) and 00:00 elsewhere - however "closing" is defined as switching off the music and non-essential lighting, and numerous beer bars remain open 24/7.
Also called a-go-go bars, the main concentrations are along Walking Street and the three Pattayaland streets, with more dotted around the most popular beer bar areas; most come to life at around 20:00 and close between 01:00 and 02:00.
Sight-seeing tourists are welcome in go-go bars, however cameras are not. Signs prohibiting photography are widespread, and a minority of venues require patrons to deposit their cameras with security staff as they enter.
Popular bar venues
So, you're passing through Pattaya and you've set aside a few hours to check out the bar scene - but where to go? The most popular (and generally the most densely concentrated) beer bar and go-go bar locations (listed south to north) are:
Should have been named "Walking, Shopping, Eating, Drinking, Dancing and Ogling Street" as there's plenty of almost everything here - including around 100 beer bars and at least 30 go-go bars, plus many more in the side-sois that lead east towards Pratamnak Road. Worth a look in the daytime, but best visited in the evening, and has loads of restaurants if you're bridging the gap between the two. Gets really packed in places when the discos empty, so watch your pockets. If you're going to visit just one go-go, you could try "Super Baby" in Soi Diamond, whose reputation for having the most attractive girls (not a stretch mark as far as the eye could see) in its heyday a year or two back made it a mandatory stop for countless busloads of Asian tourists. While that's no longer quite the case, it's still a good bet as a hassle-free "middle of the road" place to see.
Soi Pattayaland 2 (Soi 13/4) features on many a Pattaya postcard - when lit up at night, the go-go bar signs are a memorable and photogenic sight, although there are in fact only eight go-go bars here (two of which feature guys, not girls), plus a half-dozen bars and the Penthouse Hotel. Worth a look in the evening (it's almost a ghost town the rest of the time), but get there before 01:00 as that's when the lights go out.
Soi Pattayaland 3 ("Boyz Town" - no direct access from Beach Road, runs from the middle of Soi 13/4 to Second Road) features only male dancers and bars that cater for the gay crowd; Soi Pattayaland 1 (Soi 13/3) has even more all-male go-gos (eight), but does have a couple of girlie-go-gos too. There is also a small lesbian scene in Pattaya, with local butch girls called "tom" girls and femme girls called "dee".
There's always something going on here - in the evening and early hours, there are about 120 well-staffed beer bars to choose from, plus a handful of go-go bars; in the morning there are several places that serve breakfast; in the afternoon it's a popular place for those who like to get started early; and at Songkran (New Year) it's unmitigated mayhem. The "Night Out" complex (10 large outdoor bars, on a side-soi that connects Soi 7 and Pattaya Central Road) is about as family-orientated as these places ever get, and has live music from 20:00-01:00. There are several large hotels (light sleepers beware), and Soi 8 also has a few travel agencies, convenience stores, etc.
Imagine a kerb-crawlers paradise - and then pedestrianise it. Arguably Pattaya's most colourful street (as well as most notorious), Soi 6 has about 50 bars (mostly "short time" bars, with names such as "Butterfly", "Love Club", "Route 69" and "The Eager Beaver") which all get going at 13:00 and close pretty much on the dot at 01:00. It's not really a pedestrian-only street (but it is one-way), however walking - preferably in broad daylight - is undoubtedly the best and most popular way to experience it. Go in the middle of the afternoon and just wander from one end to the other (if coming from the south, walk from the Second Road end down to the Beach Road end if you want to get there and back by songthaew). It's much, much more "sex-tourist" than "tourism" oriented, but anyone and everyone is welcome everywhere provided they're buying a drink or three. The curiously named "Hi Boss! 2002 Pub" is where the ladyboys hang out, there's one go-go - "Mandarin" (dancing from 17:00 till 01:00), plus a couple of "pub" food possibilities; and neighbouring Soi 6/1 has a handful of "ordinary" outdoor beer bars.
On the west side of Second Road opposite the Central Festival Centre is a collection of about 35 very popular beer bars, which start to fill up from about 16:00, and several of which remain open long after the lights go out around 01:00-02:00. "Atlantic Bar", at the far end of the five-bar strip to the south of Soi 2, always draws a substantial crowd. The only go-go ("Classroom 2", 19:30-02:00) is a lively one, and while there's not much in the way of food in amongst the bars themselves, there are numerous eating options extremely close nearby (including outlets for most of the major fast-food chains directly opposite on the other side of Second Road).
10 assorted "same-same but different" bar styles
Pattaya is well known for its katoey cabaret (aka ladyboy or transvestite) shows. Two of the best known (expect busloads of Asian tourists) are:
Pattaya has various clubs, of which the "Pattaya City Expat Club" is the oldest ex-pat club in town. They meet 09:30-12:00 on Sunday mornings at the Henry J. Beans pub at the beginning of Beach Road. Their motto is "Expats helping Expats" and that is what they do. There are various breakfasts to chose from ranging from 65 baht for coffee and toast and up 185 baht for a combination Western/Thai breakfast. All are welcome.
Pattaya has two types of disco - those that are on or near Walking Street, and those that are not.
Those on Walking Street are more popular with Westerners accompanied by bar girls, and with bar girls looking for customers. The best known are:
The ones further away from Walking Street are generally more typical Thai discotheques: no special area for dancing, but lots of shows and great atmosphere. Admission is usually around 300 baht and includes one free drink.
Live music - especially popular rock oldies - can be heard at several open-air venues along Walking Street, and at various bars elsewhere.
Pattaya has an extensive selection of inexpensive mid-range accommodation, and a good variety of more upmarket options. Very cheap (under 400 baht) accommodation can also be found, and generally there's no need to book in advance. Standard rooms (double bed, air-con, cable TV, refrigerator, hot shower) start from 400 baht/day (6000 baht/month), and rates are invariably per room, not per person. For families or small groups, three bedroom bungalows from 30000 baht/month can be found at Jomtien. For better rates for longer stays, enquire at real estate offices.
Unless otherwise noted, prices quoted here are low season. Like all resort areas in Thailand, hotel pricing is highly seasonal. High season dates vary from hotel to hotel, but typically prices go up considerably during the Christmas-New Years period (which co-incides neatly with the season of best weather), and are lower between February and October/November. In addition to higher rates during the holiday period, guests staying over Christmas and New Year's Eve will often be required to pay for "Compulsory Gala Dinners" which can substantially increase the cost of the room. In recent years some hotels have started to insist that March is also covered by 'high season' prices - presumably because professional western men are usually most free to visit during a long Easter holiday break from work, and are happy to do so despite the worsening weather.
With the exception of large resorts or international chains such as the Hard Rock and Marriott, the lowest rates available from abroad are typically those available from the hotels directly. Except for the least expensive, many will handle reservations via email or a web form. Many will expect a deposit, usually by credit card or bank transfer.
While some hotels do not allow prostitutes to accompany guests to their rooms, this is uncommon in budget and mid-range hotels in Pattaya. Some "upmarket" hotels may charge a "joiner fee" for unregistered visitors, and a few may discourage visitors altogether. In all hotels, hotel security will check the ID of visitors in order to prevent girls aged under 20 from entering the hotel.
For visitors who simply want to sleep soundly, a box of high-grade foam earplugs is often a wise investement when staying at many Pattaya hotels.
Most telephone numbers in this article are shown in "international" format. To dial these numbers locally, replace the +66 with a zero, thus:
Overseas calls can be made from many agencies and Internet shops, as well as guesthouses/hotels and the like - most advertise a rate of 10 baht/minute (or 20 baht/minute to mobile 'phones).
Pattaya Telecommunications Centre (183/44 Soi Post Office - opposite side to the Post Office, about 6 shops east) is open Mon-Sat 10:00-18:00. Outside, in the 24/7 payphones booth, there's an International Operator Direct Connection (IODC / Home Country Direct) service 'phone which provides one button press connections (suitable for making collect calls) to operators in: Australia; Canada; Denmark; France; Germany; Hong Kong; Indonesia; Italy; Japan; Netherlands; New Zealand; Philippines (Philcom + PLDT); Singapore; Sweden; Taiwan; UK; USA (AT&T + MCI + Sprint).
Internet access is very widely available, and speed and reliability of connection is generally good; however, as is the case throughout Thailand, some websites are blocked by Thai ISPs - notably gambling sites (as part of the government's tough line on all gambling), pornography portals, and anonymous proxy services.
The majority of Internet shops tend to open late and close late, but many are open 24/7; prices range from 120 baht/hour down to 20 baht/hour. One baht per minute is typical for predominantly tourist-oriented shops, many of which also offer lower rates for pre-paid blocks of time. It's not difficult to find well-equipped, quiet, air-con Internet cafés that charge 30 baht/hour if you shop around a little; likewise shops that can accommodate users who want to hook up their own laptops can easily be found. Printing (black/white) is usually 10 baht/page (30 baht/page for colour).
Many Internet cafés and photo-processing shops have facilities for off-loading digital photos from memory cards and burning them to CD, for which the going rate is 100 baht per CD. As always, carefully verify the integrity of the images on the CD before re-formatting the memory card, and consider having two copies burned to CD - one CD to send home by mail, the other CD to take home in your luggage as a backup.
Pattaya has several post offices, the most central of which can be found (believe it or not) halfway along Soi Post Office (Soi 13/2). As well as the usual postal services, it handles Western Union transactions and hosts a large number of post/security boxes. On weekdays (except public holidays) it's open 08:30-16:30, and on Saturday and Sunday and public holidays it's open 09:00-12:00; tel. +66-38429340 /1
Jomtien Post Office is at Jomtien Beach Road Soi 5 - tel. +66-38231944
One-stop-shops that handle DHL, EMS, FedEx, TNT, UPS etc are relatively common. Try:
"Dental Tourism" is a popular reason for choosing to visit Thailand, and like other major tourist destinations such as Bangkok and Phuket, Pattaya has many dentists who advertise in English and are accustomed to treating foreigners.
Pharmacies are plentiful and for most medications a prescription is not required (but when a prescription is required, it must be issued by a Thai doctor - a prescription from abroad won't do). Viagra (etc.) is available from most. The international Boots and Watsons chains each have locations at Central Festival (Big-C) and Royal Garden Plaza malls (Boots also have a store in Walking Street, open 12:00-02:00), and their pharmacists tend to have above-average English skills.
For most people, the most hazardous aspect of visiting Pattaya is the traffic. The top three accident black spots are:
Most accidents in Pattaya involve motorbikes, and are especially common late at night and in the early hours of the morning, when drink-driving is a significant problem. Be careful on the roads, even if you're just crossing one on foot (and be equally careful both on and off pedestrian crossings, as Thai drivers generally ignore them, and many foreigners seem to approach them with the hope of scoring double points); be careful on the pavements too - obstacles apparently purpose-engineered to trip up as many people as possible are commonplace, and motorcyclists use footpaths as short cuts with impunity. When riding in the back of an otherwise empty songthaew, it's probably safest to sit directly behind the cab.
In the event of an accident, the injured are usually bundled into the back of the next available songthaew or pickup truck or even onto the back of a motorbike (now you know why Pattaya has so many songthaews, why Thailand is the world's biggest pickup truck market, and why so many Thais ride motorbikes).
A completely different genre of traffic-related accident was highlighted by a fatality in January 2006 when a surfacing diver was hit by a speedboat propeller near Ko Laan. Unfortunately, the popularity of Pattaya's beaches combined with a relatively relaxed attitude to safety concerns in general means that swimmers and divers (and even sunbathers on the beach!) being struck by speedboats and jetskis is not such a rare occurrence.
Some potential visitors might usefully seek medical advice about possible heart attacks before visiting Pattaya. A combination of lack of fitness, stressful long-haul air travel, humidity and heat, the stress of negotiating one's way through a vibrant street life, drinking too much on unfamilar food, indulgence in viagra and frequent over-exertion in the bedroom, can all lead to heart attacks among men of a certain age.
The main police station is on Beach Road (at the corner of Soi 9); dial 191, or 038420802 /5. For Banglamung Police Station dial 038221331 or 038221800.
The Tourist Police relocated from Second Road to new purpose-built offices on Pratamnak Road in June 2006 - they are now located next door to the Tourist Authority of Thailand (TAT) Information Office, exactly 1 km south of the junction of Second Road and South Pattaya Road - proceed along Pratamnak Road, continue straight up the hill, and where the road bears sharp right part way up, turn sharp left into the small side-soi. Alternatively, their mobile minivan office which sets up every evening at the junction of Walking Street / South Pattaya Road / Beach Road is much easier to reach. Their e-mail address is [email protected] - or simply dial 1155
Pattaya Tourist Police advise that in theory foreigners should carry their passports with them at all times, however they also suggest that in practice a good photocopy (personal details page, visa and entry stamp pages, and TM card) is acceptable.
Like most of Thailand, Pattaya is generally safe for tourists and violent crime such as mugging or robbery is unusual, with the exception of jewellery and bag snatching (usually with the thieves on motorcycles, and often with the victims on motorcycles too) which is endemic.
Swindles and pickpocketing are more commonly encountered by tourists - it is very inadvisable to tell anyone that it is your first visit to Thailand, since you will then be marked down as an 'easy touch'.
The nightlife/entertainment areas have a lot of activity and are generally very safe - however pickpockets are a problem, especially on Walking Street when it's crowded, despite the official Tourist Police patrolling the area at night. For this reason, a visitor should not carry a passport and/or credit card with them, especially at night - these should be left in the safe at your hotel along with the bulk of your cash, or if they must be carried then they should be securely concealed. If you have been pick pocketed and then you actually spot the likely pickpocket departing, do not follow. You could be mistaken, and you almost certainly will be accused of being mistaken. Just put it down to experience, and leave the immediate area.
Never ever 'pick a fight' in any circumstance, no matter how much you have had to drink. Never try to intervene, even verbally, in an argument between two or more Thai people.
No matter how much you are being pestered, just smile and walk on. In cash payments, disputes over the value of notes and the amount of change can be avoided by carrying smaller notes and trying to give near enough the exact amount.
The beach side of Beach Road used to be worth avoiding late at night, however the entire length of both the promenade and beach are now floodlit, and although it's still a popular haunt for "freelance" prostitutes, it's now much busier from dusk through until dawn and by no means a "no-go" area.
Visitors should not visit entertainment venues that do not display a long-standing fixed sign outside, or which appear to be very poorly lit inside. Also; one or two of the hundreds of seemingly bright and established venues may actually be operating as a 'clip joint', offering free admission and then refusing to allow visitors to leave until they have settled a faked bill for non-existent drinks. Again; it is wisest simply pay up, leave and put it down to experience.
As always, travellers should take extra care in all poorly lit or more remote areas, and very late at night. This is especially the case if one has had too much to drink.
Drugs - as with all of Thailand, the penalties for possession and/or distribution of drugs are harsh.
Gambling - is illegal in Thailand, and the local press reports Pattaya Police as having a "zero tolerance" policy for gambling offences.
The legal minimum age for customers in drinking establishments and discos is 20. In Pattaya this is rarely enforced for foreigners, but is frequently enforced for Thais, including those accompanying foreigners. Pattaya police conduct raids to check for underage employees (especially in "indoor" and go-go bars) and patrons (especially in discos) from time to time, and less frequently to enforce closing times. Foreign tourists are not the targets of these raids and are usually asked to produce ID (photocopy of photo/ID page of passport will normally suffice) and then allowed to leave, but are sometimes tested for drugs via an on-the-spot urine sample.
Various online and print resources give Pattaya addresses for Kuwait Airways (Marriott Resort), Orient Thai / Orient Express / One-Two-Go (116/7 Moo 9, Central Pattaya Road) and Thai Russian Air Service (Soi Town in Town) - however all these offices have now closed.
Embassies & consulates
Pattaya Immigration Office is now housed in new premises near the inland end of Soi 5, Jomtien Beach Road (most maps show the old Soi 8, Pattaya Beach Road location, which closed in December 2005). Opening hours are 08:30-16:30 weekdays, 08:30-12:00 (extentions/notifications only) on Saturdays (tel. +66-38252750 / fax. +66-38252751-111 / e-mail [email protected]); casual but smart attire is OK, however entry in swimwear or without a shirt is not permitted.
Entry permit extensions are processed on a same day (if applied for before noon - collect after 15:00) or next working day (if applied for after noon) basis. On Saturdays, previous applications can be collected, and new applications can be submitted (for collection next working day). For most nationalities, a 30 day entry permit stamp will usually be extended to 45 days (whereas in Bangkok only an additional 10 days will be given) and a 60 day entry permit stamp will usually be extended to 90 days (further extensions beyond 90 days are also possible). In all cases, the entry permit extension fee is 1900 baht, and two passport photos must be supplied. Photocopies (5 baht) and photos (100 baht for two) are available from a shop inside the immigration office compound (these prices are about four times as much as can easily be found elsewhere). Note that entry permit extensions are discretionary, and must be applied for in person. Shorter extensions are likely to be issued to nationalities who do not qualify for "Visa Free" entry; longer extensions are issued in certain circumstances, such as bereavement, ill health (unable to travel), and for hospital patients (both inpatients and outpatients).
Pattaya Immigration staff also operate a temporary office at Bangkok Pattaya Hospital (on Sukhumvit Road) from 13:00-14:00 on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of every month, which can be used by foreigners who meet certain requirements (essentially, for inpatients and outpatients and their immediate families and/or carers).
Laundry is the least of your worries in Pattaya - small laundry services abound, charging something like 5 baht/underwear, 8 baht/shirt, 10 baht/pants, 15 baht/jeans. All hotels and guesthouses worth their salt also cater for this, although prices tend to be higher (often about double the above, although if you stay somewhere such as the Hilton or Marriot you'll pay just as much as you would in California). In smaller and more informally managed accommodation, the maid who cleans your room will probably welcome the opportunity to boost her meagre salary and do your laundry (by hand), typically for a few baht more than an outside laundry service. Usually it's a next day service, but might take a little longer if it rains.
Pattaya's countless travel agencies advertise endless lists of "same day" trips and longer tours that include accommodation elsewhere before returning to Pattaya. The most popular destination for overnight stays is Kanchanaburi and the River Kwai - prices vary, but whirlwind tours are around 3000 baht/person for a 2 day / 1 night package, 4500 baht/person for a 3 day / 2 night package. Shop around the agencies for details and the best deals for this and for alternatives too numerous to mention.
Ko Samet (Samet or Samed Island) in Rayong Province is about 90 minutes away by direct minibus to Ban Phe (150-200 baht) and then a further 30-40 minutes by ferry (50 baht, frequent departures until dusk). It's a fairly small island (most of which belongs to Khao Laem Ya - Mu Ko Samet National Park) with great beaches and copious accommodation - however pre-booking is virtually essential on Thai public holiday dates.
Ko Chang (Chang Island) in Trat Province is about three hours away by direct minibus to Laem Ngop (400-500 baht), plus 30 minutes for the ferry crossing and then another 20-30 minutes to get to the west coast beaches. It's a relatively large island (Thailand's third biggest) with numerous beaches and lots of places to stay. Parts of Ko Chang, and several smaller nearby islands which also have accommodation, belong to Ko Chang National Park. It's now more developed than Ko Samet, but budget accommodation can still be found.
Day trips to the border with Cambodia (invariably for the purposes of leaving and then immediately re-entering Thailand - so called "visa runs", although it's a new "entry permit stamp" that is issued, not a visa) are big business in Pattaya.
Travel agencies sell tickets for daily guided same-day-return trips, and for longer trips to Phnom Penh if you actually need to visit a Thai embassy and apply for a Thai visa but don't want to do so independently.
The same-day "entry permit stamp" trips usually include the price of the visa for Cambodia in the package (the operator will use a border crossing where an "arrangement" has been negotiated with the Cambodian immigration officials stationed there) and come in various flavours - sardine-style minibus, luxury "armchair" minibus, big bus, depart when the bars close and arrive at the border when it opens, depart late and return in the evening, smoking, non-smoking, breakfast included, and so on. Prices vary to suit, typically between 1700 and 2500 baht - cruise along Soi Buakhao and you'll see many signs quoting prices for these services. Confirm that you're eligible to enter Thailand "Visa Free" before attempting this (most Western passports qualify), as it's not possible to get a Visa-on-Arrival for Thailand when entering (or re-entering) overland from Cambodia.
The nearest border crossing to Pattaya is Pakkard / Prum, but the closest with daily direct public bus transport is Aranyaprathet / Poipet. All border crossings between Thailand and Cambodia open at 07:00 and close at 20:00.
From Pattaya, the most direct routes are:-