What to Do & Where to Stay in the Pattaya Area

Pattaya is renowned around the world for its hedonistic opportunities but that is a very narrow view of this once sleepy fishing village.

Pattaya grew rapidly during the period of the Vietnam War when it was used by the US Armed Forces as a venue for its servicemen to relax – R & R as it is called.

After the end of the Vietnam War it continued to build on the infrastructure, growing into a tourist resort in its own right whilst retaining some of the entertainment ideas that had made it popular to servicemen.

It is now a thriving tourist destination that is well known around the world and has expanded to provide entertainment of all types and styles including luxury resorts and a variety of top-quality shows.

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Where is Pattaya?

Pattaya lies about 2.5 hours drive south-west from the center of Bangkok, Thailand sitting on the broadly West facing coastline of the Gulf of Thailand in the province of Chonburi.

Now that the sleepy town has grown into Pattaya City and continued to expand, the built-up area also takes in Jomtien, sometimes spelled Jomtiem, Beach a few kilometers further south along the coast and the Wong Mat Beaches north of the main town.

Overview of the Pattaya Area

Strictly speaking, Pattaya is the main town or city area but commonly people refer to Pattaya as covering a much larger area.

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The Main Areas In & Around Pattaya

Image depicting Pattaya Dark Side - the other side of the Railway
Pattaya Darkside – The Secret Pattaya with Many Hidden Gems

The Darkside

Pattaya is served by a railway that lies inland from the coast at the back of the main commercial area. Once you cross the railway lines you are away from the main entertainment and shopping area which is colloquially known as the Dark Side.

Nothing to do with the Force and Darth Vader but more to do with the fact that the entertainment zone in Pattaya is brightly lit until the late early hours of the morning whereas the lights go out in the area across the tracks much earlier.

On the outskirts, this area serves many long-stay expats as well as the local population and the quite scenic Machapran Lake area which is currently being upgraded with a new cycle lane, playpark for kids and many lakeside restaurants to enjoy.

If you choose to stay in this quiet area there are still places to go but the whole vibe is much more relaxed and low key.

Pros & Cons of The Darkside

On the Plus Side
  • Suitable for Couples & Families
  • Longer Stays with Own Transport
  • Quiet Area with Good Restaurants
  • Nice Lake Area for Exercise
  • Modern Play Area for Kids.
  • Good Lakeside Bars & Eateries
  • Good Base for Exploring (less traffic)
  • Relaxed Traditional Local Environment
On the Minus Side
  • Expensive Transport if You've No Car
  • Entertainment Area Not So Accessible
  • More House Rentals, Less Resorts
  • You Really Need Own Transport
phtot of tourists going into speedboats off central Pattaya Beach
Plenty of Tours Leave from Central Pattaya Beach

Pattaya Beach – Northern & Central Sections

Pattaya beach runs for several kilometers, most of which has the beach road running immediately behind the beach which makes for a nice scenic drive. Since it is usually heavy with traffic there is plenty of opportunity to drive along and look at the boats, parasailing and beach activities and out across the bay of Pattaya.

The northern end of Beach Road starts at the property which is the Dusit Thani Hotel and extends to the end of walking street where traffic has long been diverted back inland towards the close by Second Road as it is commonly called.

As the name suggests second road is the road behind Beach Road – the second road back from the beach. There are many hotels on the northern section of Beach Road, some of which extend right back to Second Road and others located on the many sois (small roads that Brits might call Lanes) between Beach Road and Second Road.

Beach Road & Second Road have a transportation service that is commonly known as the Baht Bus which is a sort of Song Teaw that is basically a small truck converted with seating and a roof at the back.

You can jump on one of these Bhat Buses along the Beach Road and journey from one end to the other for a fixed price of 10 baht. But we would caution that you tell the driver where you intend to get off.

This ensures the bus is not going to turn off part of the way along the road (a few do though not many) and you also have a chance that the bus will stop somewhere near where you want to go to. However, it is up to you to get off at the right place as the driver will not jump out to hold your hand if you miss it! Up to You as they say!

As you approach the central part of Beach Road the hotels give way more to shopping areas, a huge Central Mall which is attached to the Hilton Hotel, restaurants and relatively few bars.

Pros & Cons of Pattaya Beach Road – Northern & Central Area

On the Plus Side
  • Suitable for Singles, Couples & Families
  • Easy & Cheap to get to Entertainment
  • Beach Road Hotels Next to the Sea
  • Mostly Quiet in the Hotels for Sleep
  • Many Restaurants & Shops Nearby
  • Convenience
On the Minus Side
  • Beach Road Quite Busy
  • Hotels a Little Pricer in This Area (Hotels inside the Sois less Pricey)
  • Hassle from Touts if Out Walking
  • The Quality of the Beach Leaves Much to Be Desired
photo of girl holding a guys hand at the southern end of Pattaya Beach
The Southern End of Beach Road Affords Plenty of Entertainment of Every Kind

Beach Road – Southern End

Traveling further south you find several smaller malls including Mike's Shopping Mall and progressively more shops and then more bars the nearer you get to Walking Street. The sois also become a lot closer together to accommodate a huge number of beer bars and entertainment joints as well as restaurants.

Once you have passed Mike's Shopping mall you are really into the commercial area and beginning fo the Entertainment Zone proper.

The only reason to stay in this area is if you intend to spend the majority of your time in the bars and nightclubs and spend your days sleeping off the excesses of the night before. For this reason, it is not really suited to families and probably couples either who have each other for company.

The southern end of beach road close to walking street is where local freelance girls and ladyboys hang out beachside and busy sois full of bars and more adult entertainment, tout for your business.

This area takes in the main LGBT scene with certain sois almost entirely given over to boy bars and shows and the other, quite closely packed sois serving up a range of offerings for your delectation.

It is noisy, though marginally less so than Walking Street, stays open late and a place to go and look at alternative ways to get your kicks.

The freelancers on the beach provide company for the evening for others and free to choose who to spend their time with.

Pros & Cons of Pattaya Beach Road – Southern End

On the Plus Side
  • Suitable for Singles Who Want to Party
  • Entertainment Close By
  • Near the Sea
  • Inexpensive Rooms & Hotels
  • Many Restaurants & Shops Nearby
  • No Transport Issues for Partying
On the Minus Side
  • Horribly Noisy Area All Night
  • Quite a Seedy Area
  • Low-Quality Accommodation
  • Too Much of a Good Thing Boring?

I hope that I have managed to paint a picture of a changing atmosphere as you travel from the quieter and somewhat quiet and more upmarket northern end, to the commercial center and on to the dazzling, brash and much noisier and bodied southern end of Beach Road.

photo of teh northern end of Walking Street - the center of the entertainment area of Pattaya
If you Want to Party then Walking Street Offers Plenty of Different Experiences

Walking Street

Walking Street is a 750m stretch of traffic-free street that is bursting to the brim with entertainment. Las Vegas ain't got nothing on Walking Street so far as entertainment for the masses goes!

It wasn't always a walking street and indeed during the day it is possible to drive down it since it does not wake up until the late afternoon and it is slow to wake up at that.

As the sun begins to set and the skies turn from orange to pink to indigo, scantily clad girls and boys that look like girls appear as well as boys who like boys. The bars open their competing sounds, the gogo joints send out their attractive girls to pull in customers and the neon signs burst into life.

As the evening wears on, there is no let-up, in fact, things probably get noisier as the late-night discos and music clubs get into swing.

Walking Street is a wonderful mix of explicit adult entertainment, bars where you can sit and people watch, clubs where you can absorb throbbing dance music, clubs where you can listen to live rock music, seafood restaurants, window dancers and more.

Even if you consider such entertainment close to Sodom & Gomorrah, it is still a place to put on your list of things to do and see once in your life as it is quite unique.

Pros & Cons of the Walking Street Area

On the Plus Side
  • Only Suitable for Singles
  • Entertainment Everywhere
  • Cheapest Rooms (But Noisy)
  • No Transport Issues for Partying
On the Minus Side
  • Horribly Noisy Area All Night
  • Quite a Seedy Area
  • Low-Quality Accommodation
  • Too Much of a Good Thing Boring?
photo of the quieter Wong Amat Beach north of Pattaya Beach proper
The Pleasant Wong Amat Beach Area Just North of Pattaya beach but Quieter & Cleaner

North Pattaya Area – Wong Amat Beach

North Pattaya is the area inland of Second road and extending northwards from the Pattaya Klang Road. ‘Klang' means ‘Central' in Thai language. The northern edge of Pattaya City merges with the Naklua and Wong Amat Beach areas.

The main feeder roads to Beach Road are Pattaya Klang which goes to the central section of Pattaya Beach, South Pattaya Road that goes down to the Walking Street end of Beach Road and North Pattaya Road which serves the northern end of Pattaya Beach.

North Pattaya extends beyond North Pattaya Road though into a sub-district known as Naklua, with Pattaya Naklua Road being the main road serving this northern area and the northernmost beaches – the Wongamat Beaches.

The beaches that are accessible are much quieter as is the area generally and so many locals visiting from Bangkok prefer to stay in this area where there are some very nice hotels

There are several parks, shrines, and other recreational areas but access to a lot of the beach can be difficult to access as there are limited parking and roads accessing the beach directly.

It is still easy to get to the entertainment areas by walking or grabbing a local baht bus up to the roundabout at the southern end of Pattaya Naklua Road (where the Dusit Pattaya Hotel is located) and picking up a Baht Bus there which will take you along Beach Road for 10 baht each.

Note that most of the Song Taew's (meaning baht buses so far as Pattaya is concerned), along Pattaya Naklua Road do not go down Beach Road as the roundabout is often closed off to the right turn needed.

The huge Terminal 21 shopping mall is located beside the roundabout as well which is great for shopping.

It is also really easy to get out of town to visit other areas from this location but for that, you are well-advised to hire a car as transport rapidly gets expensive to out of town areas.

Pros & Cons of Northern Pattaya – Wong Amat Beach Area

On the Plus Side
  • Quiet Beaches
  • Value for Money Hotels
  • Good Shopping at Terminal 21
  • Easy to get Out of Town
  • Some Great Out of Town Restaurants
  • More ‘Normal' Experience
On the Minus Side
  • Less Choice Right Next to You
  • Entertainment Further Away
  • Less Company to be Found Nearby
  • You Need a Car to Travel Out
photo of Pattaya in teh Evening taken from Pratamnak Hill
Upmarket Pratamnak Hill is Just South of Pattaya and Walking Street – Far Enough for Peace Yet near Enough to Party.

South Pattaya

South Pattaya Road which goes down to Walking Street and also hosts Tuk.Com Mall, Friendship Supermarket (great variety supermarket) and the large Wat Chai Mongkhon as well as its proximate local market.

But South Pattaya Road marks the northern edge of South Pattaya which incorporates the quiet well known Pratamnak Hill. Thais call this Prah Tamnak Mountain but it is not really a mountain!

There is a nice park with a viewpoint and Buddha statue to visit which affords a great vista over Pattaya Beach and is well worth a trip on a day when you want to wind down a little.

The best hotels are in this area and a lot of high-quality, mainly foreign, restaurants are also located here.

You'll also find Pratumnak Night Market which is the best known and most prestigious night market in the area. Prices are a little higher than the other, somewhat rougher looking, local markets but plenty of good local food to try here.

South Pattaya Beach is not accessible, having been developed many years ago for commercial purposes. The development of the beach is controversial as beach development is generally prohibited in Thailand. So South Pattaya Beach is there, just covered over!

On the other side of the hill, traveling south, you are straight into Jomtien, Jomtiem or Chom Tien – various transliterations of what we will call Jomtiem Beach.

Pros & Cons of South Pattaya Area

On the Plus Side
  • Up Market Area
  • Mostly Good Hotels
  • Quality Restaurants
  • Choice of Jomtiem or Pattaya
  • Some Great Out of Town Restaurants
  • More ‘Normal' Experience
On the Minus Side
  • Less Choice Right Next to You
  • Entertainment Further Away
  • Less Company to be Found Nearby
  • You Need a Car to Travel Out
photo of Jomtien beach - looks nice but waters are badly polluted
Jomtiem Beach is Good Looking But Evil Lurks in the Waters

Jomtiem Beach

South of Pattaya but still in the general Pattaya Area, lies Jomtiem Beach sometimes called Jomtien Beach.

A beautiful wide beach with nice sand but very dirty water thanks to the appalling oversight on the controls of wastewater flowing out from hotels and other commercial premises. If you understand the level of corruption in Thailand then you can make your own mind up as to why developments can flout the laws made to protect the environment.

And so, although Jomtiem Beach itself is great for sitting on if you have shade (there is no natural shade here), the water is not the best for swimming in.

Unfortunately, this is also true of most of Thailand's beaches that are in highly concentrated tourist spots and Jomtiem Beach is no exception. Very nice to look at though.

Jomtiem Beach Road runs along the beach and on which you can find locally run bars and restaurants of varying quality and at the northern end the Immigration Department for the whole Pattaya area and around. Very useful if you need to extend your visa for a slightly longer stay.

South of Jomtien Beach is a wide area that contains more secluded beaches, upmarket beachside restaurants, and resorts for those looking for a more relaxed stay in better quality and slightly more remote locations.

There are quite a few points of interest in this area too, more so for the discerning traveler than someone who is looking for non-stop partying. That said the entertainment area is only a ten-minute drive away.

Pros & Cons of Jomtien Area

On the Plus Side
  • Good for Families & Couples
  • Mostly Good Hotels
  • Up Market Area
  • Entertainment Not So Far Away
  • Great Beachside Restaurants to the South
  • Quieter Relaxed Experience
On the Minus Side
  • More Expensive
  • Need a Car – More Spread Out
  • Main Beach Nice but Dirty Water
  • Not Good For Swimming, Paddling OK

Conclusion

We hope the above provides some good information to help you decide the best part of the Pattaya Area for you to stay.

Families and Couples on anything but a day or two stay will be better served by the northern end of Pattaya Beach Road, the Wongamat Area or Jomtiem Beach Area.

Singles, the most budget-conscious travelers, those seeking company and those who want to party more than sightsee are better staying closer to Walking Street or on the Baht Bus circular route along Second Road and Beach Road otherwise transport becomes an expensive problem.

If you want to travel around outside the center of Pattaya then Grab taxis offer a good, more convenient and cheaper solution to the overpriced local taxis.

But if you intend to go sightseeing then our advice is to hire a rental car which will work out cheaper overall and is more flexible but ensure you have an International Driving Licence.