The area that is now considered Pattaya was recognized at the very beginning of Thai history during the siege of the Siamese capitol city of Ayutthaya by the Burmese. Phraya Taksin, the Great King of Thonburi, pitched camp near Naklua while he scoured the country assembling troops to fight the invaders. He would eventually combine forces with Thailand’s future King Rama I to defeat Burma’s army.
All the way up to the 1950s, the coastline between Si Racha and Sattahip was home to little more than sleepy fishing villages. Only a few families inhabited Pattaya Bay, but it was prized for the calm waters and safe location. The bay is protected by two headlands with hills and higher elevations in the north and south. At one point, the northern end of the beach was involved in the production of sea salt. The northernmost beach is called Na Kluea, which means “salt fields” in Thai.
The strategically protected stretch of coast also attracted the US military during the Vietnam War. The US-friendly Thai Navy Base at Sattahip and US-developed Air Base at U-Tapao flooded the region with servicemen on R&R during the 1970s. For decades Pattaya has been known as a “party town”, beginning with US troops and continuing as a hotspot for single male travelers since then. But today, modern Pattaya attracts a much broader audience.
Visitors from all over the world arrive year-round to enjoy the beaches, the shopping, the golf, and the irresistible cuisine of Thailand. Pattaya offers world-class malls, five-star hotels, and restaurants to serve all appetites, spas, pubs, cinemas, festivals, sporting events, pool parties, and everything else it takes to rival international destinations like Ibiza and Miami.
Pattaya enjoys a tropical climate with three seasons. From November to February is relatively cool by Thai standards, with temperatures ranging from 25 to 30 Celsius and average humidity of about 50%.
As you might imagine, this is peak tourist season. March through June is the hottest time of the year with higher humidity and temperatures that can reach 40 Celsius.
The rainy season usually begins in May with frequent showers and thunderstorms until the end of October.
The cost of living in Pattaya is less than half of that in most western countries. Retirees are welcomed with convenient long-term visas and Pattaya has a thriving expatriate community.
Singles, couples, and families are attracted to the “something-for-everyone” nature of Pattaya. Golf courses, water parks, marinas, riding stables, international schools, universities, and several modern medical facilities ensure long-stay visitors can remain active and be well taken care of.
Pattaya offers everyone the good life at an affordable price.
Nowadays, Pattaya is easier to get into and out of than ever before. From Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok to Pattaya by car takes about an hour. U-Tapao International Airport near Rayong is only about 40 minutes away and is rapidly expanding flight schedules both domestic and international. The idyllic island of Koh Samet is very close by and perfectly situated for day trips. Jungle and mountains await on the island of Koh Chang just a few hours down the scenic coastline.
The newest and most advanced international airport in Bangkok is Suvarnabhumi International Airport. The airport is located on the south side of the capitol city and is only about 110 kilometers from Pattaya.
U-Tapao International Airport is located 47 km south of Pattaya near Rayong. This airport continues to expand both its runways and its flight offerings.
A high-speed train linking Bangkok’s two international airports with U-Tapao airport is in the works and should be operable within 3 years. The route runs right through Pattaya. Trips from Bangkok to Pattaya will be shortened from 2 hours to 30 minutes.
Pattaya can be reached from Bangkok in 90 minutes to 2 hours on either Motorway 7 or the Bangna-Trad elevated expressway. Route 3 (Sukhumvit Road) is an alternate route with many villages and streetlights to contend with.
Pattaya has three bus stations. Air-conditioned buses leave for Bangkok City and the big airport from the North Pattaya Terminal. Non-air-conditioned buses and those traveling to other cities down the gulf coast leave from the South Pattaya Terminal on 3rd Road. For travelers staying in Jomtien, a convenient mini-bus station is located at Foodmart on Thappraya Road.
Other Forms of Transportation
Baht Buses are dark blue heavy-duty pickup trucks fitted with benches and covering on the back to transport people short distances. Mostly the baht buses operate on roads near the beaches. The fares are pretty cheap and well known.
Motorbike Taxis are plentiful. Make sure you negotiate a price before you begin your trip, and make sure you wear a helmet!
Ride-hailing services like Grab and Bolt are available on smartphone apps at very low rates. Real meter taxis are available, but most don’t run the meter and you’ll need to negotiate a price pre-trip.
An inner-city monorail system has been planned for Pattaya, but implementation is still up in the air.
During the past decade, the water quality on gulf coast Beaches has improved drastically. Rerouting of storm drainage and wastewater has proven effective.
Several beach upgrade and reclamation projects are ongoing as the entire area continues to improve.
Wongamat Beach in Naklua
The northernmost beach in Pattaya is Wongamat in Naklua which starts at the Dusit Hotel and stretches North to Pattaya’s famous wooden temple, “The Sanctuary of Truth”. Parts of Naklua are quite rustic. Even today this area is home to hidden noodles stalls and wooden fishing boats. The hectic Lan Po Seafood Market is a “must-see” for visitors. This neighborhood is also the site of many condos and hotels of all classes including the Centara Grand Mirage Beach Hotel. Naklua-Wongamat is more exclusive and high-priced than larger more populated beaches.
From south of the Dusit Hotel, all the way to Walking Street is Pattaya Beach. This stretch of coastline is densely populated with hotels, restaurants, bars, and shops galore. The six-floor Central Festival shopping mall is located beachfront near Soi 9 and houses the spectacular Hilton hotel. Pattaya’s famous Walking Street is currently undergoing a facelift and should emerge shiny, new, and ready to greet visitors in the coming High Season.
A little further south on Pattaya Beach you’ll find the new and improved Bali Hai Pier. A variety of water transportation is available here, including speedboats and ferries to islands both near and far.
Just south of Pattaya Beach is an elevated headland known as Pratumnak Hill. Smaller beaches line the rocky coast at Cozy Beach, near the Intercontinental Hotel, and further south at Dongtan Beach. These smaller beaches are good for families and individuals to chill out in a relaxed atmosphere.
Keep going south and we find several kilometers of golden sand known as Jomtien Beach. Recently a new footpath was constructed that stretches from Pratamnak Hill all the way to Na Jomtien. Thai people choose Jomtien because it has so many huge shade trees lining the beach. Locals and visitors alike come to Jomtien for a less in-your-face tourist feel. Restaurants tend to be mom-n-pop style, hotels lean towards guesthouses, and the pubs are relaxed and friendly. On the extreme southern end of Jomtien Beach is a newly widened beach extension that is popular with street food lovers in the evening.
Na Jomtien Beach
Just a little further south down the seaboard, a much smaller crescent of sand known as Na Jomtien is home to some of Pattaya’s best seafood experiences. The Glass House is a favorite of locals and long weekenders from Bangkok. Next door The Cave offers modern Thai seafood cuisine in a hip and trendy atmosphere. You’ll see great sunsets from Na Jomtien.
If there is a sport that can be played outside, you’ll find it in Pattaya. Water sports like kitesurfing, jet skiing, and paddle boarding are extremely popular. Golf is king around the eastern seaboard, with access to dozens of world-class courses with the lowest green fees in Asia. Cart racing and the BIRA circuit are available for motorsport fans. Volleyball and beach tennis … yoga and aerobics … even equestrian sports in East Pattaya.
Pattaya has also upgraded its upmarket shopping facilities in recent years. Central Festival on Beach Road is chockfull of all the international retail outlets you’re used to. Additionally, dozens of restaurants offering every cuisine from Lebanese to Sushi await on the top floors. The state-of-the-art cinema draws families and locals by showing first-run films in English and in Thai.
Terminal 21 is an impressive shopping mall on Second Road that caters to visitors both local and international. From the full-sized jetliner outside the building to the Eiffel Tower inside, Terminal 21 is one big selfie station!
Royal Garden Plaza located between Second Road and Beach Road is the oldest shopping center and is still thriving with a variety of shops and sea view restaurants like The Wine Connection.
Pattaya also hosts a long list of food stores, and superstores like Big C Xtra, Tops, Makro, Lotus’s, Villa Market, and Foodland.
And no Thai city would be complete without the huge outdoor markets that sell everything from socks to sausages. The Thepprasit Night Market and Buakhao Market are sure to intrigue even the most intrepid of bargain hunters.
Like any popular tourist destination, a certain amount of crime is present in Pattaya, mostly petty crimes around big tourist attractions. A local “Tourist Police” office has been set up and operates independently. They provide services to visitors who need help. The Tourist Police is able to converse in several languages, most notably in English.
Many tourists rent motorbikes or cars to get around Pattaya. It is important to understand that you may be in traffic with a lot of people in a car they aren’t familiar with, driving on the left side of the road for the first time, and in a place they don’t know very well. Drive defensively and take advantage of ride-hailing companies like Bolt and Grab. They can take the pressure out of driving safely in Thailand.
Pattaya Mail, Pattaya People, and Pattaya Today are local English language news providers. Pattaya Blatt is a German-language newspaper, and Farang is a bi-weekly German-language newspaper. Discover Pattaya and REM Thai are long-standing local magazines that feature articles about events, developments, and lifestyles on the Eastern Seaboard.
Local Thai television offers Thai programming as well as many foreign channels. There is a variety of cable programming providers available. Local internet and cable service are good in Pattaya offering high-speed fiber optic cable in most areas.
Several local radio stations broadcast from Pattaya, some in Thai, some in English, and some in both languages.