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Despite its slightly seedy reputation, Pattaya remains one of Thailand's most popular beach getaways. The Eastern Gulf Coast resort's close proximity to Bangkok, just a two-hour drive away, has made Pattaya an especially popular weekend retreat for residents of Thailand's capital city. Those not wishing to brave Pattaya's erratic traffic can travel by taxi, bus or communal pickup-trucks-turned-taxis known as ‘songthaews’. In town, there is great shopping and hedonistic nightlife to enjoy, while Pattaya’s immediate surroundings feature temples, unique settlements and animal parks.
Who to Book With
Those who decide not to obtain their vehicles at Pattaya's nearest major airport, Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport, will find several options in Pattaya itself. A National branch is just one of the places providing car hire along Pattaya Sai Song, one of the community's major streets. Several local companies also rent motorcycles alongside larger vehicles, but no matter which vehicle you choose, the best deals are usually found through online advance booking.
Best Time to Go
Pattaya experiences a hot tropical climate throughout the year, but the resort welcomes its greatest number of tourists during its coolest months from November to February. These months are also when local vehicle hire and hotel rates are at their highest. Visitors who can tolerate the hotter temperatures and higher humidity of March and April will enjoy cheaper rates. Prices decrease even more dramatically during the June to October rainy season, but the sunshine is usually just a fierce between the downpours.
Need to Know Essentials
Vehicles cannot be rented without the following documents:
- A valid driving license belonging to a motorist 21 years of age or over
- A credit card with available credit in the motorist's name
- Booking confirmation number
- A second form of photo identification like a passport
Heavy traffic, especially on weekends, can easily extend the two hours it usually takes to drive the 91 miles between Bangkok and Pattaya. Highway 7, which connects to Bangkok's outer ring road, and Highway 34 are the two main thoroughfares between these two bustling cities. Second Road's northern section and the Pattaya Bay's many one-way roads are often the most challenging places to navigate in this resort infamous for its erratic traffic.
However, driving in Pattaya becomes much easier once you learn the street system. The main north to south streets are named Beach Road, Second Road and Pattaya Third Road; the main east to west routes are North Pattaya Road, Central Pattaya Road and South Pattaya Road; and several smaller streets called sois branch off from these major roads. The Dolphin Roundabout is where North Pattaya Road, Second Road and Beach Road intersect.
As driving in Pattaya is not for the faint hearted, many may be relieved to know that the resort does offer some public transportation alternatives. In addition to Western-style buses and taxis, passengers can also board Thai motorcycle taxis or one of 700 songthaews - dark blue pickup trucks transformed into communal taxis. Another typically Thai means of transportation, the tuk-tuks, is conspicuously absent in Pattaya. More adventurous tourists can also explore Pattaya by motorcycle, scooter or bicycle.
Passengers boarding buses departing Bangkok for Pattaya should avoid the touts offering private minivan transport, which often deposits visitors miles from the main North Pattaya Road bus station. Instead, passengers should stick to official Roong Reuang Coach or government buses whose counters are clearly marked. First class bus tickets between Pattaya and the Eastern (Ekamai), Northern (Mo Chit), or Sai Tai Mai (South) stations cost roughly £2.40 to £2.50 each, while second-class bus tickets are a slightly cheaper at around £2.13. Train tickets purchased at Bangkok's Hualamphong Station cost around £0.66 each.
Both of Pattaya's rail stations stand east of Sukhumvit Road. Pattaya Train Station, the larger of the two, is where most passengers arrive from Bangkok. The smaller Pattaya Tai Train Station lies closer to Jomtien. Passengers able to tolerate the 3.5-hour rail journey without air conditioning between Pattaya and Bangkok's Hualamphong Train Station will find one-way tickets to be an affordable £0.66 each.
All Western style taxis in Pattaya come from Bangkok. Average fares from Bangkok to Pattaya from companies such as Pattaya Taxi range between £21 and £32. The return journey from Pattaya to Bangkok is usually a cheaper £17. All public taxis must be under five years old, have air conditioning and be metered. Taxis between Pattaya and Suvarnabhumi Airport cost around £22, plus an additional motorway toll.
Buses & Trams
Passengers can take either first or second-class buses between Bangkok and Pattaya. First-class buses have on-board toilets and air conditioning, while second-class buses have no toilets and typically take longer to reach their destination as they do not drive on expressways and stop more frequently. First-class buses stop at the North Pattaya Road bus station, while second-class buses stop at South Pattaya Road. Tickets for the recently established Beach Bus service, which travels in a circle around most popular Pattaya attractions, are about £0.63 each.
Pattaya's two best-known daytrip destinations are the even more bustling city of Bangkok and the far more sedate Jomtien Beach. Visitors will encounter a surprising number of Scandinavians in Bang Saen, the nearest beach to Bangkok. The nearby community of Si Racha is best known for its tiger zoo, Saithip Butterfly Garden and red hot sauce. Thailand's busiest port is located in Laem Chabang.
Jomtien - Families and others wishing to avoid some of Pattaya's seedier aspects may prefer the more sedate atmosphere of Jomtien, a beachfront community directly south of Pattaya. Many Thai families enjoy the 3.5-mile Jomtien Beach, but neighbouring Dongtan Beach may be the most popular LGBT sunbathing spot in Southeast Asia. A revolving restaurant on top of a tower is the highest point in the Pattaya Park and Tower family-friendly theme park.
Bang Saen - A small Scandinavian village containing 200-300 people may be the most unusual attraction in Bang Saen, whose beach lies closer to Bangkok than any other in Thailand. Aside from the beach, which attracts visitors from as far afield as Chonburi, Burapha University's Institute of Marine Science Aquarium and Museum may be this seaside community's most worthwhile attraction.
Si Racha - The best-known export from the community of Si Racha is its famous red hot sauce, which most locals eat with seafood. However, this community, set less than 18 miles south of Pattaya, also features the serene Saithip Butterfly Garden and a tiger zoo that also hosts 10,000 crocodiles and 200 ferocious big cats.