Is Pattaya Worth Visiting? The Pros & Cons

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Pattaya is fast becoming one of the most popular destinations in Thailand. It’s known for its vibrant night life and adult entertainment, as well as being an easy coastal destination to visit if you want to stay near Bangkok.

But is Pattaya worth visiting? Not every traveler is looking for nightlife or go go bars, but the proximity of being just a short 2-hour drive from Thailand’s capital city, Bangkok, makes it an appealing location for those on a short visit.

If you are undecided about visiting Pattaya and are somewhat put off by its negative reputation, then this guide is for you.

We have shared the pros and cons of visiting Pattaya so you can decide whether you think it’s worth visiting and the right destination for you. 

Pros of Visiting Pattaya

1. Nice Beaches and Beautiful Nearby Islands

Pattaya Beach

One of the main reasons why anyone would visit Pattaya would have to be because of the exquisite beaches and nearby islands that you can explore.

From the lively beachfront energy of the main beach along its lengthy promenade to the tranquil island escapes that are just are short drive or ferry ride away, Pattaya can be a great destination for those looking for a quick beach escape from Bangkok.

The iconic Pattaya Beach is the city’s busiest, with its soft golden sand stretching for several kilometers, and is the center point of a variety of thrilling water sports, ranging from jet-skiing and parasailing to banana boats and even wind and kite-surfing.

Despite its crowds, it’s still reasonably clean, though not nearby as beautiful as the beaches on the islands in Thailand.

By night, the waterfront promenade comes alive, with plenty of bars, restaurants, and street food vendors making full use of the tropical surroundings.

Jomtien Beach

Just south of Pattaya Beach is the more laid-back and family-friendly beach of Jomtien Beach. Whilst it may not initially look too appealing with the high-rise condominium buildings that dominate the skyline, Jomtien is a beautiful beach, lined with palm trees and almost always clean and clear of rubbish.

Wong Amat is also another nice beach in Northern Pattaya and is perfect for a secluded dinner or drinks with a view.

It’s much quieter than the other two beaches, apart from weekends, which is to be expected.

The nearby islands of Koh Larn and Koh Samet are also perfect for a quick island getaway if you reside in one of Bangkok or Pattaya.

2. Buzzing Nightlife

Walking Street in Pattaya

As the intense heat slowly dissipates and the golden sun dips below the horizon, Pattaya switches on the bright signs and neon lights and truly comes alive after dark.

It’s one of the biggest reasons many people make the journey to Pattaya, to experience the electrifying and, at times, somewhat questionable nightlife scene that has essentially put this city firmly on the map.

There’s a dizzying array of bars and clubs that line the streets, especially in the city’s ‘Walking Street’ area, which is where most of the nightlife is focused.

From trendy rooftop bars with panoramic views of the ocean to thumping nightclubs and adult-only bars, Pattaya caters to every traveller’s nightly desires.

cabaret in pattaya

Cabaret shows are also hugely popular in Pattaya and play an important role in the city’s nightlife.

It’s not all booming bars and nightclubs though, Pattaya is a thriving city with a hungry and hardworking population to feed. Hundreds upon hundreds of street food vendors come out, each dishing up their sizzling, stir-fried authentic specialties of old-age Thai recipes likely passed down through generations.

These people play a huge part in Pattaya’s late-night offerings and are certainly not to be missed. 

3. Plenty of Things to See & Do

Sanctuary of Truth in Pattaya

For those who want something a little more cultured, Pattaya is also a wonderful city to visit to experience the best of what Thai culture has to offer.

The Sanctuary of Truth is arguably the biggest attraction in the region. It is a monumental structure, made entirely out of wood, which is a huge testament to the designer and financee, Thai businessman Lek Viriyaphan, and also the unbelievable skill and craftsmanship of the Thai workers.

Technically a museum and not a temple, the Sanctuary of Truth was inspired by the stunning temples in Ayutthaya and also a celebration of Thai, Hindu, Buddhist, Chinese, and Khmer traditions.

Nong Nooch Botanical Garden
Nong Nooch Botanical Garden

Also a must-visit in Pattaya is the Nong Nooch Botanical Gardens. It’s a complete paradise for nature and flower lovers, famous for being the largest botanical garden in Southeast Asia covering an area of almost 2.5 km2.

It was founded in 1980 by a Thai couple Pisit and Nongnooch Tansacha, who initially bought the land to produce fruit, however following a trip abroad, was persuaded to turn the land into stunning tropical gardens full of flowers.

Pattaya is also home to a wonderful floating market, where locals and tourists combine to create a magical waterside atmosphere, exploring the nooks and crannies of the specially designed waterways.

It’s the perfect place to sample and purchase traditional Thai delicacies as well as handmade souvenirs. 

4. It’s a Foodie Heaven

Pattaya floating market
Pattaya Floating Market

Pattaya is also one of the best places to come if you’re a bit of a foodie. Thanks to the incredible amount of nationalities that pass through Pattaya’s streets, you’re spoilt for choice with the range of cuisines available and also the levels of quality that you can get.

Starting with the city’s famous street food stalls, if you forget the big bright lights of Walking Street, Pattaya is, again, a proper Thai city, and what better way to immerse yourself in the Thai way of living other than to sit down on the side of the street with a hearty bowl of noodle soup or spicy Pad Krapow?

Given its prime coastal location, Pattaya is also superbly placed to provide hungry visitors with a wonderful selection of fresh seafood, all of which is usually caught that very day.

Fresh catches from the Gulf of Thailand and beyond end up on the blisteringly hot barbecue and grilled to perfection, alongside sticky or steamed rice, a generous plate of Morning Glory, and all washed down with an ice-cold Leo or Chang.

You can experience this in upscale seafood-specific restaurants, or even along the beach in one of the many busy eateries that line the promenade in a more relaxed setting. 

5. Very Accessible and Well-Connected

Our final reason as to why you should visit Pattaya is because of its wonderful location. At only 150km south of Bangkok, Pattaya is so well connected to the capital through local buses, taxis, and even your own transport that it makes it super easy to get to from the rest of the country and beyond.

It takes just 2 hours from Bangkok meaning you can quite literally leave it until the last minute to get your transport and still make it in time for a late dinner.

If you will be travelling to Pattaya via your own means of transport, you shouldn’t worry, because the expressway makes it incredibly easy to navigate from Bangkok.

It’s practically one road, the entire way which is great for if you’re still getting used to the roads.

Even once you’re in Pattaya, it is again, really easy to get around. The primary method of transport I used was Grab.

Book a ride through Grab and someone will be along to pick you up within 5 minutes, guaranteed. You can even make use of the ferry services which makes visiting nearby islands a breeze.

Pattaya Pier serves as the departure point for the ferries, and tickets can be bought on the day for a very cheap fee. 

Cons of Visiting Pattaya

1. Large Tourist Crowds

nightlife in pattaya

Pattaya’s not the largest of cities and can become very crowded, especially during the peak months (November – February) or during special events and festivals.

Songkran, usually held in April, can be an incredibly busy time to visit Pattaya as this event draws huge crowds to participate in the water fight which Songkran is synonymous with.

They also have a huge firework display during The Lantern Festival in November, which attracts many locals as well as tourists from the big cities.

Whilst this of course contributes to the atmosphere of the festival, it can often lead to serious overcrowding down main streets which could pose a problem if you don’t like crowds.

The beaches can also become very busy too, and might not be ideal for those wanting a quiet, relaxing getaway.

Because of its proximity to Bangkok, it’s a popular destination for the older generations who don’t want to travel too far to get to the beach.

2. Limited Historical and Cultural Sites

Pattaya Sign

If you’re the type of traveller that enjoys visiting places that are full of culture and history, Pattaya might unfortunately not be the best destination for you to visit.

There’s a real lack of historical and cultural landmarks or attractions, with things more focused on the beaches, thriving nightlife, and entertainment.

Unlike many large cities in Thailand, there’s a real lack of ancient temples for you to visit, no museums, and no real historical depth that you might find elsewhere in the country. 

3. Over Commercialization

Indirectly linked to the last point about over tourism, Pattaya has suffered in recent years with a complete over-commercialization.

There’s very little that symbolizes and represents traditional Thai culture in Pattaya which, to me, is quite sad and disappointing.

What once started as a humble fishing village has become an urban metropolis that is fully committed to catering to the tourist industry which has come at the expense of the authentic local Thai culture.

Pattaya is one of those cities where you have to accept that what it is is exactly that. There’s no point dwelling on what could have been or how things could be different.

If you visit Pattaya, you should try to enjoy it for what it is, which is a tourist-focused city. 

4. Sex Tourism Is Very Obvious

Some people travel to Pattaya for the abundance of adult entertainment and sex tourism – it’s one of the main things Pattaya is famous for. If that’s not what you’re looking for, I’m sorry to say you’ll see it anyway.

It’s almost impossible to walk outside at night and not be approached by touts trying to get you into their peep shows or, if you’re a man by yourself, a lady of the night looking for company.

If you stay away from Walking Street and the beach promenade at night, it’s easier to avoid this, but unfortunately when the sun goes down it becomes a bit of a seedy destination.

The Verdict: Is Pattaya Worth Visiting

Pattaya can be a wonderful coastal city to explore during the day. There are a wide array of attractions that appeals to a diverse range of people.

There are beautiful beaches and tranquil islands, a nightlife scene that gives Bangkok a run for its money, and plenty of intriguing things to see and do.

But Pattaya’s downfall is its over-commercialization, over tourism, and very apparent sex tourism industry.

If you visit Pattaya during the shoulder season (October or March) then you may avoid the massive crowds and find it to be a nice place to visit.

But if you’re looking for authentic Thai cultural sights like temples and pristine beaches, then you may want to overlook Pattaya and choose somewhere else like Phuket or Krabi.

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