If you think that living in Pattaya is purely for the hard-drinking, barfly sort of expats then think again. The city does have the worst reputation for sleaze of any place in Thailand but trust me on this, even if you aren’t much of a night-owl there are some very nice low-key locations in and around the city, and there’s a lot to keep you entertained beyond the naughty nightlife options. Above all, life here is cheap and relaxed without any of the political correctness that is ruining all the fun in the west, and you can actually be a man for once without getting an ear bashing from the nearest feminist Nazi!
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Living in Pattaya is also a much cheaper alternative to Bangkok whilst still being conveniently located just a 2-hour drive from the big city. There are 5 main locations to consider in and around Pattaya, depending on your budget and preferences, and they all have their own individual advantages on top of the general advantages of living in Thailand. There’s the raucous centre of the action, the upmarket Wong Amat, the popular Jomtien, and the quieter areas of Pratumnak and East Pattaya to choose from. Additionally, the Pattaya property market has got some very attractive investment opportunities.
Central Pattaya – This is where the best nightlife in Thailand is to be found, assuming that you like bars, neon lights and sexy girls. This area pulls in the largest proportion of holiday visitors and it has hundreds of hotels to choose from. There is also plenty of accommodation for long-term rental as well as property for sale, so it’s not just a place for short-term visitors. That said, most expats do prefer to spend most of their time away from the most popular tourist venues, in particular Walking Street, in favour of quieter bars a little further inland.
Soi Buakhao is popular with those men who are living in Pattaya as it is
cheaper, less touristy, and close to a lot of the cheap long-term
accommodation. Prices are cheaper the further that you move away from
the beach, but that is not because the beach is so desirable – it is
actually regarded as being one of the worst beaches in Thailand!
Wong Amat & Naklua – Wong Amat is immediately to the north of central Pattaya and it is the upmarket option for living in Pattaya. Some of the most expensive hotels are located here, the bar scene is a much smaller, but there are lots of good quality restaurants to choose from. Wong Amat beach is a vast improvement on the main beach in central Pattaya, and whilst it is quieter i.e. no noise from any road traffic, it is still very popular.
Naklua is a little further to the north, just beyond Wong Amat, but it isn’t really a place where westerners visit. It is populated almost exclusively by Thais, and there is quite a well-established traditional Thai nightlife scene with Karaoke bars and so on. If you do choose to live there, you’ll no doubt find some very cheap accommodation, but it probably won’t be the most comfortable…
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Jomtien & Bang Saray – Probably the most popular choice for
most long-term visitors is Jomtien. It is located to the south of
central Pattaya and is home to the Thai immigration department offices;
so renewing a retirement visa each 90 days is a simple and quick affair
here. Prices are lower than in central Pattaya and the standard of
accommodation is amongst the best that you will find for any given
price. Getting into central Pattaya is quick, easy and cheap via the
baht buses, but there is plenty of nightlife in Jomtien itself, so
there's no real need to travel if you don’t want to.
Bang Saray is located a little further south and is currently being developed, so there aren’t many western people living there yet. There are plenty of investment opportunities there but I’d regard them as being a bit higher risk because there’s no telling how the general development of the area will take off. If it becomes popular, property prices will go through the roof, because they are currently rock bottom!
Pratumnak Hill – My personal favourite location for living in Pattaya is Pratumnak Hill. It is found immediately to the south of central Pattaya, just before Jomtien, and as the name suggests it is built on higher ground. This is more important than you might think – in the wet season Pattaya frequently gets flooded and when that happens the place is no fun whatsoever. It’s also quite dangerous and often causes power cuts. Pratumnak escapes all of that nonsense due to the higher ground that it sits on.
You’ll find my favourite beach in mainland Pattaya in Pratumnak i.e.
cosy beach. It’s smaller than the others but it is more picturesque due
to the cliffs that sit behind it. The nightlife is a bit low-key, but
Pratumnak is also famous for its daytime ‘gentlemen’s clubs’. These are
like mini resorts with a bar, swimming pool, girls, and rooms available
by the hour! The only downside to Pratumnak, in my opinion, is that
despite being closer to central Pattaya than Jomtien is, it’s actually
more of a hassle getting to and from it as the baht buses don’t run so
frequently. Getting back after a night out in the city centre is
awkward, unless you opt for a motorbike taxi, which is notoriously
East Pattaya, the dark-side – Where Jomtien is arguably the more popular location overall for long-term visitors, East Pattaya is well regarded by those expats living in Pattaya who don’t want to stay in a condominium block. There are lots of houses available for rent or purchase in East Pattaya and, if you prefer a little more space, you might well prefer to live there. As with Pratumnak, the nightlife is more low-key, but there are still several bars with a selection of ladies waiting to meet up with you. There are also some less well known gentlemen’s clubs there too.
The main problem with East Pattaya is that its greater distance from anywhere else makes car ownership more of a necessity, and that’s no good for anyone that isn’t living in Pattaya all year round on a permanent basis. Due to this fact, I think that the place appeals more to expats rather than long-term visitors on 6-month tourist visas etc. It’s also typically preferred by those expats who have settled down with one Thai lady, rather than the guys who prefer a more flexible, dynamic sort of love-life!
If you want to stay at a good hotel that is located in a convenient location for traveling around the different areas of Pattaya, here are my recommendations:
Intimate Hotel - medium cost, excellent value
The Bayview Hotel - medium cost and good
Siam Bayshore - expensive but classy
Like I said in my opening paragraph, Pattaya has got a bad reputation
for being the sleaziest place on Earth, and that will definitely put a
lot of people off visiting, let alone living in Pattaya. For those men
that are not deterred by reputations, I think that you’ll be very
pleasantly surprised if you do decide to give the city a chance. Pattaya
is changing at a rapid rate and it barely resembles the place that it
That's not to say that the naughty nightlife has gone away, but it does mean that there is a LOT more
about the place these days, and it is attracting a much broader range of
visitors than just sex-tourists. I wouldn’t suggest that it is the best
location for starting a family, or meeting the love of your life, but
it is definitely a place that single men will enjoy, and for many more
reasons than just the naughty nightlife.
As a quick rundown of the sort of attractions and amenities that are available there, let me quickly mention a few of them:
There’s a growing fairground type attraction called ‘Pattaya Park’, a range of very impressive temples with my favourite being the ‘Sanctuary of Truth’. There’s a nearby crocodile farm, a tiger zoo, an elephant park (with rides). There’s lots of big modern shopping malls, check out ‘Central Festival’. There’s a floating market, world class health facilities, a beautiful offshore island called ‘Koh Larn’. There’s a paintball, bungee and go-kart facility. There’s a big Thai boxing arena. There are several world class golf courses and each year there’s a PGA event to watch. There are international yachting events. There is an annual women’s tennis ATP event held at the Dusit Thani Hotel each year, as well as all sorts of other sporting events… the list goes on and on!
I think you can see from this short, incomplete, list of attractions that living in Pattaya offers a lot of interesting activities that extend well beyond the dogma that people label the city with, and I’d advise you take a closer look at the place if you are at all interested in it.
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