Learn more about Pattaya in the many detailed travel guides herein:

Despite a sometimes negative reputation, Pattaya is one of Thailand’s most successful tourist destinations: why?

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Pattaya is one of Thailand's most successful beach destinations, one that visitors either love or hate. Its reputation travels far in front, with some believing this is a city of wild nightlife and hedonistic sin, other’s seeing it as an excellent family destination with many activities and places to see.

In fact, both of these views are correct. That’s surely a large part of Pattaya’s huge success; it offers something for just about everyone. There’s one group of holiday makers who are not likely to find satisfaction here, though: people seeking a tranquil beach vacation on a beautiful, natural beach. Virtually all of the attractions of Pattaya are man-made, and most beaches are quite developed. However, anyone looking for a modicum of each – both nightlife and attractions along with a peaceful resort – could easily manage that by choosing a resort in Bang Saray, 20 kilometres south of Pattaya, and driving back and forth.

It is important to understand both the many attractions and disadvantages of this urban beach resort and entertainment city before committing to a holiday here – or rejecting it.
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the importance of finding a hotel right on a beach - but not Pattaya Beach itself it
Note that we qualify less than 30 hotels here as true beachfront – a tiny fraction of the hundreds of accommodations available here. Equally important to remember; many of those non-beachfront hotels are a long traffic-jam away from the sand, and have a big beach road that gets so busy it’s often dangerous for children to cross. And with this being a crowded Thai-style city, it’s also very noisy. Thus, those relatively few beachfront hotels become all the more advantageous; they offer rooms with immediate beach access, beautiful sea views, great sunsets and a sense of tranquillity without the noise.

As our beach maps show, there are no beachfront hotels on Pattaya Beach itself, except, perhaps for the Dusit Thani Pattaya, which sits on the northern headland and has a small access to the very top end of the sand. The two beach areas immediately north and south of central Pattaya both offer hotels with peaceful locations and easy access to all that Pattaya is famous for.
Wongamat Beach on the north side offers the widest choice of beach accommodations. To the south, Phra Tumnak Beach is really a headland with a few small patches of sandy beach and hotels overlooking those, but it too offers relative tranquillity and easy access. Pattaya’s biggest hotel complex, the Royal Cliff Hotels Group, is found here, along with the region’s biggest conventions centre.
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wild, decadent nightlife; is Pattaya really a city of sin, crime and danger for visitors?
Pattaya’s sordid side has not gone unnoticed; two London newspapers described it as the sex capital of the world, with the London Mirror labelling it a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah . But surprisingly, many visitors to Pattaya see little or none of this. Pattaya has so many other attractions that huge numbers of visitors, especially those in group tours, see little of the city at night, and less of its sensation-grabbing attractions. Many tourists stroll down the night walking street and see a few bars and perhaps a few go-go girls in bikinis. Some stop by the open-air beer bars for a drink or two. A few enter the go-go bars for another drink and a little titillation. No problems, and only a few surprises.

To see the wild side of Pattaya and the reason for its sex, drugs and wild lifestyle reputation you have to go looking for it, and go behind closed doors late at night. It’s the same with crime and violence; if you’re out late at night hunting for sex, drugs or a lady-boy, or wander the streets half drunk, trouble will find you. If, however, you behave like the average visitor and avoid risky behaviour, you’re sure to be safe here. Here’s a full page on the topic of visitor safety and dangers in Pattaya; check it out.
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Pattaya has lots of family attractions, things to do
This might surprise those who imagine Pattaya only as an unsavoury haunt of fiends seeking sex and drugs, but the family market is thriving here. The array of attractions and things to see and do in the greater Pattaya area is almost unprecedented in Thailand’s beach destinations, with only Phuket rivalling it. All kinds of theme parks and cultural attractions are available in the Pattaya region, including these: a floating market; Mini Siam park full of replicas of famous structures around Thailand; a few water parks; Nong Nooch Botanical Gardens; an underwater world and a monster aquarium; Ripley’s Believe It or Not; Madame Tussaud’s Waxworks; a Million Year Stone Park; a bungy jump; go karts; even a Teddy Bear Museum. Then of course you can see elephants in several venues, along with plenty of crocodiles, tigers, reptiles, monkeys and more. You’d need a good few days to take your kids to see everything on offer here - and quite a few families do just that.
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plenty of good Thai restaurants and genuine Thai cuisine
You might think ‘of course’ to this one about good Thai food. But many tourists in Thai beach destinations don’t have the same privilege of being served properly spiced Thai food. In places where tourists out-number locals in the restaurants – as in Phuket’s west coast tourist towns and those in Samui, Koh Chang and more – foreign visitors get to eat tourist food, i.e. Thai dishes modified to match the spiceless habits of Westerners and Chinese. Since Pattaya has such a huge Thai clientele from Bangkok it also has many restaurants to please them. And if the spicing is not just right, those restaurants see their Thai customers quickly migrate elsewhere. If you want genuine Thai food find restaurants serving locals, not tourists – and certainly not those serving Chinese in group tours, most of whom are quite terrified of chilli. The best idea for great Thai food in the Pattaya area: head south to Jomtien Beach where most Thais can be found eating.
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foreign criminals love Pattaya; but is that a danger to visitors?
Another of Pattaya’s less enviable attributes involves criminals of the international variety; Pattaya is a favourite retirement destination for bad guys to retire on their ill-gotten treasures. They come from around the world, though it’s the same mix of local attractions that draws them all; lots of nightlife and commercial sex; luxurious lifestyles at budget prices; lax immigration rules that allows those with cash to get through the gates; and of course there’s lots of other niceties that everyone appreciates in Thailand, like the warm climate, welcoming people and great cuisine. How will the presence of the international underworld affect you in Pattaya? Read more in our page on Why foreign criminals also love Pattaya.
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by John Everingham