Pattaya is a very easy city to get around, although the busy traffic causes frequent hold-ups at peak times (07:00-09:00 and 15:00-18:30), particularly on the major roads. Traffic gets even worse during and after rainstorms. Unusually, for Thailand, there are no tuk-tuks in Pattaya, so everyone usually gets around on the baht-buses (songthaews, minibuses) and on motorbike taxis. There are literally thousands of both all over Pattaya.
Taxis (baht buses)
Taxis (songthaews or baht buses as they are colloquially known) are blue pick-up trucks with a hard canopy top and one bench seat either side. These taxis cruise Pattaya on set routes, but can be deviated to any destination, and will take you anywhere in Pattaya if the price is right. Bargain hard if there are plenty around. If there are more than two of you it’s a good, cheap option to get you anywhere in Pattaya.
Baht buses ply the popular routes and are so frequent you rarely have to wait long to flag one down. The set routes follow the main roads; the busiest being from the junction of South Pattaya Road with Second Road, running all the way up Second Road to the Dolphin Roundabout and, depending on the driver, turning left to head back down along Beach Road or continuing to the right up Naklua Road.
Another standard route is from the South Pattaya Road junction with Soi Buakhow and travelling north along the latter soi until it reaches Central Pattaya Road. Most drivers will turn left and then either continue straight back down onto Beach Road or will turn right at the Second Road traffic lights and head north. Baht buses gather on the corner of South Pattaya Road and Pratamnak Road and offer trips to Jomtien Beach for a standard 10 baht.
As a general guide, if you hop on a taxi going in the right direction you’ll get there, even if you have to change taxis at a junction. The standard fee for anywhere on the route is 10 baht for foreigners and Thais. Fares for longer stages are written in the back of every taxi. From Central Pattaya to Jomtien you may be charged 20 baht (10 for Thais) to go over the hill, and also to Naklua in the north, which is roughly the same distance away.
Along any route in Pattaya all you have to do is flag down the driver with a small gesture, get on, wait until you are about five metres from your exact destination, ring the bell on the ceiling and your driver will stop. You pay him through the window on the pavement side. Do remember to keep some change for these as they don’t like changing large notes.
In recent years a small-scale metered taxi service has grown up in Pattaya, similar to those you will find in Bangkok. These air-conditioned vehicles are clearly marked as Pattaya taxis and clusters are usually lined up along Second Road in front of The Avenue shopping complex (opposite soi 13/1).
There are many private operators who usually offer a taxi service to Bangkk Airport for a pre-agreed fee (800-1,000 baht, plus the tolls). These private companies will also offer services to anywhere you might wish to travel within Thailand. The vehicles have air-con, are not normally metered, and any trip is subject to bargaining. However there are various standard tariffs, and most taxi firms advertise these. Firms around 2nd Road are plentiful, both in and out of doors. Shop around for the cheaper ones, but don’t expect a new car. Most of the drivers speak a bit of English and are great sources of information.
Motorbike taxis are a way of life in Pattaya. If you want to get to somewhere quickly or conveniently, particularly at busy times, they are your best bet. On every corner in Pattaya, no matter how small the soi (street), you will find a gathering of motorbike taxis. They are there 24 hours a day, seven days a week and offer a convenient service.
However, this option is not for the faint-hearted and can be dangerous. These chaps, and the occasional lady, will take you anywhere for 20-60 baht depending upon the distance. If you’re riding three-up it will cost you less.
In Thailand, it is illegal to ride a motorbike or to be a passenger without a helmet, to ride with more than two passengers, to undertake in traffic, to go the wrong way down one-way streets, to exceed the speed limit or to jump red lights. But all this means means very little to anyone in Thailand as driving habits are appalling.
If you want to get a motorbike-taxi anywhere in Pattaya, just walk outside wherever you are, raise an arm or clap your hands twice and there it is! Make sure your medical insurance is up-to-date just in case, although in truth, it is very rare for a passenger on a motorbike taxi to come to grief because the drivers are so used to Pattaya traffic they seem able to avoid accidents with ease.
Pattaya bus service
Pattaya City Hall attempted to introduce a regular bus service–Beach Bus–with three routes around the city and up to Sukhumvit Road and Jomtien. The attempt lasted just a few months before the service failed completely. City Hall is now talking about building a monorail network, but even if this manages to get off the ground it won’t be operational for many years.
Hire cars and motorbikes
Another practical way to get around Pattaya is by hiring a motorbike. You can hire a motorbike for around 150 baht a day, or cheaper for longer periods. Larger motorbikes are freely available as well, but are obviously more expensive. The standard scooter-type bikes (the ubiquitous Honda Dream and Wave being the most popular) are actually extremely easy to ride, with no clutch when changing gears, and very reliable. Traffic doesn’t move at very fast speeds so they are actually ideal vehicles for tourists to get around on.
Cars can be hired, too, but driving them in and around the city is likely to be a frustrating experience, particularly at school times, market days, rush hours (there are six in Pattaya!) and on Sukhumvit Road. Four wheels are only really useful if it’s raining or you intend to explore the area. There are many hire firms around the city with prices starting at around 700 baht a day for the older cars and jeeps, to a more realistic 1,200 baht for more modern vehicles.
The best way to discover a city is by walking around it at your own pace, and the best times in Pattaya are in the early morning, when it’s cool and quiet, although you will be surprised how much goes on in Pattaya at this time. It has often been called ‘the city that never sleeps’.
Walking along Beach Road under the palms and overlooking the sea is popular at any time of day or night. For those with more energy, a stroll up the hill through the park to Chinese (or Buddha) Hill, or the Lookout Point, with its stunning views, is a good way to start the day. Unfortunately, the heat and humidity in Thailand make walking quite unsuitable most of the day. If you’re walking anywhere in Pattaya, do be careful of potholes, loose paving stones and bad pavements. The pavements at night are often crowded and patience is necessary, as it is with crossing the main roads. You may have to wait two or three minutes for a gap in the traffic to cross any large road safely. But this is Thailand, so what’s the hurry?
Driving habits in Thailand are woeful and most drivers are quite irresponsible and ignore simple safety rules. In contrast to their usual polite and non-confrontational behaviour, people in Thailand become quite inconsiderate behind the wheel. Be very wary of your speed and always look out for bad drivers, Pattaya is full of them. Unlike many Western countries, it’s very easy to pass a driving test here, so many drivers have little or no experience of driving either in town or on main roads. Many simply don’t have a licence at all or any awareness of road rules.
Be prepared at any time for other drivers to suddenly pull out in front of you without even looking, stop without warning, overtake dangerously (and on the inside) and ignore motorcyclists. Some people just stop and park where it suits them, weave through the traffic with a death wish, ride the wrong way up the road into oncoming traffic, and more. Do pay careful attention and drive conservatively. Accidents are regular in Pattaya and when they do occur, the offender is reluctant to accept any responsibility. Should the worst happen, however, the Pattaya police and ambulance services are good, as well as being very quick on the scene.