The best way to see Pattaya is by hopping on a local taxi (baht bus). Because Pattaya city is modern, it has none of the sights of ancient interest that many other Thai major tourist destinations can boast. Apart from many of the Korean, Japanese and Chinese tourists, who prefer to be ferried rapidly around the city in a couple of hours, there are very few tour guides as such in Pattaya.
The easiest way to get your bearings and to see the centre of the city is to jump on a baht bus on Second Road (one way, heading north) or Beach Road (one way, heading south) and go round the circuit. The baht bus will take you all the way to the Dolphin Roundabout, past the Big C shopping centre, at the junction with Naklua and North Pattaya Roads. Many baht buses will then turn left and head back down Beach Road. If the driver doesn’t do this, all you need to do is ring the bell at the back, get off and pay 10 baht, and then walk to the corner and wait for another baht bus heading down Beach Road.
Hop aboard this vehicle and take in the sights all the way back down Beach Road to South Pattaya Road, where the baht bus will turn left and either go left again back into Second Road (most likely), go straight ahead up South Pattaya Road (unlikely), or turn right into Pratamnak Road and head towards Jomtien (again, unlikely). Along the run down Beach Road you will get a good view of the promenade and the beach, as well as a glance of the many sois along its length. The baht bus will go past such shopping malls as Central Festival Center, Mike’s Shopping Mall, and Royal Garden Plaza. This run down Beach Road will cost another 10 baht and you can get off at any time. The whole exercise from Second Road and back takes 20 or 30 minutes.
Apart from the beach and the sea, the main attraction of Pattaya is shopping. Many people only spend a short time in Pattaya, and the numerous shops catering for foreign tastes bring shoppers and other people to the centre of Pattaya to get their holiday bargains for home. More on shopping in Pattaya.
Walking around Pattaya is by far the best way to see the town, as long as you watch the potholes and multifarious obstructions above and below. During the day, the favourite walks are along the beach and amid the sois (lanes) leading off Beach Road. They are full of shops and bars, catering for every taste and activity. The mobile food stalls abound in the busy sois, and most Thais in this area do not bother to cook for themselves, as the good, cheap and various foods will come to them, but of course there is no hurry in Thailand.
At night Pattaya looks, and is, totally different. The quiet soi you walked down during the day now has been transformed into a bustling, neon-signed maze of bars, music blaring from each door – often in competition with each other – and lots of high-heeled ladies. Many Europeans head for Sois 7 and 8, where there is a party atmosphere all year round, although in recent times, Soi Buakhow, especially around the junction with Soi LK, Soi Diana and Soi LK Metro, has become the place to go apart from Walking Street.
Most people, though, at least once during their stay, and often most nights, take a stroll down Walking Street, particularly between 10:00 and 01:00. This is the heart of Pattaya nightlife for many visitors. You can watch Thai boxing while listening to reggae from the next door bar, or listen to live music at any number of bars for the price of a drink. You are able to get a very decent meal from the street vendors for 30 baht or, alternatively, 20m away, you can sit in a restaurant over the sea and eat oysters and lobster and drink champagne without too much damage to your credit card. Bars, music, girls, shows, discos, and lots more, are to be found here and in the surrounding sois.
In the early morning the walk up to Lookout Point is a lovely one, with a spectacular view of Pattaya Bay as a result. You can, however, get a taxi between South Pattaya and Jomtien (20 baht), stop it at the Police Box and walk the last 200m, or even go to the opposite side of the roundabout to the spectacular Wat (and its other buildings) on Chinese Hill. Plenty of taxis will be around for you to get back down again.
There are plenty of places to go outside the city. More on day trips.