Pattaya’s downtown area is easy to get around. Running north-south, a few hundred metres apart, are Beach Road which borders the main beach, Pattaya Second Road and Pattaya Third Road (with the smaller but busy Soi Buakhao in between), and the main Sukhumvit Road coastal highway. Beach Road is one-way, likewise Second Road. The city-produced “Official Map of Pattaya” is available at Pattaya City Hall, and may also be available from the Pattaya Police, the Tourist Police and the Immigration Police.
By songthaew, Songthaews are also known as pick-up taxi.
Apart from a handful of privately operated examples, Pattaya has no tuk-tuks and most ad hoc local transport is undertaken by a flotilla of over 700 dark blue coloured songthaews, pickup trucks converted to buses, also called Baht Buses. The fare is 10 baht for trips within (and between) Pattaya and Jomtien, for locals and foreigners. Having the correct change is by no means essential, but does keep the potential hassle factor to a minimum. In the past, dual pricing applied and some drivers will shortchange you on a 20 baht note if you don’t act like you know what you’re doing, but most will return 10 baht. Avoid asking destination when using songthaew, as many drivers will charge 100-200 baht. If you know the direction, it’s recommended to just ride the songthaew without asking for a destination. That way you will just pay 10 baht per person no matter how far you go.
The busiest route is the beach circuit: from the junction of Second Rd and South Pattaya Rd, north along Second Rd to the Dolphin Circle roundabout; then south along the full length of Beach Rd; then briefly east along South Pattaya Rd to complete the loop. Frequency is virtually non-stop, and even at the most unlikely hours, average waiting time is literally no more than a minute, often only a few seconds during daytime hours.
By motorbike taxi
The quickest way to get around is by motorcycle (motosai). A moto-taxi will be less expensive than a songthaew charter, but arguably less safe. Roadside moto-taxi stands are scattered throughout town, and waiting drivers usually clap their hands or sometimes call out to attract the attention of potential passengers; alternatively just flag down the next available one that cruises by, as the drivers are easily identified by their coloured vests. Some will carry two (or more!) passengers – although this is illegal. Foreigners can expect to pay around 30-40 baht for trips around the inner parts of town.
Motorcycles and scooters
Motorcycle rentals are a very popular way to get around, but not the safest, especially in the case of visitors with limited previous experience of motorcycling and Eastern traffic habits, and even more so in Pattaya given the large number of motorcycle-mounted holidaymakers who seem hell-bent on a Darwin Award.
Motorbikes can be rented without difficulty at countless locations in Pattaya, including many hotels and guesthouses, usually without having to produce a licence; however it’s common for foreigners to be asked to deposit their passports as security; cash deposits are also often required (1000 baht is not uncommon). Motorcycle rentals do not include insurance, and both motorcycling accidents and motorbike thefts are common.
Although meter-taxis are a common sight in and around Pattaya, none of them will accept a metered fare. Some are from Bangkok. Their drivers bring passengers from the capital and then operate locally until a return fare becomes available. There are now also many local taxis, yellow/blue in colour. You should haggle before the journey with whatever fare they’ve quoted. The minimum fare for a foreigner is usually 275 Baht – even 1 km hops.
If you have a smartphone or tablet, the GrabTaxi app informs you of taxis in the local area, and allows the drivers to see where you are, where you want to go, and bid for the fare and tip. It usually takes only a few minutes to fetch a taxi even in obscure places.
Please note that English proficiency amongst taxi drivers is not the highest. You may want a printout in Thai of your destination. Some drivers will have a binder listing common destinations in various languages to avoid misunderstanding.
If considering renting a vehicle, bear in mind that traffic in Pattaya can seem very erratic by Western standards, and that driving on the left can be confusing not only for those who have previously only ever driven on the right, but also for those unfamiliar with the common Thai practice (even the police do this) of motorcycling alongside the kerb on the “oncoming” side of the road, or the wrong way up one-way streets. The latter problem is especially prevalent in the Pattaya Bay area, where the majority of the roads in the main tourism zones are one-way; and the northern section of Second Road requires great care as some treat the right-hand “bus” lane as oncoming, while others do not.