Pattaya is internationally known for its nightlife—you might want to think twice before heading into the insanity that’s called Pattaya. Obviously famous as a sex tourist destination, you don’t necessarily have to partake in order to experience Pattaya’s fun. More and more visitors come over just to see what the fuss is about.
There are ample opportunities to dance, drink, and observe humanity even if paid sex is not of interest. Steer clear of the staid hotel bars and head into the warrens of central Pattaya, where nightclubs, transvestite cabarets, coffee shops, karaoke bars, open-air bars and restaurants with live music and entertainment compete for attention. Most of these establishments are located along Pattaya Beach Rd, Pattaya 2 Rd, and in south Pattaya, which is also the city’s major shopping area.
Open-air beer bars on Beach Road
Pattaya is especially famous for its beer bars, staffed by “bar girls” who are “for hire” to the tourists and expats who drink there. Popular beer bar pastimes include pool, connect-four and shut-the-box.
Open-air beer bars can be found all over Pattaya, with the biggest and best known concentrations being along and around Soi 7/Soi 8 and Walking St, at numerous points on Second Rd, Beach Rd, Soi Buakhao, and in smaller numbers just about everywhere else, including along the southern end of Naklua Rd. Although the staff of a typical beer bar will usually all be working girls, customers who have no intention of paying a “bar fine” (money paid to the bar so that the girl can leave with the customer) are generally very welcome and indeed make up the majority of the clientèle. Indoor beer bars can also be found all over Pattaya, the most notorious areas being Soi Yodsak (Soi 6) and parts of Soi Post Office (Soi 13/2). While some of these bars are much more “bar fine” oriented, in most cases customers who simply want to buy drinks are still welcome.
Go-go bars differ from beer bars as they have bikini-clad girls dancing around chrome poles on stages. The main concentrations are along Walking St and the three Pattayaland streets, with more dotted around the most popular beer bar areas. Sightseeing tourists are welcome in go-go bars, however, cameras are not. Signs prohibiting photography are widespread, and a minority of venues require patrons to deposit their cameras with security staff as they enter. This rule is enforced: if caught snapping shots, you’ll be lucky if you’re only thrown out and not beaten up.
The official closing time in “entertainment zones” is 01:00, although in practice usually somewhere between 01:00 and 03:00, depending on location. However, “closing” is defined as switching off the music and non-essential lighting, and numerous beer bars remain open 24 hours. Bars outside of these zones close around midnight. So, you’re passing through Pattaya and you’ve set aside a few hours to check out the bar scene—but where to go?
Walking Street. Should have been named “Walking, Shopping, Eating, Drinking, Dancing and Ogling Street” as there’s plenty of almost everything here—including around 100 beer bars and at least 30 go-go bars, plus many more in the side-sois that lead east towards Pratamnak Road. Worth a look in the daytime, but best visited in the evening, and has loads of restaurants if you’re bridging the gap between the two. Gets really packed in places when the nightclubs empty, so watch your pockets.
Pattayaland. Soi Pattayaland 2 (Soi 13/4) features on many Pattaya postcards—when lit up at night, the go-go bar signs are a memorable and photogenic sight, although there are only eight go-go bars here (two of which feature guys, not girls), plus a half-dozen bars and the Penthouse Hotel. Worth a look in the evening (it’s almost a ghost town the rest of the time), but get there before 01:00 as that’s when the lights go out.
Boyz Town (Soi Pattayaland 3, no direct access from Beach Rd, runs from the middle of Soi 13/4 to Second Rd) features only male dancers and bars that cater to the gay crowd; Soi Pattayaland 1 (Soi 13/3) has even more all-male go-gos (eight), but does have a couple of girl-go-go bars as well. Pattayaland 1 is relatively dead in the daytime, but Pattayaland 3 has a handful of places to eat and drink that keep it ticking over in the afternoon. There is also a small lesbian scene in Pattaya, with local butch girls called “tom” girls and femme girls called “dee”.
Soi L.K. Metro. Between Second Rd and Soi Buakhao lies this relatively new complex. Connecting Soi Diana with Soi Buakhao, Soi L.K., as it is called (not to be confused with Soi Leng Kee) is for the largest part a pedestrian-only street. Cars are parked willy nilly, but that actually serves as a traffic calming system so it is safe to walk. There are lots of outdoor bars and cafes spilling out onto the street, giving it a bit of a European feel. The Metropole Hotel,i rovers sportsbar and the Areca Lodge are here.
Soi 7 and Soi 8. There’s always something going on here—in the evening and early hours, there are about 120 well-staffed beer bars to choose from, plus a handful of go-go bars; in the morning there are several places that serve breakfast; in the afternoon it’s a popular place for those who like to get started early; and at Songkran (Thai New Year) it’s unmitigated mayhem. There are several large hotels (light sleepers beware), and Soi 8 also has a few travel agencies, convenience stores.
Soi Yodsak (Soi 6). Imagine a kerb-crawlers paradise—and then pedestrianise it. Arguably Pattaya’s most colourful street (as well as the most notorious one), Soi 6 has about 50 bars (mostly “short time” bars, with names such as “Butterfly”, “Love Club”, “Route 69” and “The Eager Beaver”) which all get going at 13:00 and close pretty much on the dot at 01:00. It’s not really a pedestrian-only street (but it is one-way), however walking — preferably in broad daylight — is undoubtedly the best and most popular way to experience it. Go in the middle of the afternoon and just wander from one end to the other (if coming from the south, walk from the Second Rd end down to the Beach Rd end if you want to get there and back by songthaew). It’s much, much more “sex-tourist” than “tourism” oriented, but anyone is welcome everywhere provided they’re buying a drink or three. The curiously named “Hi Boss! 2002 Pub” is where the ladyboys hang out, there’s one go-go – “Mandarin” (dancing from 17:00-01:00), plus a couple of “pub” food possibilities; and neighbouring Soi 6/1 has a handful of “ordinary” outdoor beer bars.
Second Road – around the Soi 2 & Soi 3 junctions. On the west side of Second Rd opposite the Central Festival Centre is a collection of about 35 very popular beer bars, which start to fill up from about 16:00, and several of which remain open long after the lights go out around 01:00-02:00. “Atlantic Bar”, at the far end of the five-bar strip to the south of Soi 2, always draws a substantial crowd. The only go-go (“Classroom 2”, 19:30-02:00) is a lively one, and while there’s not much in the way of food in the midst of the bars themselves, there are numerous eating options close nearby.