Thailand is well-known for its beautiful and exotic beaches. Pattaya is among the most famous, particularly convenient for its close 2-hour proximity to Bangkok. Pattaya is also home to an abundance of historical attractions, water parks, restaurants, and of course, particularly well-known for its nightlife.
Yet, Pattaya has an infamous reputation and has received many bad reviews in the past, but why?
Pattaya is famously bad for its poor maintenance and water pollution. With additional scamming activities in the sectors of tuk-tuk, jet skiing, ladyboy scamming, and more, Pattaya has also seen increased criminal activity. Furthermore, the city does not have a friendly nightlife for families.
With many foreigners experiencing the downside of pollution, garbage, and scamming, Pattaya is losing the grasp of its initial reputation. Let’s read more about the factors contributing to the city’s downfall.
Pattaya’s Environmental Downfall
No ‘Emerald Ocean’:
It is time to say goodbye to your dream of seeing an emerald-colored ocean on your trip to Pattaya. Unfortunately, unlike the photos and videos seen on Instagram paces and travel pamphlets, Pattaya is in environmental ruins. Currently, Pattaya sits at a “poor water quality” basis, where water pollution has become an enormous problem. In 2016,
In 2016, the officials from Regional Environmental Office stated that the quality of seawater in the central Pattaya beaches is considered poor quality and could endanger humans and marine life (1). Waste management plans were since then discussed to solve the problem of water pollution in this coastal region.
However, things took a worse turn in 2019 when a Facebook post with an image of dirty, black water with wastes flowing into the sea through an open sewer was posted by a netizen. Back then, foreigners were warned not to swim in the ocean on their visit to Pattaya, especially the Na Chom Thian beach where the wastewater was found.
Moreover, local authorities even had to issue a temporary order to suspend swimming in the sea nearby until the officials could find the source of this wastewater issue and fix the problem (2). Several reports about foul smells emitting from the beach area and along the Walking Street area were also posted by the visitors due to the poor waste management in Pattaya.
Eventually, the mayor issued a statement saying that the water was not sewage and just “muddy storm runoff” (3) and reopened the beach. Many people are concerned about whether it is safe to swim in the sea when there were reports of foul smells and sewage was sighted not too long ago.
Narrow Beach Area:
Compared to other famous beaches like Hua Hin, Phuket, and Krabi, the Pattaya beach shore area can be considered narrow and crowded. Many stalls and giant beach umbrellas lining up along the beach area make it crowded and not ideal for people who want to have a slow and relaxed day.
Of course, this won’t be a problem for the people who love to stroll around the beach to get some seafood and sightseeing activities. Many commercialized buildings such as hotels, bars, restaurants, and even malls were built along the beach area as Pattaya became crowded with tourists. However, with vendors comes the same problem of waste pollution and highly commercialized beaches that have increased erosion of the sand area between the ocean and the shore.
According to the Head of Science Faculty Studies, changes in land use from building hotels and docks had caused different patterns of sediment to shift from those in the past. As a result, part of the beach has disappeared. Beach erosion has caused this once 30-meters wide sandy beach area to vanish at around 1.8 meters per year, and researchers have warned that it even could disappear in 5 years if no action is taken to fix this issue (4).
6 Common Scams to be Aware of in Pattaya
One of Pattaya’s main factors for why Pattaya is given a bad name is ‘scamming.’ Many visitors have experienced scams in various forms. Most of the time, foreigners are targeted for scams as they cannot speak the local language, making them easy prey in the eyes of the scammers.
Here’s a breakdown of the type of scams and how they happen so that you can take notes and be cautious of (5):
1. Jet Ski Scam
From paragliding to banana boats and jet skis, water sports in Pattaya seem fun and exciting. However, there is a twist to these jet ski rental services as the most common scam in Pattaya is perhaps the jet ski scam.
Everything seemed normal when the customer rented the jet ski and had a great time. However, the trouble starts when tourists wish to return the jet ski to the shop. The scammers had already planted damages to the jet ski even before it was rented – this way, they can pin the damages to the customer, asking for compensation for those ‘damages.’
Not all jet ski services on the beach are scammers, but there were many before, and those people would even threaten the renters if they refused to pay for the “damage.” Police have tried to crack down on the scammers, and nowadays, it seems that jet ski scams happen very rarely, but it doesn’t hurt for anyone to be extra careful.
2. Ladyboys Scams
A group of ladyboys can be just as dangerous. They will surround their victims (more often than not, to the males), try to talk them into sexual services, calling them ‘handsome guy’, be handsy, and by the time the victims can walk away from them, they have already stolen the victims’ phones and wallets.
Moreover, most reported cases of this ladyboy scam have happened during the night, along the beach road of Pattaya. To avoid this, foreigners should not wander along the quiet, poorly lit alleys at night time, especially alone. In the worst-case scenario, if a group of ladyboys suddenly came up to you and tried to ambush you, say ‘no’ very firmly, put a hand over your belongings, be very alert, and walk away from them as fast as you can (6).
3. Motorcycle Snatchers
Pickpockets occur regularly in crowded tourist areas worldwide, and these motorcycle snatchers are also one of them. They will try to snatch the purse, bags, or jewelry pieces like necklaces or bracelets from the people walking on the street by driving very close behind the unsuspecting victims, snatching the belongings, and going past very fast from the scene once they get the things.
Burglary accidents are upsetting as the victims lose their belongings and are extremely dangerous. These snatchers will try to yank the belongings with a lot of force and very fast, causing the victims to fall and be injured. The best practice for tourists to avoid such accidents is not to wear many jewelry pieces when walking in crowded areas as it will surely attract pickpockets and snatchers and wear their bags or purses in front of the body. No one wants to get their things snatched or, worse, end up in a hospital.
4. Taxi and Tuk Tuk Scams
Sometimes, taxi drivers and Tuk-Tuk tricycle drivers will try to charge extra by taking the longer route to the destination, saying that they are charging extra for the luggage, not giving back the exact change after getting the money, etc.
The worst case is that they will take the tourists to shady shops and then block the way out until they buy something at a ridiculous price. To avoid such a terrifying experience, use a vehicle booking application like Grab. Although they might be a bit more expensive than just flagging down a taxi or Tuk-Tuk, it’s safer and easier to navigate as well. Also, have the tourist police number memorized so that you will be able to call for help if something happens.
5. GemStone Scam
This type of scam exists not only in Pattaya but also in Bangkok. The taxi driver or Tuk-Tuk driver will take the customers to the gem shops as they get commissions from those shops. Once the visitors arrive at those shops, they will try to sell the gems by saying that they are “special price” and that these Thai jewelry and gems are “high quality.” All are not true, and those gems are overpriced. This scam is not as bad as the above ones but going to those gem shops is always a waste of time, so if your taxi driver offers to take you to the gem shop, say no, no matter how much they insist.
6. Bird Release Scam
When visiting the temples, one might see birds in cages to pay some money and release them. And many people do so out of pity for the birds and because, in Buddhism, it is believed that freeing animals from being caged or tied would bring good karma in life. While the sentiment is friendly and genuine, most of these bird vendors are scammers. They have already made the birds weak by caging them for a long time, and after the buyers have released the birds, they will catch the birds again and re-cage them for more profit (5).
Not-So Family Friendly Nightlife
Nightlife in Pattaya is famous or infamous, depending on the experience everyone desires. If looking for a fun, sexy time with the so-called “Pattaya girls” from the bars and strip clubs, then Pattaya’s nightlife is right up to the alley. Still, Pattaya’s nightlife can be noisy and chaotic for families and other tourists who prefer quieter ways to enjoy the nightlife.
Walking street in Pattaya is equally as famous as Khao San street in Bangkok for its adult entertainment. Therefore, for obvious reasons, certain shows and bars are not suitable for everyone. Pushy girls and guys trying to drag the customers into their bars and strip clubs, and overpriced beer buckets are not exactly family-friendly. If you are visiting Pattaya with underaged kids, forget about going to the Walking Street at night, and it would be better to stick to the main roads along the beach shore and the malls.
Waterparks are also suitable for visitors who avoid the nightlife and crowded beaches. And as for the tourists visiting the bars and clubs, be mindful of getting overcharged for the things you didn’t order. Always remember to pay upfront, check the bills before paying, and of course, also be careful to avoid any types of fights. Most fights start one on one, but you never know if a gang might appear, and that would be the last thing anyone wants as their travel memory.
Of course, with the current Covid-19 and alcohol ban made by the Thai government, these nightlife entertainments suffer greatly. To move away from its bad reputation of being the hub of the sex business and the wild ladyboys, the local authorities are trying to push other activities and nature as attraction points for Pattaya currently for the re-opening of Pattaya.
So, for the lads (and ladies) looking for ‘fun times’ in Pattaya Nightlife, be sure to double-check the latest Covid update rules from the government to avoid any disappointments.
If one is wondering if Pattaya is worth visiting or not, the answer honestly is up to what they were trying to achieve out of their trip to Pattaya. If one wants to experience crystal clear water and beautiful beach sceneries, then the Southern part of Thailand islands would be better.
For a weekend getaway to the beach with families, Hua-Hin might be a safer choice as it is less crowded, more laid-back, relaxed, and has a wider beach area.
But if one is looking for vibrant, active, and even wild types of fun on their trip, then Pattaya has its charms. After all, it is not famous for no reason. Just be mindful of the ugly truth and dangerous energy that the city prescribes.
1. Bangkok Post. Pattaya Sea Water Quality Gets ‘Poor’ Grade . Bangkok Post. [Online] June 21, 2016. https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand/general/1015553/pattaya-sea-water-quality-gets-poor-grade/.
2. Thai PBS World. Tourists Warned Not To Swim In Polluted Sea Off Pattaya. Thai PBS World. [Online] May 2019. https://www.thaipbsworld.com/tourists-warned-not-to-swim-in-pattaya-sea-due-to-water-pollution/.
3. Samui Times Editor. Pattaya Beaches Reopen With Concerns Of Water Quality. Samui Times. [Online] 2020. https://www.samuitimes.com/pattaya-beaches-reopen-with-concerns-of-water-quality/.
4. The Urban Property. Pattaya Beach In Crisis. The Urban Property. [Online] http://www.theurban-property.com/sale/Pattaya-News/Pattaya%20Beach%20in%20Crisis.html/.
5. Local Insider. Top 10 Most Common Scams In Pattaya. Local Insider. [Online] April 2018. https://local-insider.com/top-10-most-common-scams-in-pattaya/.
6. C., Darren. Pattaya Thailand Do’s And Don’ts. Pattaya Unlimited. [Online] June 14, 2019. https://www.pattayaunlimited.com/pattaya-thailand-dos-and-donts/.