Last updated on December 24, 2022 by Wandering our World
When it comes to Thai city breaks, Bangkok and Pattaya are two that should be near the top of everyone’s bucket list. That’s because both of these lively cities can offer unique experiences and unforgettable vacations.
However the reality is, they’re both very different. That makes choosing whether to visit Bangkok or Pattaya for that once-in-a-lifetime holiday exceptionally difficult.
For example if your priority is cultural experiences, a great nightlife, and a wealth of things to do, then Bangkok may suit you more than Pattaya. But if you want nightlife, fun on the beach, and an even cheaper holiday then Pattaya could be a better choice.
Yet honestly, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how different – and similar – these two destinations are.
That’s where we can help! Below we use our own first hand knowledge to compare Bangkok and Pattaya, and give our honest opinion on which one is safer, cheaper, has the best scenery, nightlife, and even more.
So let’s get started!
- Which Is The Better Cultural Experience
- Which Is More Beautiful
- Which Has Better Nightlife
- Which Has Better Excursions
- Which Is Cheaper
- Where You Should Stay According To Your Budget
- Which Is Safer
Which Is The Better Cultural Experience?
There’s no doubt that Bangkok is the cultural hub of Thailand, and the city has a vibrant mix of traditional temples alongside an exciting and emerging modern art and music scene.
Thailand’s capital remains very much a city centered around Thais rather than tourists, and as such there’s an array of street food, museums, temples, markets and nearby floating markets to enjoy and explore.
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Pattaya also feels like a city that’s focused on locals rather than tourists, so it certainly has a very Thai vibe.
With that comes an array of street food and markets to enjoy and explore. We recommend checking out the Thai music and dance performances at Pattaya’s Ruen Thai restaurant.
However for us, nowhere in Thailand can beat Bangkok for cultural gravitas and excursions.
Which Is More Beautiful?
Bangkok is a feast for the eyes. But the capital of Thailand is loud, brash, and busy.
Some of the buildings – new and old – in Bangkok are spectacular, but its beauty comes more from the culture and people rather than the scenery.
Pattaya, on the other hand, is an energetic and chaotic city too, but it boasts a huge beach and views out towards the gorgeous island of Ko Lan. In this battle, there’s one clear winner in our eyes.
Which Has Better Nightlife?
People from around the world come to both Bangkok and Pattaya to experience Thailand’s famous nightlife and the various vices it caters too.
Bangkok has a rowdy reputation and areas like Khao San Road, Soi Cowboy, and the famous red light district of Patpong, are at the heart of Bangkok’s nightlife scene. For your own safety when in these areas it’s best to stick to the main roads and don’t venture down side streets.
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Pattaya has a very similar nightlife to Bangkok, and it’s very common for Thais from Bangkok to party in Pattaya and vice versa!
Probably the most famous evening area in Pattaya is Walking Street, which is packed with entertainment venues, go-go bars, and a red light district. However for something a bit different, the Alcazar Cabaret Show is worth seeing.
We’ve found Pattaya to be cheaper for a night out than Bangkok, but with both cities boasting famous and lively evening spots, we believe it’s a draw when it comes to which has the better nightlife. After all, residents from both cities tend to visit the other when looking for a wild time. So why not try out both?
Which Has Better Excursions?
Bangkok is packed with things to do, from huge temples to nearby floating markets. It’s a lot on your senses in a good way, and everywhere you turn there’s something new to explore or try.
If you head out of Bangkok you can visit the beautiful Khao Yai National Park. Whilst just a few miles outside the city is Maeklong Railway Market – this unassuming vegetable market has become famous in recent years due to the fact a train runs directly through the heart of it. It’s now been nicknamed Thailand’s most dangerous market!
If you are looking to get out of Bangkok for the day, the two most popular daytrips are to Kanchanaburi and to the ancient city of Ayutthaya.
Kanchanaburi is best known as the location of the Bridge on the River Kwai and the Death Railway.
The Thai-Burma Railway was built by prisoners of war during World War II under the supervision of the Japanese soldiers who occupied the area during the war. The bridge was also built by POWs and immortalized in the eponymous 1957 war movie.
Ayutthaya was the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Siam and is a great day trip from the current capital city.
The ruins of the former capital are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with remnants of palaces, temples, and Buddha statues to explore. Ayutthaya is about an hour by road from Bangkok, or you can make this trip extra special by cruising up the Chao Praya River.
On the surface Pattaya appears to be just a party destination, but if you know the city well it does have lots to offer, with markets, street food and more to be found.
The Pattaya Floating Market is one of the most popular attractions and is well worth visiting, while the shopping malls are an attraction for those with money to spare. And if you’re feeling adventurous then just outside of the city is the opportunity to skydive too.
And of course with Pattaya beach the jewel in the crown of this city there’s plenty of water sports like kitesurfing, swimming, and beach bars and restaurants to enjoy.
It’s a tough one to judge, but we think Bangkok wins this one due to the sheer number of things to do, and many daytrips close to the capital. Bangkok also tends to be one of the best shopping destinations in Asia too.
Which Is Cheaper?
Pattaya and Bangkok are two of the most affordable destinations in the country.
That said, we’ve found Pattaya tends to be slightly cheaper than Bangkok in regards to hotels, nightlife and eating out. Especially when you’re not in the tourist hotspots.
Where You Should Stay According To Your Budget
Shoestring: Well located in Bangkok with great access to amenities and activities, Hansa Bangkok House is a beautiful little guesthouse which is surprisingly cheap considering how modern and well maintained it is. They serve a fantastic complimentary breakfast too.
Budget: With a gorgeous outdoor swimming pool, exceptional city skyline views, three restaurants, a spa and even more, a stay at the Bangkok Marriott Hotel The Surawongse won’t stretch your budget too much, but will provide a classy city vacation of a lifetime.
Luxury: The luxurious Mandarin Oriental Bangkok sits beside the scenic Chao Phraya River, and has everything you could want – including a two-Michelin starred restaurant! Expect celebrity treatment and perfect pictures by the poolside, on the tennis courts, or from your balcony.
Shoestring: Nonze Hostel is a popular backpacker capsule hostel right in the center of Pattaya city, just a short walk from the beach. This place is friendly, modern, clean and just a three-minute stroll from Pattaya’s famous ‘Walking Street’. Yet despite that, this place is still super quiet.
Budget: Sat right on the beach with gorgeous ocean views, a giant swimming pool, and completed by having rooms with a hot tub, LK Emerald Beach is luxury on a budget. This hotel is beautiful, and in our opinion, underpriced.
Luxury: Set in central Pattaya, so close to many activities and the city’s famous nightlife, is Hilton Pattaya, a luxurious beachfront hotel with gorgeous infinity pool and views.
With a gym, five on-site restaurants and staff that will treat you like a celebrity, you may be surprised by how this little slice of luxury is still within most budgets.
Which Is Safer?
Both are safe destinations, which is why tourists visit in huge numbers every year. However, as always when on holiday you should avoid confrontations with locals, avoid walking in unlit areas at night, and keep an eye on your drinks when at clubs and bars.
As for which destination is safer, you’ll find this is a contentious issue among locals and tourists alike. However the reality is that crime rates in both Bangkok and Pattaya are very similar.
When crime does happen it tends to be petty theft like bag snatching and pickpocketing.
Violent crime targeting foreigners is relatively rare in Thailand, but these sort of crimes have happened in both Bangkok and Pattaya in the past – particularly in nightlife areas.
Stay safe by reading our in-depth article on safety and tourist traps in Thailand and what to look out for. That was written by one of our writers who lives full-time in Thailand, and can be read here.
Bangkok vs Pattaya: Which Is The Better Choice?
Both cities are definitely worth visiting at some point, and each has its own unique charm and quirks.
But if your priority is cultural experiences, a great nightlife, and a wealth of things to do, then Bangkok may suit you more than Pattaya.
However if you’re looking for a city break that includes time on the beach, an energetic nightlife and cheap shopping and restaurants, then Pattaya may be a better choice than Bangkok.