The Pattaya Survival Guide is intended to immunize you against unforeseen problems you may encounter in Pattaya. Learning how to survive in Pattaya is like learning how to cross a busy street. There are potential dangers present in both situations, but with a few simple ground rules and by acting as the Thais do with a generous and respectful nature, you will stay safe and sound in this amazing city.
Pattaya is a Safe City
Pattaya is probably one of the safest cities on the planet. Of course, as in any city, there is always a criminal element who will try to part you from your money or in rare cases, cause you harm. Most of the visitors who get into harms way in Pattaya, create the problem situations for themselves. The average visitor arrives in Pattaya with a huge advantage, financially and in terms of perceived social status. If you understand this and exercise a little caution you are very unlikely to come to harm in this fun city.
The rules of engagement with Thai people, including bar owners and girls that you meet, are very clear. Understand these rules (see Thai Culture page and Bar Fines page) and you can have the time of your life, and not even give a moments thought to the potential dangers that exist here. Act smart, be respectful, remember to keep any promise you make, and you can have all the fun you want and stay safe. If you want to read about all the terrible things that can happen if you act without thinking, or act irresponsibly, then read the scams page.
Crossing the road
Crossing a busy road in Pattaya requires a little caution. Motor vehicles generally will not stop for pedestrians even at designated cross walks. There is little regard for traffic signs and vehicles may approach from either direction even on a one way street. Motor cycles may take to the side walks, when streets are busy. So look both ways even in a one way street and be extra cautious when crossing the road.
The drivers charge a flat rate of 10 Baht for a regular route through the city, provided you use the baht-bus as a bus service and don’t hire it as a taxi. Avoid asking the driver where he is going or asking him to take you to a particular destination even if it is on his designated route. He will interpret this as a “special route” as if you are hiring a taxi and charge you more than the usual fare. Also be aware of empty baht-buses parked along the roadside. Try to give the driver a 10 Baht coin or a 20 Baht note. He may not have change for larger bills. See Getting Around Pattaya.
Also, be aware of anyone sitting very close to you on an empty baht-bus. There are occasionally pick pockets who usually work in pairs (one to distract you, the other to pick your pocket) and travel the baht bus route. If someone sits too close to you, just move away, or if necessary get off the bus and catch the next one. There’s usually one every few seconds!
Crimes of Opportunity
Most of the crime committed in Pattaya is opportunistic, meaning that thieves look for soft targets. They look for tourists who don’t take basic precautions to protect their money and their identity. The thieves hope to steal their money, and get away without any confrontation. The moment they sense resistance from their intended victim, they fade into the crowd and look for another soft target. So how do you avoid being a soft target, and stay within the law?
Be respectful to everyone while you are in Thailand. It is the Thai way and you will be appreciated for it. The tourist areas in Pattaya are safe, at just about any hour of the day. Just avoid quiet and poorly lit areas, late at night, if you are new to the city.
Thais are generally polite, respectful and tolerant. They welcome foreigners and will make every effort to make you feel welcome. See Thai culture page.
Cash, Credit Cards, ATM cards
Carry a minimum of cash. Decide how much you need for the evening, and carry this amount of cash in a small wallet with no other debit or credit cards. Try to avoid taking any credit cards or bank cards with you when you go out in the evening. Most businesses in Pattaya expect to be paid in cash.
In this age of ATM machines, travellers cheques may be out of fashion, as a way to carry money around with you, but they provide a safe and secure way of carrying a reserve of cash, for those occasions when you might need some extra cash.
Passport and ID documents
You are required by law to carry your passport with you at all times, but photocopies are acceptable as id. Get a colour photocopy of your passport picture page plus the Thai immigration form, that is stapled inside your passport. Use these photocopies as an id document, and keep your passport and other valuables locked in the safe in your hotel room. Carry your driving licence with you, if you’re planning to drive.
Bill Padding Scam
Some bars may try to inflate your drinks bill. This is known as “bill padding”. This is unusual in the larger bars and clubs. They are well managed and understand the importance of maintaining a good reputation. Check out the Pattaya Go-Go Bars.
If you are concerned about this, check the bill each time you order a drink. If necessary, pay the bill after 2 or 3 drinks. This makes it easier to keep track of the total amount owing. If you think there is an error in your bill, speak to the mamasan. Usually, these problems can be resolved amicably.
Most Thai girls are honest (yes, even the ones that work in bars) but in tough economic times, your girl friend may face temptation. Be sure to register your girl at the hotel front desk. if you’re staying at an apartment or guesthouse with limited security, then make sure that all valuables and documents are locked in your room safe.
There are many opportunities to meet freelance girls in Pattaya. Along Beach Road at all times of the day and night, in the shopping malls, on Walking Street in the evenings, and in the discos and night clubs.
Freelance girls are not well understood. They generally have a poor reputation that is not deserved. They are the entrepreneurs of the pay for play industry. These girls work as independents because they are unwilling or unable to work a full time job in a bar or night club. Some of them work part-time to supplement their income from a regular job.
There’s a small number of freelance girls that are just undesirable, and there are some that will try to extort money from you, if you give them a chance. These are the girls who give freelancers a bad reputation. Some of them may be suffering financially and will ask you for money for food. Be generous, Bt 30 will buy a meal.
Use some good judgment, and you will find that most of the freelance girls you meet are honest citizens who are totally trustworthy. Some of them are so gorgeous they are unforgettable.
Another important aspect of the Pattaya Survival Guide is to avoid contact with under-age girls. If you like younger girls, or if you think a girl is under 20, ask her age, but don’t take her word for it, be sure to check her id. The age of sexual consent in Thailand is sixteen, in the case of prostitution it is eighteen. There are penalties for breaking the law and there are several horror stories about scams with under-age girls. If in doubt stay away from a young girl. There are lots of gorgeous Thai girls in their 20’s who will be happy to spend some time with you. They are usually a lot more fun too. Horror stories are on the scams page.
Normally your hotel desk will check your girls ID. But if you’re staying in an apartment, or a guesthouse with minimal security the responsibility is on your shoulders. If she’s a bar-girl, and you’ve bar-fined her, the bar will probably have verified her age. Although bar owners are occasionally found guilty of employing under-age girls. Take the time to do some due diligence. If you don’t, you could find yourself in trouble both in Thailand and in your home country.
Generally, ladyboys (mixed gender individuals) will not cause you a problem. If you treat them with respect, and stay out of their way, there is no cause for concern. There are stories of ladyboys approaching unsuspecting men late at night with the intention of robbing them. If you are approached by someone in a public place and you are not sure if this is a girl or a ladyboy, use caution. Keep them at arms length. It is extremely unusual for a Thai person to touch you without your consent, unless you are at a go-go bar or a night club!
One of the most important aspects of the Pattaya Survival Guide is to avoid confrontation. You should at all times avoid confronting a Thai man, or being aggressive or overly assertive. If he starts to react aggressively, then look for a way to remove yourself from the situation as quickly as possible.
It doesn’t matter if you are in the right. If you are confronting a Thai man, or woman in a public place, you will suddenly find yourself surrounded by other Thai men, who have arrived to defend their fellow country man against a foreigner. At this point they are generally not interested in a rational argument. If emotions are inflamed, the outcome could be ugly. Don’t take the risk of spoiling your holiday. Put your ego in your back pocket, make your apologies and make a hasty departure.
If you are overcharged for anything, whether a taxi fare or bar bill, try to resolve the matter in a reasoned and diplomatic manner. If that doesn’t work, just pay the bill and walk away. If you don’t have proof that you were overcharged you are not going to win an argument.
If you have proof, go see the Tourist Police. (call 1155, or visit their stand at the north end of Walking Street after 7pm). They can handle the matter for you. Do not attempt to take the matter into your hands. The odds of success are extremely small.
Dealing with Police
If you are stopped by the police for any reason, you need to treat the police officer with respect, regardless of the reason you are being questioned. The officer may decide to impose an arbitrary instant fine. In the interests of expediency, you should consider paying this amount to resolve the problem immediately, unless you are unable to pay. The alternative may be lengthy incarceration, and a larger fine. If you are driving, make sure you have a valid driving licence, preferably an International Driving Licence that you can get before you leave home.
Thailand has zero tolerance for drug users. Avoid use of any recreational drugs. This should be clear to most visitors, but based on some recent publicity, even intelligent people seem to fall foul of Thailand’s drug laws. The rule is simple: no illegal drugs while you’re in Thailand. If you’re caught, you can expect a fine and deportation at best, and at worst a lengthy jail sentence or in extreme cases, death by lethal injection.