Getting to Pattaya
Pattaya, 147km southeast of Bangkok, is one of the easiest cities to get to, as it is well connected via Highway 7 (Motorway) and Highway 3 (Bangna-Chonburi route). Several long-distant buses depart from Bangkok’s Eastern Bus Terminal (Ekamai) every half hour. And should you wish to arrive in style, you can even fly from Suvarnabhumi International Airport to U-Tapao Airport in Sattahip.
From Bangkok Airport to Pattaya the easy way
Most people departing Bangkok for Pattaya use the bus. The most frequent departures are from the Eastern Bus Terminal located adjacent to the Ekkamai BTS station on Sukhumvit Road at Soi 63 (Soi Ekkamai).
Air-conditioned buses leave approximately every thirty minutes between 05:20 and 23:20 each day and cost B117.
Similarly priced a/c buses also leave the Northern Bus Terminal (Mochit) between 05:30 and 20:00 each. If you are near the Southern Bus Terminal (Sai Tai Mai), buses leave at 05:30, 08:30, 10:00, 12:00, 14:00, 16:00, 18:30. This terminal is the easiest to access from the Khao San Road area. Simply take a 511 bus on Rachdamnoen Road headed across the river and get off at the end of the line.
The trips to Pattaya usually take about 2 hours, but times vary considerably depending upon traffic. Travel agencies and hotels around Bangkok, particularly in the Khao San Road area, also offer mini-van transport, usually at around B400 per person. This option is worth considering as you will usually be picked-up at your hotel and delivered to your digs in Pattaya. Another 'door to door' option is to take a taxi. The official fare is B1500 plus expressway fees, but there are private cars available from the guys lounging about in that will do the trip for B1000. If you aren't a fan of rubber-wheeled vehicles, a third-class only train leaves Hualamphong Station on weekdays at 06.50 for Pattaya and costs a paltry 31 baht for the three hour trip.
There are also second class air-conditioned buses available, but they take longer and only cost 20 baht less than the first class buses. If you are going to Jomtien beach, rather than Pattaya Beach, you might want to consider a second class bus as many of them continue on to Jomtien, avoiding the hassle of travelling from the Pattaya terminus to Jomtien. The bus station for second class buses in on South Pattaya Road where you will have to arrange transfer to your hotel.
By Rented Car
Suvarnabhumi Airport is 40km closer to Pattaya than was Don Muang Airport and doesn't require driving through Bangkok to reach the seaside resort. This makes the option of renting a car to reach Pattaya more attractive than in the past.
Major car rental companies like Budget +66 (08) 9814-3004, National +66 (08) 1751-8492, Hertz +66 (02) 134-2116 and Avis +66 (08) 4700 8157-9 have offices at Suvarnabhumi and will be happy to rent you a car at rates commensurate with those in other countries.
By far the best way to arrange your rental is through the Internet. This way your car will be ready for you when you arrive at the airport.
From Bangkok International Airport
When you exit the arrivals hall at Suvarnabhumi International Airport, you'll be confronted by numerous touts offering to transport you anywhere in Thailand, usually in a mini-van or a limousine.
Before succumbing to the tout, remember that a metered taxi from the airport to Pattaya has an official price of 1,050 baht, plus 60 baht for expressway charges.
Touted limos and mini vans are invariably more expensive, even when factoring in the fact they might hold more people. Even less expensive are the buses that leave from the airport's Transport Centre. To get one, simple take the complimentary shuttle bus from the kerb outside the arrivals area to the Transport Centre and then buy a ticket on one of the buses leaving for Pattaya.
Buses leave about every two hours, cost only 106 baht, and take about 1 ½ hours for the trip. As more people start using these buses, the number of departures will undoubtedly increase. Air conditioned buses arrive at the North Pattaya Road bus station where you need to take additional transportation to a hotel. You can learn how to do this in the 'Getting Around' section of this site.
Better yet, arrive in style via the airport limousine service (24 hrs). Book one in advance or, upon arrival, locate the nearest service counter in the arrival hall (Second Floor).
PMT Air, a Cambodian operation, now has a daily flight from Siem Riep (Angkor Wat) to Pattaya on a Russian built Antonov 24.
From Koh Samui
There are two Bangkok Airways flights a day between Koh Samui and U-Taphao, an airport 30 km from Pattaya. Although a bit pricey at B3200 plus surcharges and taxes, the flights avoid the time and hassle of travelling overland. If you choose the latter, you will take a boat from Samui to the mainland, a train or bus to Bangkok, then another bus to Pattaya - arriving about 16 hours later. If you are flying to U-Taphao, it is best to arrange ground transportation from the airport to Pattaya prior to departure. It will cost you B250, but it is preferable to an expensive hassle once you arrive. If you are adventurous, you can, however, walk to the highway and take a bus or a B20 white songthaew (pick-up truck with benches in the back) into Pattaya.
From the Northeast (Isaarn) and the North
There are direct a/c buses from Nongkhai, Khon Kaen and Nahkorn Ratchasima (Khorat) to Pattaya. If you are leaving from another Isaarn town, it is easy to transfer in Khorat to one of the numerous departures to Pattaya. From the north there are direct buses from Chiang Mai and Mai Sai to Pattaya. From other northern towns, travel to Bangkok and transfer at the Northern Bus Terminal for Pattaya.
Bangkok Airways offers one flight a day from Phuket to U-Taphao for approximately B4000 plus taxes and surcharge. The price is really only a couple of hundred more baht more than from Samui as the airport departure tax in Phuket is B30 vs. B500 in Samui. If you aren't planning to spend holiday time in Hua Hin or Bangkok, this is the only viable way to get to Pattaya from Phuket as an overland trip is too arduous to do without a break.