Pattaya’s nightlife is both famous and infamous around the world, which can make it a little intimidating for a first-timer. The sheer scale of it can also be overwhelming, with Walking Street alone being about a kilometre long from end to end and containing a dozen nightclubs, 80 go-go bars and countless beer bars. Relating to this world of Pattaya nightlife are terms, expressions and practices which are unique to Thailand and, in some cases, specific just to Pattaya.
We have prepared a beginner’s guide to Pattaya nightlife for those planning their first visit to Walking Street or one of the city’s other noteworthy party areas, giving you a rough idea of what to expect on your first walk through Pattaya’s really wild side. Through this, we hope to arm you with enough knowledge to ensure that you get the most out of Pattaya after dark, avoiding any nasty surprises and confusion.
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A girl who works in a bar. This is sometimes broken down into coyote girls (who generally work in beer bars) and go-go girls.
Beer Bar or Bar Beer
Two ways of describing the same thing – a simple open-air drinking establishment with low prices for local beers and spirits. They are all practically identical, featuring pink neon lights and flat-screen TVs and about six or seven dancers/servers.
Cheap Charlie or Kee Niaow
If you don’t buy lady drinks, you will quickly find yourself being largely ignored by the bar staff and being called one of these.
A simple game of aligning four coloured tokens in an upright board, used as a distraction to keep you in the bar once the conversation dries up. A game of skill, bar girls tend to be extremely good at it as they get hours of practise every evening.
An enclosed bar where the main attraction is the stage of dancers. The music is usually loud and the drinks prices are often quite high.
Literally translating as “northeast”, this is a large rural area of Thailand, consisting of 20 provinces near the border with Laos. An unusually large proportion of Pattaya bar staff are from there.
A fun alternative to Connect Four, it consists of a box with nine paddles which have numbers on one side and the word “•JACKPOT•” spelled out on the other. Roll two dice into the box and flip the paddle corresponding to the value of either one die individually or both combined. If you roll and can’t make a move, you lose. If you flip every paddle, you win. It's a game of chance, so neither you nor the bar staff have any advantage.
Katoey or Ladyboy
A transvestite or, in some cases, transsexual. Particularly common around certain sois and near the tree on Walking Street.
A small but often surprisingly expensive drink which bar girls will press you to buy for them. The elevated price is because the girl gets a cut of the cost.
Ring the Bell
Almost every bar in Pattaya has a large brass bell hanging somewhere. Ringing it means that you are buying everyone in the bar a drink. In go-go bars, this usually means that you’re only buying the dancers a drink and the price is sometimes capped at 1,000 baht. It’s a good way to make a lot of new friends and spend a lot of money very quickly.
The Thai word for a small side-street or alley. Most are officially designated with numbers but many have a widely-used nickname according to what the street is best known for.
The Thai word for “darling” or an equivalent term of affection. It is worth noting that “da ling” is very close to the Thai word for an unmentionable part of a monkey’s anatomy, so being called teelak is usually a very good sign.
Ladyboys in Pattaya
A common fear among first-timers in Pattaya is that the girl they end up flirting with will turn out to not have been born a girl. This is actually an extremely rare occurrence since the local ladyboys do not go out of their way to try to trick people. Most will be quite up-front about their gender and sexuality since they don’t want any problems caused by confusion. Even so, there are ways to spot a ladyboy from a distance to help you to avoid any awkwardness, which we have detailed in our spotter’s guide.
It should be noted that the ladyboys in Pattaya have developed quite a reputation for decidedly unladylike behaviour, including pickpocketing and violently overreacting to even very subtle snubs and insults. We strongly recommend being extra careful and as civil as possible around them.
Getting Around After Dark
After 18:00, Walking Street becomes entirely pedestrianised and most of the other major nightlife areas (such as Sois 6, 7 and 8, Soi LK Metro and Boyztown) become so crammed with people that vehicle traffic rarely ventures through them. However, you will always be able to find motorbike taxis at each exit. While prices are always negotiable, don’t expect to be able to pay the same price to get back to your hotel as you did on the outbound journey since prices rise as the hour gets later. For example, a journey from the vicinity of Sukhumvit Road to Walking Street may have cost you about 70 baht at 21:00, but could be more than twice that by 02:00.
While some baht buses continue to operate their circular routes around town well into the night (and, therefore, continue to operate their daytime price structure of 10 baht per person), others start to operate like taxis. While this means that they will charge taxi prices, it also means they will take you directly to your hotel’s front door. If you are travelling by motorbike taxi or songthaew, it is essential to agree the final price with the driver before starting the journey as negotiating after is virtually impossible.
A Few Notes of Caution
The vast majority of people have a great time in Pattaya after dark without having any problems at all because, for the most part, it is safe and fun. Violence directed at tourists is quite rare, though pickpocketing and purse snatching are a little more common, making it advisable to carry as little of value on you as possible. Generally speaking, exercise the same precautions you would when going on a night out in your home country and you should be fine.
One unusual variation is that drink spiking has been known to occur, but it is men who should be more concerned about this than women. Be very wary of leaving your drink unattended or of drinks given to you by strangers as you may wake up several hours later with a headache and a lot less cash.
There are a few scams commonly associated with Pattaya’s nightlife, including bill-padding and the infamous ‘sick buffalo’. The best way to avoid them is to know what to look out for, which is why we have prepared a guide to Pattaya’s most common scams.
The Tourist Police Volunteers are mostly westerners who will help out with any problems that tourists visiting Pattaya get into by acting as translators and intermediaries. They have posts and patrols along Walking Street every night. You can also contact them by dialling 1155. For other issues, the Pattaya Helpline (1337), provided by City Hall, has English-speaking staff who can direct your call to the appropriate destination.
Police Emergency: 191
Tourist Police: 1155
Pattaya Helpline: 1337