Safety in Pattaya
For most people, the most hazardous aspect of visiting Pattaya is the traffic. The top three accident black spots are:
- Dolphin Roundabout (intersection of Beach Rd, Second Rd, North Pattaya Rd and Naklua Rd)
- junction of Beach Rd and Central Pattaya Rd
- junction of Beach Rd / Walking St and South Pattaya Rd
Most accidents in Pattaya involve motorbikes, and are especially common late at night and in the early hours of the morning, when drunk driving is a significant problem. Be careful on the roads, even if you're just crossing one on foot (and be equally careful both on and off pedestrian crossings, as Thai drivers generally ignore them, and many foreigners seem to approach them with the hope of scoring double points); be careful on the pavements too - obstacles apparently purpose-engineered to trip up as many people as possible are commonplace, and motorcyclists use footpaths as short cuts with impunity. When riding in the back of an otherwise empty songthaew, it's probably safest to sit directly behind the cab.
In the event of an accident, the injured are usually bundled into the back of the next available songthaew or pickup truck or even onto the back of a motorbike (now you know why Pattaya has so many songthaews, why Thailand is the world's biggest pickup truck market, and why so many Thais ride motorbikes).
A completely different genre of traffic-related accident was highlighted by a fatality in January 2006 when a surfacing diver was hit by a speedboat propeller near Ko Laan. Unfortunately, the popularity of Pattaya's beaches combined with a relatively relaxed attitude to safety concerns in general means that swimmers and divers (and even sunbathers on the beach!) being struck by speedboats and jet skis is not such a rare occurrence. Stick to swimming in the 4 or 5 areas cordoned off with red and white booms and you should be safe as boats and jet skis are unable to enter.
Some of the scams to be wary of:
- Jet-skiing rentals are available along all the popular beaches, with rates starting around 600 baht for 30 minutes. A common scam involves some operators attempting to collect surcharges for supposed damage - call the Tourist Police (1155) if necessary.
- Be careful when paying for relatively small purchases with 1,000 baht notes, particularly in bars and nightlife venues. A common scam is that a waiter will give you back insufficient change, insisting that you paid with a 500 baht note. It's your word against the waiter's, so it is nearly impossible to prove that you in fact paid with a 1,000 baht note. You can try to get the manager involved, but he/she generally plays along. To avoid this, you can explicitly let the waiter state that you are paying with a 1,000 baht note beforehand, but it's probably wiser to avoid paying with 1,000 baht notes at all.
The main police station is on Beach Rd (at the corner of Soi 9); dial 191, or +66 38 420802(-5). For Bang Lamung Police Station, dial +66 38 221331.
The Tourist Police 1155, on Pratamnak Rd. They are now located next door to the Tourist Authority of Thailand (TAT) Information Office, exactly 1 km south of the junction of Second Rd and South Pattaya Rd — proceed along Pratamnak Rd, continue straight up the hill, and where the road bears sharp right part way up, turn sharp left into the small side soi. Alternatively, their mobile minivan office which sets up every evening at the junction of Walking St, South Pattaya Rd, and Beach Rd is much easier to reach.
The Pattaya Tourist Police advise that in theory foreigners should carry their passports with them at all times, however they also suggest that in practice a good photocopy (personal details page, visa and entry stamp pages, and TM card) is acceptable.
Like most of Thailand, Pattaya is generally safe for tourists and violent crime such as mugging or robbery is unusual, with the exception of jewellery and bag snatching (usually with the thieves on motorcycles, and often with the victims on motorcycles too) which is endemic.
Beware of lady boys approaching you with questions ("Where you from?") and later she and/or her friend try to kiss you just in order to snatch your jewellery. In fact leave all your gold and valuables at the room safe or even at home.
Watch out when doing water sports at the beach areas. There is a common tourist trap where tourists going for jet ski-ing are being forced to pay for equipment damages (which are not caused by the tourists) amounting up to 100K baht. Even after negotiations and intervention from the related embassies and agencies, a payment of around 10,000 baht is still required for the damages. Thus, you must exercise extreme caution when doing equipment loans or doing sports on vehicles provided by the shops.
Swindles and pick pocketing are more commonly encountered by tourists. It is inadvisable to tell anyone that it is your first visit to Thailand, since you will then be marked down as an 'easy touch'.
The nightlife/entertainment areas have a lot of activity and are generally very safe, however pickpockets are a problem, especially on Walking Street when it's crowded, despite the official Tourist Police patrolling the area at night. For this reason, a visitor should not carry a passport and/or credit card with them, especially at night. These should be left in the safe at your hotel along with the bulk of your cash, or if they must be carried then they should be securely concealed. If you have been pick pocketed and then you actually spot the likely pickpocket departing, do not follow. You could be mistaken, and you almost certainly will be accused of being mistaken. Just put it down to experience, and leave the immediate area.
Never ever 'pick a fight' in any circumstance, no matter how much you have had to drink. Never try to intervene, even verbally, in an argument between two or more Thai people.
No matter how much you are being pestered, just smile and walk on. In cash payments, disputes over the value of notes and the amount of change can be avoided by carrying smaller notes and trying to give near enough the exact amount.
The beach side of Beach Road used to be worth avoiding late at night, however the entire length of both the promenade and beach are now floodlit, and although it's still a popular haunt for "freelance" prostitutes, it's now much busier from dusk through until dawn and by no means a "no-go" area.
Visitors should not visit entertainment venues that do not display a long-standing fixed sign outside, or which appear to be very poorly lit inside. Also, one or two of the hundreds of seemingly bright and established venues may actually be operating as a 'clip joint', offering free admission and then refusing to allow visitors to leave until they have settled a fake bill for non-existent drinks. Again, it is wisest to simply pay up, leave and put it down to experience.
As always, travellers should take extra care in all poorly lit or more remote areas, and very late at night. This is especially the case if one has had too much to drink.
Most reputable hotels will require the presentation of ID cards by guests. Throughout Pattaya guests will not be admitted to hotel rooms if they are under the age of 20. This is a useful way for tourists to guarantee that their new-found friend is actually the age he/she says she is, and thus avoid possible police attention.
Drugs: as in all of Thailand, the penalties for possession and/or distribution of drugs are harsh.
Gambling: is illegal in Thailand, and the local press reports Pattaya Police as having a "zero tolerance" policy for gambling offences.
The legal minimum age for customers in drinking establishments and discos is 20. In Pattaya this is rarely enforced for foreigners, but is frequently enforced for Thais, including those accompanying foreigners. Pattaya police conduct raids to check for underage employees (especially in "indoor" and go-go bars) and patrons (especially in discos) from time to time, and less frequently to enforce closing times. Foreign tourists are not the targets of these raids and are usually asked to produce ID (photocopy of photo/ID page of passport will normally suffice) and then allowed to leave, but are sometimes tested for drugs via an on-the-spot urine sample.
Pattaya has several hospitals and dentists of a high standard. It's a good place to get medical treatment at reasonable cost. Thailand gets a lot of health tourists. Bangkok Hospital (Pattaya) even has a Snoring Clinic for anyone trying to cure a snoring problem, including potentially dangerous sleep apnea for which they offer CPAP therapy.
- DMED Hearing. This is possibly the best audiologist in Pattaya. They sell several well known International brands of hearing aids including bluetooth models.
- Fascino pharmacy, opposite Tesco Lotus on North Pattaya road.This is possibly the the largest and best stocked pharmacy in Pattaya