Bangkok vs. Pattaya: Best City For Expats?

Bangkok vs Pattaya: Where Should I Live?

“Should I move to Bangkok or Pattaya?”

This is a dilemma faced by many expats who can’t decide between the chaos of Thailand’s capital city, or the chance to live closer to the sea in a resort town.

Both Bangkok and Pattaya have advantages and disadvantages.

In this article we will go over some of the major differences in living in each of these cities.

Bangkok vs. Pattaya

Bangkok is the capital of Thailand and the most visited city in the world. This title does not come without a premium in terms of pace of living.

The streets are crowded, the traffic is terrible, pollution is high, but there is a ton of things to do and diversity on every corner. It’s a popular place to live.

Pattaya is a resort town, nowhere near as big as Bangkok. It is pitched on Thailand’s eastern seaboard and draws millions of tourists, mostly for its crazy nightlife scene.

While Pattaya is quieter than Bangkok, we are not referring to its bars and clubs. In fact, a stroll down the infamous Walking Street marks Pattaya as one of the ‘loudest’ night spots in all of Thailand. However, beyond the noise and commotion from the bars and clubs, there is a much slower pace of life outside of Bangkok.

This could be said for the whole of Thailand.

We saw this description of the two cities:

  • Bangkok is a city with nightlife.
  • Pattaya is nightlife with a city.

This is rather accurate.

The Bangkok and Pattaya Expat Communities Compared


Bangkok attracts an international mix of expats from every corner of the globe. It is popular with Europeans, Americans, Australians, Japanese, Chinese and all other Asian countries.

It also attracts a much younger crowd than Pattaya.

That’s because Bangkok has access to considerably more jobs and opportunity, being one of the world’s great trading posts. It is a melting pot of aspiration; which is something you should definitely know before you move here.

Young Thais move to Bangkok, ‘the big city’, to make the most of their skills.

They do not move to Pattaya.

Younger expats also favour Bangkok; a group that is rapidly catching up with the retirement crowd in numbers.

By comparison, Pattaya is a semi-retirement playground full of expats who would rather embrace a slower pace of life than get back in the thick of it in sweltering Bangkok.

Pattaya attracts a smaller demographic of expats, even if it does lure tourists from all over the world.

Most expats who live here are British, American or Eastern European. There is a very strong Russian presence.

Cost of Living

It is difficult to compare cost of living in Bangkok vs. cost of living in Pattaya.

Mainly because Bangkok is such a sprawling metropolis where you can live a life of extravagance, or one of relatively cheap kicks.

What we will say is that living in the prime spots of Pattaya will cost you less than living in the prime spots of Bangkok.

Pattaya’s nightlife is, as you would expect, considerably cheaper than Bangkok’s.

Numbeo has a very interesting Cost of Living comparison between the two cities:

  • Consumer Prices in Bangkok are 17.27% higher than in Pattaya
  • Consumer Prices Including Rent in Bangkok are 24.07% higher than in Pattaya
  • Rent Prices in Bangkok are 42.91% higher than in Pattaya
  • Restaurant Prices in Bangkok are 11.45% higher than in Pattaya
  • Groceries Prices in Bangkok are 18.10% higher than in Pattaya
  • Local Purchasing Power in Bangkok is 98.19% higher than in Pattaya

And yes, for those of you wondering, the cost of ‘night time thrills’ is considerably higher in Bangkok than in Pattaya.

(…Obviously we’re talking about beer — 15.46% more expensive in Bangkok.)

Getting Around

Bangkok has a greater diversity of transport options; from subways, to skytrains, to taxis, to trams, to buses, to motorcycles, to tuk tuks and with many odd vehicles in-between.

Pattaya is stacked to the eyeballs with buses and cheap rides around town.

While Bangkok has more options, it is undoubtedly less fun to try ‘getting around’.

The traffic in Bangkok renders some of the most popular routes completely out-of-action in rush hour. And rush hour doesn’t have to stipulate the start or end of a work day. It could simply mean that it’s raining so the whole of Bangkok decided to drive.

Traffic in Pattaya can be pretty bad, but it’s not a scratch on BKK.

For those seeking a quieter day-to-day life, Pattaya wins this battle. Hands down.

Best of Both Worlds?

It won’t have escaped many readers that Bangkok and Pattaya are a mere 148 km apart.

Bangkok to Pattaya in 2 hours

Bangkok to Pattaya in 2 hours

Note: While Pattaya is situated on the beach, this is not one of the beautiful Thai beaches you have dreamed about. Enter the waters at your peril.

Given the close proximity, the entire argument of Bangkok vs Pattaya is somewhat flawed.

You can have the best of both worlds by living in one city and regularly visiting the other.

Many Bangkok expats see Pattaya as their weekend ‘beach break’; a short 2 hour drive away from the big city.

Likewise, many Pattaya expats see Bangkok as a monstrous sprawl looming on the horizon, worth visiting, but only with a good reason.

You can live in either Bangkok or Pattaya and still enjoy what the other has to offer. This is one of the great advantages of the Bangkok/Pattaya setup, as opposed to say… Bangkok and Chiang Mai, which are 700 km apart.

Both Bangkok and Pattaya have a lot to offer the expat crowd.

Which city you decide to settle in will probably depend on your ability (or willingness) to keep up with Bangkok’s furious pace of life.

For everybody else, there’s Patts.


Bangkok or Pattaya?

Where would you rather live and why?

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