Hua Hin vs Pattaya: The Ultimate Guide for Travellers & Expats

As two of the closest beach areas to Bangkok weighting up Hua Hin vs Pattaya is pretty common. So we asked our writer Stephen, who has lived in both cities, to give his thoughts. We hope these help you decide which of these vibrant spots is the best place for you to spend some time. 

I get asked this question all the time. When I first came to Thailand from Sydney 8 years ago, I was a big city boy, and Bangkok was where I wanted to live. Over time, the crowds, the smog, and the traffic jams had me seeking a new home. Beach life has always appealed to me, so in 2020 (in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic), I relocated to Pattaya. I lived there for over a year, and it was mostly ok.

My relationship with my now-husband caused me to relocate a few times until early 2024, when we moved to Hua Hin.

So now that I’ve experienced life in both cities, I feel more qualified than ever to answer this question.  Let’s dive into the specifics first, and then I’ll make a summary.

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How does the nightlife in Hua Hin compare to Pattaya?

This is probably the most significant difference between the two. Pattaya has always been promoted as a party city, and it lives up to that reputation. For example, bars line the beach road of Pattaya City, with most of them featuring hostesses who are more than happy to keep you company for a price.

Pattaya’s nightlife covers everything from chilled hang-out bars to dynamic nightclubs and everything in between. If you want a sports bar, ladyboys, duff-duff music, or rock and roll, you’ll find it. 

Pattaya walking street
Pattaya Walking Street

For those that don’t know, prostitution is everywhere in Pattaya; it’s not kept out of sight, and I admit that on my first visit over ten years ago, I found it very confronting. Once I was living there, it became so commonplace that I barely noticed it.

While the city has worked hard to create more family friendly fun in recent years and they are doing a good job, if you’re a family travelling with children, they may ask you questions that you might be uncomfortable answering, so keep that in mind when choosing Pattaya.

Hua Hin’s nightlife is more laid back. Sure, there are a few hostess bars here and there, but they don’t dominate, and most of the chilled-out entertainment is found at the night markets; see below.

Which city has better beaches: Hua Hin or Pattaya?

This is an interesting question and one that I hear debated fiercely by residents of both. Both cities have a lovely beach on the Gulf of Thailand, and it’s the drawcard for many visitors.

Jomtien Beach in Pattaya
Jomtiem Beach Pattaya

Pattaya probably has it over Hua Hin for me. The city has a vast stretch of sand and surf is easily accessed by a main road — Beach Rd. Songtaews run up and down the road, and some parking is available. 

The most significant challenge tourists have in Hua Hin is accessibility. While there’s a beach that extends right along the city, there’s no beach road. Just about every soi (alley) from the main thoroughfare, Phet Kasem Road leads to the beach, but it requires walking, and the parking options are limited.

Both beaches have sun chairs that you can hire hourly or daily, with food and drinks delivered if you chose. The most significant difference is that in Pattaya, the beach chairs line the sand from end to end, and individual owners operate them, yet in Hua Hin, they’re separated, and they’re most commonly operated by the resorts of restaurants directly behind them.

Hua Hin Beach Thailand
Hua Hin Beach Thailand

I’m a marathon runner, and there’s nothing better than running next to the beach. In Pattaya, this was a daily ritual for me, and as it’s not an option in Hua Hin, it’s one thing that I really miss. 

What are the night markets like in Hua Hin compared to Pattaya?

Many tourists come to Thailand to visit the various night markets, and when comparing the two, I feel Hua Hin has it over Pattaya, and here’s why.

Hua Hin has three night markets, which are an excellent alternative to hanging out at a bar. Yes, alcohol is served, and there’s live music, but you’re outdoors, and the vibe is one of community. The markets are primarily about food and drink, but there are clothing and souvenir stalls, too.

Hua Hin Night Market
Hua Hin Night Markets are a popular way to spend the evening

The Hua Hin Night Market is open every night from 5 pm. The Tamarind Market is open Thursday through Sunday from 5 pm, and the Cicada Market is open Friday through Sunday only. 

The Pattaya Night Bazaar is a covered market that focuses on souvenirs and clothing. It doesn’t have the relaxed vibe of the Hua Hin markets, and I don’t like the pressure from stall holders to buy from them.

Hua Hin vs Pattaya – Which city has the most to do?

When it comes to well-known attractions, Pattaya probably takes the crown here. It’s home to top tourist sites like:

  • Sanctuary of Truth
  • Pattaya Floating Market
  • Art in Paradise
  • Tiffany Cabaret Show
  • Ramayana Water Park
  • Ripley’s Believe It or Not
  • Nong Nooch Botanical Gardens
  • Khao Keow Zoo
  • Columbia Pictures quivers
Sanctuary of Truth Pattaya
The Sanctuary of Truth is breathtaking

Hua Hin is less tourist-focused and more about having a chilled-out vibe. Sadly, the pandemic forced a number of attractions to close down, never to reopen. I feel sad when I drive past them and see the ‘for sale’ signs on them. However, there are a few places worth visiting:

  • Wat Huay Mongkol on top of Monkey Mountain
  • Vana Nava Water Park
  • Rajabkhati Park
  • Kaeng Krachan National Park
  • Wat Khao Takiap
Vana Nava Water Park Hua Hin
Vana Nava Water Park Hua Hin

What are the healthcare facilities like in Hua Hin and Pattaya?

Healthcare in Thailand is very important and big business. There are numerous hospitals in Pattaya and Hua Hin, and most of them are world-class.

Pattaya may have a few more than Hua Hin, but that’s only due to the population size. Regardless of which city you’re in, you can get top-level medical care.

Medical tourism is massive in Thailand, and many people come here for surgery. Here’s a suggestion: rather than getting your work done at a Bangkok hospital, why not consider either Pattaya or Hua Hin? Recovering in a resort by the beach sounds much more relaxing than sitting by the pool in a noisy city. 

Which city is safer: Hua Hin or Pattaya?

Here’s one where Hua Hin wins hands-down. This is not to say that Pattaya is a dangerous city, but there is more crime there, and there have been many recent reports of tourists going rogue and guns being used. 

Hua Hin doesn’t have the alcohol-infused violence problems that have begun surfacing more regularly in Pattaya. If you visit, avoid some of the well-known dangerous night spots, and you should be fine. 

Don’t just take my word for it. Numbeo has done the numbers and given Hua-Hin a crime-index rating of 36, which is considered low, and Pattaya 46, which is considered moderate. Interestingly, the same data ranks walking alone at night as safe in Hua Hin, but moderately dangerous in Pattaya.

What are the transport options like in Hua Hin and Pattaya?

Taxis, Tuk-Tuks, and Grab, are the primary transport options in both cities. Sadly, taxi scams, like not using the meter and charging tourists a fixed, gouged price, happen in both places, but I experienced them more often in Pattaya than I do in Hua Hin.

Songtaew in Hua Hin THailand
Songtaew’s are a popular way to get around both cities

Both cities also have a Songtaew service, which, if you know where it goes, can be an excellent choice, and it’s so cheap. In Hua Hin, it’s very straightforward. It operates to/from the airport to the night market and from the night market to/from the Tamarind market. Each trip is 15 baht.

Pattaya’s is a little more complicated, and that’s because of the one-way road system. The most commonly used one is the one that operates from Terminal 21 down Beach Road, then along the second road back to the shopping mall.  There’s also one that goes to Jomtien Beach, the next beach south.  I’ve seen other ones, but aren’t exactly sure where they go, it might be fun to jump on one day and see where they end up. The official price is 10 baht, but I’ve had some drivers try to scam me up to 40 baht. 

Which has better weather 

Both Pattaya and Hua Hin have tropical climates, which is not surprising considering how close they are, but the weather isn’t identical.

Pattaya, on the eastern Gulf, is hot and humid all year round. Its rainy season, which falls between May and October, has heavy rain and storms, while the dry season (November to April) is warm and dry. I remember sitting on my balcony and watching the storms roll in over the Gulf and then bucket down, more often than not causing my street to flood.

Pattaya street during heavy tropical storm rain in monsoon season.
Pattaya street during heavy tropical storm rain in monsoon season.

On the other hand, Hua Hin on the west side has similar weather with a few differences. Its rainy season matches the southwest monsoon, generally from June to September. But it’s not as wet as Pattaya since it’s further south. The dry season in Hua Hin is between November and February, is cooler. I’m yet to live in Hua Hin during the rainy season, so I’ll update this in December with my further observations.

Here’s a list of the average monthly temperatures and rainfall. However, this year 2024 has been noticeably warmer, for example, in March 2024, we had average temperatures in Hua Hin of around 33–34°C, which is a couple more than the average.

MonthHua Hin (°C/°F)Pattaya (°C/°F)Hua Hin (mm)Pattaya (mm)
January29/84 – 22/7131/88 – 23/731330
February30/86 – 23/7331/88 – 24/752720
March31/88 – 24/7532/90 – 25/773050
April32/90 – 25/7733/91 – 26/796590
May32/90 – 26/7932/90 – 26/79155220
June32/90 – 26/7931/88 – 26/79100180
July32/90 – 26/7931/88 – 26/7965160
August32/90 – 26/7931/88 – 26/7960190
September32/90 – 26/7931/88 – 25/7780280
October31/88 – 25/7731/88 – 25/77220270
November30/86 – 24/7531/88 – 24/75150110
December29/84 – 23/7331/88 – 23/734040
Note: Temperatures are given in Celsius and Fahrenheit, while rainfall is measured in millimeters (mm).

Living the Dream: Is Hua Hin or Pattaya Better for Expats?

Now, here’s where I come in! In the eight years that I’ve spent here, I’ve visited both cities as a tourist and lived in both.  

The answer to this question is another question. What are you looking for as an expat?

Do you want to party, pay for company, and drink on the beach all day in Pattaya, or do you want to retire peacefully or bring up a family in a safe, more relaxed environment in Hua Hin?

It really is that black and white.  

Here’s a bit of my story.

When I first moved to Pattaya, I was in a relationship. We lived in a condo by the sea, a bit away from the nightlife, and it was mostly peaceful. We had to travel a bit to get to markets or supermarkets, but mini-marts were a couple of minutes away.

Once we broke up, I found myself single in Pattaya and was drawn into the nightlife scene. After a few nights in a row sitting with fellow ex-pats and listening to their stories about which money boys they’d been with the night before, I realised these weren’t my people, and Pattaya wasn’t my scene, so I ended up moving away to my preferred beach location, Bangsaen, but that’s a topic for a whole new blog.

As I write this, I’m sitting in my condo, a few minutes’ walk from the beach in Hua Hin. I’m happily married now and very settled. Neither of us cares for bars and that form of nightlife; instead, we prefer visiting one of the three night markets for a more chilled-out evening. In fact, we’re on our out to one as soon as I click submit on this article.

Understanding the Cost of Living: Hua Hin and Pattaya Compared

Ok, so keep in mind that these are both tourist cities and like Phuket, the prices are a lot higher than they are in Bangkok. You can still get a plate of Pad Ka Pao in Bangkok for 40 baht, you’d be hard pressed to find one less than 75 baht in Hua Hin or 90 baht in Pattaya. I’ve found on principle that eating out in Pattaya is slightly more expensive than in Hua Hin, and once again, Numbeo would agree with me

I’ve noticed that grocery shopping, utilities, gym membership, and even soft drinks and water are cheaper in Hua Hin.

Transport is tricky as the whole fixed-cost thing is hard to compare. I find that Grab seems cheaper in Hua Hin than in Pattaya. And if they aren’t trying to gouge you, Pattaya’s songtaws are slightly more affordable.

Now, for hotels, Pattaya has way more budget hotels and hostels than Hua Hin, and you can get a bed for a few dollars a night. Hua Hin has more high-end hotels, but their prices are slightly lower than their equivalent in Pattaya.

Rent is cheaper for expats in Hua Hin, and houses are a popular choice compared to apartments in Pattaya. 

Making the Right Choice: Comparing the Allure of Hua Hin and Pattaya

As you can see, it’s not really a clear-cut decision as to which one is better. It all comes down to which one most suits your needs as a traveller or expat.

  • If you’re single and looking for nightlife, and you’re ok with, or want to spend time with partners where money changes hands, then Pattaya is the place for you.
  • If you’re in a committed relationship or have a family, Hua Hin may be the better alternative.
  • If daily trips to the beach without any fuss are a priority, then Pattaya may be a better choice; I’m still figuring out the easiest way to get to Hua Hin’s beach. 
  • I’ve hinted at it throughout the article, but there have been times in Pattaya as a tourist, I’ve been scammed. It doesn’t work these days as I’m on to it all, but I’ve never experienced it in Hua Hin.

Right now, Hua Hin gets my personal vote as the best of the two. For now, the cost of living is less, and the night market lifestyle appeals to me so much, as does the overall environment here. 

Now, here’s the thing. Neither would be my choice forever. The reason behind that is that I moved to Thailand to immerse myself in Thai culture. Pattaya and Hua Hin are major tourist and expat cities, and there are days when I see so many tourists in the streets that I feel like I’m in a town in the South of France, not Southeast Asia. It’s for that reason alone that my final retirement location won’t be one of these cities.  

If you’re in Hua Hin this year and you see me, say hi!

About the author: Stephen left Australia in 2016 with a one-way ticket to Thailand
and hasn’t been back since. Seven years later, he’s “living the ex-pat dream”, married and settled down; he and his partner travel across Thailand competing in half-marathon running events and sampling coffee at cafes.