A Tale of Two Cities – Hua Hin to Pattaya

Andrew Leeson


Thailand Hua Hin to Pattaya
Each night locals gather on the beach for a picnic and drinks. Join them.

This week we take a look at two amazing Thai cities that offer very different ex-pat experiences. We travelled from Hua Hin to Pattaya for the last week of our trip to Thailand. In my opinion, it’s worth visiting both. Although I understand why some will turn their noses up at Pattaya.

InTRODUction – Week 3 of the trip

It was the best of … just kidding.

These cities are separated by the Gulf of Thailand. Pre Covid there was a convenient ferry between the two which only took two hours. It now takes 4.5 hrs to drive. Currently no ferry service. 

Thailand Hua Hin to Pattaya

Hua Hin is looking good!

Hua Hin is very liveable

I’ve stated many times my fondness for Hua Hin. It is high on my list of possible SE Asia places that I am considering moving to. For me it has that ideal mix between size and small-town charm.

I was born and bred in the country in a small town and around dairy farms. It was a great way to grow up but not ideal as an adult that wanted excitement and difference, hence the next 30 years living in Brisbane, Adelaide, Newcastle, London, Singapore and Sydney.

The older I become the easier it is to leave behind big city life. But not necessarily give up all what a big city has to offer.

This is what Hua Hin represents to me – a nice mix between smaller city charm but still with plenty to keep yourself occupied. 

Why retire in Hua Hin?

Hua Hin has a population of about 85,000 with a robust tourism industry and all the modern conveniences such as movie theatres, shopping centres, all sporting facilities, markets, entertainment venues, restaurants, a world-class private hospital and so much more.

It is on a beautiful, long stretch of coastline and only three hrs drive from Bangkok. It’s on the rail line also. What strikes you as you walk through the city is the attitude. It’s very polite with an old-world charm. Like maybe Australia in the 1950s? People here don’t chase your wallet with any vigour.

They respect your privacy far more as you walk by. Everyone seems so much more relaxed. Big cities tend to make people a little tightly wound. You won’t find this in Hua Hin. 

Thailand Hua Hin to Pattaya

A nice backyard to have

Hua Hin retiree market is slightly different

There is a sizeable number of expat retirees scattered around Hua Hin. It does attract more British and other European retirees over Australians at this stage I have found. Hua Hin attracts couples and due to the feeling of safety, it seems to attract many single female retirees.

Without a huge red-light market, it is not considered a party town to compete with Bangkok or Pattaya. I think this drives the type of expat that would consider Hua Hin for retirement living. In saying that there are loads of bars and restaurants, many with live music. 

Cost differential between Australia and Hua Hin

Ex-property, Hua Hin represents about a 40% drop in living costs over capital city Australia. Or approximately a 25% drop in living cost if living in regional Australia.

You are spoiled for property choice with prices varying widely depending on your budget and location, such as by the beach or closer to the mountains.

Suffice to say you do not need to pay exorbitant prices to be near the beach or town centre. We inspected one modern 31 sq/m studio condo, city views but only 100 meters from the beach and within the city limits, pool, tennis court etc for only AUD$413 p/m, or AUD$95 p/w. It’s a little small for most of us of course but try getting that price near a tourist area within Australia. 

Thailand Hua Hin to Pattaya
Arguably Pattaya is the biggest party town in the world.

Pattaya is Always Buzzing

I love Pattaya. You sort of feel that you need to say that in a whisper. Like it’s something you should be ashamed about. But no way I love it. Yes, Pattaya is probably known as the world’s largest red-light district. But it’s so much more than that. There are thousands of bars and eateries of all sizes and types in Pattaya. You will certainly find your type of place.

It’s full of live music venues which I particularly like. At any time of day or night you can find something to do any day of the year. If you have never been it’s hard to imagine what it’s like. It’s reputation as a genuine contender for the world’s biggest party town is well deserved.

The difference with this town though is that the average age of the partiers is considerably higher than usual. At 52 years old I’m seriously still considered young. Probably still will be until I turn 60 at least. 

Thailand Hua Hin to Pattaya
There is said to be over 2,000 bars alone within this picture

Can you live in Pattaya?

Absolutely! It has a huge expat community and they come from all over the world. Not many expats stay in central Pattaya, to do so I think would be a serious health hazard if you’re easily tempted. For long term stays I’d prefer to be next to the beach in either the Wongamat or Jomtien Beach areas.

Wongamat is far quieter but very close still to central Pattaya, whereas Jomtien, while still relatively close to central Pattaya has its own set of bars and restaurants in a much smaller Pattaya-lite setting. Both have better beaches for swimming than Pattaya in my opinion also. 

Thailand Hua Hin to Pattaya
10 years ago it didn’t look like this. A lot of work done to make Pattaya more liveable

Plenty to do around Pattaya

Just outside Pattaya there is a ‘Special Economic Zone’. Thailand has many of these zones now and they are designed to stimulate investment and job opportunities by (amongst other things) giving tax breaks and easing administrative burdens on companies that choose to move into those areas.

Not far from Pattaya there are a considerable number of large international companies operating. Many with large production facilities. Whilst employing huge numbers of local Thais, they also contain huge numbers of working expats.

So, the district around Pattaya has both a huge number of tourists, huge numbers of retired expats, as well as huge numbers of working expats. What this means is that there’s loads of money floating around and with that the Thais have made sure there are plenty of ways you can spend it. Literally, if you can think of an activity to do, it’s there.

If you want to meet people join a club – there’s loads of them that cater for just about anything. 

Cost difference between Australia and Pattaya

Cost difference is very similar to Hua Hin v Australia as stated above.

For the past 20 plus years Pattaya has been going through a building boom with many thousands of condo units being built in and around the area. As such, there are tonnes of options available for longer term rentals at fantastic prices.

Great resort style living can be as little as AUD$100 p/w for a 1-bedroom unit which comes fully furnished on a long-term lease. However, the units I have inspected I would prefer to pay a little more and get a better quality and larger condo, better location and better condo amenities such as larger pool, modern gym, restaurant etc which would set you back as little as AUD$150-200 p/w.

Two very different cities that offer vastly different Thailand experiences to end this trip. Ending the trip with Pattaya does mean I am coming home in need of a holiday and relaxation. Oh well it was worth it. A day-or-two with Netflix and I’ll be back to normal. 

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Andrew Leeson

Andrew Leeson

Over 20 years of experience helping people live a better life in SE Asia. Having worked in financial services in Asia I understand the challenges when moving to and living in a new country. I have travelled extensively throughout the region and experienced what SE Asia has to offer to retirees.

One Response

  1. Enjoyed your blog on hui hin and pattaya as these are the 2 places I’m considering retiring to from Australia.

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