Hua Hin or Pattaya? A Lifestyle Question.

Property buyers looking to buy a seaside villa or condo in a coastal town in Thailand, relatively close to Bangkok, confront one question – should I buy a property in Hua Hin or Pattaya?

And rightly so, because these two choices have similar aspects. Both have kilometres of coastline, good beaches, and are just a couple of hours away from Bangkok – 3 hours for Hua Hin and 2 hours for Pattaya. They also have good year-round weather, large expat populations, and are some of the best places in Asia for water sports and playing golf.

Hua Hin and Pattaya suits buyers with different lifestyles and goals.

Small Town or City?

If you want a laid-back beach town feel, Hua Hin is the right choice. If you like to live in the middle of action, with a greater range of things to do, Pattaya is the winner. It is simply more established and has a longer development history in terms of western-style villas and condominiums.

Hua Hin has a population of around 100,000 plus a growing tourist reputation. The cozy town offers long, sandy beaches that run 5 km along the coast and are not fully obstructed by high-story condos on the beach, due to building regulations.

Hua Hin also suits those in search of a peaceful getaway because the town does not have a seedy reputation and is far from any industrial enterprises. This is thanks to a strong tradition of royal patronage and residence in the district, such as Mrigadayavan Palace and Klai Kangwon Palace, the latter is owned by the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX).

Nevertheless, the town has a growing reputation for restaurants and new attractions for tourists; it is a favourite resort town for Thai upper-class and Bangkokians who like to go to Hua Hin on weekends.

Pattaya, on the other hand, is home to almost 400,000 people, plus plenty of international tourists. The city is highly developed and has a higher density of high-rise buildings along the coastline and many great sea-view villas on the hillside, both of which are harder to find in Hua Hin due to the tighter building regulations.

During the day, the beaches in Pattaya, as well as in Hua Hin, attract sun worshippers and all different types of water sports, from kitesurfing to waterskiing. At night, Pattaya’s Walking Street is an international adult entertainment playground. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find a quiet place in Pattaya. There are less-popular beaches like Jomtien Beach and nearby islands like Koh Larn and Koh Samet.

Pattaya is part of Thailand’s eastern seaboard, the Eastern Economic Corridor, meaning the city is situated close to Thailand’s main industrial facilities and sea ports, as well as airports like Suvarnabhumi Airport, which is around an hour and a half away by car. It also has its own airport about 40 minutes from town called U-tapao International Airport.

For Holidays, Retirement or Investment?

Hua Hin and Pattaya are both highly qualified for property buyers with an impressive choice of villas and condominiums. But Hua Hin is better known for retirement.

Hua Hin has been named as one of the best retirement locations in Asia by countless surveys. It offers a high standard of living, great golf courses, first-class restaurants, quality medical care, close proximity to Bangkok, as well as “the big foreign community that connects through reading clubs, festivals, cycling clubs, wine tastings and darts tournaments,” wrote the US News and World Report in 2019.
Forbes Magazine also published in 2023 that Hua Hin is worldwide one of the top 10 most desirable locations for retirees.

Foreign property buyers are those who buy a property as holiday home or a retirement residence. Most are from western countries, especially those from Scandinavia, Germany, Switzerland and England. Many buy in Hua Hin to enjoy it at the best time of the year, rent out when they are away, and eventually live there when they retire. Also, a hi-speed railway is already available to link Hua Hin with Bangkok, which will make travelling to Bangkok airports even more convenient. It already has a multi-lane highway and bus services to the airport in Bangkok and other destinations. The Hua Hin airport was enlarged in 2023 and will become a hub for travelers from Asia and Europe over the next few years.

Pattaya is a popular choice for investment. It has a large and growing tourism industry, with over 12 million tourists before Covid, as well as a mix of nationalities, including Israeli, Russian, European, Indian, and Chinese, making its tourism less susceptible to change from a single demographic.

Additionally, Pattaya is part of the Eastern Economic Corridor, the Eastern seaboard that targets high-tech industries and attracts foreign direct investments, especially from Japan. It is also linked to Bangkok airports, sea ports, and main industrial facilities in Chon Buri and Rayong by the upcoming hi-speed rail. Plus, the city itself is positioned as an international medical hub.

Overall, a stream of foreign tourists and business travelers means a steady source of income for investors. But Hua Hin has also developed into an interesting location for investors. The following applies equally to both locations today: Those who buy the property to rent out short-term and long-term can enjoy a realistic yield of about 6 to more than 8% year.

Lifestyle

Both offer a cool selection of eateries, shopping malls, and activities, but if compared by the variety, Pattaya is the hands down winner.

That isn’t to say that Hua Hin doesn’t have plenty of options. Most buyers in Hua Hin like to play golf and enjoy the attractive courses – Hua Hin is one of the best golfing destinations in Asia. There are also first-class Thai and international restaurants, two huge eco-friendly water parks, and several night markets that sell fresh seafood and local crafts, like Hua Hin Night Market and Cicada Market.

Furthermore, Hua Hin has stylish shopping malls like Market Village and Blúport, the latter of which offers so-called “you hunt, we cook” options. You can also try the new Wines at a vineyard in Hua Hin or head to a cool bar that offers familiar labels.

Pattaya may be infamous for its red-light districts and nightlife – go-go bars, beer bars and nightclubs – but that is not the only side of Pattaya. In Pattaya you can find quality lifestyle with a burgeoning choice of family options and entertainments.

It offers a range of Thai and international cuisines, from award-winning restaurants with amazing views, sky bars, and Italian wine bars, to family-run restaurants, 100% vegan places, and local seafood.

Pattaya also offers lots of chic shopping centers like Terminal 21 Pattaya, Central Festival Pattaya Beach and Central Marina. There are also lots of family-friendly choices like water parks and museums, in addition to a wide range of extreme sports, such as Muay Thai, kitesurfing, waterskiing, and skydiving. You can also go snorkeling or plan a day trip to nearby islands like Koh Larn and Koh Samet.

In both cities, you can expect to find theatres with international blockbusters and supermarkets that sell western products.

International Education

Expat families can find excellent international schools in both cities.

Hua Hin has a couple of options for expat families. With quality education and great sporting activities, Hua Hin International School, for instance, is one of the choices that follows the national British curriculum and the IB program, and recruits teachers from the UK. There are also several bilingual programs available.

Expats in Pattaya have more choice when it comes to international education. There are several international schools with excellent facilities like hi-tech campus, drama studios, and a big theatre. Some of the best schools are St Andrews International School, Regents International School, and Tara Pattana International School.

Health Care

Hua Hin and Pattaya offer high-quality hospitals that cover basic and advanced medical care and cater to patients with different budgets.

Top private hospitals in Hua Hin are, for instance, San Paulo Hospital which caters to lower budgets, having interpreters not only in English but also German, and Bangkok Hospital Hua Hin which is part of the renowned BDMS group. These hospitals both offer quality specialist care including cardiology, urology, and orthopaedics, to name a few, and, again, English is spoken.

For Pattaya, top hospitals are Bangkok Hospital Pattaya, Pattaya International Hospital, and Pattaya Memorial Hospital, with Bangkok Hospital Pattaya charging the highest fees. Also, as Pattaya is recognised as one of the best medical tourism centres in Thailand and the Asian region, there are tons of tourists flying to the city for medical care, and hospitals employ staff who are fluent in various languages.

The bottom line: It depends on your goals and lifestyle. If you want a peaceful hideaway with grand royal history, or are a golf enthusiast, you may choose a property in Hua Hin. If you want to a city that is always switched on, close to investment areas and airports, and has lots of leading international schools and shopping malls, you may like Pattaya more.

 

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