Hat Yai is Thailand’s fourth largest city and the largest major transportation hub by the border with Malaysia. For this reason it remains an extremely popular holiday spot for Malaysian and Singaporean tourists, and the transport links here are relatively good.
Flights to Hat Yai are on the increase thanks to the international airport which offers direct connections to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. There is no official bureau de change in the airport, but a few booths will exchange ringgits or dollars at poor rates. There is, however, an ATM machine which accepts international cards, and car rental is available at the terminal through Avis.
Meter taxis leave from outside the arrival hall and cost around 250 baht to the city centre, although the airport’s own limousine service will make the trip for a fixed 300 baht. Otherwise, a minivan service runs to downtown for 80 baht, while blue songthaew shared taxis can be found at the far end of the parking lot and do the same journey for 30 baht. The only transport option to Songkhla is taxi, around 500-600 baht.
Taking a train to Hat Yai is simple as the city is on the southern line which connects Bangkok to the Malaysian port of Butterworth (for Penang) and onto its capital Kuala Lumpur.
All trains call at Surat Thani (for Phuket and Koh Samui), Chumphon and Hua Hin. Trains south to Malaysia leave Hat Yai at 05:50 (to Butterworth via Padang Besar, four hours) and 15:00 (to Kuala Lumpur, 14 hours, 30 minutes) every day.
Those coming to Hat Yai by bus will arrive at the large coach station by the Diana Department store. VIP, first class and second class buses depart Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal throughout the day. Go with the 24-seater VIP bus if you can as the journey is a good 12 hours, although it is over 1,000 baht, which is getting towards the price of a flight. Buses also come in from Phuket, Surat Thani, Trang, Nakhon Si Thammarat and Satun.
From Hat Yai, there are departures every hour all over the Kingdom, including to Bangkok, Satun, Trang, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Phuket, Surat Thani and Hua Hin. There are also several companies travelling south to Butterworth and Kuala Lumpur from Hat Yai.
Minibuses connect Hat Yai with most tourist hotspots in southern Thailand, but where they depart from depends on the destination so ask at your hotel reception for local advice. Although these are generally cheaper and quicker than registered buses, minivans are often overcrowded and uncomfortable with less protection if there’s a crash.
Tuk-tuks and taxis are the best method for getting around Hat Yai and are easy to find—any journey inside the city should not cost more than 60 baht. Cheaper shared songthaews also follow set routes around the area. Many shops in the city, especially attached to hotels and guesthouses, will rent motorcycles to tourists for around 200 baht per day. Be careful on the roads and always wear a helmet as accidents are commonplace.