For the overwhelming majority of Western travellers Hat Yai is nothing more than a big transportation hub of southern Thailand, so very few of them (us) venture out to the city itself, making just a brief acquaintance with Hat Yai based on impressions produced by its train and bus stations at best. Yet if you are travelling through the southern regions of Thailand, make a stopover in Hat Yai to feel that special atmosphere of a thriving city where traditions meet modernity. Brand-new shopping malls rub their shoulders with colourful markets, excellent Malay and Chinese restaurants cannot overshadow curries from hawkers’ stalls, and serious business-style hotels and friendly old-school Chinese guesthouses all have their fair share of guests arriving to Hat Yai.
How to get from Bangkok to Hat Yai
Planning to get to Hat Yai from Bangkok overland? Be ready for rather a longish journey – it may take anywhere from 12½ hours to devastating 17 hours. Though buses are faster and offer more departures, trains let you travel with more comfort – provided you book a sleeper, not just a seat!
From Bangkok to Hat Yai by bus
The main bus terminal in Bangkok for all southbound trips is the Southern Bus Terminal, also known as Sai Tai Mai. It is located on the Western banks of Chao Phraya River and is best reached by taxi. There are a number of operators which serve the route between Bangkok and Hat Yai, including Sri Siam Tour, Siam Lane Tour and Piya. During long-hauled journeys all interprovincial buses offer some snacks and water on board or make at least a couple of pit stops at gas stations where there are a lot of forecourt operators, including some chain fast-food restaurants, convenience stores, coffee shops, and sometimes gift shops or even men’s and women’s wear shops. There are toilets both on board and at the gas stations, so even the longest bus journeys in Thailand are relatively comfortable.
There are Express, VIP and VIP24 buses plying the route between Bangkok and Hat Yai. A VIP24 is the most expensive option (about THB1150) but offers the most comfortable ride as there are only three seats per row instead of usual four which means more leg and elbow space. VIP24s depart at 5.50pm (arrival to hat Yai at 6.20am; Sri Siam Tour) and 7pm (6.40am; Piya).
Two VIPs of the same companies cost THB850 and leave at 6.50pm (7.05am; Sri Siam Tour) and 5.30pm (7am; Piya).
All the other departures of the above mentioned companies are Express buses which are cheaper (approximately THB750) but also ok. They offer the same service and the main difference is in the number of seats per coach. There are afternoon and night buses at 3.30pm (4am), 4pm (4.30am), 6pm (6.15am), 8pm (8.15am) and a morning bus at 6.50am (arriving at 7.05pm).
Though buses are considered by some less comfortable compared to railway sleepers, they save some four hours of your trip, as it normally takes about 12½ hours to get to Hat Yai from Bangkok by bus, which actually compensates.
From Bangkok to Hat Yai by train
Hat Yai lies on the Southern Line of the State Railway of Thailand. Hat Yai Railway Station is located right in the centre of the city. It is the main junction for the railway travel to Malaysia and Singapore and the further southbound travel to other cities of the Deep South – Yala and Pattani. To get from Bangkok to Hat Yai by train you will have to cover over 900 km and the journey takes anywhere from 14 to 18 hours. So choose your train ticket wisely! 12go.asia does include seats only carriages in the list of the options available, but think twice before you commit to such a long journey in a seats only carriage! And good luck to your back and small back, anyway.
The most convenient trains to Hay Yai from Bangkok are those departing in the afternoon and arriving early the next morning. These include #171 which leaves Hua Lamphong train station in Bangkok at 1pm and reaches Hat Yai 6am; #35 (2.45pm–6.35am); #37 (3.10pm–7.20am); and #169 (3.35pm–9.15am). All of them have the most popular second class AC sleepers which offer a great price vs quality ratio. Tickets cost from approximately THB1100 to THB1200 depending on the train you choose.
There are also second class AC ladies only sleepers at the same price as above in some trains. Only women and women with children are allowed to travel in these carriages. It is a great option to consider if you are a solo woman traveller. There is usually a bright pink-coloured placard indicating ladies and children only carriages. There is a ladies only sleeper in #37.
Note that it is sometimes downright freezing in air-conditioned carriages. Second class fan sleepers are a good alternative if you do not want to be dead with cold. Fan sleepers cost slightly cheaper – about THB800-THB850 – and are found in trains #171 and #169.
The plushest way to travel between Bangkok and Hat Yai is offered by first class AC sleepers. There is a double occupancy 1st class sleeper in #35 which costs around THB1850. Taking into consideration the length of the trip, it is a good investment.
The most adventurous – or those on a tight budget – can consider seats only, too. #171 has second class fan seats only carriages at THB675. These are the cheapest seats you can buy, but once again, please consider that you will have to survive 17 hours in a seats only carriage before you reach Hat Yai. And do not tell us we have not forewarned you!
There is also a train #41, not previously mentioned, with second class AC seats. It is the fastest train of all those heading south and takes only 14 hours to bring you to Hat Yai from Bangkok. It leaves Hua Lamphong at 10.50pm and arrives to the destination in the afternoon at 12.35pm.
From Bangkok to Hat Yai by plane
Even the real overland travel enthusiasts are not always happy to spend some 17 hours gazing at countryside pastorals from a railway carriage window. Low-cost airlines now make our lives a whole lot easier cutting transit time considerably. Flying time from Bangkok to the Southern Thai gateway city of Hat Yai is only one hour 35 minutes – not a bad alternative to any bus or train journey!
There are seven flights a day between Bangkok Don Mueang Airport and Hat Yai by Thai Lion Air, an associate of the namesake Indonesian carrier. The earliest flight departs from Bangkok at 7.45am and brings you to Hat Yai by 9.20am with the whole day ahead of you. There are flights at 9.50am, 10.55am, 12.30pm, 2.45pm, 6.50pm and 7.50pm. The last two land in Hat Yai in the dark and are often the first to sell out on Fridays. Prices fluctuate from THB1025 to THB4000, but if you buy at least a couple of weeks in advance you almost always can hit the best offers. 15 kg of checked-in luggage and 7 kg of cabin luggage is already included into the price of your ticket, which is actually a rare case with the majority of low-cost carriers.
In Bangkok Lion Air is based in Don Mueang International Airport to the north of the capital. To get there, use airport shuttle buses (routes A1 and A2). A1 starts from Morchit bus terminal and A2 originates at the Victory Monument, calling en route to Sanam Pao, Ari, Saphan Kwai and Morchit BTS stations (THB30). The latter is also served by A1 route. Travel time depends on traffic and is from 60 to 80 minutes. There are commuter trains between Hua Lamphong train station and Don Mueang airport, too. Trains take about 50 minutes to get from the railway station to the airport and are always a secure bet. Operating time is from 4.20am till 10.25pm.
Hat Yai International Airport is one of the six airports operated by AOT company and is the major airport hub in the southern Thailand. It serves international routes from/to Malaysia and Singapore as well as many domestic destinations. The airport is located 15 km southwest of the city centre and Hat Yai railway station. To get to the city from the airport, negotiate a taxi ride (normally THB250), or pay a flat rate for the airport limo service. There are also public vans (THB100) and songthaews (THB30) heading to the city. Look for them at the far end of the parking lot. The trip can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 45 minutes depending on traffic. Several car-renting companies have their counters at the airport. These include Avis, Budget and Sixt.
Tip: Other destinations served from Hat Yai Airport in which you can be interested include Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Pattaya and Udon Thani. The latter one is also operated by Lion Air.
Hat Yai connections
From Hat Yai to Malaysia and Singapore
Billion Stars Express operates one bus a day from Hat Yai to Sungai Nibong on Pulau Pinang and to Butterworth, which sits on the mainland in Malaysia. The bus leaves from the company’s Hat Yai bus station in Sheutit Rd., off Sangchan Rd. The whole travel takes about three hours and costs THB350.
From Sungai Nibong, Billion Stars has a further connection to a 9.15pm bus heading to Ipoh. It takes two hours and THB170 to get there. The same bus proceeds then to Singapore to Golden Mine Tower (8hrs 40min, THB550).
Note: Before buying your ticket from Hat Yai to Malaysia or from Hat Yao to Singapore, check visa requirements for your passport.
From Hat Yai to Phuket and Trang
There are buses to Phuket and Trang by Sri Trang company leaving to these Andaman Coast destinations from Hat Yai throughout the day. It takes just 2¼ hours to get from Hat Yai to Trang. Sri Trang operates seven departures a day, from 8am till 9.30pm. Tickets cost THB260. After calling to Trang, the same bus proceeds further to Phuket, reaching the island in seven hours. Tickets from Hat Yai to Phuket with Sri Trang buses cost THB380.
From Hat Yai to other southern destinations
Interprovincial and southbound buses and minivans leave from the main bus terminal in Hat Yai which is located 2km southeast from the centre. From Hat Yai you can get to Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat in the south or head northwards to Nakhon Si Thammarat, Surat Thani or Chumphon. There are vans and buses to Dannok, Padang Besar and Sudan Kolok on the Thai-Malaysian border, too.