Ten Ways To Save Money In Hat Yai
When you are in unfamiliar surroundings you know nothing about the location and have to rely on locals a lot to help you. Thais are generally friendly and helpful, but with the Thai people that tourists tend to meet in Thailand their primary motive is often to make money
When I first arrived in Hat Yai I knew nothing. When I asked to be taken to a hotel I was taken to the most expensive hotel in town. When I wanted to go somewhere I was offered a Bt100 tuk-tuk ride, when I could have walked or hopped on a Bt10 sawng-thaew.
I'm not necessarily stingy (my wife might disagree with this), but I don't like spending more money than I need to. Below are a few tips that might help you to save some money in Hat Yai.
Comments: The most convenient way to get to and from the airport is by taxi, but this will cost around Bt300. If you arrive at Hat Yai airport and want to get into town there is a van service that is cheaper - around Bt80.
However, if you want to save more money there is a sawng-thaew service to and from the airport. From the airport they go to the clocktower, along Phetkasem Road, and then turn right before going to the bus station. The fare is Bt20.
Sawng-thaews are pickup trucks that have been converted and have two rows of seats in the back. Sawng in Thai is 'two' and thaew is 'row'.
They are hot and sometimes they are crowded and often the drivers drive like maniacs, but they are also cheap.
If you are goingto the airport to catch a flight give yourself plenty of time if travelling by sawng-thaew because the drivers wait around for passengers and they can keep you waiting a long time.
Comments: In addition to airport transfers, sawng-thaews represent the cheapest way of getting to places in and around Hat Yai. The fare is a fixed Bt10 and the drivers don't attempt to rip off tourists.
Motorbike taxis and tuk-tuks are more convenient, but they are a lot more expensive.
You can board sawng-thaews to the Municipal Park, bus station, Central Festival, Diana Department Store, Big C, Big C Extra, and many other places.
The disadvantage for tourists is that you need to have a little local knowledge and it also helps if you can speak and read a little Thai.
Comments: Virtually every visitor to Hat Yai has massage on their itinerary even if the main purpose of their visit is something else. Compared to Malaysia, and especially to Singapore, massage in Hat Yai is very cheap.
The problem with the really cheap places is that the experience can be quite disappointing and actually these places are a false economy. If the massage room is dirty or has no ambience or if the massage girl is uninterested or untrained (which often they are) you can leave wishing that you hadn't gone in the first place.
You get much better value if you pay a little more and go to one of the spas. However, if you are on a bit of a budget even the spas in Hat Yai can seem quite expensive.
I therefore recommend Preuksa Spa, which is where I go when I want a relaxing, soothing massage. It's a comfortable little place with excellent service and you can be assured of a great massage. It's a lot cheaper than the upmarket spas in Hat Yai and it's not a lot more expensive than the cheap massage shops.
Comments: If you find yourself going to McDonalds for a burger or McCafe for coffee more than a few times, it will save you money by investing in a Rabbit card. When I got mine I got a really good deal.
The card cost Bt99, but I got two vouchers for two large coffees (which were worth over Bt100 each), some other discount vouchers, and then a 10% discount on every purchase after that.
Even if you are only in town for a few days and only go to McDonalds a couple of times the card should pay for itself. It's also more convenient than paying by cash.
Rabbit cards are available to buy at branches of McDonalds and McCafe.
Comments: Lots of shops and restaurants in Hat Yai operate a discount card scheme. They all work a little differently and therefore if you are only in town for a few days some will save you money, but some won't.
There is a charge for some cards, but not for others. Some cards give you an immediate discount whereas with other you have to accrue points first.
They are all different and whether it will save you money by getting a card depends on the terms and conditions. If you can buy a card for Bt99 that gives you an immediate 15% discount and then spend Bt2,000 on a meal, which gives you a Bt300 discount, it is worthwhile even if you only visit the restaurant once.
The only problem with discount cards is that after a while you accumulate so many that it becomes a hassle carrying them around. The better schemes allow you to use your mobile telephone number at the point of sale rather than having to present a physical card. TOPS supermarket does this, but Tesco Lotus doesn't.
Comments: Many hotels provide minibars in the rooms and although it is a very convenient way to get drinks and snacks it is also the most expensive way.
Wherever you are in Thailand you are never very far away from a 7-Eleven or similar convenience store. Unless you have some kind of medical condition that stops you from walking, or you are very rich, it always makes sense to buy your drinks and snacks from the nearest 7-Eleven.
Comments: Haggling (bartering) is still very much a way of life in Asia. The big department stores have fixed prices and you can't haggle, but the traditional style markets (such as Suntisuk and Gim Yong in Hat Yai) are an entirely different proposition.
Many goods for sale in Hat Yai come in from over the Malaysian border and no tax is paid. These goods are very cheap and they can still be sold cheaply in Hat Yai while making the vendor a good profit.
Additionally, there is an informal, but widely used, system of using one price for local Thais and another for foreigners. I can usually get the Thai price by speaking in Thai, but not all tourists can speak Thai. There is a special Malaysian price, which is higher than the price that locals pay.
What this all means is that the first price you are given is a lot higher than the price should be. Some people will just pay up and the vendor has made a nice profit. However, what you should do is offer a lower price to see if you can get the price down.
Don't worry if you can't speak Thai. The vendors have large calculators with which they punch out the price. To make your return offer, just take the calculator and punch in a lower price.
THis advice applies to everything, including massage.
Comments: Thai food isn't generally expensive and you can buy cheap rice and noodle dishes from street vendors and small shops for well under Bt100.
Nonetheless, prices continue to rise and where do you go if you are on a really tight budget and need to pay as little for your food as possible?
One answer could be the Prince of Songkla University. The student cafeteria area is known as Rong Chaang and I used to eat there every day when I worked at the university.
The food is good, there is a wide selection, and because it is primarily intended for students and university staff it is very cheap.
Anyone can go into the university/hospital grounds and there is no restriction on who eats at the cafeteria. Obviously, you can't enter faculty buildings or libraries, etc, but the public areas are accessible to the public.
Comments: If you are unfortunate enough to be taken ill in Hat Yai the good news is that there are lots of good doctors in town. But what is the cheapest way to see one?
Foreigners will probably consider one of the private hospitals first. There will be a pretty English-speaking Thai girl to meet you at the entrance. She will give you a glass of water, complete all the paperwork, and arrange for you to see the appropriate doctor. Private hospitals want foreign patients because all foreigners are extremely wealthy, aren't they? The service is good, but it doesn't come cheap.
If you don't have medical insurance, a visit to the Bangkok Hat Yai hospital can leave quite a large dent in your wallet.
Public hospitals are a lot cheaper, but if you can't speak or read Thai and don't understand the system they can be quite formidable places for foreigners. Public hospitals in Thailand are for Thais. They aren't looking to attract wealthy foreign medical tourists and therefore they don't have pretty English-speaking girls to assist foreigners when they arrive.
Some more good news is that there is a third option. Hat Yai has a lot of clinics that are owned and privately operated by the very same doctors that work in the public and private hospitals. To find a clinic, a good starting point is Supasarnrangsan Road. You can also look at the information I have provided about clinics in Hat Yai.
You will see the same doctors that you see in private hospitals, but for a fraction of the cost. The procedure is also very easy, unlike the public hospitals. Just enter a clinic, give the receptionist the information she asks for, and wait to see the doctor.
Comments: Most Thais don't have a lot of money and they are very careful with their spending. They also have a great deal of local knowledge.
Over the years, through speaking with locals, I have discovered the best places to buy things at the cheapest prices.
For example, I used to buy plants and gardening supplies from the garden centres opposite Rajyindee hospital. It wasn't until speaking to some neighbours that I discovered where it was that those places buy their supplies. As a result, I now buy my garden supplies for wholesale prices instead of retail and save quite a lot of money.
If you want to buy something at the best price or if you want to go somewhere for the cheapest fare, it's always worth exchanging a few words with one of the locals.
Get The Best Deal On Your Hat Yai Hotel Room
Listed opposite are some of my personal recommendations for hotels in Hat Yai based on budget. I have lived permanently in Hat Yai since 2003 and my recommendations are based on a lot of local knowledge.
Each link will take you to the relevant page on the Agoda website where you can see photos, read reviews, and book on-line. I use Agoda to book all of my own hotels in Thailand and the Southeast Asia region. Agoda hotel rates are usually always the lowest and I have received good customer service, therefore I am happy to recommend the company to other people. Here is some analysis I did regarding booking hotels in Southeast Asia.
Booking.com used to be more expensive than Agoda, but when I have checked hotel prices recently I have found their rates to be quite competitive. Unlike Agoda, you don't need to pay at the time of booking with Booking.com - you can simply pay at the hotel when you check in. Also, Booking.com show you total prices whereas Agoda show you a price and then add on 17% for tax and service charge.
If you want to compare prices between different on-line travel agents (OTAs) for a specific hotel, you can use a company such as HotelsCombined.
Images of Thailand
- Buri Sriphu Hotel
- Centara Hotel Hat Yai
- Crystal Hotel
- The Habita
- Hansa JB Hotel
- Hatyai Signature Hotel
- La Pause
- New Season Square Hotel
- S Hadyai Hotel
Near Central Festival