Hat Yai is the main transport hub in the south and is extremely well served by many different kinds of transport options. There is an airport but these days there are no international flights and the only place you can go to is Bangkok. Thai Airways used to be the only carrier but competition from budget airlines has brought down prices considerably. A special offer on one of the budget carriers for a flight to Bangkok is only slightly more than the bus fare but takes one hour instead of 12 or 14.
The train station is on the main route between Bangkok and Butterworth in Malaysia. By making onward connections at these stops it is thus possible to get all the way down to Singapore or up to northern Thailand by train. The trains are slow but allow you to take in some of the scenery. If you have plenty of time it's a relaxing way to travel and sleeping compartments are available if you want to travel overnight while at the same time saving the expense of a night's accommodation.
Public bus is another travel option with buses going down to Malaysia and up as far as Bangkok. Privately operated coaches run frequently, covering basically the same routes, and go all the way down to Singapore.
There are hundreds of minivans going to many different destinations every day. They are cheap, quicker than the buses (as they don't make as many stops) but get very cramped for space because the drivers pack in as many people as possible in order to maximise profits.
Of course any one of the many travel agents in town can assist you but they have their own agenda and that is basically to get you on a minibus so they can earn a bit of commission.
On my first visit to Hat Yai I wanted to get a big bus to Phang Nga province. All I was told was that I could book a minibus. I did and it was one of the most uncomfortable journeys I have ever taken. There are actually plenty of big, comfortable buses that make the same journey several times every day but pointing me in the direction of the bus station wouldn't have earned the travel agent any commission.
Share taxis are yet another option. They are often big, old Mercedes that can be 40 to 50 years old. The bodies are just about holding together and the expensive to maintain Mercedes engines have been replaced with cheap to maintain Japanese engines.
These old German war horses now get around powered by Nissan inline 6's. For anyone interested in car mechanics, a look under the bonnet is a good example of Thai ingenuity. Besides the engine transplant, electric fans and extra plumbing have been added to keep engine temperatures down in the hot climate.
Getting around locally is easy too with a huge fleet of tuk-tuks and motorbike taxis. The only problem with these is that as soon as the drivers see a farang the fares automatically increase. The answer to this problem is to speak with the locals first to find out what the fare should be and then stand firm if the driver quotes you a special farang price.
Sawng-thaews - the pickup trucks with rows of benches in the back - are another local transport option but these stick to fixed routes and it is necessary to have some local knowledge or to be able to speak or read Thai to be able to use them effectively.
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Last updated: 23rd August 2012
If you arrive by plane at Hat Yai airport, Budget and Avis both have desks inside the airport terminal. Depending on availability, you may be able to rent a car without booking first.
To be on the safe side - or if you require a particular type of car - it would be advisable to book ahead.
Both companies offer small cars, large saloons, pickup trucks, SUVs, and minivans.
National Call Centre: 02 251 1131-2
Web Site: Avis Rent a Car in Thailand
National Call Centre: +66 2 203 9222 (calls from outside Thailand)
National Call Centre: 1 800 283 438 (toll free within Thailand)
Web Site: Budget in Thailand
Outside the airport, on the airport road as you drive towards Hat Yai city centre, you will pass Bizcar Rental. They too offer the same types of car as Avis and Budget.
Bizcar will deliver cars to the airport, or for that matter, anywhere else. They can provide a car with a driver, if you desire, and they also offer airport transfers and golf and city tours. Their level of service and insurance looks good according to their own brochure. I have never used them so can't give a personal recommendation.
Rental companies will require a Thai or International driving licence and a passport. The minimum age for renting a car with Bizcar is 23. I'm not sure what minimum age is specified by Avis and Budget.
Address: 838 Moo 3 Airport, Lopburiramet Road, Khuanlang, Hat Yai, Songkhla, 90110
National Call Centre: 02 696 8250
Hat Yai Branch: 074 800460
Mobile phone: 081 818 8400
Hotline: 085 918 8872
Web Site: Bizcar Rental
N 06° 58' 37.5"
N 06° 58.624'
E 100° 25' 36.4"
E 100° 25.607'
Hatyai Car Rent Limited Partnership
I have no personal experience using this company. They operate out of a small office in the Raj Uthit area.
Address: 54/1 Raj Uthit Road, Hat Yai, Songkhla, 90110
Map: Map 1
Hat Yai Branch: 074 258462
Mobile phone: 081 276 8592
Web Site: Hatyai Car Rent Limited Partnership
Web Site: Carrent Songkhla (Thai web site)
Around Hat Yai there are various small, independent car hire places. I would expect them to be cheaper than the big multinationals but they can't offer the same level of service or selection of vehicles.
Also, be very careful with insurance. Thais are aggressive and incompetent drivers. If you have inadequate insurance and have an accident you may find that you have to pay for the damage to all cars involved, medical expenses for all people injured, and you may also have to compensate the hire company for loss of business while you are paying for their car to be repaired.
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Hiring a car and driver is another option. That way you don't need to worry about driving, drinking or insurance. There are plenty of locals around who would be grateful for some business. Ask any taxi driver or travel agent.
I was surprised on one tuk-tuk ride to find the BBC World Service blaring out the back of the tuk-tuk. After hearing nothing but Thai radio for months the BBC was music to my ears. The driver of this particular tuk-tuk worked in London for a long time and speaks good English. He bought a special radio for his tuk-tuk so he could keep in touch with the UK. His name is Chong and he is available as a tour guide. He definitely has a tuk-tuk but I think he has a car as well. He can be contacted on 074 358632 or 086 697 1429.
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Driving a car into Thailand
I have never done this myself so I am not really qualified to advise but I received an inquiry from a Singaporean visitor to the site who was planning to drive up into Hat Yai. Many Malaysians drive into Thailand and must be familiar with the process so if you can provide any further information please let me know.
After receiving the inquiry I talked to a local insurance agent in my broken Thai. This is what I was told but with anything I say here you need to find out your self to make sure.
Government insurance for third-party liability is mandatory in Thailand and you need to display a sticker on your vehicle to prove that you have this insurance. If not, you will be fined if caught.
This insurance (known as Por Ror Bor) isn't expensive. It depends on what kind of vehicle you have but I was told it was less than Bt600 a year for a pickup truck. If your stay in Thailand will only be for around a week you may only have to pay about Bt100.
พรบ (Por Ror Bor) = พระราชบัญญัติ
This mandatory insurance only covers people in the other vehicle. If you write off a Bt10 million Mercedes Benz the insurance doesn't cover the other vehicle so you will have to pay for a new car out of your own pocket.
Neither does it cover your own vehicle; neither does it cover passengers in your own vehicle. If it's a big crash which is your fault with several vehicles being written off and passengers in your own car needing hospital treatment, you are liable for everything.
To get this insurance you need to show your vehicle registration document in order to prove the vehicle belongs to you. You also need to have the right visa or stamp in your passport to show you are in Thailand legally, and you need a driving license.
I'm not sure about the legalities of driving licenses and whether a local one is OK or whether you need to obtain an international driving permit. As I said, you need to find out for your self for sure.
While travelling from Malaysia into Thailand by bus and minivan, I have seen lots of places on the roadside offering mandatory Thai insurance before the border. It is therefore possible to purchase it before you get to the border. Alternatively, you can purchase it once you get to Thailand but be quick.
I'm not sure about is what happens if you arrive in Thailand without insurance and have an accident before you get a chance to purchase insurance? If you know, please contact me so I can update the details here.
If you aren't happy driving around with only this basic level of insurance, you need to contact an insurance company so you can purchase a more comprehensive level of insurance.
As far as driving in Thailand goes, I could write a book on the subject. However, if you come from a country where driving is civilised always expect the unexpected in Thailand.
What's the best way to summarise Thai driving?
If I told you your objective was to get from A to B in the shortest possible time in a situation where there were no traffic laws, that is how Thais drive. Traffic laws mean nothing and Thais will do anything to reach their destination as quickly as possible. They then have more time to do nothing once they get to wherever they are going.
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Nothing stays the same for very long in Thailand. In fact, things change remarkably quickly and often. Since I arrived in Hat Yai at the end of 2003 several airlines have cancelled routes, for example there are no longer any direct flights between Phuket or Singapore and Hat Yai, and some airlines have gone out of business.
Oil prices went up and down like a yo-yo during 2008 and the Thais have experienced a double-whammy with the government removing its oil subsidy. Consequently, fares went up. As a result mainly of insurgency in the three southernmost provinces, tourism in Hat Yai has decreased since the beginning of 2004.
Schedules and fares change, and bus companies cancel services but do not change the information at the bus station. From personal experience I know that the 10:15am bus service to Pakbara from Hat Yai no longer exists. It was a wasted journey for me and perhaps the same thing will happen to you.
The information on this page should be used as a guide only. Schedules and fares were accurate at the time of writing but I haven't got the time to constantly check every piece of information to make sure it is up to date.
Regarding the effect of oil prices on fares, sawng-thaew fares went up to Bt12 when the oil price was at its highest but then returned to Bt10 when oil prices came down again.
However, greedy motorbike taxi drivers have not reduced their fares in line with oil prices. They whinged when oil prices were high - and used this to justify increased fares - but their fares have remained the same since oil prices came down.
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New Minivan Station
On Friday 27th April 2007 a new minivan station opened in Hat Yai Nai. I know because I went to Phattalung by minivan on that day and was one of the first people to use it. Hat Yai Nai is the area of Hat Yai on the other side of the railway bridge near the police station from the downtown area.
Up until its opening, minivans left from individual stands located all around town. All of these little places have now been closed down and all vans heading north and west (Nakorn Sri Thammarat, Satun, Trang, Surat Thani, Krabi) now leave from the new minivan station.
I believe that vans going south (Yala, Narathiwat, Pattani) now leave from the main bus station but I need to get this confirmed.
There are some advantages. Tourists just need to get to the station now and don't need to worry about knowing exactly where to catch a van that is going to wherever they want to get to. Also, with all vans leaving from one place, they should in theory leave more frequently. Minivans in Thailand rarely leave before they are full and sometimes this involves waiting around for a long time.
Getting out to Hat Yai Nai is slightly less convenient if you are located in central Hat Yai but no big deal. You can get a tuk-tuk for Bt10 or Bt20 per person or a sawng-thaew for Bt10 per person.
Knowing which sawng-thaew to catch might be tricky if you cannot speak or read Thai but you will not be ripped off. If you don't speak Thai and want to go by tuk-tuk, make sure that the driver doesn't try to rip you off.
On my first visit to Hat Yai several years ago I wanted to visit Wat Hat Yai Nai to see the reclining Buddha. A tuk-tuk driver at the railway station wanted Bt100 to take me there. What I didn't know at the time is that you can go by sawng-thaew for Bt10. In fact, at that time the standard sawng-thaew fare was only Bt5.
Thai tuk-tuk and taxi drivers are able to rip off tourists this way because the unfortunate tourists don't know any better.
To facilitate passengers getting to the van station, the local municipality has arranged special Bt10 tuk-tuk fares from where the minivans used to leave around the clocktower area. However, I still maintain that from other locations most tuk-tuk drivers will try to overcharge foreigners.
I wasn't at the minivan station long but from what I saw, all the destinations at the ticket counters were written in Thai. I read Thai so it's not a problem but with Hat Yai being the main transport hub in southern Thailand and many tourists passing through, it seems strange that the signs have not also been written in English.
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