Hat Yai is a city located in the south of Thailand, close to the Malaysian border. The city is a transit hub for those headed to the southern islands in Thailand, for for travelers heading to Malaysia, which is only 30km away. Hat Yai is the largest city in the Songkhla Province, which is also one of the largest metropolitan areas in Thailand. Hat Yai is a business hub for this area of Thailand.
The city is well known for its outstanding seafood due to its proximity to the sea. Hat Yai houses a diverse mixture of ethnicities, much like most of Malaysia. There are a multitude of markets that blend together the Chinese, Thai and Malay cultures in this city. There is much international spirit in Hat Yai, including a myriad of pubs, nightclubs and general nightlife that are particularly popular with Malaysian tourists. The city is also a shopping haven and medical centre for Thais.
The downtown area of Hat Yai is mostly entertainment and shopping areas, much like any large city. Getting around town is quite easy and cheap through car taxis or motorcycle taxis. Although it is a tourist hub, it’s more often frequented by tourists within SE Asia, and thus English is not as widely spoken here as it is in some other places. General knowledge of Thai or hand signals will have to be used.
Hat Yai was originally named Khok Sa-Met Choon, and was later changed to Hat Yai, which means “big mahat tree” which is a relative of jackfruit, a fruit that’s common in the region. It was mostly a small, simple village until the southern railway built a station there. Due to the railway station, it received more and more attention as a travel hub, until it eventually grew into the metropolitan city it is today.
Due to Hat Yai’s status as a major economic hub, it has been the target of quite a few bombings. On September 16, 2006, six bombs went off in various shopping locations and a parking building in Hat Yai. At least 4 people were killed, and over 80 people were injured. Nobody ever claimed responsibility for the bombings. On May 6, 2014, two bombs went off in the afternoon, and a third was found and defused in time. Luckily there were no casualties this time, but there were eight people injured. Hat Yai was hit yet again on August 11, 2016 as a series of bombs went off in the south of Thailand in Surat Thani, Trang, Hua Hin, and Phuket. At least 2 people were killed, and dozens injured.
Despite these tragedies, Hat Yai continues to be a beautiful and vibrant metropolitan city that draws in millions of visitors year after year.
Hat Yai is close to many traveller friendly locations.
Songkhla Lake - the only natural freshwater lake in Thailand, Songkhla Lake is an attraction for both tourists and locals alike. There are a few islands that are near the lake and worth a day trip, such as Koh Yai, Koh Ha, Koh Kaeo, and Koh Mak.
Pattani - a culturally diverse region in the deep south of Thailand, Pattani is often the target for attacks due to the myriad of conflicts there. However, it is a deeply rich area with much culture and diversity.
Penang - one of the most traveller friendly places near Hat Yai is Penang, another culturally diverse and delicious location to visit. Technically an island, Penang is full of Indian, Malay and Chinese influences, and is home to a national park with plenty of trekking. Penang is a popular place for Thais to visit on holiday, and has a few small islands nearby worth exploring.
Satun - a province in Thailand that has a Muslim majority, and has had a long history of ethnic diversity, like much of this area. However, this is one of the safer places to visit, as there has not been much violence in this region.
There are hotels and accommodations for all types of travelers in Hat Yai.
Located in an incredibly convenient location only a few minutes’ walk to the train station, Centara Hat Yai is the ultimate choice for hotels in this area. There are multiple nearby markets, and the Central Department Store is right on premise. The
In the center of town but not quite in the craziest hustle and bustle is the Leevana Hotel. Clean, comfortable and located right next to a 7-11, this is the place to relax after a long day of travel or exploring Hat Yai. Although not in the absolute dead center of town, there are still plenty of restaurants and shops nearby to explore if you’re not feeling up to taking a taxi or walking or too long.
Lee Gardens Plaza Hotel is a smart place to stay for most travelers looking for a hotel in Hat Yai. Ocean Shopping Town and Lee Garden Plaza are mere minutes away on foot, as is all of the other shopping in this area. Escape the heat and into the relief of mall air conditioning and convenience right from your doorstep. The rooms are spacious, and the staff are friendly and always willing to help you plan your adventure, plus they’re quite multilingual, so communication shouldn’t be a problem. Catering to travelers, there is 24 hour reception so it doesn’t matter what time you get in from your travels, there’s always somewhere there to check you in and give you all the basic information to enjoy your time in Hat Yai.
Look no further than Asian Hotel Hat Yai for all the conveniences and luxury that a hotel can offer. Markets, shopping centers, and all the food you can eat is available right outside your doorstep. The rooms are spacious, the beds are comfortable, and there’s even a restaurant in the hotel should you not want to step outside to the madness that is this metropolitan and commercial city. The concierge is always happy to answer your questions and give you the best tips and tricks for navigating around the city. Plus, the airport is only 11km away, a easy 15 minute ride for when you’re ready to head to your next destination.
Recently built in 2015, this brand new hotel is becoming quite the contender for the competition in this densely packed downtown area. Only about 2 minute walk from the major shopping centers of Lee Garden, Ocean Shopping Town and Central Department store, New Season Square Hotel also offers breakfast options as well as a plethora of amenities. A banquet room, fitness center, pool, massage options, laundry and room service.
Hat Yai International Airport is 9 km from downtown, serving destinations throughout Thailand and connecting the city to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. It is also an important airport for Muslims on pilgrimage to Mecca. The airport is listed as Thailand's 5th busiest airport.
As one of the largest railway stations in the south, Hat Yai Railway Station has become an international railway station which handles 28 passenger trains per day, including 26 trains served by State Railway of Thailand and 2 trains served by KTMB of Malaysia.
Hat Yai Bus Terminal is, like the railway, a major transport hub in southern Thailand. It offers bus services that link Hat Yai with nearly every town and city in the southern region as well as other destinations, including Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima. Buses tend to run once an hour or more, depending on the popularity of the route.
Hat Yai has a minibus terminal which hosts the largest minibus service in southern Thailand. Private minibus services are available too, focusing on tourist destinations, including Phuket, Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan, Pak Bara Peer in Satun (a gateway to the islands in the southern Andaman Sea), Langkawi, Penang, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore. The minibus service has gained popularity in recent years as minibuses are considered a faster way to travel compared to trains and regular buses.
Downtown Hat Yai is quite small and can get congested during busy times with traffic and people. Taxis are a common and easy way to get around within the city, both car taxis and motorcycle taxis. Make sure that the car taxis turn on the meter once you get in, otherwise it’s probably best to hop out and find one that will give you the meter. Motorcycle taxis don’t have meters, and a price is generally agreed on before departing for the destination.
A nice activity for families and people who just want to relax and get away from shopping malls. There aren’t many English translations for the different sites, but is still lovely to just look at. There’s a water area to take in the scenery, and a few different types of cable cars. Going to the attraction is free, but there is cost for the cable car. The cable car will take you to different shrines around the area.
Opening hours: everyday from sunrise to sunset
Entrance fee: free to enter, cable car costs 20THB and 100THB depending on the car.
A seven tiered waterfall about a 30-45 minute drive from the city, it’s definitely a breath of fresh air from downtown. There’s a bit of a hike involved for those who want to be more adventurous and make it all the way to the top. The rocks can get muddy during the rainy season, so good shoes are advised. You’re not allowed to bring plastic water bottles past the second tier. You can leave them with the person there and collect it on the way down. This is to prevent littering at this beautiful natural site.
Opening hours: everyday from 9am to 5pm.
Entrance fee: 200 THB for foreigners, 100 THB for Thais
Hat Yai has a reputation for being a shopping destination for both Thais and foreigners. There are numbers of department stores, shopping malls and markets throughout the city. Suntisook Market on Nipat U-tid 1, 2 & 3 roads are among the best-known. Their main products are imported processed food, cosmetics, fabrics, gadgets and electrical appliances. Within department stores, there is not usually a bargaining system, as prices are clearly listed on the merchandise. However, for the smaller markets with individual vendors, bargaining is a common and expected practice. It would be helpful to learn a little Thai, at least the numbers to be able to bargain, although most vendors have by now, interacted with enough foreigners to be able to speak some English.
Opening hours: generally everyday 10am-9pm, depending on the shopping center.
Entrance fee: free, and most stores in department malls will accept Visa and Mastercard.
There are plenty of markets nearby, the famous ones being Santisuk Market and Kim Yong market. Unlike the big shopping meccas, you can bargain here, and be prepared to do so! If you don’t look like a local and speak a local dialect, be prepared to have prices hiked up for you. It’s helpful to learn some Thai or at least have a phrasebook or some numbers pulled up on your mobile device. Also, it’s helpful for the vendors if you have small change rather than big bills. It’s also a good tactic to only carry a certain amount of money with you that you think you’ll spend in a day, as there are often pickpockets around.
Opening hours: generally 8am to 6pm, depending on the weather, season, and how busy it is.
Entrance fee: free, but bring plenty to spend at the market!
As this is a popular place for Malaysians to travel, make sure to check if your holiday dates coincide with any Malaysian holidays. During holidays, hotels can be incredibly booked up, or at the very least the prices will be raised up high.
Since Hat Yai isn’t as popular of a Western destination, it’s good to have a few basic words of thai:
Hello - sa-wad-dee (ka or kap)
Ka - polite sound for women. Used as a way to acknowledge someone, thank them, or put at the end of a greeting
Kap - polite sound for men. Used as a way to acknowledge someone, thank them, or put at the end of a greeting
Thank you - kop kun (ka or kap)