Despite its name meaning "Big Beach," there are no coasts in Hat Yai; the nearest beach is twenty-five kilometres away in Songkhla.
Nevertheless, Hat Yai is worth a visit due to its place within Thailand as the Gate to Malaysia; being a bi-directional one, it caters mainly to Singaporean and Malaysian tourists. Consequently, the prices here reflect more the economic reality in those countries than the Thai one.
The bus terminal is southeast of downtown; hence, using the stop by the clock tower, next to the Night Market, is recommended.
Hat Yai is well connected; the main lines are:
Nakhon Sri Thammarat: Buses leave during the day (between 73 and 102B, 4h).
Bangkok: A regular bus leaves at 07:00 (315B, 13h), while the VIP leaves at 15:00 (830B, 13h).
Surat Thani: Buses leave during the day (between 160 and 207B, 5h).
Padang Basar (Malaysia): air-con minibus tickets are available at the Cathay Guesthouse (220B); the share taxis cater mainly to the Malaysian and Singaporean tourists.
Next to the bus terminal are a hotel and a guesthouse, but they are of low quality and far from the centre. The best deals are around Thanon Thamnoonvithi, the avenue leading to the train station.
The many tourists crossing the town mean that finding a bed may be difficult. If in troubles, the Cathay Guesthouse, at the corner of Thanon Thamnoonvithi with Thanon Niphat Uthit 2, provides basic rooms and has one (#330) which was transformed into a very basic dormitory, which costs 100B per night. The dormitory is hot and damp, the beds are too crowded and a small, single electric fan in the room provides no relief; the toilets are of the kneeling type and the shower has no hot water. The point of light is the reception area that doubles as a café and information centre; the information available here is invaluable and justifies a visit even if not planning a stay.
The preferred local breakfast is called kow yam; it is made of dry rice with grated toasted coconut, bean sprouts, dried shrimps, lemongrass and the obvious chilli.
Another local dish is gang tai plah, a curry made with fish stomach, pickled bamboo shots, green beans and potatoes.
Hat Yai has many places serving Malay and Chinese dishes; the Night Market is the perfect place for experiencing the fusion cuisine.
Songkhla is the nearest beach; the small town is simple to navigate since the beaches are at its northeast, beyond two low hills. Despite being less flashy than Koh Samui, the turquoise waters and the looks of Hat Samila Beach belong to the Gulf of Thailand. Inexpensive tours on the Thale Sap Lake calm waters can be arranged.
The Amsterdam Guesthouse next to the intersection of Thanon Rong Muang with Thanon Saiburi is a basic choice; around the corner, on Thanon Saiburi, is the Sooksomboon 2 guesthouse, which offers rooms with private bathrooms and air-conditioners.