Hat Yai – Where Booking Transportation Sucks

It was that time again where our 2 month visa was nearly up and once again we were looking forward to the prospect of visiting another country.

Still challenging overland transportation we researched the best place in Thailand for onward travel to Malaysia. We found Hat Yai to be a popular hub for onwards travel to Malaysia so we made arrangements to go there by bus the next day. There is a regular service which runs from Krabi to Hat Yai and we had no problems booking a ticket on the day of travel. The journey only took around 3 hours but as usual we were dropped off at the wrong bus terminal! We weren’t the only ones that complained so we were allowed to get back on the bus which dropped us off at a better location.

We knew there was a direct train from Hat Yai to Kuala Lumpur and went to the train station first to see if there were available tickets. Unfortunately all the train tickets sold out 3 weeks ago! Instead we decided to find our hotel, drop our bags off and find a coach company which did the same journey.

At first we had problems finding our hotel and it took some time haggling with the tuk tuks to get us to the right location. We stayed at the Bless Residence which was nearby a big shopping mall.

Once we eventually reached our hotel and dropped our bags we were out once again flagging down another tuk tuk to take us to the bus terminal. As we’ve learnt from experience, most of the coach companies can be found near or in the bus terminal. How hard can it be to find a legitimate bus company there? Well…

To cut a really long, painful excruciating story it took us between 2-3 hours to find a reputable company. When we arrived at the bus terminal we were shocked to find that we were fobbed off by members of staff. They were useless, all they did was point across the road ‘go there we can’t help’. We went into a couple of shabby looking agencies and enquired about coach tickets. The staff were so pushy and kept trying to intimidate us saying ‘only this coach is running tomorrow all the others are sold out’. Not only did we think they were liars, there was no way we were going to part with our money for something we didn’t fully trust!

We decided to check out a few other agencies and they were all the same. We asked them the name of the coach service they used but they played dumb and just shrugged their shoulders; we questioned why they were charging high prices but again we didn’t receive a proper answer. Both angry and stressed, our matters went from bad to worse whereby our tuk tuk driver demanded we pay the fare because we were taking too long! We explained our situation but he didn’t care and wanted to leave – he was causing a scene shouting in Thai and pacing around. So angry by his attitude, we paid half the fare and told him to get lost!

Running out of options we did a quick internet search and found a reputable coach company address (Alisan Golden Express) which was on the other side of town. It took another tedious 20 minutes to find a tuk tuk and compromise a fare before we set off.

We did manage to find the office (after several moans from the driver telling us he can’t find it) and luckily it was still open. Unfortunately the night coach we wanted to go on was fully booked and the only option left was a morning coach departing 08:00am. At this point we were too tired and defeated to find another company. We agreed to get on the morning coach and paid our fare (1200 baht in total). The driver moaned at us the entire time we were there and demanded we pay more for his time – he soon changed his mind when we started to flag down another tuk tuk!

Exhausted and still feeling bitter, we grabbed a bite at the shopping mall and stocked up on some snacks for the long journey ahead. Still feeling restless from the day, we forced ourselves to retreat back to the hotel to get an early night.

Unfortunately it rained throughout our stay in Hat Yai – because we spent so long trying to buy coach tickets we didn’t have much time to explore the town. If we’d have known earlier we’d have booked the train in advance to avoid the stress. 

For those looking to make the same journey as we did you can check out Alisan Golden Express here. Apparently you can now book coach seats online – if only we found their site earlier!

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