One of the largest and busiest cities in Southern Thailand. But is it a hotbed of TEFL jobs?
The Lonely Planet guidebook says......?
That Hat Yai is the transport hub for the South and this is true. While earning a living in Hatyai, most teachers vacation to the Andaman Islands. I've lived here for a number of years and still like the place. Tesco-Lotus, Big-C and the downtown shopping plazas have added a degree of Western comfort with air-con shopping and Western food restaurants. This leaves teachers with a choice of how Western or how Thai they would like their lives to be.
Jim says the Lonely Planet Guide provides fairly scant information, it reads pretty much as if the author hopped off the train & walked around the block for a half hour. It is somewhat outdated too.
In general, what are the pickings like for an EFL teacher?
I will have to agree with the Songkla posting "Be around either May or October time and the pickings are pretty good. Most jobs are snapped up in this town so be precise in your timing if you're coming here for work. Songkhla is considered the education capital of the South, and it certainly has a large amount of schools, universities, and colleges very keen to employ foreign teachers. A good EFL teacher's salary doesn't really top more than 30k and averages out to 25k per month on a full-time salary. Otherwise the hourly rate is between 250-300 baht per hour for part-time work."
Jim - Quite good in general, there are several companies that regularly need teachers. Some employ teachers who then work in Thai schools, and others employ teachers to work "in house". Wages are generally 30,000 and up, which provides quite a comfortable lifestyle here. The best times to look for work are of course in the major school holidays of October, and March to May, but it is usually possible to find some kind of teaching work at other times too.
Nicola - The Andrew Biggs Academy, Smart English, Idea English and Hello English are some of the good agencies that I know of. There are quite a few positions available. There are also two international schools 'Bloomsbury' and the 'Southern International School'. The university (PSU) also hires teachers too.
How far from Bangkok or civilization?
It's 950km from Bangkok. About 15 hours journey by bus.
It's 45 minutes from Songkla 55 on public transport.
It's 3 hours to Penang. 5 hours on public transport
It's about 7 hours from KL.
It's 4 hours from Krabi. 6 hours on public transport
It's 5 hours from Koh Samui.
It will take you about 6 hours on public transport to the Lanta Island.
Jim - Well it's fairly civilised here anyway, it's 933km from Bangkok, which means an overnight bus or train, or you can fly with one of the budget airlines quite cheaply which takes an hour and 20 minutes.
What's the place like for nightlife, eating out etc?
The Post, The Pub, Swan, Corazon are some popular downtown haunts.
Jim - There is plenty of entertainment, bars with live bands, two multi-screen cinemas, 10 pin bowling, lots of shopping, golf, and more, (karaoke anyone?).
Nicola - There are a few good clubs and a few good Western bars and restaurants. There is an amazing Italian, an Aussie steak house, German restaurant and a few English pub style places. It would be nicer if there were a few more but you can get your fix! There are a lot of amazing Thai restaurants.
Grace - There are lots of great Thai and Chinese eateries. Western food is a bit sparser. Apart from the fast food joints in the malls, there is a shortage of decent Western restaurants.
How much to rent a house or basic apartment?
Ranges from 2,500 baht for a single room plus bathroom with fan to 7,000 baht for a room with a stunning view and aircon. Houses are unfurnished but a two-bedroom townhouse I live in costs 5,500 baht.
Jim - There are lots of new apartment blocks going up all the time. On average a newly built, furnished one room apartment with balcony, cable TV, and aircon would be around 4,500B baht and 1,000 baht cheaper with fan only. A townhouse would be around 5,000 but they are generally unfurnished.
Nicola - Around 5,000. Plenty of apartments dotted around because of the university.
Shopping malls, department stores?
Lots. And electronics are cheap. No longer do teachers have to settle for cold water showers. Hot water heaters are cheap, the transient teacher population always has a supply of second-hand fridges for sale.
Jim - HatYai is something of a cheap shopping mecca, without the ultra expensive malls found in Bangkok. Lots of small shops & indoor market style areas selling anything and everything you can imagine, plus several large malls, as well as the usual Central, Robinson, and Tops. There is a Carrefour, Tesco Lotus, and Big C.
Nicola - There is a lot of good shopping here. A lot of department stores and local markets. Central Festival has all of your Western style shops and a great cinema.
Grace - a huge new Central Festival opened a few years back. Also a decent enough night market
How is mobile / internet coverage?
Will you be stared at? and what's the likelihood of a good beating?
Laura- If you don't look Thai or Asian, you will get stared at. You get used to it after a month or so. People will literally stop driving or walking sometimes and twist their entire body to stare at you. I only notice if someone continues to stare at me for a prolonged time, then I'll either stare back until they stop or just smile. It doesn't matter if you are white, black or brown, if you're farang, you will be stared at.
Downtown no one will take notice of you. Get a little bit out of town and you're a celebrity. There is crime. Western teachers have been pick pocketed, murdered, stabbed, shot, manhandled and drugged. Mostly it depends on the company you keep. On the other side, many teachers have families with small children here and love it..
Jim - Apart from the ones who live here, a lot of farangs stay a day or two in Hat Yai on their way to and from Malaysia on border or visa runs, so you won't stand out very much. The chances of a good beating? Around zero I'd say.
Nicola - Sometimes, yes. It's generally safe as long as you're not stupid. There are a lot of foreigners who live here, but not as many as other places.
Grace - No, definitely not stared at. You might get a few lingering glances though.
Taxis, buses....or horse and cart?
Hat Yai has everything. Many of the taxi (tuk-tuk) drivers will try take advantage of people that don't speak Thai. Most teachers buy their own motorcycles after a few months of living here but public transport is a great way to learn some Thai!
Jim - Loads of tuk-tuks and motorcycle taxis on the streets, as well as songthaews on set routes around town, you can get anywhere in town for 10 to 20 Baht, and buses and minibuses for places a bit out of town or further afield.
Nicola - Mostly songthaews, there are buses and taxis, but not as many. It helps to drive a scooter or car.
Grace - Taxis are hard to come by unless you're in the centre. Motorbike taxis are easier to get.
Main advantages of living there?
Hat Yai is a nice size town. It is big enough to have the Western perks and yet lacks that Bangkok traffic.
Jim - Cheap lifestyle and no traffic jams, plus the proximity of all the beautiful beaches and islands of the South, easy to get to even just for long weekends. I wasn't sure if I'd made the right decision when I first arrived from Bangkok, but it soon grows on you. It's a good place to live and work.
Nicola - I love it because it has everything you need without being too busy. I can drive around very easily. It's a city but also has a lot of greenery on the outskirts, lovely waterfalls etc
Grace - It's cheap. It's not too far from the islands. It's a medium sized city which has its own advantages. It has its own airport too, which is useful.
And what are the downsides?
It is real work. What a bummer. It isn't a holiday. When you come here you actually have to WORK before vacation time comes and you can get away.
Jim - Aside from the usual places like KFC, Macdonalds, Sizzler, and various pizza joints, there is not a great range of Western style restaurants and food available compared to Bangkok or other major tourist destinations.
Nicola - Downsides are that there have been a number of bombs over the years.
Any local attractions?
Samila Beach can be done in a day trip. The Andaman Island for 3 day weekends or longer.
Jim - Nothing special, a waterfall, the nearby lake and its island of Ko-Yo is quite scenic with its museum and seafood restaurants on the water, and it is pleasant to sit & eat seafood at the nearby beaches of Songkhla on a weekend afternoon.
Nicola - Songkhla beach is a short drive away.
Grace - Hat Yai Municipal Park is nice for a walk, with great views from the top. Hat Yai is also close to Samila Beach which is a pleasant day trip. Nice beach (although not island standard) with great seafood restaurants. It's also easy to get to the lovely Koh Lipe.
Where's the best place to meet other farangs or are they best avoided?
The Swan Restaurant or Post Laser Disk are where the teachers go. The teachers are getting a little more relaxed and do not stab each other in the back as much as in previous years as the contracts with the Thai-owned schools are getting a bit more updated. Ignore the old stories about Hatyai. Conditions are improving for the teachers and I hope to see the teachers continue to talk to one another and insist on decent working conditions and contracts.
Jim - Most of the expat community frequent bars grouped close to each other in the town center such as The Swan, Brown Sugar, The Post Laser, all of which sell western and Thai food, as well as The West Side, The Pubb, Deep Wonder, Corezone, Blue Kiss, The Brass Monkey, and Kiss channel, to mention a few. Then there are several other nitelife areas around town with groups of bars and nitespots.
There were one or two tragic, but thankfully very isolated bombing incidents here a few years ago, but nothing since. Hat Yai is generally very peaceful, and if it were not for the reports in The Bangkok Post etc. people would hardly even be aware of any problems, which take place a lot further South than here.
Nicola - The Swan! Great English style pub and lovely Thai owner who visits England often.