The city planners of Hat Yai in southern Thailand thought of everything. The railway station is situated right in the centre of town, walking distance to everywhere, except the local bus station. Go figure!
Organising and paying for our train tickets to Surat Thani was an easy experience. There are two sides to the ticketing area with an ATM machine in the middle. One side is to purchase tickets for a train that is coming in the next hour or two, the other side is for pre-booking tickets. We went to the pre-booking side as we were purchasing our tickets a day ahead of time. After taking a number and waiting a few minutes a friendly staff member who spoke impeccable English helped us buy tickets for the correct train.
There are a number of trains that go from Hat Yai to Surat Thani during the day and night. Some are fast and some are slow. Always ask when the train will arrive in Surat Thani to make sure you get a fast(er) train.
The train we took was Train 42, Special Express, Departed Hat Yai at 16:23, Arrived at Surat Thani at 20:31. Cost 406 Baht per adult.
Our seats on the train were very comfortable. They reclined, had a pull down foot rest, enough room above our heads to store our luggage (if we wanted to) and we settled in very well. We had four hours to kill on the train. The view was lovely although a little wet, our books were good, and we had podcasts to listen to.
We were very surprised when a lovely lady came by giving us various things. First, we received a plastic wrapped blanket each. Generally, all trains and buses, mini vans and cars in Thailand are very cold. They love a good air conditioner. Bring a jumper. The blankets we received were very nice and welcoming.
Secondly, we received a meal each. This was a surprise. It was like we were on an airplane again. Our meal consisted of a red chicken and vegetable curry with rice and a few slices of fish cake. We were given a cup of water to go with it. A sweet bun followed the meal as did a cup of tea or coffee.
Of course, this trip from Hat Yai to Surat Thani can be completed by public bus or minivan. We just chose the train. We find that travelling by train is a better alternative to buses mainly because we get more leg room on the train and are able to keep our bags with us comfortably. There are always toilets available for use as well, mostly clean, and you get to move around more.