If like me, you have been bitten by the ‘Holiday Villa Bug', you will already know that no hotel can match the privacy and luxury of a good Villa Holiday. The great news is that today there are even more villa rental options out there than ever before. Not to mention the fact that if you know how to choose the right holiday rental villa you will be saving a lot of money in comparison to the same level of service in a comparable quality hotel.
It seems that no where in the world has seen as big an explosion of luxury fully serviced holiday villas, as the island of Bali in Indonesia.
OK, I happen to be blessed with a great line of work, as a Travel Writer, and have been lucky enough to stay in some of the best tropical resorts around the world, especially in Asia. But still for me, nothing compares to the peace, luxury and delights (not to mention the cost effectiveness) of staying in a good serviced villa in Bali.
So, what makes a ‘good holiday villa'?
Like everyone else, I have learned how to choose the perfect villa through luck, some mistakes and sheer experience.
Here are my top tips for choosing the right villa in Bali for your next Bali holiday.
This sounds obvious, but it is not always easy to make the right location decision when we are sat at home, far away from our holiday destination.
Like every other world-class holiday destination, Bali offers a range of options, from ‘central' locations, to those which offer ‘absolute tranquility'.
I personally like a balance between the two. On a Bali villa holiday, the last thing one needs is to be sooo central that you feel like you are an extension of a night club's base unit till wee hours of the morning. On the other hand, I really don't want to be more than 15-20 minutes away from where the restaurants, shops and the action is. I like my villa to be certainly quiet, preferably amongst rice fields, but at the same time accessible (within 30 minutes of the airport, and a few minutes from the action).
The great thing is that Bali caters for all of these tastes.
Those seeking a central location, with a lively night life may want to look into Legian and Seminyak, (I exclude Kuta area from this list, as there are hardly any proper rental villas left in this bustling tourist centre).
Those who don't mind a bit of a trek, and don't want to go out and about much during their holiday, may opt for areas such as Uluwatu or Canggu and beyond.
For me the perfect choice is Kerobokan and Umalas areas. Quiet rural environment, surrounded by rice terraces and real villagers going about their real daily routines (instead of trying to push you a handicraft (Kuta) or pull you into a restaurant you really couldn't care for (Seminyak)).
Quality and Availability of Service Now this is an area where villas differ from each other immensely. In Bali most villas proclaim to be ‘fully serviced'. However, how ‘fully' and how ‘serviced' range from the most basic to being totally pampered.
A good villa should provide a guest to total staff ratio of nearly 1 to 1, or at least 1.5 to 1. So, if you are a group of 8 you should be looking at, at least, 5-6 full time staff, or for a group of 4 at least 3-4 full time staff. Sounds ostentatiously high? It really isn't once you consider the effort it takes to keep a holiday villa, its gardens, and the pool in a tip-top shape.
Of course, quantity is never the only answer. The staff needs to be full-time and fully-trained at a professional level. There are too many villas out there, which are run by ‘part-time' managers and staff who actually have other full time jobs elsewhere!
Your Own Chef
One of the great pleasures of traveling to a foreign destination is to experiment with and experience the local cuisine. And what better place to experience this, than in the comfort of your own villa!
So, make sure that your villa comes with its own Chef. Once you have tasted the delights of enjoying home cooking in your own villa, you will probably not want to venture out to restaurants at all. The best thing is, having your own private villa Chef in Bali, is substantially cheaper than eating out.
However, make sure to check how the Chef arrangement works.
Ideally, the Chef cost should be included in your rental rate. In this case all you have to pay for are the cost of the ingredients which are purchased for you, typically at the local market/supermarket prices, with no mark-up. So, financials of eating at your own villa becomes just like eating at home, but without lifting a finger, and at substantially lower Bali prices.
Some villas claim to offer a Chef service, but charge restaurant/hotel prices for each dish that the chef prepares for you. I prefer to avoid these, as I can always pop out to a restaurant if I so wished anyway.
So, check to make sure that the Chef is part of your villa team, and that you will not be charged incrementally for food on a per item basis.
Your Villa Manager
A professional Villa Manager makes a huge difference to your enjoyment of your holiday. Even if you have been to Bali many times before, a good Villa Manager can be a much valued life-line, a great source of shopping tips, and a problem solver. A good villa manager can provide a wealth of directions/advice, from where to eat, to which river to choose for your white-water rafting adventure in which season, or where the cheapest golf courses are, to which temples to visit to see which local ceremonies.
Needless to say, they should also be managing the villa team, and making sure that the quality of service and cleanliness are never compromised.
Before I book a villa in Bali, I always check to see what the Villa Manager arrangement is like, and that there is a full time Villa Manager on site at the villa I am planning to rent. Typically, for good villas, you can expect to have your own dedicated Villa Manager, or have a Villa Manager who is working at 2-3 adjacent villas. However, if a Villa Manager is expected to look after 5-6+ villas, then you are most likely not going to see him for more than a few minutes a day, only during his courtesy visits (at best), so you loose out on the real benefits of having the inside-track.
Villa Quality & Upkeep
Be very, very weary of any rental villas which can not provide you with more than at least 20 recent photos of the property. These photos should show you not only the outside of the buildings, but also the living/dining areas, as well as insides of bedrooms.
If you are not provided with a sufficient number of photos giving you a clear idea of the property, then it is quite likely that there is something substantially wrong with the property, such as a building overlooking it, an abattoir next door, or at the least peeling paintwork or missing fixtures/furniture.
Remember, not all villas are created equal. But additionally, not all villas are kept and maintained equally well. It is your right to request and see these photos of the property.
OK, you are planning to stay on a tiny island, in the middle of the tropics. What mod-cons should you expect? From own experience, I would suggest that even in the middle of the tropics, good Bali villas should be able to provide at least the following mod-cons:
Air-conditioning in all bedrooms
Clean, Western style kitchen -fully equipped with a fridge, microwave, electric kettle, and a coffee maker, as well as sufficient crockery and cutlery
Safe deposit box - at least one for your private villa use, and preferably one in each bedroom
TV/Satellite/DVD Player - as there will always be someone who wants to catch the news, or children who will need entertaining
Telephone - whilst many of us live attached to our mobile/cellular phones, it is important that there is a permanent phone connection at the villa, in case of emergencies
En-suite bathrooms - if you are looking at going as a family or a group of friends, you really don't want to spend your holiday in Bali queuing for the next available slot at shared facilities!
Enjoying a fully staffed and serviced villa with your own Chef may seem like an un-attainable dream in most other parts of the world. However, renting a Villa in Bali is by far one of the most cost effective ways of enjoying this beautiful island and the company of its hospitable people.
Now armed with this check-list you are ready to plan you next dream holiday in a Villa in Bali. Like me, you will probably never want to leave, and go back to reality!
Many happy returns...
By Joanna M Lawson
Joanna M Lawson
Joanna M Lawson is an independent travel writer based in SE Asia and splits her time between London and Bali. Ms Lawson is not directly affiliated with Bali Villas. To reuse this article you are required to link to the site above.
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