Probably like many people, I had always thought private villas were exclusively for the rich and famous; beyond the budget of a mere mortal like me. How wrong was I?
A few years back my family was staying at a well-known resort in Phuket. Following an afternoon by the pool the drinks bill arrived. It was over US$30 for a couple of cokes and lime sodas – a mark-up of almost 600% on prices at the nearby supermarket and probably double those of the local Thai restaurant on the beach. After a week it became clear that room costs were just the start of the holiday expenses: for every dollar spent on accommodation, another was spent on food and drinks.
Fast forward three years to 2010 when we stayed at a villa in Bali with friends. It was a pleasant four-bedroom home in Canggu with free-form pool set in lush gardens, just yards from the beach and with six discreet staff led by the ever smiling and aptly named Happy! After a week of eating (and drinking) like royalty we were presented with the bill. Vast reams of receipts from the local markets and supermarkets where our personal chef had shopped for our meals had been carefully totaled up to just over US$1,000. For two families (four adults and five kids), that worked out at a paltry US$15 per person per day. Therein lies one of the best kept secrets about villa holidays: they are great value for money. Genuinely affordable luxury.
And it’s not just the food that’s great value – the accommodation is too. First impressions are that villas are expensive.US$1,000 per night might sound an awful lot. But this can work out to be as little as US$150 per bedroom – cheaper than your average hotel – plus you have the benefit of space; your own space,and loads of it. Typically, villas offer all the comforts of home and usually much, much more: a lounge and dining area; kitchen; media room (plus TVs in the bedrooms – which are almost always ensuite); a private pool and garden, and all to yourself - no fighting for the sun loungers.
The staff (read chef, maids, butlers and often a car and driver) know you by name and, within minutes of arrival, know your preferences too. Fancy a late breakfast? No problem: from sun risers to sundowners everything is served with a smile. But if you need some guidance the villa manager is on hand to help.
The net result is a personalised holiday where you get to choose who you stay with, what you do, what you eat and when. You get the freedom of a whole house and are not crammed into a room number. The villa vacation is the true ‘me’ experience – no ‘mass’ in sight.
So what makes a great villa? We at The Villa Guide prefer personality over pretension; friendliness and flexibility over facilities; and proper ties with originality, elegance and charm. We understand that ser vice and staff are as important as the villa itself and hope this is reflected in our scores and comments.
There is of course a caveat: not all villas are born equal. As second homes of individual owners, each property has its own personality, and this can make choosing a villa a challenge. Is it peaceful? Is it good for nightlife? Is it suitable for families? Will my grandparents be able to get around? Is the food gourmet or garbage? And so on.
Conceived to give you impartial answers to these and many other questions, we hope that this book, its website and The Villa Guide’s main website (TheVillaGuide.com) will take villa holidays out of the ‘too difficult’ drawer and turn them into a real, affordable and delightful alternative to hotel stays.
Although a lot of information is covered within these pages, there’s always room for improvement, so if there’s anything more we can do to make your switch to villa holidays easier, please do let us know.