Bali is legendary for being able to rent an amazing villa for a fraction of the price the same level of luxury would cost in other western holiday destinations. Renting a holiday villa is a great way to experience Bali with more privacy than you can get in a hotel, stay close to the action and have your own dedicated space to decompress after a long day sightseeing or hitting the beach clubs, bars and restaurants.
The essential guide to renting a holiday villa in Bali. 31 things you need to think about before making a booking so you enjoy a trouble-free, relaxing holiday. You’ve been dreaming about your holiday in Bali for ages. Make sure the villa you rent ticks the right boxes.
1. Is communication clear and consistent? If nothing else, you want someone who will answer your emails within 24 hours. There is nothing that beats great communication, whatever the situation.
Poor language skills or not answering the question should be warning signals. Don’t send an email saying you saw the same property cheaper somewhere else. That’s just cheap. Ask about a detail relevant to you, like if they offer airport transfers for example.
2 Is the pool epic? Honestly, if you rent a villa in Bali you expect a swimming pool, not a plunge bath. It should be large, larger or huge. One of the big attractions of coming to Bali is the warm weather, and believe me, it’s either warm, hot or goddamn I need a swim. Get a villa with a big pool, or choose to stay in a hotel.
3 Does it get all day sun? This may sound a bit picky, but there are few things worse than getting to your villa and realising the photos were taken during the 15 minutes the sun was overhead. How will you explain your lack of a holiday tan when you return home? It’s not difficult to ask for photos of the pool taken at 10 am and 4 pm. That will clearly show you if it gets the sun during the day.
Pro Tip: Look for high walls beside the pool in the villa photos. It’s a dead easy giveaway the swimming pool was designed for show, not for sunbathing as it will get little direct sun.
4 Comfortable beds. I’ve travelled a lot, and one thing is universally true – for one night a hard bed is OK. For more than a few days a super-comfortable bed means a lot when you’re on holiday. It’s the difference between waking up grumpy with a sore back and saying to yourself, “I could lie here all day”. While you are checking reviews, always look for something said about the beds.
5 Is the linen top-quality? Are there lots of pillows? Check the photos again. If there is a single, lonely pillow you can guess the value that the host places on guest comfort are low. Nothing says luxury like 600 thread count, clean white linen and lots of pillows.
6 Is it truly spacious? Are there wardrobes and places to put stuff? A great villa bedroom has room to swing your luggage without hitting the walls. It might not sound like much now, but it makes a big difference on a 5- or 10-day holiday if you have a big, spacious bedroom to chill in when the holiday requires a time-out.
7 Air-con is a must. Not a nice-to-have, but an absolute requisite. From wherever you just came from, air-con is your friend, and not just because of temperature. The humidity in Bali is generally high (it is the tropics after all) and quality air-con will remove the moisture from your bedroom to help your quality of sleep. Plus it can be a welcome escape from the heat when you need it most.
Pro Tips: Check the photos of the beds – is the mattress at least of decent thickness? Are there lots of pillows? Is it bigger than the hotel room you were looking at booking? Does the air-con really work?
8 Indoor/outdoor bathrooms. Here is where renting a villa in Bali really shines. Nothing says holiday in the tropics like an indoor/outdoor bathroom. They should be protected from the rain (if any, depending on the time of year) but open to the elements enough that you feel like you are showering outdoors. Going from an indoor/outdoor shower into an air-conditioned bedroom is something you want to experience, but just don’t know yet.
9 Soaking Tub. 92% of people who ever booked a room actually used the bathtub. Except in Bali. Hopping into a granite bathtub, surrounded by rose petals and candles is one of the memorable moments when on holiday in Bali. Throw in some Spotify tunes and a glass or two of wine and you will never regret booking a villa that has at least one big bathtub.
10 Bathroom amenities. It’s been a long flight from wherever you came from. You’re tired but excited, keen to hit the pool but also keen for a shower. Shampoo, conditioner and body wash are the bare minimum you need. And good quality products too, not just a tiny vial with an all-purpose “guest seasoner”. A disposable toothbrush means a lot when you realise you forgot your own. And hand soap. Nothing screams “cheap” than either no hand soap or a little bar that, let’s be honest, does nothing when washing your hands.
11 Hot water. How about I let you in a secret. The hot water in almost all hotels in Bali comes from a shared water heater (except the dirt-cheap hotel rooms that have their own personal hot water heater in the shower that maybe works some of the time). Your villa should have unlimited hot water. And here’s another secret – most villas access bore water, so it must be pumped and heated on-demand, so waiting for the hot water to run in the shower is simply a matter of physics – the length of the pipe to the bathroom. But hot water you should have, and in unlimited supply.
Pro Tips: If the bathrooms aren’t big enough for some plants, they’re not big enough for you, so check the photos. Running a hot bath means having unlimited hot water. Is there a soaking tub? Do they list the amenities or will you just be pleasantly surprised?
Dining & Living Area
12 Open or closed? If given the option to have a completely closed indoor living area and indoor/outdoor, take the latter in a heartbeat. There is nothing quite like being in the tropics and not needing walls.
13 Big dining table? It might not seem like a big deal when you are looking for a villa, but a big, spacious dining table where you can all sit down for a meal together is where memories are made.
Entertainment & Tech
So you have done the tour of the Monkey Forest, been seen at Potato Head, baked on the beach, and now it’s time to relax. Hit the big squishy couches and dive back into binge-watching The Crown. You need 3 things: big squishy couches, a big-screen TV and Netflix.
14 Is there a big-screen TV? Is there TVs in every room? Every villa will have Sattelite TV, but do they have Netflix and Youtube?
15 Wi-Fi: A big one. Is the WiFi 50mbps+ fibre-optic, or is it described as “activated by SIM card”? Will you be able to access the Internet securely, consistently, and without running out of bandwidth from the portable router at 1 am? The level of WiFi services will tell you a lot about the management and the people who own your villa.
16 Comfortable Lounge: I once had a villa rental that looked fantastic in the photos, but didn’t know until after a day or so that I and my fellow guests were getting bruised because the couches (along with everything else) were made from formed concrete. The cushions were simply placed over the top but didn’t cover the edges. It was exactly like trying to get comfortable on a concrete lounge with a thin cushion. Look at the photos of the villa you are thinking of renting again, and take a long, hard look at the base of the loungers (and beds for that matter). Are they formed from concrete? Then they will be exactly as comfortable as they look.
Pro Tip: Get them to do a speed check on WiFi from the villa at speedtest.net. Does the TV have a Netflix account, or can you login to your own (this will tell you if it’s connected to WiFi or not). Can you really live without Internet access?
17 Is there a decent-sized fridge? Does it make ice, or is at the very least a freezer to hold ice? This is cocktail country, and if you don’t have a fridge big enough to hold your daily beer and mixer allowance then it just won’t do. This is Bali, and you need a fridge big enough to last a 3-hour pool session.
18 Flatware and cutlery are something people don’t care much about when booking a villa (everyone looks at the pool) until you need it. Is there enough to go around? Is there enough that you don’t have to worry about washing your own dishes? Because you’re on holiday, who needs to do the dishes?
19 Pots and pans? Maybe you have no intention of cooking. Good on you! But if the call for “bacon and eggs please” goes out, you need to know the basics are available – pots, pans, and a kick-ass frypan – along with tongs, spatulas and a couple of halfway decent knives.
20 Glassware? How about champagne and wine glasses? Cocktail glasses, straws, ice and a bench to have sundowners at? If you’re staying at a villa in Bali you should have all the glassware you need, and then some.
21 Fully equipped? You may not need a microwave or a slow-cooker, but asking if they have one will tell you whether it’s a villa that focuses on short-term turnover or a luxury stay that has repeat guests year after year.
Pro Tip: How many champagne and wine glasses do they have? That will tell you all you need to know.
Massage & Spa Treatments
22 Massages: One of the reasons Bali is known for being an inexpensive holiday destination is that you can get a massage for a fraction of the price compared to “back home”. And a Balinese massage is the best you can get.
There are 3 key things to look for: a reputable spa therapist, massage tables in the villa, and local prices (not “Resort Prices”, which tend to run around the USD$50-200 mark). Don’t get knicked with a 300% markup for a massage at your villa. It should cost less than USD$20 for a massage in-house on a proper massage table, not the bed (think oil everywhere, and it’s just a wee bit dodgy).
Pro Tip: Ask how much a 1-hour massage at your villa costs, and will it be on a massage table, or on the bed? Ask which spa the therapist comes from, and go there on the first day for a look. It will either be awesome or so dirty you don’t want to go there.
23 Is the pool fenced? For families with young children, this is a critical question. Look for keywords associated with young children and don’t, whatever you do, book a villa with an “upstairs bedroom”. The stairs, not the pool, will be a danger to both yourself and the kids.
24 Are there stairs? Is the villa on one floor? Quite honestly I’m a fan of the single-floor villa. Those that are stacked onto 2 (or more) floors have stairs that invite an accident purely because many don’t have rails, and guests who are used to some support. Beware the villa with an upstairs bedroom.
25 Steps? In all my travels in South-East Asia, I have never found a villa that offers the kind of access that can truly be called wheelchair accessible. A few villas make it easier than most, and most are difficult at best. In Bali, there are always steps. It just depends on how many, and how high.
Great staff can make or break a holiday in Bali. Check the reviews and see if there is mention of great service.
26 Is daily cleaning by staff included in the price?
27 Are they on hand to do shopping, cook something special for breakfast and answer questions about arranging transport or other special requests?
27 Alternative power supply: Something no one expects, but happens several times a year all over Bali. Power outages. They usually only last a couple of hours at most and are infrequent. But when they happen, does your villa have its own diesel generator? It’s like insurance – no one wants to talk about it until it happens, and then it’s the most important thing.
28 Is the location accessible, but not so deep i the tourist area that getting out by car will take an hour in traffic. Let me fill you in on a little secret. Unless you are in Bali for a festival, and that’s the only thing you want to do, don’t stay next door to the thing.
If your thing is the beach, stay somewhere close, but not too close. If you’re a foodie, don’t choose a villa right in the middle of Eat Street – I guarantee you will be disappointed – but stay somewhere that getting there is easy.
A simple rule of thumb: if there is no local food around you, you’re too deep in it.
- You want to go to the nightlife, but you don’t want the nightlife around you.
- Local food
- Restaurants and bars
- Morning coffee
Access to the airport
29 How far to the airport? You want to be close, but not so close you hear flight JQ45 landing. If anything bad does happen (and 999 times out of a thousand it doesn’t) is there a clear path to the airport? Will you be stuck down in a heavily touristed area that takes 45 minutes to get to the main road? Where is the main road anyway?
30 Access to local food. Without a doubt, eating local is a highlight of holidaying in Bali. If there is no place where locals eat somewhere reasonably close to you, then your villa is holding you captive. I have stayed at some of the most exclusive resorts and hotels in South-East Asia, and there are always locals eating somewhere close-by, and safe enough to walk to if you want to move out of your comfort zone.
If your villa can arrange local food for you, then you have struck gold. If they want you to dine exclusively in their “protected domain” then you have struck out. That’s not what renting a villa in Bali is about. You want street-food markets to be close-by, but not too close. You want to order local street food to be brought to you, at local prices, with a little notice. Let the staff do the walking.
31 Does the villa flood? Not a big question when you are thinking of booking a villa in Bali, but we have had floods that disrupts a holiday like nothing else. Some villas are subject to flooding, others are built up enough that the floodwaters go around them.
Being left “flooded in” is far better than being “flooded out” and having to find alternative accommodations because your villa is, well, underwater.