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Booking a vacation rental is quickly becoming one of the most popular ways to enjoy a holiday in Bali. The delight of stepping foot into your own tropical sanctuary and getting to spend your holidays like a queen and king can change the way you look at holidays.

Vacation rentals are great for privacy and space, but there’s a lot that can get in the way of your perfect holiday. Being in the hospitality industry for over 8 years in Bali, I’ve learned some clear signals of a perfect property and also some pitfalls that you can avoid as a traveller.

1. What matters most to you ?

The very first thing to keep in mind before plunging into searching for a villa is to ask yourself some basic questions about your style of travel and accommodation criteria.

  • Do you like adventure?

  • Are you willing to trade comfort and certainty for the chance of getting out of your comfort zone into an unforgettable and unique experience?

  • Do you like non-standardized villas without a big hospitality brand behind it?

  • Do you like to give independent villa rental owners a chance to make a fair living faced with the recognized hospitality leaders?

  • Are you tolerant and patient and recognizing that language barriers sometimes require a sense of humor?

  • Do you like to rent a villa through a local host, which can be just as luxurious as a villa in a 5-star luxury hotel without necessarily the hefty price tag?

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Image credit: whatshouldwecallme

OMG, for our girly weekend, I found this amazing 3 bedroom pool villa through this Bali host and saved so much money.

If you answered those questions with yes, then read on.

Bali is still within a developing nation and hotels & resorts do a good job of insulating their guests from the unpleasantness of power failures, slow internet, the misunderstandings resulting from language barriers and nocturnal visits from geckos and mosquitos.

However, if you choose to rent a villa, your minimalist designer villa could be sitting in a local village with 19th century infrastructure. That could mean hearing roosters at dawn and stray dogs barking at every passing motorbike. So how do you make sure your dream vacation doesn’t wind up being an unforgettable for all the wrong reasons?

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Not interested in sharing your private pool with strange neighbor dogs. Ask your host the right questions

Fun fact: What’s the difference between a standalone villa vs a villa within a hotel with a hospitality brand?

A standalone villa – Less pricey, comes with basic facilities. Most of the time, it does not have 24 hours security.

A villa within a hotel – Despite being more pricey, all the services are at your fingertip should you need them (benefit of staying in a full fledged service hotel). And you will have your children entertained in a hotel’s villas too. A villa within a hotel also has 24 hours security compared to the standalone villa.

2. How to spot a winner and reading the right signals?

Choose your villa carefully. It’s not easy to find winners in the vast landscape of rental properties. I did a count recently and found over 7,000 properties on just one major vacation rental website alone.

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Sorry guys, thousands of villas in Bali, how am I supposed to find mine?

Recently with sites like Airbnb, Villas.com, TravelMob, there is a bit more transparency in the market and with search rankings and peer reviews, it’s easier to spot a winner if you can read the right signals.

2-i) Location, location, location

Bali has a number of areas, each with a different theme.

Seminyak – The fashion and lifestyle capital of South East Asia. This is a playground of chic restaurants, sexy beach lounges and the fashionable travelers. The best villas will have great service, a sleek interior design,private pools and should feel ‘hip’.

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Image credit: creditadinding

Finest Indonesian dining in Kerobokan, close to Seminyak

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Very chic, very Seminyak

Kuta – for hardcore partying, big shopping malls. Most listings are going to look a bit older in this area. It’s good for party groups and being close to the beach.

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Image credit: bali-holiday-deals

Kuta Beach – Life is a party

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Looks like a pretty cool villa for a group of friends ready for a party to me!

Uluwatu – for surfing and pristine beaches. The best properties should be close to the beach, or have an ocean view. Look for shabby-chic surfer bungalows or cliff-front villas for that authentic, local feel.

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Only to be found on the Bukit at the furthest tip in South of Bali. Wait until you see the sunset from this cliff setting!

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See yourself in those chairs with a cocktail in your hand?

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And did you imagine finding pop art at Bali’s hottest surf spot Berawa beach ?

Ubud – For Balinese culture and spectacular nature. There’s a strong yoga and spa influence, so be sure to indulge in some yoga lessons and Balinese massage. There’s some amazing properties set on rice paddies or the rim of rainforest canyons. A great option is to stay inside a Balinese family compound and experience true local hospitality, cuisine and adventure.

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Be in touch with nature – still lots to be found in Ubud

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A picture worth a thousand words

Amed – for diving and snorkeling. Visit the amazing coral gardens in Amed and do some shipwreck diving in Tulemben. Great properties close to the beach and dive spots.

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Image credit: beachfrontbalivillas

Amed – Traditional outrigger fishing boats.

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Share your diving stories of the day at dinner at this family & friends friendly ocean facing villa

Canggu – an increasingly popular alternative to Seminyak. There’s a growing surfer culture with chic villas, Sunday music sessions and healthy organic food. Properties in this area enjoy lots of space, great dining options and can feel a bit like a modern suburb in the rice-paddies.

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Organic food to be found in Canggu

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A luxury surf villa as hip as Canggu itself

Decide which area suits your interests and then look for your listing in the area.