Bali accommodations range from bungalows that cost Rp40,000 (yes, US$4) to luxury villas at US$1,000 a night. An increasingly popular trend for families and groups is to rent a villa, which can go from US$100 up to US$5,000 per night and are usually served by a retinue of staff. On the lower end, and for a more local experience, are losmen (traditional homestay, a bastardization of the Dutch word logement) or rustic bungalows. In the better homestays, expect a clean and simple room with a double or two single beds. They usually don't have air-conditioning, but they will have a fan. Better places will have an attached bathroom with a cold-water shower, Western toilet, and hand basin. The lower budget places will sometimes have a squat toilet and mandi (a bucket of water to splash over your body).
Many villas and bungalows have open-air bathrooms, often set in a lush garden. They are definitely a very Balinese experience, but may also shelter little uninvited guests and are best avoided if you have low tolerance for critters.
Bali's resorts and fine Western hotels cost a fraction of what luxury accommodations would elsewhere. Promotional and Internet rates are available at all hotels in Bali and Lombok. Paying the rack rates, or published rates (which are listed in this guide), even in high season, is almost unheard of. Especially in the off season, it pays to shop around; you can show up at the front desk of even the largest hotels and ask for the best rate.
Almost all hotels charge a 21% tax (10% government tax and 11% service) on top of the quoted rates. Some hotels tack on a charge in high season -- the 2 or 3 weeks around Christmas and New Year's, plus the months of July and August. Some establishments might charge only 17% tax and some only the 10% government tax with no service added. Check when you are booking.
Bali is becoming increasingly famous for its private villas complete with staff. Indonesia's low labor costs, at one-third the already low levels of Thailand, result in single villas employing teams from five to over 30 people.
We're proponents of the villa option, as opposed to a hotel or resort, because you receive more space, privacy, and exclusivity for your money. Plus, if you are traveling for longer than a week with kids or in a group larger than two, a villa can end up as a bargain in cost and convenience.
Some villas and hotels are decadently over the top. We are talking private spas and helipads -- you know, the necessities. Almost all stand-alone villas come with pools, gardens, and a full-time fleet of staff that usually includes a round-the-clock cook, housekeeper, gardener, and babysitter. Other standard features include air-conditioning, kitchens, stereo systems, satellite televisions, and IDD telephones. Most include an airport pickup and transfer; some have same-day laundry service, grocery shopping and restaurant delivery services, car and motorbike rentals, and catering. All villa compounds offer 24-hour reception and security. None of the villa complexes are beachfront but all are close to the action.
Not every place sold as a "villa" actually fits the bill. Prices vary widely: Some operators claim to go as low as US$30 a night (which usually just means a stand-alone hut on hotel grounds), but realistically you'll be looking at upwards of US$200 a night for a decent location and a private pool. At the top of the range nightly rents can easily go north of US$1,000 a night. The general rule "you get what you pay for" applies.
Most villas will have breakfast or a light snack ready for you on arrival. You then order your meals from a menu and they buy the groceries for you. Private villas normally have a higher quality of food, presentation, and service, but are much more expensive. Most stand-alone villas will buy your groceries, prepare your meals, and will charge between 10% and 30% in addition to the grocery bills. As a rule of thumb, the more expensive the villa the higher the additional expense on meals, but there are exceptions. Do the math first.
Look carefully at who is running the villa (run by the owner? local company? Western company? local staff who answer to an overseas owner?) and who you are renting through (directly from the owner? a management company? an established villa agent? one who just opened a month ago after his friend Nyoman told him how easy it was?). Each has its pros and cons. If it's an agency, see if it's been reviewed in the foreign press.
Ask how long the villa has been taking commercial guests. Villas normally take a year or so to get to best service levels. Also, in the first 6 to 12 months of operation great villas may offer introductory rates that are priced below market to gain awareness of their new offerings.
Elite Havens. Jl. Raya Semer, Banjar Semer, Kerobokan (tel. 0361/731074; fax 0361/736391; www.elitehavens.com), is the leading luxury villa agency in Bali.
Bali Villa Worldwide (BVW). Jl. Laksmana 3B, Oberoi-Seminyak (tel. 0361/732013; fax 0361/736705; www.balivillaworldwide.com), manages a selection of top-notch properties available for rent all round Bali.
BaliOn, Pantai Seseh, Canggu (tel. 0361/742-4015; www.balion.com), a family-run agency with a broad selection of budget to luxury choices on the island.
Bali Tropical Villas, Jl. Raya Seminyak, Gang Lalu 7, Seminyak (tel. 0361/732083; fax 0361/732083; www.bali-tropical-villas.com), is run by Anita Lococo for over 15 years. There is nothing she doesn't know about most properties on the island, she has even written books on the subject.
Bali Experience, Jl. Banjar Anyar Kaja 89, Kerobokan (tel. 0361/844-5934; fax 0361/847-5160; www.bali-experience.com), has an easy-to-navigate website that makes choosing even harder as there are so many wonderful properties.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.