The villa concept in Sri Lanka is often misunderstood and it’s a theme we come back to at ETG time and time again. Here our Co-founder, Sam, details everything you should know about villas in Sri Lanka.
So, what are private villas like in Sri Lanka?
1: Villas are a wonderful option for staying in Sri Lanka, both for couples looking for luxury and privacy at a reasonable cost and for families looking for comfort and value.
2: Villas in Sri Lanka are generally not cheap and they are not basic self-catering units as you get in Europe, for example.
3: Villas in Sri Lanka are of great value (according to ETG anyway!).
I’ll deal with point 2 first. We at Experience Travel Group spend much of our time explaining that villas in Sri Lanka are not like cheap European/Australian/US villas/self-catering units, that you cannot get them without staff and that you will pay a fairly decent rate, even for the most basic.
Why are villas in Sri Lanka not ‘cheap’?
1: They MUST be fully staffed at all times. Tropical conditions mean all buildings need constant upkeep (and I mean DAILY) or they will very quickly lose their ongoing battle with nature. If they are by the sea this is doubly true as salt has a highly corrosive effect. Labour is relatively cheap of course, though I hope anyone looking for a villa through ETG would expect the in house staff to be comparatively well paid as part of our sustainable approach to travel.
2: The infrastructure/Policing/Legal structure in Sri Lanka is very definitely ‘third world’ (I mean that as a euphemism). It takes time and money to build a house, build local relationships and make it safe to let out to people. It takes patience and diplomacy skills at a high level to get bank accounts open, accounts filed and so on and so forth.
3: You cannot kit out a house to a decent standard at a low cost. There is no IKEA. There is only cheap plastic furniture or pretty expensive wooden antique/handmade furniture. These are the ONLY choices. This goes for everything from the plates and glasses right through to the beds and mattresses (quality mattresses are unbelievably expensive in Sri Lanka).
4: Most electronic and other good need to be imported – meaning the cost is vastly higher than in the west.
5: Building in the first place is a major undertaking – the lack of infrastructure, the blurred legal lines, the stodgy bureaucracy and the cost of raw materials that are not tainted in some way by various forms of illegality…. all adds up.
6: Quite simply these places tend to be dream tropical holiday houses – which are therefore done to a very high spec!
The best way to think of them is as mini boutique hotels – so mini you get them all to yourselves. The massive advantage is that staff look after you and generally, they are delighted to have you, delighted to tell people about their area and their country and you can get to know the area through them in a way that you could not at a conventional hotel.
You also get wonderful, fresh local food at cost price. They buy – you pay according to the total of the receipt. Nothing more. The cost of your villa includes the cost of cooking/cleaning etc… Trot to the local fish market, have loads of fun buying fresh fish and the cook will BBQ for you on the beach outside your villa. At no extra cost. Or for the keen, do it yourselves – totally up to you! Hotels tend to reserve their biggest markup for soft drinks – which makes travelling with children expensive. Fresh fruit in Sri Lanka is very cheap indeed, so the cost of as many fresh fruit shakes as they can drink is practically zero in the grand scheme of things.
From personal experience, one thing you should know about villas in Sri Lanka is that they’re a great place to get married too! I should know since I got married in The Hideaway! If you are looking to escape for a private and romantic tropical wedding, I think you would be mad to even consider the conveyor belt style at the large resort hotels. The boutique hotels offer a much better option, but for me, the privacy and freedom afforded by a villa makes it by far the best choice. We at Experience Travel Group have organised loads and without exception, the happy couple has loved them.
For idea’s for which villa in Sri Lanka is right for you, check out our blog on best villas in Sri Lanka.