Thailand: homestays and villas vs. hotels

by: Simon Hantly
More and more people today seek fulfilling holidays at cheaper rates. The days of booking holidays at a local travel agent and disappearing on a package tour are dwindling, as vacationers turn to the internet to seek alternatives.

Renting a private house is becoming more and more common as visitors seek authenticity, privacy, independence, and originality whilst on holiday. And if such a stay also offers the possibility of direct interaction with the locals and costs less than a hotel stay, the attractions are manifold.

In Thailand,more and more properties are now available for direct rent from their owners on a daily or weekly basis. Thailand’s real estate boom has helped develop the number of villas and holiday homes available. It is in general a pity that these properties still tend to be huddled together in the mass tourism markets of Pattaya, Phuket, and Koh Samui, which somewhat defeats the original attractions of an independent holiday home.

However, looking more closely, it is not difficult to narrow down one’s search and to locate private properties for rent at highly attractive rates in original destinations. And in accordance with the Thais’ legendary hospitality, these villas are even occasionally rented out more as if friends – rather than paying guests - were being accommodated: meals are cooked for you, transport arranged, and invitations made to local ceremonies or festivals. In short, the Thais have realized that, whilst some guests may prefer privacy, others seek a genuine interaction at the local level with the country’s inhabitants, as they seek a memorable local experience instead of a manufactured stay.

Our exploration of Thailand’s holiday home rentals led us to several very different properties, and clearly, whilst the supply is not huge, the attractions of these homes, the hospitality of the Thais, the zing of the delicious food and the promise of sun all make these properties a marvelous holiday alternative.

We particularly enjoyed our stay at “Gecko Villa”. From the outset, their comprehensive website ( gave full details of the property, with numerous photographs and an online availability checker. Our email reservation was responded to rapidly, and helpful suggestions made about getting to the destination.

Upon arrival we were met at the airport by the smiling owners and driven to the large house that was set in the middle of emerald rice paddies, sugar cane plantations and woodlands. The property was set on extensive grounds guaranteeing privacy by our own pool, and the bedrooms and facilities all lived up to or surpassed what we had seen described on the internet. The kitchen showed up our own kitchen at home, and the shower garden in the master bedroom was a delightful touch.

When we said we loved Thai food, we were delighted to be taken off around the grounds to pick our own herbs and spices – including strange plants that we had never considered using in the pot – before being shown how to make genuine Thai and Northeaster dishes. The owners seemed genuinely pleased to be able to impart their knowledge and love of food – and we were equally happy to have this cooking lesson provided at no cost!

The property was fully serviced and the rate we paid covered all our meals and even generous quantities of cool beer and fresh fruit juices. And as we were there in the mango season, we were encouraged to simply help ourselves to the fresh fruit straight from the trees…

It was rare to find a house deep in the Thai countryside, and truly off the beaten tourist track, that offered every comfort for a relaxing stay in the real Thailand. The Visitors’ Book was full of glowing comments and the many repeat guests bore testimony to the visitors’ enjoyment of their stays, not only because of the property itself but because of the genuine welcome they received.

Tips on booking holiday homes:

• Try to book directly with the property site. Searches tend to list global villa rental sites that generally take a commission on your stay, making it more expensive, and in some cases try to prevent you from contacting the owners directly.

• Look for an individual property rather than a house in a villa development. The latter are often managed by hotel groups and simply glorified hotel rooms – at hotel rates!

• Travel in the off , but book early. Better rates can generally be found for travel out of the tourist seasons, but do make sure you book ahead, as when a standalone villa is booked, it is booked!

• Make sure the property you choose has a telephone and address listed.

• Travel somewhere new! Much of the fun of your own holiday house is the way it can take you out of the tourist centres to enjoy a more authentic holiday.


Thai Airways, Thailand’s flag carrier offers numerous domestic flights, but savvy travelers will turn to the local discount airlines. These offer frequent flights at a fraction of the price and in relative comfort. Try Nok Air ( or Air Asia (


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