Pros and cons of self-catered accommodation
Most visitors to the island will opt to stay in one of the numerous luxurious hotels dotted around the coast. However, another viable option is staying in a self-catered villa. This presents tourists a very different aspect of holiday life during their stay and comes with interesting advantages and disadvantages.
Perhaps the biggest appeal of staying in a self-catered accommodation is for those who value their independence. As meals are not provided like in a hotel, you get to wake up and go to bed at your own time, without having to worry if you will miss breakfast time or the closing time of the restaurant. If you are one of those who like to party hard when on holiday, you will find this total freedom very useful. You also get more privacy, peace and quiet to do what you want as you won’t be sharing the kitchen and the garden with other holidaymakers. So grab this book or take a nap in the shade outside after lunch without having a group of noisy kids around.
Value for money
Others might enjoy the value for money that one gets with such no-strings-attached accommodation. You pay for the place and very often for a maid to clean regularly and that’s it. In a hotel, you will be pampered with plenty of extras to justify the high costs. Spa, gym, in-house resto, heated pools, Jacuzzi and all the whistle and bells are available in hotels, often at extra charges as well. But if you are one of those who prefer to go out and about and explore the country instead of hiding in the confines of exclusive luxury, then you will have little use for them. Getting a roof over your head at night might be all that you need as during the day you will be easting out and sampling the local cuisine anyway.
One important consequence of living in your own place is that you get the opportunity to mingle with the local folks. Luxury hotels keep you confined within their palm-thronged manicured lawns with plenty of activities to keep you busy – golf, pool, bar, even nightclubs – you don’t even have to venture beyond their walls to get all this. But in a villa, you are on your own. Often, the owner himself will be Mauritian and you will get to know him. Then you will have to go out to do some shopping, if only to buy the basic necessities such as sugar, bread and milk at least for your breakfast even if you go to restaurants for other meals. By living in a residential area close to other Mauritians, you may have an opportunity to talk to them and get to know them and their way of life better. Get tempted to go for a walk around your bungalow and explore the area, especially if the beach is nearby. In hotels, you might end up in organised tours the whole time with a bunch of tourists from the same country as you!
If at home you find preparing food a chore and try to avoid the washing up as much as possible, then you might not enjoy having to do very much the same thing if you live in a self-catered accommodation. You will also have to spend some time in the beginning doing some shopping to get the basics such as tea, milk, sugar and bread. While most of these places come with a maid, unfortunately for you, they don’t do your washing up and at the end of your stay, you will be expected to return the place as clean as you entered it. Independence comes at a price!
You are on your own
If you are alone or in just a small group, you might find it less interesting to do things on your own. By being grouped with others, you have better chances of striking up a conversation and making friends. This starts on the plane all the way to the hotel: by seeing the same faces around you all the time, in the restaurant, at breakfast, in the pool, you become familiar with them. If you go on organised tours together, it gets even easier to get to know them. Of course, they won’t be the local inhabitants whom you will get to know like this.
Similarly, self-catered accommodation doesn’t provide good value for single people. If you are a couple, you might well enjoy your intimacy in a villa by yourself but if you move in as a group of 10 in a big house, you will certainly pay less per person.
Finding the elusive villa
Perhaps, the greatest difficulty you might encounter when going down the self-catered villa is actually finding one. Because most of them are owned by local individuals who don’t have access to a marketing budget that stretches to include overseas where most of the customers are, you will be hard pressed to find them. The internet helps a lot of course but are you prepared to hand over a wad of cash to someone whom you’ve only known over the net? This is why many villa owners are prepared to take payment upon your arrival. They show much more flexibility than the more commercial hotels who require a deposit upfront to secure your room. However, the best villas are found by word of mouth. So cultivate these contacts, not just among Mauritians but also among your friends in your own country. They might have been to Mauritius before and found a nice place to stay.
Finding the right villa for your purposes is a bit like finding a pearl. It takes some time and effort to hunt one down and if it is the right one for you, you don’t want to let it go. Villa owners appreciate your custom and will go out of their way to help you make your stay on the island and exceptional one.