Great location & amenities, poor service: Villa Santi, Luang Prabang

Villa Santi has the perfect location in the heart of Luang Prabang‘s old town with views of the daily alms procession, offers access to a pool & gym and nice breakfast at very good value. But you won’t find the friendly and warm service Laos is known for here and the rooms are not as nice as the grand exterior of the villa promises – find out what trade-offs you have to make and whether that’s right for you in my detailed review!

Location: Villa Santi has one of the best possible locations in Luang Prabang’s old town, in the center of the main road. You will be able to watch the daily alms procession from the restaurant balcony. I saw the New Years elephant parade. You are also steps from many restaurants and shops, as well as the night market or key historic sights. The airport is 15 minutes by taxi. You can really have a better location in town!

Service: The staff at Villa Prabang is professional, but didn’t show the warmth and friendliness you’ll find at most hotels in Laos. It seemed like staff didn’t really want to be there. The front desk had me checked in quickly and provided me with information about the hotel and town. They were also helpful in making local calls to organize tours and day trips. Housekeeping did a thorough job cleaning the room each day, replacing towels and refilling amenities as appropriate. The restaurant staff each morning took my order quickly and brought out my desired breakfast quickly and correctly, all very professional and also lacking any smiles. The shuttle driver got us to the Santi Resort and back safely. Staff at Santi Resort not only lacked any friendliness, they also were unprofessional and couldn’t be bothered to offer assistance when asked, too busy on their phones!

I found the Lao people to be some of the most friendly, warm and welcoming people I’ve ever met, even outshining the famously friendly Thais, so the lack of friendliness at Villa Santi & Resort was noticeable, almost jarring!

Room: I had reserved a standard double room and was assigned just that in the annex building across the road. It’s set in a lush garden of the side street, making it quiet and peaceful. My room was on the upper floor with a steep set of (uneven) stairs – make sure to ask for a ground floor room if you have trouble with stairs!

Villa Santi Annex Building

The room is large and held in a traditional decor with dark, shiny wood floors and equally dark wood furniture. The king-size bed has a firm mattress and good sheets. Local fabrics in the bed throw and a chair placed in the corner are used as accent.

Along the wall facing the bed are a number of cabinets, holding a mini-fridge and coffee/tea facilities, as well as drawers, a wall-mounted TV and mirror. A small wardrobe and luggage bench complete the furniture. A small safe is installed in the wardrobe. Unfortunately, there is no desk, so better leave your work at home.

Villa Santi room

The large bathroom has tiled floors and wood-look tiles partially covering the walls. You have a toilet on one side, a sink-in-cabinet in the center and a tub on the other side. The tub has a curtain on a rod and a handheld showerhead, with a wall mount. Oddly, the wallmount places the showerhead vertically spraying water on your belly, chest or face, depending on how tall you are. While the decor continues the traditional look, it looks just old! The provided towels and amenities are basic.

Villa Santi bathroom

Restaurant & Amenities: The amenities are a highlight of Villa Santi. The restaurant is located on the upper floor of the main building, overlooking Luang Prabang’s main road. There is indoor and outdoor seating and I enjoyed the nice views from the balcony each morning.

Breakfast is served a la carte. I chose the American breakfast that consists of a fruit plate, a bread basket with toast and croissants, as well as eggs made to order, bacon and grilled tomatoes. You’ll also get a choice of juice and coffee or tea. All of it was fresh, tasted good and was a large enough portion to satisfy.

Villa Santi breakfast

Villa Santi also has a pool. Technicall, I believe this is a large fountain, but it’s big enough for people to take a refreshing dip after a day around town. There are chairs and loungers to hang out in the courtyard, but it felt a little odd to use as a pool. The UNESCO World Hertiage rating of Luang Prabang’s old town prevents hotels from building pools, so this is the only property in the old town that has any type of pool.

Villa Santi pool/fountain

If you prefer a larger pool, Villa Santi guests have access to the facilities at the sister property outside of town, Santi Resort. A free, scheduled shuttle will take you to the resort a few times a day in a 15 minute ride. There, you have access to a large resort pool with plenty of padded loungers. The pool bar serves drinks and food to your lounger, so you can chill out in comfort!

Santi Resort pool

The resort also has a small gym with (older) equipment to get a basic cardio or weight workout.

Santi Resort gym

Bottomline: Villa Santi has one of the best locations in Luang Prabang’s old town, offers large rooms in a traditional decor and you get access to a pool and gym – facilities no other old town hotel can offer. You can enjoy a good breakfast with nice views and all that is available at a very reasonable price. I paid $80/night during high season – you can check current prices here! If you want the facilities and location, Villa Santi is hard to beat.

Unfortunately, the stodgy decor of the rooms and the lackluster service make it difficult for me to recommend it – good service is part of experiencing Luang Prabang at its best! The 3Nagas by Sofitel next door offers stellar service – but is much more expensive. At Villa Deux Rivieres you get a nicer decor and much better service for less – but trade the central location for river views. Check out my Destination Guide Luang Prabang for even more choices!

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