“My vacation rental host threatened to harm me”

Newly-wed Sharon* couldn’t wai t to enjoy her island honeymoon, but the nightmare star ted when the couple arrived. AS TOLD TO ESTHER AU YONG

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
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Newly-wed Sharon* couldn’t wai t to enjoy her island honeymoon, but the nightmare star ted when the couple arrived. AS TOLD TO ESTHER AU YONG.

My husband and I got married in late 2015 and decided to do an island getaway for our honeymoon. I was very excited about it – I did all the research, planning and bookings, including accommodation, five weeks before the trip.

I decided to book a villa through a vacation rental site I’ve used before. I love the concept: being hosted by a local resident in his or her own home.  Of course, I’ve read and heard horror stories – of belongings stolen or guests attacked, and in some frightening cases, even raped – so I made sure to take precautions such as reading the reviews carefully, and looking at the ratings.

I found a beautiful villa for a reasonable price and booked a few nights there. The photos that were posted online looked great. The villa had a stylish bathroom, a sizeable private pool, and it was located in a trendy area. I didn’t hesitate to send our flight details to my host so he could arrange for airport transfers. Now all we had to do was get through the wedding!


Two days before our trip, the first warning sign came. I texted our host to confirm our arrival and he said he hadn’t arranged for our transfers as I had not given him our fight details. I found it really odd but brushed it off and re-sent the e-mail. He assured me that there would be someone waiting at the airport. On the day of our trip, I contacted him again – just to be sure.

Another shock: He still had not organised any transportation for us. I thought everything had already been settled!  I was very anxious but decided to just relax. It was my honeymoon after all. Perhaps our host had a driver on-site or maybe that was the way things were done over there. My worst fears came true when we landed. There was no one to pick us up.

I contacted our host, who then revealed he was based in another country and asked me to contact the villa manager. I called her multiple times – no answer. My husband and I settled down at the airport to wait. When I finally managed to reach her after an hour or so, she told us the villa owner had given her only a few hours notice that we were coming. The villa wasn’t ready, she said, but we could either take a taxi there on our own or wait for transportation to arrive.

My husband and I decided that getting a cab was the best thing to do instead of continuing to wait at the airport. When we arrived, there was no apology from the manager and I was quite upset at that. I didn’t want our honeymoon to get off to such a bad start but I was determined not to let it ruin our trip. By that time, my husband and I were exhausted and decided we would take the villa as it was – after all, the bed was made and we could at least lie down.


But everything else wasn’t up to scratch. One of the glass panels had a huge crack down the middle, and the blinds were broken. There were bird droppings everywhere, with more inside the room and bathroom. I tried to stay calm. After all, the manager had said they had no idea we were coming. The last straw came at night, when the power went out twice.

I contacted the manager and she told me condescendingly that this was a common occurrence in the country. However, we could see the other properties in our area were all brightly lit – they didn’t seem to have any power issues. I was so angry with her attitude that I decided we would move. I called the vacation rental site to talk about our ordeal, and was told to e-mail photos of the villa. It said it would help us find alternative arrangements the next day.

My husband and I wasted a whole day of what was supposed to be a romantic trip on this. I had to constantly stay in touch with the site while it investigated my complaint, and I also needed to view the recommendations of alternative villas it was sending me so we could move. My husband and I also disagreed on how to handle the situation.

He left me to sort out the mess as I had done our bookings for the trip and he figured I would know the details best. But I was frustrated as it seemed as if he was abandoning me. We had a big fight because of it.  In the end, the vacation rental site found us another villa and we moved out right away. The new villa was great – our room was clean and nice, and the staff were friendly. The owner of our first villa also apologised, claiming there had been a miscommunication. He also said he would refund us for the night we’d stayed at his place. Things were looking up.


However, on the day before we left, I received an angry text message from the owner. He had seen what I’d written on my social media pages and was very upset. I didn’t understand why. I had merely written that we had had a horrible experience at our first villa but were now happy at our second one. I didn’t name his property, but I did mention the second place. I was terrified and angry at the same time. He was stalking me on social media and continuing to ruin my honeymoon?

I texted him back, telling him that he was being very rude and demanded my refund, which I still had not received. He replied, this time with a message that chilled me to the bone: ‘You don’t know me. And don’t know what I can do to you. You are not back in Singapore yet. Don’t forget.’ I spent the night tossing and turning. My husband was worried that the owner would follow through with his threat – after all, he already knew from my social media post where we were staying. I was so flustered that I didn’t think to make a police report or alert anyone else.

We just wanted to get out – I’ve never been more relieved to get on a plane.I still get upset that we have such bad memories of our honeymoon. I never received my refund either. I’m more wary of vacation rentals now and I’m not eager to book a place just because of the photos and reviews. I was so angry at that time, but now, I just get the chills. We could have been injured or even lost our lives.

“You are not back in Singapore yet. Don’t forget.”

*Name has been changed. Do you have a real-life drama to share or a true story that would inspire other readers? E-mail us at magsimplyher@sph.com.sg and we’ll get in touch with you.