If you are travelling to Bali or Indonesia, do not miss out on this tropical paradise. The islands have become very touristic, however, they are still keeping their charm. Not far from Bali, the make a great change.
Gili Trawangan, Meno or Air – Where to Stay?
Gili Islands are 3 very small tropical islands near Bali. Gili consists of Gili Trawangan (often referred to as Gili T), Gili Meno and Gili Air.
Gili Trawangan, the most western island, is the party island of the three. It is the place to stay if you are looking for parties and not planning to go to sleep early. Although it is famous for its parties, you also find some quieter spots and places to stay. And of course during the day you are still able to do some water activities and discover and some great diving spots. The sunset is best viewed on Gili T, as the sun sets above the sea – on the other islands the sun sets above Gili T.
Gili Meno, the island in the middle of the three, is the quietest island of all. The island is often the go to place for honeymooners.
Gili Air, the island closest to the mainland, is a mix of the previous two. It is a tropical paradise with some great resorts and at night you find some bars for a couple of drinks, however, you won’t find crazy parties here.
How to Get to Gili?
It is very easy to go from Bali to Gili. It is technically possible to fly there, however, you would need to take a shuttle bus to Lombok (the closest harbor to go to Gili) and from there take a ferry. This will cost you more and you might end up travelling even longer than taking a direct ferry from Bali to Gili.
There are three places in Bali, where ferries leave to Gili.
Sanur: This harbor is located in the South of Bali, right next to the capital, Denpasar, Kuta etc. From here you will spend the most time on the ferry as opposed to the next two. However, we do not advise to try to outsmart the system and travel to another place to catch the ferry, because you will only spend at least the same amount of time in traffic and definitely spend more money.
Padangbai: The harbor of Padangbai is located in the middle of Bali. It is a popular place for ferries to Gili. If you are staying in the Ubud area, this is the most convenient place for you.
Amed: Amed is the closest place to Gili, thus you will spend the least amount of time on the water to go to Gili. Amed is in the north and a popular place to dive. So if you plan to scuba dive in Bali, you might want to take the ferry from here.
Normal Ferry or Speed Boat?
You have two options to go to Gili: You can either take the public ferry or private fast boats.
The public ferry is a huge boat, which also carries cars. The ferry is very cheap, it costs only 40.000 rupiah and departs every full hour during the full 24 hours of the day, however, you have to plan in a full day of travelling. The boat is slow, it takes 5 hours from Padangbai. From Bali it will take you to Lembar (South of Mataram). From here you have to take a bus to Lombok Harbor (and traffic and roads in Indonesia are what they are). From here it’s finally only a short ferry ride to the Gili island of your choice. Obviously, the total amount spent for this trip will be more than only the price of the ferry. It is definitely cheaper than the fast boat, however, the trip is also much longer.
Private companies offer fast boats going between Bali and Gili. Taking a fast boat (they are not super fast, but travelling about 40 km/h) is obviously more expensive than the public ferry, but it will cut your trip to a few hours (2-4, depending on which harbor you will take it). These boats will take you right to your island of choice, so you don’t have to change ferries or take a bus in between your trip. TIP: Another great thing is that they provide pick up and drop off service. This means that they will pick you up from your hotel from pretty much all of Bali and you off as well after your return trip. These places don’t have to be the same. For example: You can go there from Ubud and they will pick you up in Ubud and on your return trip they will take you to Kuta, Canggu, Seminyak or (almost) wherever you want.
Fast boats cost obviously more and prices depend on the travel agency and more importantly on your negotiation skills. You will find prices well above 1 million rupiah for a return ticket. However, we paid 500.000 rupiah per person from Padangbai harbor including shuttle bus. Keep that price in mind if you are looking for the best price. The best place to start with is to ask at your hotel – often and if they care about their guests, they offer the best transportation prices.
What to do in Gili?
The Gili islands are tropical and flat islands (except from Gili T, which is not totally flat). Do not expect mountains here, but rather a lot of water activities. The most activities are snorkeling and scuba diving. Diving is relatively cheap on Gili. If you are a licensed diver, you can go on a dive trip for about 450.000 rupiah. The underwater life includes turtles (if you are lucky) and ship wrecks as well. You can also do your Open Water license here.
If you just want to go snorkeling you can either book a day trip usually including a lunch stop on Gili Meno (definitely negotiate on this price, but should be around 150.000 rupiah) or do it yourself: Rent your snorkeling equipment at your accommodation or on one of the many places on the beach and go for yourself. The water is very shallow, so you will have to kind of walk a lot into the water (depending on the tide about 100 meters). If you are staying on Gili Air, the best snorkeling spots are in the north of the island.
You can easily spend a couple of days just chilling on the exotic beach underneath palms or book a nice resort with pool and relax there.
You can even visit a Volcano from Gili. Ask at a tour agency for a day trip to a volcano on Lombok island.
Which resort to stay at?
There are plenty of great resorts on Gili. Usually they offer a bungalow kind of accommodation. We definitely recommend to spend your time there in one of such places. On Gili Air we can recommend Banana Cottages only a few meters from the beach, which offers Bungalow with swimming pool and restaurant. The restaurant is okay, but you find really nice restaurants just along the beach.
There is no need to book your accommodation in advance. Even if you are travelling there during high season, you will find a place to stay there, which suits your needs. You can even walk from resort to resort and ask for prices, once you arrive there.
The best way to find the best deal on your accommodation is to book it one or two days before you are travelling there. This way you are flexible on your dates and you find the best last minute deals on booking.com – you can even filter for the best deals of the day and usually the price drops for rooms, which are still available at last minute.
Enjoy your time on Gili!