I spent 3 magical days exploring the Gili islands, and all I can say, it’s that I want to go back!
Getting to the Gili islands is easy, and you can take a boat either from Bali (Padang Bai Port) or from Lombok Bangsal port. There are many companies selling tickets in the port. The speedboats go through the ports twice per day, but from Lombok are local normal boats to the Gili islands, they cost 25 000 IDR ~1.5 Eur (December 2019).
Beware of the crazy boat ticket seller for the Gili islands
If you want to go around the Gili islands, there 2 boats per day (10 am and 4 pm). The route is Gili Air, Gili Meno, Gili Trawangan. I paid 40 000 IDR To get from Gili Air to Gili Trawangan in December 2019. The prices and the schedule for this small, local boat should be listed on the ticket office in the port.
The issue is with the speed boat, which
In either one of these ports, you have to take care, not act too friendly and beware of the strolling boat ticket sellers. They all try to sell you a ticket to their company. Actually, there are a bunch of companies offering the same itinerary, at the same hours, and the prices are similar. The conditions may differ a bit, but most of the times, if the sea is calm, there shouldn’t be any problems.
The point is to not buy your tickets in a rush. Ask around, ask a local or google it (that last one didn’t help me too much, but maybe more info will
There are many sellers on the street and they all want to sell you tickets before you realize what you are buying. I suggest you don’t reply to them before you are sure what you want. Maybe you can even bargain.
I was planning to go back to Bali from Gili Air by boat, and one crazy seller convinced me to buy a ticket from the port in Lombok, saying it would be much more expensive if I buy it from Gili.
Day 1 – Arriving on the Gili islands. Accommodation on Gili Air
I arrive around 1 pm on Gili Air. From the port, many locals will try to convince you to ride the carriage to your hotel. I don’t feel comfortable with that, especially when animals are involved. As long as I can walk, I will. And that I did. My accommodation was 10 minutes away from the port anyway. The downside was that the sidewalk was broken here and there, which made it a bit hard to carry my luggage, but not impossible.
The island is small, and you can basically walk around it, or rent a bike for 50k IDR for a couple of hours. it was 100k IDR for the entire day. Although it sounds lovely, at midday it was so hot, I couldn’t stand the sun anymore.
I stayed at Lucky’s Bungalows and it was perfect. Budget-friendly and awesome! You can find them on Airbnb they are right on the beach. You could just live on the beach for 1 week. It’s truly paradise. And this part of the island has the best view of the sunset.
If I would choose a perfect place to watch the sunset, it would be on Gili Air. And even if you choose any other accommodation in Gili Air or on the other Gili islands, you can walk around and sit on one of the bars, order a beer and enjoy your time.
So after you arrive, you will want to take a shower, relax by the pool, and in the late afternoon rent a bike and go round the island. I was too tired and the sun was burning so bad, I could get out of the shades.
To be fair, you have to go and explore, when the sun is up. That is when the sea has the most beautiful turquoise colour.
The tide is an important thing around the Gili islands and until 3 pm there isn’t much of this beautiful water.
The Gili islands are a popular vacation place for Europeans, Australians and Americans. That’s why it’s easy to find a variety of restaurants, but western food will always be pricey compared to the local one. If you look for a local Warung and eat the local food, you will pay for around 50k IDR (~3 Eur). If you choose international food, prepare to pay for a meal around 9 Euros.
Then find a nice beach bar and relax, watch the amazing sunset, drink a Bintang or a fresh juice and have dinner on the beach. Life doesn’t get better than this.
Day 2 – Snorkelling around the Gili islands
The second day on the Gili islands, I went for snorkelling. The touristic agencies from the port and on the beach all want to sell you ticket boats to Bali and Lombok and diving and snorkelling trips. That’s all that happens on the Gili islands.
As anywhere in Indonesia, some might try to ask you for more, so maybe you can ask around and bargain. Our host from Lucky’s was also organizing snorkelling trips. We had to be ready at 9 am for the trip. We got back at around 2 pm. The trip cost was 100k IDR (~6 Eur), including snorkelling equipment, but it did not include lunch.
They have a map to show you the snorkelling places, and I think they know the best. You go around the Gili islands, finding the best places to snorkel. I saw amazing colourful
The last place was full of beautiful banks of fish, but there was trash floating on the water. It made me a bit sick and I had to get out of the water fast.
We got back to Gili Air around 2 pm. Just in time for a shower and afternoon nap. During noon there isn’t much happening on the islands, due to the burning sun. The humidity is at its peak, the is barely any shades anywhere and the sand is burning.
Relaxing at the pool is another option for lazy afternoons.
The sunset is at 6 pm so be ready for it a bit earlier. Most get to the beach at around 5 and eat their dinner there or have a drink.
Day 3 – Exploring Gili Trawangan from the Gili islands
Rise and shine, eat your pancake and get ready to explore the Gilis islands.
The local boat that connects
The boat ride takes 30 minutes, but it depends on the weather. Chances are you will get a bit wet. I remember that boat ride to be a bit scary, as the waves were plenty and it was shaking and swinging. I don’t know much about boats but there were moments I thought that boat could overturn. Luckily, it didn’t. As I read more on the topic, locals are used to this kind of situations and don’t stress too much. If I were you, I would buy a waterproof backpack. And learn how to swim in the sea.
Gili Trawangan is more of a bigger brother of Gili Air, full of budget and luxurious accommodations, bars and restaurants. Here you can rent a bike a few hours (it was 50k IDR from 10 30 to 14) and bike around the island. The alley is not at its best shape. Many parts were flooded with sand and you have to carry your bike. Some parts were under reconstruction.
We stopped for a beer, and to take shelter under some trees. The noon sun is too hot to bear. If you decided to visit the Gili islands just for midday, note that the water is not at its best. The low tide is visible until around 3 pm. But after that, I can guarantee you will witness some of the most beautiful beaches and blue waters you’ll ever see.
Gili Trawangan has also a spot for watching sea turtles, but they are only visible after 4 pm when the tide comes back.
The boat was almost on time and we were back on Gili Air just in time for a shower and another sunset photo session.
Day 4 – Speedboat from the Gili Islands to Bali
I am still confused and I have no idea which to recommend, as most have not so great reviews. I took Ganggari which has some average reviews but my friends took EKA JAYA and it looked more like a boat you want to get on. What I do recommend is to ask around and bargain on the price. This will not be cheap and in the peak season, the seats could be sold out.
Others recommend flying to Lombok and then transfer from the airport to the port and then take the short ride with the local fishing boat. They say the boats are unreliable. It’s up to you.
My experience with the boat was good, but there are some horror stories on the internet. The boats offer free transfer from the port in Bali to various destinations: Kuta, Ubud etc. But you have to be really careful. The moment you will step out of the boat in Bali, the taxi drivers will start to harass you. I took my luggage, ignored everyone and kept on walking to the mainland, looking for the office of my boat agency. There were some people holding signs with my agency’s name on them. I followed them and got to the office. They asked me where I was going and pointed towards which shuttles and driver should I follow. I waited for 10 minutes more and then we were in the shuttle heading to Ubud. Free of charge.
Unfortunately, local taxi drivers can be really annoying and will try to
The rest of my time in Indonesia I spent in Bali, based in Ubud, and taking some day trips to temples and waterfalls. What I also recommend, but I had no time to see, is Nusa Penida. And yes, you can take a day trip from Bali and explore Nusa Penida in one day!
Here is a short, 1-minute video I made with the highlights of my trip to the Gili islands.
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