Gili Islands: A Guide To the Gili Islands in Indonesia + A Photo Diary
Planning a trip to Bali? Add a side trip to the Gili Islands!
Two days after arriving in Bali, a traveller named Martie who was staying at my guesthouse asked me if I wanted to go to the Gili Islands. At the time, I was not jiving with Bali. My friend Michelle who was living in Sydney at the time mentioned the islands and suggested I go.
Even though I had just met Martie I agreed to go with her. We walked to a tour desk around the corner and booked our ferry tickets to the Gili Islands the next day. People suggested to just book a place when we arrived on the islands, so we didn’t reserve anything in advance.
The next morning a van picked us up in Legian. From Legian, we drove to the port town called Padang Bai, which is about an hour and a half away. We arrived early for the “ferry”, so Martie and I sat in a cafe and ordered food while we were waiting. We had a quick look around the area but Padang Bai just seemed like it was a jumping point to go to Lombok or the Gili Islands.
Arriving in the Gili Islands, you will notice no motorized transport on the island. You will only see bicycles or horse carts. The three islands themselves are very small and you can walk around then in about an hour and a half or less each. The Gili Islands is not a place I originally planned to go to but recommend. The three different islands provide a completely different vibe so any kind of traveller or group of travellers can have an amazing time.
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Tips And Info For The Gili Islands
Buying Your Tickets For The Gilis
- If you walk around the main roads in Bali, you will see travel desks that sell tickets to the Gili Islands. If you prefer not to barter for prices and like everything done for you, ask your accommodations to help you book tickets. You won’t get the best price but there is always someone in Bali you can hire to help you.
- Martie and I were only in Bali a couple of days so we didn’t barter hard for the price of our tickets. After spending four months in Bali, I learned that we overpaid for our tickets. Some travellers that I met haggled their way down to roughly 450,000 Indonesian Rupiahs.
- If you purchase a ticket usually it comes with transportation to the port plus the boat ticket. There are other points of departure for the Gilis but Padang Bai is the most popular. Other ports are in Amed in the northeast or Serangan which is closer to the Bukit peninsula.
- When you depart for the Gilis, a van will come and pick you up at your accommodations. The ride to the port at Padang Bai is about an hour and a half.
- While you wait for other passengers, there are vendors selling fruit and snacks or you can sit in one of the cafes to have something to eat.
- The “fast ferry” is really just a bigger speed boat, at least the one I rode.
- Sailing time to the Gili Islands should be 2 hours, more or less depending on the sea conditions.
- Please note that if you’re riding on the top of the ferry, it gets very very wet. I recommend sitting inside. The ride is not very relaxing and gets quite bumpy. I was hoping to take a nap but that was impossible.
- Gili Trawangan is the busiest out of the three islands. It is known to be the “party” island and where the most budget accommodations are located. There are higher ends resorts here as well.
- Gili Meno and Gili Air are quieter than Gili Trawangan and it is where couples, honeymooners, and travellers seeking a quieter vibe usually stay.
- When you arrive on the islands you will notice no motorized transport. If you have heavy bags you may want to hire a horse cart or a cidomo but those tend to be expensive. Before travelling to the Gilis, perhaps back a smaller bag or backpack. When I went I left my luggage with my guesthouse in Bali.
Things To Do
- You can take a boat from any of the islands to the others for the day. There’s a stall where you can buy a ticket for cheap. From my recollection, we left Gili Trawangan around 9 am. The little ferry would return by 3 pm. You can hire a private driver as well but I don’t know the costs for that.
- If you’re interested in snorkelling or diving there are many companies that will take you out for excursions or teach you how to dive on the islands. You can rent masks and fins from many outfitters right on the beach.
- My friend and I rented bicycles for half a day and cycled around Gili Trawangan. I recommend this and stopping at different points to shoot photos or to have a Bintang beer at a warung. Please note there are some sandy spots which are hard to bike on and you will have to get off your bike and walk it to a smoother surface.
- It’s possible to surf in the Gilis but you have to go out by boat to some of the reefs. There are no breaks close to the island.
- Watch a sunset at many of the beach bars.
- The main thing to do in the Gili Islands is nothing so if you’re the type that needs a full itinerary and can’t relax, then perhaps just visit for a day or two max. I do think to really enjoy the islands, a stay of 3 days or more is ideal that way you can see all islands and just chill out.
Where To Stay
- There are many different kinds of accommodations from basic and budget to a higher end.
- While my friend and I stayed in very budget accommodations with no fresh water or air conditioning, we did only spend $18US a night. Staying in a budget place wasn’t too hot or unbearable since we had fans in our room. My only gripe was that we didn’t have fresh water in our guesthouse. So we had to take saltwater showers which is pretty much the same as swimming in the sea and not cleaning off. After a few days of this, I needed to get back to Bali so I could take a shower. Luckily we met some friends who stayed in a higher end hotel and we got to shower after we swam in their pool.
- Don’t forget to barter for your transportation ticket to the Gili Islands.
- Pack a smaller bag or backpack for your time in the Gilis. No need to lug around your big luggage or backpack. If you can, leave it with your accommodations in Bali.
- The ferry ride to the Gilis is very wet. Protect your expensive camera and tech gear in a dry bag like this.
- Don’t forget to bring all of your camera gear (GoPro cameras are perfect for the Gilis), chargers, and your tech gear.
- Do not eat at the street carts on the Gilis. All of my friends and I got ill. Pack some Immodium, charcoal pills, and any stomach meds with you.
- If you don’t want to be on a snorkel boat all day, you can rent a mask and fins and just snorkel off the beaches and you can often see turtles and other marine life. You don’t have to go on a boat unless you want to go diving.
- Most of the budget accommodations don’t have fresh water, it’s salt water showers.
- There is no police on the islands.
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