Everything You Need to Know
Planning a trip to Indonesia? We highly recommend spending a few days in the gorgeous Gili islands, located off the coasts of Bali and Lombok! We have broken down all the details about how to get there, where to stay, what to do and more in this Gili Trawangan travel guide!
As you may know, Indonesia is made up of over 17,000 islands, making it the most surreal place for the ultimate beach vacation. So where does one even begin with planning? Well, luckily a group of backpackers stumbled upon the breathtaking Gili islands back in the 90’s and put this little slice of paradise on the map! The islands are made up of Gili Trawangan (otherwise known as Gili T), Gili Meno and Gili Air, with Gili T being the largest and most popular of the three. With incredible diving, stunning beaches, lively nightlife & more, this is one paradise that you don’t want to miss. We’ve broken down all the details in our Gili Trawangan travel guide below.
The native language is Indonesian, which has a unique dialect in both Bali and the Gili Islands. But most people speak some level of English.
When To Visit
With an average daily temperature of 80 degrees fahrenheit, the Gili islands are gorgeous year round! But you will want to avoid the rainy season November through April.
Proof of COVID-19 vaccination OR proof of negative COVID-19 test if unvaccinated; Purchase a ‘visa on arrival’ at the Indonesian airport; Passport that is valid for 6 months from date of arrival; Additional health questionnaires may be required upon arrival
There is no airport on Gili Trawangan, so you will have to get there by boat. Luckily, the Gili Islands are easily reached by a plethora of speedboats and ferries from both Lombok (20 minutes) and Bali (90 minutes). Our recommendation? Book your transportation through a travel company, like Gili Getaway, to have all of the details taken care of for you. For about $50, your transportation from Bali to the Gili islands includes hotel pick up, 1.5+ hour drive to Padang Bai, and 1.5+ hour fast boat to the Gili islands.
*** As of October, 2022, fast boats are no longer allowed to pick up passengers from the Gili islands to return to Bali. If you book through a company, like Gili Getaway, they will arrange transportation via ferry to Lombok, then you will be picked up in Lombok by the fast boat. The process is fairly smooth, but be SURE to book plenty of time! We do not recommend trying to catch a flight the same day you return to Bali, just to be safe. ***
What To Expect
Is it Safe?
The Gili Islands are an extremely safe place to visit. You won’t face scams, violence, or pick-pocketing here. In fact, Indonesian people are some of the friendliest people we have ever met! That said, it’s always a good idea to keep your wits about you and make sure your valuables are secure and out of reach at all times.
Heels or no heels?
How do I get around?
One of our favorite parts about Gili Trawangan is that no motorized vehicles are allowed on the island! With this being the case, your options to get around include traveling on foot, via bike, or catching a ride in a horse-pulled cart (known as Cidomo). Horse carts are abundant and very easy to find – comparable to finding a taxi in NYC. If you are traveling with luggage, this is the best option. However, if you are traveling light, we highly recommend renting a bike and exploring the island! Bike rentals can be found all along the eastern side of the island, and run about 50,000 IDR a day.
If you would like to spend time at Gili Air or Gili Meno, ferry boats leave Gili Trawangan twice per day, at 9:30am and 4:00pm. It first stops at Gili Meno, then Gili Air, before heading back to Gili Trawangan. The one-way ride is about 50,000 IDR. It’s also possible to charter a private boat, which costs about 200,000 IDR one-way.
What about Money?
The local currency is the Indonesian Rupiah (IDR), and the numbers can be very confusing in comparison to USD. We recommend memorizing a few simple conversions to make things easier. For example: 15,000 IDR is about $1 USD ($0.96), 150,000 IDR is about $10 USD ($9.58), and 500,000 IDR is about $30 USD ($31.95).
Like most of Indonesia, Gili Trawangan is a very affordable destination, with the average daily price being around $30 / day. Whether traveling on a budget or looking for luxury, it will be difficult to break the bank. You can expect to pay around:
- Daily Bike Rental: 40,000 – 50,000 IDR / $2-3 USD
- Beer: 40,000 – 50,000 IDR / $2-3 USD
- Water Bottle: 17,000 IDR / $1.09 USD
- Happy Hour Drinks (Buy 1 Get 1 Free): 120,000 – 180,000 IDR ($7- $11 USD)
- 90 Minute Massage: 150,000 IDR ( $10 USD)
- Mid-range to Fancy Meals: 30,000 – 175,000 IDR ($1.92 – $11.18 USD)
While many places include a 5-10% service fee, tipping is not expected on top of this. However, if you receive excellent service and wish to leave a tip, it will always be appreciated.
Cash or Credit Cards?
It is very important to come to the Gili Islands with a decent amount of cash! Majority of places do not accept credit cards of any kind (especially not amex), and ATMs can be surprisingly hard to come by.
As the biggest and most popular island for tourism, Gili T has a lot to offer those who are ready to party! Between the nightly parties, pub crawls, bonfire parties, hostel parties, beach parties & more, this is the place to be if you love meeting new people. In addition to the social scene, the island is more developed than the others, offering a plethora of delicious restaurants, bars, live music, accommodations, dive shops, shopping, tourist activities, etc, ranging from budget to high end luxury. The island also offers great dive spots and access to Turtle Point.
East Side: The East side of the island, near the pier, is the main strip where all the action happens. This is where you will find the nightlife scene, live music, restaurants, dive shops, excursions & more. It is the place to be if you are after an action packed vacation.
West Side: The west side of the island is much quieter, offering luxurious resorts and the best sunset views on the island. If you are after a relaxing, tranquil vacation, this is where we would recommend staying. But keep in mind that you will need to rent a bike or a horse cart any time you want to go into town to shop, eat, drink and explore.
Known as the ‘Honeymooners island’, Gili Meno is the quietest of all three islands and is a popular spot for couples in search of romance. The beaches here are lovely but you will find less options when it comes to accommodations and restaurants. Once again diving is a popular pastime on this island or you can check out the turtle sanctuary and release your own baby turtle into the sea.
If Gili Meno is too quiet and Gili T is too wild for you, then Gili Air is likely to be the perfect fit. Even without the nightlife scene and tourism of Gili T, this island still offers a number of wonderful restaurants and events to keep you entertained. Additionally, this is a great place to stay if you are visiting to get some serious diving done, as many of the sites are close by.
The first decision you need to make is whether you are after a relaxing vacation on the secluded west side of the island, or an action-packed vacation on the east side of the island. Regardless, the ferry will drop you off on the east side of the island at the pier. From here, you can walk to your hotel on the east side, or catch a horse cart to get yourself and your luggage over to the west side. In terms of accommodations, the west side is home to the majority of the luxurious & spacious resorts. But honestly, there are so many accommodation options that many people show up to the Gili islands without booking anything in advance. Here’s a few of our top recommendations.
Things To Do
Get Adventurous with Water sports
This beachy paradise offers endless water sports! Between parasailing, water-skiing, wakeboarding, paddleboarding, kayaking, subwing & more, there truly is something for everyone.
Hit the Beaches
The Gili Islands have postcard-perfect beaches with white sand and clear, warm waters in a brilliant shade of turquoise. It’s really a beach paradise here. Some of the beaches, particularly on Gili T, have sun loungers for use by customers of the bar, restaurant, hotel, or dive shop or you can just rock up with a towel.
The food scene in Indonesia is heavily influenced by a number of cultures, including Chinese, Indian and Malay cuisines – YUM. Across the islands you will find a wide range of dining options, from delicious & affordable local markets, to upscale options. Regardless, you can expect to pay 30,000-75,000 IDR per meal. A few dishes we highly recommend trying include: chicken satay, babi guling (roasted suckling pig), oxtail soup, nasi goreng (stir-fried rice with chicken, egg, and vegetables) and mie goreng (spicy fried noodle dish with garlic, onion, meat, egg, and vegetables).
Located on the north side of the island, this peaceful restaurant serves local dishes, seafood, and tapas-style plates. With affordable prices around 30,000 IDR per tapa, we recommend trying a variety of dishes!
Home of the best BBQ on the island! Dine right on the beach at this quintessential Gili T dining spot, known for their incredible seafood platters and wide array of kebabs.
A local favorite and some of the best value on the island! Tucked away on a quiet road, Jali serves up a mix of Asian and western dishes, including stir fries, Asian salads, burgers, wraps, curries & more. Take a seat in the alfresco dining area next to the resort pool under trees and hanging lanterns.
This west side beach bar and restaurant is home to some of the best desserts on the island! With plenty of lounge space (beach blankets, cushions, swings, hammocks, benches, tables and more), it is also one of the best spots for a sunset and a nightly bonfire!
Drink Spots and Nightlife
As we mentioned, Gili T is a party island and it is so much fun! Most of the nightlife activities happen on the eastern side of the island, so if that’s what you’re here for, be sure to book your accommodation near the Gili Trawangan harbor. Now, you may be wondering – how do we know which bars to go to? Luckily, there’s a different party each night – Monday (Blue Marlin), Tuesday (Jiggy Bar), Wednesday (Irish bar), Friday (Sand Bar), Saturday (Sama Sama) and Sunday (Evolution). A few other places to check out include Malibu Beach Club, The Exile, Mad Monkey (pool parties Tuesdays and Fridays), Lava Bar, and Jungle.
The Gili Islands are an absolute gem and a must-not-miss spot on your Indonesia vacation. Between the crystal clear waters, pristine beaches, snow-white sand, nightlife scene, authentic culture, and endless activities, there truly is something for everyone to enjoy. Thanks for reading our Gili Trawangan Travel Guide! Head over to our destinations page for more!