Quick Guide To Gili Islands

The Gili Islands are an archipelago of 3 very small islands – Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air – situated northeast of Bali. Gili Trawangan is the largest (you can walk the island around in just 2 – 3 hours) and the busiest. It is said to be the party island and it is not recommended for people in search of peace and loneliness – this is what I was reading about that island before visiting it – and now that I stayed there, I don’t agree at all with those stereotypes. Gili Trawangan is for everyone – for young people craving parties, for newlyweds, for families with children, for solo travellers in search of peace, for those with a very tight budget as well as for people looking for a luxury stay on a paradise island. It is much cheaper than Bali, the water is warmer and there’s only white sand on every beach.
Gili Meno and Gili Air are much smaller and a lot quiter – I would recommend those two for people who really want to disconnect from the world, spend some time in their own company or with their partner.

WHEN TO VISIT

The best time to visit Gili Islands is out of season – the same time you would visit Bali or other location in Indonesia. You can negotiate prices and get good discounts. When it comes to the weather, it is recommended to travel to Gili during dry season (from May till September), however, even in the wet monsoon (from October to April) it is likely to be sunny for most of the day, but this depends on your luck.
Out of season period with good weather would be May and June.

HOW TO GET THERE

From Bali or from Lombok – depends on where you’re staying. If you’re on Lombok and travelling on a budget, you can just take a local boat, since the distance is quite short and the price is low.
If you’re on Bali, you can either choose to take a fast boat from Amed or from Padang Bai (I wouldn’t recommend taking a public boat from Bali unless you have lots of time and little money to spend – it costs around IDR 40,000, but the overall trip with a stop in Lombok would take around 8 hours). You don’t have to spend a night in Amed or Padang Bai, you can simply hire a travel agent to take you there the same day of the departure. Most travelers take a shuttle bus from Kuta, Denpasar, Sanur or any other location in the south of the island, which takes them to Padang Bai. Everything is organized by a travel agent from whom you bought the fast boat tickets.

This is one that I highly recommend – he’s very reliable, responsible, easy-going and flexible when it comes to negotiations (proven by myself) – he’s a young guy, working for himself together with another one who takes care of his beach stand in Kuta Beach, whenever he’s away taking tourists on different trips. You can contact him via Facebook as well.

WHERE TO BUY TICKETS
You can buy/reserve your fast boat tickets from any travel agent – by travel agents I mean guys with street or beach stands in Kuta. You can also ask at your hotel’s reception desk if they have a trusted travel agent (just bear in mind that you can get return fast boat tickets for as little as IDR 500,000-550,000). You may buy them directly at any fast boat office in the port, but it is quite possible you won’t be able to travel the same day since the fast boats gets full pretty fast (especially in the high season).
TIP: ask prices in different places, the price stated on the leaflet given away by the fast boat companies can be up to 50% lower out of season (you just have to negotiate the price). Don’t believe the official Tourist Information Office in terms of fast boat rates because they won’t be honest with you – they will tell you that the price stated on the leaflet is correct. YOU HAVE TO NEGOTIATE THE PRICE – if a travel agent doesn’t want to negotiate (quite impossible), just go to another one.
WARNING: If you’re afraid of being deceived when buying the fast boat tickets, simply ask to pay in the fast boat office located in the port (you will get the reservation confirmation only and a shuttle bus to the port where you will pay for your fast boat tickets). Make sure to be given the right tickets and the bills that prove you had paid for both the shuttle bus and the fast boat.

WHERE TO STAY

There are different types of accomodation – from cheap hostels and family-run small kind of hotels (no hot water) to comfortable classy resorts far from the centre (Gili Trawangan).

TIP: If you’re travelling on a budget and out of season, don’t book your accomodation in advance – you can negotiate prices with people selling their own accomodation in the port, or just go along the beach and you’ll encounter hostels and other accomodation options (much cheaper than on Booking.com).

RECOMMENDED LENGTH OF STAY: 2-3 nights

GETTING AROUND

On foot – it’s the best way to explore the island (Gili Trawangan) – you will just need 2-3 hours to walk around the whole island, and besides the distances between hostels/accomodation and the beach are very very short. 
Another option is to rent a bike, which in my opinion is quite uncomfortable since there are some parts of the island that you have to walk it through the beach, and besides you will miss great views because it’s more than probable you won’t stop every 2 minutes when riding a bike.
Horses – be conscious and look at them before you choose to fatigue him…

WHAT TO DO on Gili Trawangan
Relax on the beach – white sand and warm turquoise water are a perfect invitation to spend a long relaxing day on the beach and recharge your energy.
Walk around the island – you have to do it at least once – you will see how it differs on the other side and you will keep yourself fit.
Sunset watching – just follow the sun – once you see it, you just can’t stop and you’ll return the next day and so on until you leave the island. If you want to be comfortable and get some beers waiting for the sun to set, I recommend you a nice place on the beach with pouffes (be sure to get there around 17:00 since the sun sets around 18:00 and if you arrive late, you won’t get a place).

Snorkelling on the coast – Gili Islands are famous for their beautiful coral reefs and rich marine life, so grab your snorkelling stuff (if you don’t have it, you can rent it) and go explore the underwater world.
Snorkelling trip – There’s a one day snorkelling trip offered by different companies on Gili Trawangan (negotiate price with and without lunch). You have a chance to get to know Gili Meno and Gili Air (always make sure that you get what you want) and of course to see awesome coral reefs, sea turtles and numerous colourful fish.

 Shop on Gili Meno
Main street on Gili Meno
I recommend you to book your trip here (you can also book your flight ticket, fast boat ticket and any other trip. Their commissions are really low in comparison to others) (proven by myself):

Diving – If you have a diving license, just go for it – you can discover much more – snappers, angelfish, clownfish, parrotfish, lionfish, lobsters, green turtles, puffer fish as well as whitetip and blacktip reef sharks – it’s really worth it. If you don’t have a license, you can take a short diving class and get a permission to go on a diving trip.
I recommend Blue Marlin Dive for PADI courses at all levels as well as dive trips – I didn’t do it myseld cause I was a little afraid I wouldn’t handle it, but my friend did a quick course with them and he was very content.
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