The Gili Islands: Which Is The Best Island For You And How To Get There
Are you planning a trip to the tropical splendour of the Gili Islands? You’ve probably been wondering which Island suits you best, or the easiest way to get there… In this post, we answer all your questions and guide you to a perfect sunny holiday!
Located off the northwest corner of Lombok, Gili islands are three unspoiled isles where the sand is still powdery white, the water a clear sparkling turquoise, and a breath of fresh air we city folks can only dream of.
One thing which helps preserve this pristine, delicate ecosystem is that the islands are non-motorised. So you’re not dodging speeding vehicles or having your eardrums perforated by loud horns as you walk down the streets. Transportation here mostly happens on bicycles or horse carts, locally known as ‘Cidomos’. You can hire any of these services but do remember to bargain for the price to avoid getting fleeced.
Which Is The Best Island For You?
This is not really a question of the best Gili island out of the three. Instead, it’s about figuring out the one that suits your style of travel the most. It also depends on the reason you’re travelling to these islands. Are you looking to party hard amid epic views of nature? Or do you just want to get away from the madding crowd on the main island? Or maybe you’re looking for the perfect spot under the sun to spend some quality time with your special someone.
Each of these Islands has a distinct personality, so choose wisely!
Gili Trawangan — A Party Paradise
If you’re looking for the best party scenes away from the main island of Bali and want to dance your nights away — Gili T is the place to be! The largest of them all, this island has a super friendly atmosphere with people happily mingling with each other! Don’t be surprised if you keep bumping into familiar faces around the island. Each night of the week, a different place hosts a party, and everyone turns up at the same venue. If partying long hours is not your jam, worry not as the island is also home to one of the best places to learn diving. Gili Trawangan is one of the cheapest and safest places in the world to do so, with many renowned dive schools to choose from.
Despite its reputation, the Island does have a quieter side to it as well. Head to the North of the island to find a place best suited for couples and families. Scuba trips, diving classes, yoga, and sunbathing are just some of the things to keep you busy here. People interested in snorkeling or exploring the island’s marine life can find many activities and services that will take them underwater for a truly splendid experience.
Gili Meno — The Island Of Love
From the biggest to the smallest — Gili Meno is one of the most sought-after romantic getaways in the region. It boasts of some of the best beaches in the archipelago, with squat trees fringed by crystal clear water. From the second you get off the boat, love will meet your eyes in every direction, given that this island draws honeymooners in droves. This becomes all the more apparent when you see that the waterfront is teeming with thatched-roof huts made for two. Unspoiled by the masses, the island is never overcrowded, affording much-needed privacy for couples.
Gili Meno has just a handful of restaurants and lodging options to choose from, so you will have to dive into the local cuisine here. The island’s main attractions include the Bird Park, Turtle Sanctuary, and the safest diving sites even for a novice – the Meno Wall. You can find locals renting out snorkelling gear and bicycles on the main strip of the Island, but do remember to haggle for the best price, and make sure the equipment is in good condition.
The nightlife scene on this island is pretty much non-existent, outside of resort bars and restaurants. So if partying after sundown is important to you, Gili Meno should not be on your itinerary.
Gili Air — Every Beach Lovers Dream
Gili Air is the best of both worlds, a perfect blending of the other two islands. During the day, the quiet and peace here will truly give you a chance to appreciate the paradise you are in. At night, the island transforms, as the bars and restaurants fill up with people. While most of the places here have a chilled-out ambiance, there are several options for people who want to dance the night away. There are also full-blown moon parties that take place once a month.
The calm waters of Gili Air are a welcome sight for divers and snorkelling enthusiasts. The bright coral reefs here make for an excellent underwater experience and can’t be recommended enough. This island also boasts of unmatched views. It is the only place where you can enjoy uninterrupted views of Lombok’s mountainous northern coast. The scenic view of the sea, the sun, the sand, and the calming sounds of the waves could well be the best soul-cleansing experience one can ask for on any of the Gili Islands.
How To Reach The Gili Islands
Before you embark on your journey to the Gili Islands, you first need to make your way to the main Island of Bali. From there, you have a range of options to choose from, like the budget-friendly public ferries to stylish private charters and a fancy helicopter ride.
1. Public Ferry
The public ferry leaves from Padang Bai to Lombok every hour but can take as long as five hours of additional travel time. From there, it’s another slow public ferry which takes two hours to go from Lombok to the Gili Islands, making it an eight hour one-way trip.
The only upside of this service is that it costs just INR 200 (IDR 40,000) per person. A perfect option for travellers with more time than money.
2. Fast Boats
Hopping on a fast boat from Bali to Gili Islands is the most convenient, and quickest, way of commuting. You can opt for this service from two places in Bali, Padang Bai, and Amed. The journey takes 2.5 – 3 hours depending on the weather. Don’t forget to account for the time it will take you to reach the port (Sanur Port) from your hotel in Bali. We recommend you customize your itinerary in a way that allows you to have ample time to explore the beautiful Gili Islands.
3. Padang Bai
Most fast boats from Padang Bai to Gili Islands operate from 9 AM to 9:30 AM. The best option to reach Padang Bai are the shuttle buses from Kuta, as the service is reliable and light on the wallet. Board the ferry at Kuta and enjoy the scenic views as you are transported to the Gili islands. The journey costs INR 2530 (IDR 5,04,789) and takes around 1.5 hours to complete.
A three-hour drive from Denpasar, Amed is a hidden gem that needs to be explored. Crossing the Lombok Strait from here takes just 45 minutes, making it the fastest way to reach the Gili Islands. If you have the time and want to explore this wonderful place before heading to your final destination, we recommend you make this detour. Fast boats by Pacha Express depart at 9 AM and 4 PM every day, costing around INR 3450 (IDR 6,88,223).
5. Private Air Charters
The perfect option for people who want to arrive in style to see Bali and Gilis from a splendid aerial view that will leave anyone mesmerized. Air Bali provides private helicopter charters – called the ‘Gilicopter’ – which operates only on Fridays and Sundays. The 45-minute ride costs INR 71,500 (IDR 1,42,65,784) per person. The helicopter can accommodate 5 people with a maximum of 23 kilos of luggage per person.
Good To Know
Swimming and Snorkeling
The ideal places for swimming and snorkelling are along the main beach areas. You can rent the equipment for the same by the hour or day, from any of the kiosks in the street. The best place for this would be the 7 PADI and SSI dive centers. Glass bottom boat trips offer views of the corals and are available between the three Gili islands. The marine life here is rich with several exotic species of fish and corals and, of course, lots of turtles. Please be mindful of the sensitive coral reefs here: don’t try to touch them. Help preserve the beauty of the island so that others can enjoy the same views of mother nature.
Please carry enough cash before you reach the Gili islands. There are no ATMs here, except for one that recently opened in Gili Trawangan. Electronic payment is available at all the big hotels and dive centers but an additional 3% bank charge is levied. (Visa and MasterCard credit cards are accepted at most establishments.)
Due to the secluded location of the Gilis, mobile phone reception is poor. There are shops where you can pay for making International calls. There are also a good number of internet cafes on Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air, all charging approximately the same (around INR 2.50 or IDR 500 per minute). Speed and connectivity differ from island to island.
Ready to pack your bags and visit the beautiful Gili Islands? Start planning your trip with Ithaka and get the best deals on customized itineraries designed just for you.