The Gili Islands lie just to the northwest of the island of Lombok, and are pretty easy to get to from Bali and Lombok. Their motto?
‘No cars, no motorbikes, no worries!’
Their are 3 islands, Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air. The largest island with the most to do is Gili Trawangan, otherwise known as Gili T. I’d recommend staying here, and getting a boat out to see the other islands.
Don’t bother booking your accommodation before you arrive, instead, when you get off the boat, have a wander around and see whats on offer! There are plenty of amazing hotels and hostels on Gili that will give you great prices when you arrive, usually about $10 a night. From when you get off the boat on the beach, there will be people offering accommodation, by all means, if they are offering a good price and a nice place, tell them you’ll come and see their hotel and decide when you see a room. Otherwise, walk from the beach to the main road, then try to go one street back from the main road. Along here you will find plenty of places to sleep that will be a lot cheaper than the offers you see online.
Beach bars. Beach bars as far as the eyes can see! All along the coast are beautiful little restaurants, bars and cafes awaiting your presence. Take your pick! I’ve probably eaten at all of them by now. Some are cheaper, some are more romantic.. just take a stroll along the beach, ask to see a menu and find one that suits you.
The night markets are a great option for budget travelers to get together and have some great food. The warung style outdoor dining area is beautiful under the moonlight, and with heaps of options to choose from to eat, I’m sure everyone in your party will be happy, especially with the entire stall dedicated to desserts. Definitely try the pancakes with chocolate sprinkles, damn I still dream about those things.
Gili T has a bit of a reputation of being the party island out of the Gili’s. If you want to have dinner then retreat back to your hotel, no worries, but if you want to keep the party raging, we got cha covered.
The bars on Gili have a rotating party roster, so that each night there is one bar that is designated to host the main party on the island. This ensures that all the travelers and locals who are keen to keep the night rolling on are in the same bar! Often these parties end up on the beach with fire twirling. Ask at your accommodation or a local bar for where to be that night or just follow the music!
If you are a beer drinker, you are set. However if you’re a weirdo like me and still haven’t gotten into beer (I know, I wish I liked it, I really do), then you may be stuck drinking vodka cruisers or a similar! While you can purchase mixed drinks like vodka and rums, do so with caution. Some venues in order to save money take out the original liquor and replace it with cheap home-made alcohol called Arak. This is dangerous as these alcohols can be extremely potent and even deadly. Here is an article about Arak poisoning on Gili T. To keep safe, I recommend buying duty free alcohol when you arrive in Indonesia at the airport. That way you can just purchase mixers or a nice fresh fruit juice off a street vendor and spice it up yourself so you know exactly what you are drinking (vodka and rum work best for this). If you still want to purchase drinks at the bar, go for a beer or a pre-mixed drink that is in a single bottle. Most places do not serve cider unfortunatly.
The Gili’s may be the perfect place to relax, but it also offers plenty to do.
Since there are no cars or motorbikes, why not hire a bike and go for a ride around the island! You can cycle around the whole island of Gili T in less than an hour. Renting a bike is a great way to see the whole island and find the best secluded beaches. The other gili’s are smaller and can be walked around (they have more non-paved areas too so it’s hard to ride a bike around Air and Meno).
You can hire donkey carts (cidomos) but I wouldn’t recommend this as with any animal tourism, you can never be sure how the animals are treated and therefore it is best not to support it. These donkeys are usually in the hot sun all day and are worked extremely hard. Besides, cycling or walking is a great way to burn off all those cocktails.
Try to find the Ombok Sunset swing, and hopefully if the tide is right you’ll get to have a little swing in the ocean! It is located approximately a 15 minute bike ride from the main strip towards the north of the island.
Gili T is very big on turtle conservation. Dino’s cafe along the main strip works to keep the turtle populations healthy. Collected eggs are put in their secure incubation area, and then once hatched, are kept in holding tanks until they are large enough to be released into the ocean. Don’t touch the turtles but go and have a look at the little turtles growing in their tanks!
There are plenty of tours offered by local street vendors to scuba, snorkel, stand up paddle board, surf, and more. So have a look around and see which tour/ equipment hire you might like. It’s always a good idea to shop around and get to know the prices before you buy.
To get to the islands, try to book with someone on the street, most people will know someone who can get you a good deal. The first time I went to Gili I booked online, the second time I got the boat for about half the cost by booking with a friend of our motorbike guide in Ubud. If you prefer to have everything pre-arranged, you can book the Gili Gili Fast Boat online. They have a deck on top that you can lounge on and watch the ocean as you zoom to the island! From Bali it takes approx 30 minutes and from Lombok approx 15 minutes.
The Indonesian people are so friendly and outgoing. They are always ready and willing to have a joke and tell you about their life and their home. Make the most of it! It is easy to make friends in Indonesia and especially the Gili islands, and the locals will give you great information about who can give you the best deals.