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The famous Gili Islands in Indonesia are the 3 islands of Gili Trawangan (also known as Gili T), Gili Air and Gili Meno.
The Gili Islands are popular for all sorts of people to visit from backpackers who want to party, holidaymakers who want a luxury holiday, people who want to chill, dive, do yoga, and much more!
I have spent many months living in Gili Trawangan so in this Gili Islands Blog and Gili Islands Travel Guide I am going to give you all the information you need to know about visiting the Gili Islands and my top Gili Island travel tips!
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More of my Must-Read Gili Island Blog Posts to Plan Your Trip:
Are the Gili Islands in Bali?
The biggest misconception about the Gili Islands of Indonesia is that they are in Bali. They are not. They are part of Lombok which is the biggest island next door to Bali.
Although it is very easy to get to the Gili Islands from Bali, Bali is not the Gili Islands!
Aside from the location of the 3 Gili Islands being closer to Lombok, the biggest way to see ‘are the Gili Islands in Bali?’ is the difference in religion. Bali is primarily Hindu whereas Lombok is Muslim and all 3 Gili Islands are also Muslim.
Where are the Gili Islands?
The 3 Gili Islands of Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno are off the coast of North-West Lombok which can be seen in the Gili Islands Map above, and these are the islands I am going to tell you about in this Gili Islands travel blog.
However, it’s worth knowing that in Indonesian ‘Gili’ means ‘Small Island’ so there are actually many more Gili Islands in Indonesia, but they are not as populated or as visited, some are even some are uninhabited.
More Gili Islands in Lombok are: Gili Layar, Gili Rengit, Gili Kedis, Gili Kondo, Gili Kapal, Gili Sudak, Gili Nanggu and Gili Lampu.
You can do day trips to these secret Gili Islands from Lombok! If you like to get off the beaten path and go where most tourists don’t be sure to look into one of these day trips below which you can do from Lombok after you have visited the main Gili Islands!
Best Time to Visit the Gili Islands
Wet Season on the Gili Islands is from November to March and Dry Season is from April to October. You may think that dry season sounds more appealing but this also means it is high season on the Gili Islands during these months which means it will be busier and accommodation prices may go up.
Luckily the wet season in the Gili Islands isn’t as bad as it is in nearby Lombok and Bali and somehow these 3 islands miss a lot of the rain. The wettest months are January and February.
Personally, I’d recommend the shoulder months as the best time to visit the Gili Islands– November, December and April bring less rain and also fewer tourists! Win win.
Which Gili Island is Best For Me?
If you have limited time in Indonesia and want to know – which Gili Island is best? It depends who you are and what you like, here are my descriptions of the 3 Gili Islands to help you decide which Gili Island to visit:
The biggest and most popular of the 3 islands is Gili T! Gili T has the most accommodation, shops, bars and facilities.
It is most popular with backpackers who want some nightlife as the best nightlife on the Gili Islands is definitely Gili T with a party happening every night at one of the many bars.
Gili T gets a reputation for partiers but I promise, if you do not want to party or stay up late, Gili T is still ok for you too! There is only a small part of the island near the pier where the bars are if you stay inland or on the western side of the island you can easily avoid all the music and drunk people!
Gili Trawangan is great for families because there are plenty of family activities like mini-golf, cinema’s on the beach and horse riding.
There are many big, luxury style hotels on Gili Trawangan as well as hostels, cheap guesthouses, private villas and bungalows so Gili T really offers accommodation styles for everyone.
If you want a relaxing beach and poolside holiday in Indonesia, there are plenty of hotels in Gili T that can accommodate that for you.
The next most popular island is Gili Air which is most known for being an island good for couples and honeymooners.
The reason being is that Gili Air is a bit quieter than Gili T but in many ways, it is also a bit more upmarket with nice hotels, although you can visit Gili Air on a budget too.
Gili Air has some really good hostels now too so it makes it good for backpackers. There are some small bars with live music but don’t expect a crazy night out.
The least visited and least developed of the 3 islands but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit.
If you want some serious chill time and quiet time, Gili Meno is a good island for you.
It’s also good if you are happy with, and want, time in a place with fewer facilities and more of a basic lifestyle.
There are fewer luxury hotels on Gili Meno but you can still find a few, and there are hotels, good hostels, bungalows and guesthouses to choose from.
How to get to the Gili Islands?
Now you know which Gili Islands is good for you, let’s see how to get to travel to the Gili Islands!
Bali to Gili Islands.
The most popular route that people do is to land in Bali International Airport and then travel to Gili Trawangan after a few days in Bali.
There is only one port and pier in Bali where the boat from Bali to Gili Islands runs and that’s from Padang Bai in the North.
You can book a minibus and boat package which will pick you up from your Bali Hotel, take you to Padang Bai and then will take you to your boat over to the Gili Islands.
The whole journey takes about 5 hours depending on where you’re staying in Bali and the fast boat Bali to Gili leaves two or 3 times a day.
There are different companies offering differently priced tickets, generally, the cheaper the ticket, the more squashed your minibus or car will be and the smaller the boat will be. I recommend the company Eka Jaya which costs more but is much comfier, you can book tickets with Eka Jaya on 12Go Asia here.
You will need to book tickets from Padang Bay pier on 12GO Asia and get a taxi from where you are in Bali in Padang Bay. Getting your own transport is much easier, quicker and comfier than getting a shared transfer.
Lombok to Gili Islands.
The Gili Islands are much closer to the island of Lombok than Bali so it is quicker and easier to get to Gili from Lombok than Bali.
If you want to go straight to the Gili Islands when you arrive in Indonesia, I recommend looking at flights into Lombok Praya Airport, from here you can travel from Lombok Airport to Bangsal Harbour in 90 minutes and get the boat from Bangsal to Gili Trawangan, Gili Air or Gili Meno in just 20 minutes.
Not only is Lombok Airport closer to the pier than Bali Airport but there are more regular boats from Lombok to the Gili Islands than Bali to Gili Islands, they take less time and if you miss a public boat you can hire a private boat from Lombok to Gili Islands.
Nusa Lembongan to Gili Islands.
Finally, if you are already travelling around the small Indonesian islands, there is a boat from Nusa Lembongan to Gili Islands which cuts out all of the bus transfers!
Still working out your Indonesia itinerary. Look at buses and boats online on 12Go Asia here. I recommend booking with Eka Jaya which you can book on 12GO Asia:
How to Travel Around the Gili Islands?
In terms of getting around the islands, you may have heard that the Gili Islands have no cars and no mopeds, which is one of the main reasons they are so special, so to get around the islands you have to walk, ride a bike, or get a horse and carriage.
Biking around Gili Islands
I recommend hiring a bike on either of the 3 islands when you arrive as it makes it so much easier and more fun to see the island by bike.
You can bike all the way around all 3 islands although you will hit some sand at some point and will have to push your bike. The majority of the islands are paved though and easy to bike on.
Walking around Gili Islands
Walking through the inland streets of the islands are a good way to get a good feel of them as you miss a lot by bike. You can also walk all the way around all 3 islands but be warned they are small, but they take a good 1-2 hours to walk around and I’d recommend walking early in the day or later away from the heat.
A chilled walk any time of day is ok though.
Taking a horse and carriage around Gili Islands
You will most likely need a horse and carriage to take you to your accommodation when you arrive because of your bags and there are always horse and carts waiting at the harbour.
Many people have views on whether using the horses on the Gili islands is ethical and some people even question it’s against animal rights. Here is my full post on how the horses on the Gili Islands are treated today, which will hopefully reassure you that although things are not perfect, the drivers need tourism and tourist money in order to fully look after their horses, so by using a horse and cart, you are helping them!
Gili Islands Things To Do
Gili Islands Snorkelling
Snorkelling in the Gili Islands is the best activity to do because the water is so crystal clear, there are so many fish and its 99% likely you’ll see a turtle too!
Half Day Snorkelling Trips around the Gili Islands are popular, they run from all islands and visit all 3 islands too.
You can also snorkel right from the shore on the Gili Islands too and hire a snorkel set from a nearby vendor.
For more information on the best snorkelling in Gili T read – A Guide to Gili Trawangan Snorkelling | Tours, Turtles and Underwater Statues!
Gili Islands Diving
To take it one step further, Diving in the Gili Islands is really popular and one of the most popular things to do on the Gili islands. Divers come from around the world to dive here.
There are so many dive schools on all 3 islands, you can do a fun dive which gives you an introduction to diving without any need to study, or you can complete your open water diving courses if you have a few days to spare.
Exploring the Islands
Visiting the Gili Islands doesn’t mean staying on the same beach or by the same hotel pool all day. There’s so much to see on all 3 islands and it’s so easy to explore by bike or by foot so make sure you do make the effort to explore.
The best time to walk around the islands is in the morning and early evening when it’s not too hot.
Gili Island Nightlife
A lot of people come to Gili Trawangan to party so of course this is the best thing to do on the Gili Islands if thats what you fancy and need. The nightlife in Gili T is the best but if you want a chilled drink and live music only you will also get this on Gili Air and Gili Meno.
Gili Island Activities
More Gili Island things to do include Kayaking, Stand Up Paddleboarding, Horse Riding, Flower Baths, Mini Golf, an Escape Room, Cooking Classes, Jewelery Making Classes, Shopping, Beach Cinema’s, taking Magic Mushrooms (I’m serious), and enjoying life.
HERE’S MY FULL LIST OF 30 THINGS TO DO ON GILI TRAWANGAN TO GIVE YOU EVEN MORE IDEAS!
Gili Islands Accommodation
As mentioned when describing the 3 Gili Islands, there is a huge range of accommodation on all islands and no shortage of accommodation either.
All 3 islands offer 5* Luxury Hotels, Private Villa’s, High End Bungalows, Friendly Guesthouses, Basic B&B’s and Social Hostels.
For accommodation on Gili Trawangan, here is my full guide to where to stay on Gili T!
The best way to find accommodation on Gili Islands inlcuding Gili Trawangan accommodation, Gili Meno accommodation and Gili Air accommodation, is via Booking.com, Airbnb and Hostelworld.
Gili Islands Booking.com
For a full range of accommodation for all budgets, be sure to look on Booking.com!
Gili Islands Airbnb
If you want a private Villa on the Gili Islands, Airbnb is the best place to look. There are many homely Villa’s on offer and many Villa’s that offer that Bali style many of us want.
BEFORE YOU BOOK YOUR AIRBNB, create a NEW ACCOUNT USING THIS LINK, to get $30.00 off your first stay. If you already have an Airbnb Account, just make a new one to save money!
Gili Islands Hostelworld
For some reason, all of the hostels on the Gili Islands are not on Booking.com and only on Hostelworld.
Enjoy your Gili Islands Holiday!
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