(Last updated on: 02/06/2020)
Are you considering a visit to Gili Air, Gili T or Gili Meno? Or perhaps you all three? Then one of the first things you will need to know is how to get to the Gili Islands from Bali.
The Gili Islands are simply wonderful. They have resisted the overtourism that much of Bali has suffered at the hands of and they are pristine and beautiful. But there’s a reason that these islands have remained (largely) unspoilt and dreamy… because it takes some endurance to reach them!
I have visited twice now and taken different transport options each time. But which ever way you choose to travel to the Gili Islands, it’s going to require some time and effort. But that’s what makes it so special, right?
In this article I will give you some tips on how to get to the Gili Islands from Bali (which is where most people choose to travel from).
What are the Gili Islands?
First of all, let’s have a look at what the Gili Islands are and why you (probably) want to visit them. They are three tiny islands in a group: Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. They are located near the coast of northwest Lombok Island. The islands are popular because of the crystal clear water and offshore coral reefs. The three islands cover an area of just 15 km². In the 2010 census, they had an estimated population of less than 4500.
There is plenty to see and do on these tiny islands, though, as you will see further down in this blog post. But for now, the big question for all you travel planners out there – how to get to the Gili Islands from Bali.
How to get to the Gili Islands from Bali
Here are the options that you have when planning how to get to the Gili Islands from Bali-
Flying to the Gili Islands
If you want to visit a place that doesn’t have too many tourists, is off the beaten path and unspoilt, then this usually comes with a journey to endure. Travelling to the Gili Islands is absolutely doable, it just isn’t as easy as visiting your average package holiday resort!
The Gili Islands are very close to Lombok. Lombok is a large island that has its own airport. It has several flights each day from Bali and other parts of Asia and they’re really cheap too-we flew from Lombok to Denpasar for only £14! Flight time is only 30 minutes. **Click here to check prices for flights to Lombok**
However, if you do choose to fly, you will still need to board a boat at some point. Fortunately, the Gili Islands are close to Lombok though, and the journey on a longboat or speedboat will only take a few minutes to the first of the islands: Gili Air. The transfer time from the airport is around 90 minutes, so you need need to factor that in too.
Taking the fast boat to the Gili Islands
Many people choose to reach the Gili Islands by fast boat. There are a number of companies that offer fast boat journeys departing from Sanur, Serangan, Padanhg Bai or Nusa Lembongan. Whilst these companies promote fixed schedules, be prepared to wait around- the timings seem to change depending on what happens on the day! The fast bloat companies will pick you up from your accommodation in Bali.
The fast boat is a small speedboat. It takes around 2-3 hours to reach the Gili Islands. Your journey will likely involve other stops including Lombok and other Gili Islands, depending on which one you are travelling to. Whilst these stops are not a huge detour, it might take 30 minutes or for passengers to disembark and for their luggage to be taken off the boat and the new passenger’s luggage to be loaded on. Some boats will provide water and a light snack during your journey.
The boats often cannot pull up right onto the sand, so I advise that you wear flip flop. It is likely that you will have to walk through the water to reach the boat. A waterproof bag, like this one, is a good idea too. Especially if you are stuck outside waiting to board when a huge downpour occurs, which is what happened to us!
Passengers usually enter at the rear of the boat, so if they do not reverse in then you may be required to walk along a thin edge that goes around the side of the boat. This was somewhat challenging with our baby! Luckily staff helped with the toddler (my husband had his hands full with the bags) and carried her through the luggage hold!
Our outbound boat trip was very smooth and it was a hot, but enjoyable ride. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for our inbound boat. We were hit by a terrible storm and many people were sick. The captain deemed it too dangerous to continue so we docked at the nearest port in Lombok and took a flight from there. Whilst this was not a very pleasant experience, I can’t fault the captain and I was glad that he made the decision to abort the journey.
My advice is to pack sea sickness tablets or wear sea sickness wrist bands (they worked a charm when I was pregnant!) if you are liable to travel sickness. Or even better, avoid the fast boat altogether and fly!
As the fast boats are small, tickets can sell out fast, particularly in peak seasons. It is recommended that you book your tickets in advance. We paid around £30 each way for each adults. Children are free if they are small enough to sit on your lap.
Taking the slow boat to the Gili Islands
When I visited the Gili Islands back in 2011 I took a 12 hour trip on a cargo boat, as this was the cheapest option and I was a backpack. Now, times have changed, and you can get a seat on the regular slow boat for around £3 each way.
The slow boat departs from Padanhg Bai every 90 minutes or so throughout the day. You turn up, buy your ticket and wait for the boat to be full before it will leave, so it is down to luck whether you have a long wait or not.
These days, the slow boat takes around 4-5 hours to cross the sea, which isn’t really that much longer than the fast boat if you have a lot of stops. However, the slow boat will not drop you directly at Gili Air or Gili Meno. You will likely need to take a smaller boat from Gili Trawangan or Lombok if you’re headed to either of these two islands.
The slow boat is a bigger boat than the fast boat and therefore is less susceptible to being unstable in bad weather. This means that you are less likely to experience sea sickness and that the boat is safer.
Things to do in the Gili Islands
Now you know how to get to the Gili Islands from Bali, here’s a couple of ideas for some things to do to kick off your holiday planning!
- Watching the sunset is the perfect way to spend an evening on any of the Gili Islands, though it is particularly impressive from the “sunset side” of Gili T. There are plenty of bars, cafés and beach hotels over here, offerings comfortable seating and tasty cocktails allowing you to experience the sunset in all its glory. Or, take a cruise at sunset!
- At Gili Meno, you can see the sea turtles swimming at Turtle Point. Spot them while snorkelling or alternatively, visit the Gili Meno Sea Turtle Sanctuary. There is also a bird park on Gili Meno which is home to peacocks, pelicans, parrots, pheasants and small eagles.
- Hike up to the Gili Trawangan view point where you can see for miles across the other Gili Islands, over to Mount Rinjani in Lombok and Mount Agung in Bali. The view point is in the south of the island.
- Beach clean ups are popular across the Gili Islands. If you’re looking for a way to give back while on your travels, then this is a great (and fun) way of doing so. You’ll probably even catch a tan in the process!
- Want to feel really zen while visiting the Gili Islands? Do some yoga! Classes and whole retreats are available.
- No trip to the Gili Islands is complete without a visit to the night mark on Gili T. You literally can’t miss it, and the food is very cheap and very tasty. A grilled red snapper with enough rice, tofu and veg for two will cost you the equivalent of around £7 – and it’s delicious.
So there you have it, how to get to the Gili Islands from Bali and some things to do when you get there! It really is a stunning corner of the world and one certainly not to be missed when visiting Indonesia.