Located off the northwest coast of Lombok in Indonesia, the Gili islands – Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air – are rapidly becoming some of Indonesia’s most popular tourist destinations to date. The desert islands may have been known as a backpacker mecca in the past, but times have changed and all individual islands boast unique character and allure.
On top of white sandy beaches, pristine waters and phenomenal sunsets overlooking Bali’s majestic Mount Agung, each of the islands flatter different travellers. The party crowd mostly frequent Gili Trawangan for its thriving nightlife and Gili Meno is simply a getaway with true tranquility in store, whereas Gili Air offers the best of both worlds.
It really isn’t difficult to grasp the islands’ appeal, and accommodation options are aplenty, whether your choice may be a quaint budget homestay, mid-range cottages or chalets, or more luxurious villas. The Gili islands have completely stolen our hearts and we reckon that these gems of a tropical paradise are great alternatives to the overpopulated Bali.
Before you pack your bags and leave for the Gili islands, know these basics:
1. Don’t bring clunky luggage bags – Properly tarred roads are nonexistent and the sandy pavements on the islands are awfully bumpy. On top of that, keep in mind that you’ll be transported to the islands by boat and the presence of jetties may be uncertain, depending on where you get dropped off. Make sure to pack light and opt for backpacks.
2. Walk or cycle – Motorised transportation is banned on the islands and you either walk, cycle or take the cidomo (horse cart). For many years, the use of horse carts has been inadvertently promoting inhumane abuse of horses that are literally worked to death on top of being deprived of basic necessities. We dissent this brutal treatment, and we hope you do too.
3. Head to Gili islands from Bali – You could take a two-hour taxi ride from the Lombok airport to the Bangsal jetty before hopping onto a boat to get to the islands, but we suggest taking a boat or ferry ride from Bali. It’s more affordable, convenient, and you’ll be able to maximise your visit by also relishing in the sights and sounds Bali has to offer.
4. Snorkelling trips aren’t necessary – Got a snorkelling or diving trip planned out with a chartered boat? That’s great! Otherwise, most lodging provide guests with life jackets, fins and snorkel mask rentals for free, or for a tiny fee. You can snorkel out on your own, but don’t venture too far out and never attempt to swim across to the other Gili islands.
5. Ensure to have enough cash on hand – Money changers and ATM machines are widespread on the islands. Having said that, you won’t get much luck with a lowered currency exchange. Make sure to bring enough Indonesian Rupiah before you head to the islands for fun. Alternatively, find authorised and trusted money changers in Lombok or Bali.
6. Party wisely – The two-for-one cocktail deals are hard to miss and are dirt cheap, especially on Gili Trawangan, but do drink at your own risk. There have been reported cases of tourists dying from methanol poisoning after consuming tainted alcohol on the island. While this isn’t something prevalent, it’s best to stay cautious at all times.