The Gili Islands have become a major hot spot for travelers looking to soak in the sun and beaches of Indonesia. Once you reach the shores from Bali or Lombok, you’ll find fun bars, epic sunsets, and endless underwater fun to enjoy. Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air are the three most popular islands to explore and well worth the trip! Below we share tips and helpful information so you can plan the best trip to the Gili Islands.
20 Travel Tips For the Gili Islands Indonesia
1. When to Visit the Gili Islands in Indonesia
From roughly June to early October is considered high season in the Gili Islands. This is the best time to visit if you’re looking for good weather and limited rain. If you plan go in the off season you can get lucky but there is a higher chance of storms and rough seas.
2. Getting From Bali to the Gili Islands
Although Lombok is much closer, a very popular route is to go from Bali to the Gili Islands. Multiple ferries run daily from both Bali and Lombok, dropping people off in Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air on the way.
If you know the date you plan to travel make sure to book your tickets in advance as they can sell out during high season! The trip from Bali to the Gili Islands shouldn’t take more than an hour, and from Lombok it’s just a quick 10 minute ride.
Need more info on how to get to the Gili Islands? Check out our Bali to Gili Islands Ferry Guide where we share our own experience and more helpful info.
3. Stay In a Beach Bungalow
Is there anything better than being on a tropical island and staying right on the beach?!? Now you may not find your dream bungalow, but the Gili Islands have some great accommodations.
You’ll see everything from wooden huts with mosquito nets to ultra luxury two story duplexes. One thing to know before visiting is that some of the bathrooms have what we call an “open concept.” Expect to be doing your business in a modern bathroom, but often without a roof!
4. Party On Gili Trawangan
Gili Trawangan has quickly gained a reputation for partying in the last few years and it certainly lives up to that reputation. The nightlife is mostly contained to the main town where the ferry pulls in. Gili Trawangan is also the most developed of any of the Gili Islands.
While most travelers come to Gili Trawangan to let loose after a day of diving, there is another side to the island. Drugs such as magic mushrooms are widely available on the Gili Islands, and don’t come without their dangers.
5. Disconnect on Gili Meno
Gili Meno is by far the least popular of the Gili islands but also the most pure! Looking to disconnect from it all? This is the perfect place to read a good book on the beach, or simply swim in the clear blue ocean.
Out of all the Gili Islands in Indonesia, Meno also has the most off shore snorkeling. This includes Turtle Point and the famous underwater statues.
6. Find Paradise On Gili Air
Hands down, this was our favorite out of the Gili Islands in Indonesia! There’s something so special about being on a smaller island where you can quickly walk or bike everywhere.
It has the most sandy beaches out of all the Gili’s with unreal swimming, snorkeling, and sunset bars. Gili Air is truly a place that you can lose track of days as you give into the island life!
7. Eat Local & International Food
This one is hard for us to say, and even as we write it we feel a little guilty! The Gili Islands has really good international food. If you follow our travels you’ll know that when we’re in a country we fully commit to that cuisine.
However… Bali, the Gili Islands, and Nusa Penida have AMAZING western food. So indulge in all the Nasi Goreng and Curry you can, but also try the smoothie bowls, the vegan sloppy joe’s, and yummy desserts.
8. Drink Bintang Beer
Bintang is sold at every restaurant, beach bar, and home that doubles as a makeshift store. Its light taste makes it perfect to cool down from the hot afternoon sun. When in the islands right??
We would recommend sticking to beer if possible as there have been stories about methanal poisoning with liquor drinks. Plus there’s nothing more refreshing than a large Bintang for sunset!
9. Get Around the Gili Islands by Ferry
Just like getting to the Gili Islands from Bali, the ferry is also the way to get between the Gili’s. There’s a cheap local ferry that runs twice a day and connects all the islands. If you’re only traveling to the next island over it won’t take you more than 15 minutes, and hopping between two will take closer to 30.
10. Don’t Eat Magic Mushrooms
Now this might be a wild thought… That hallucinogenic mushrooms are something you have to purposely avoid? Well you won’t be on Gili Trawangan for more than a few minutes before hearing the whispers of “mushrooms mushrooms.”
Even though dealing, buying, or using mushrooms comes with a hefty penalty in Indonesia, somehow the Gili Islands have slid under the radar. Either way, something you should probably avoid on your trip.
11. Stay Active on the Gili Islands
Walking: On each of the Gili Islands there is a path that completely circles them. Either early in the morning or after the heat of the day, take a few hours to slowly make your way around.
Biking: Bikes are the fastest way to get around the Gili Islands in Indonesia! You can find them at the ferry ports for hire, but renting directly from your hotel should save you a little money. One thing to note is that the outer loop on each island can be sandy at times. Stick to the paved inland roads, or just push your bike over the sand until you find a spot to hop back on.
12. Discover the Underwater World
For many travelers the main draw to the Gili Islands is the underwater world. It has everything from deep sea scuba diving to coral gardens, and of ton of statues and shipwrecks.
There’s truly a whole different world for you to explore in the ocean! We swam with a slew of sea life including turtles, colorful fish, and manta rays. It’s a great place to get your PADI diving certificate, too!
13. Take a Private Boat Tour
If there is one thing you should plan to spend a little more money on it’s a private boat! We were able to negotiate 700,000 IDR ($50 USD) for a 4 hour tour with four people. For the same four people to go on a normal snorkel tour it would have cost 400,000 IDR.
It was so worth the extra $5 USD each to stay at places as long as we wanted, and go to the popular areas once the other boats had left. Having only a few people on the boat was such an amazing experience as we cruised through the Gili Islands!
14. See the Gili Islands Beaches
Each island has plenty of fun beach bars and restaurants. You can order anything from a smoothie to a full meal, and use the chairs and umbrellas as you swim.
After a long day of enjoying the ocean the beach bars are the perfect place to relax and take in the views. Make sure to head to the west side of each Gili Island for epic sunset views, too!
15. Watch Out For Sea Creatures
Even with the ocean being the main attraction for Gili Islands travel, it’s important to watch out for dangerous animals in the water. On our last night on Gili Air we walked the beach back to our bungalow while Jake strolled through the shallow ocean. As he turned on his light to see where we were stepping in the dark, I almost fainted when I saw a SEA SNAKE next to his foot!
It swam away from the light (thankfully), but it was a scary reminder of the dangers of the ocean. Deadly sea snakes, jelly fish, urchins, and sea lice are just a few things to be aware of when traveling in Indonesia.
16. Be Careful Of Gili Islands Insects
Out of our entire month in Indonesia the Gili islands were our favorite place that we visited. The ONE downside is that we have never been bitten by so many bugs in our lives! While that’s normal for most islands in Southeast Asia, the critters seemed especially prevalent here.
Just while walking around you’ll notice all the mosquitos, fire ants, spiders, and who knows what else hiding! Unfortunately, no amount of bug spray could keep us from leaving the Gili’s covered in bites. Try and be prepared with packing some stronger repellent, and not the natural local spray that’s sold on the islands.
17. Shop For Local Products
Really on an island like this almost everything can be considered local. What we mean is that there are many families on the island who don’t have large shops or run fancy hotels. Instead, they sell homemade goods such as bracelets and necklaces, or run private boat tours.
We met one family by the harbor who just had a small wooden stand and booked our boat trip through them. We saw the same elderly woman who was there later on the beach, and bought some cute jewelry from her for under one US dollar. It’s pretty easy to support the local community here because the businesses will be all around you!
18. Relax on the Gili Islands
Once you arrive on an island like Gili Meno, you’ll immediately catch onto the chill vibes. Everything moves at slower pace than Bali on the Gili’s so it’s easy to give into it and do some relaxing! Whether your at your hotel pool, the beach, or listing to some live music at the bar, you’re sure to have a fun visit to the Gili Islands in Indonesia.
19. Prepare for Wild Weather
Always be prepared for a tropical downpour. I think it rained twice a day while we were on the islands! However, you shouldn’t let this discourage you. We were traveling at the end of rainy season and knew this would be a possibility.
At any moment the bright blue sky would turn dark and it would be raining hard, but the storms usually passed quickly. Honestly, most of the time it was sunny and beautiful! Just make sure to have some water protection for your valuables if you’re out exploring.
20. Continue to the Nusa Islands
From the Gili Islands you really have three choices. You can travel to Bali, Lombok, or the Nusa Islands by boat. We can’t speak for Lombok yet, but Bali and the Nusa Islands we’re absolutely amazing! Take advantage of the ferry system and do your best to see them all. We were particularly fond of Nusa Penida if you have the chance.
Have any questions about this article or want to share your own tips for the Gili Islands? Please comment below!
Brigitte & Jake
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Indonesia Travel Planning
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for activities all over Bali. We recommend taking a sunrise Mount Batur hike with breakfast, an authentic cooking class in a local village, and the Ubud waterfall tour!
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without being covered. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.
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