Gili Islands, also known as Kepulauan Gili and Tiga Gili, are an archipelago of three islands just off the northwest shores of Lombok, near Bali in Indonesia. They comprise Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. The Gili Islands are famous for drawing large numbers of tourists due to their incredibly beautiful landscapes. With attractive sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, bright coral reefs, as well as tall tropical palm trees, the islands engender a perpetual feeling of happiness and the joy of slow life.
Each island has its own resorts, in the form of huts, small swimming pools and restaurants. Unlike many archipelago island resorts, Gili has a sizeable number of locals, most live permanently in the region of Gili Trawangan.
On all Gili Islands you won’t find automobiles or motorized traffic. The only mode of transportation is by foot, horse-drawn carriage, or bicycle. This makes the islands very suitable for a family vacation and one of the best family destinations in Asia.
The Three Gili Islands
Gili Trawangan is the largest and the most crowded of the Gili islands. This is the one to choose if you want to party, but it has more than nightlife. There are great spots for snorkeling and scuba diving. You can spot green turtles in the waters here.
Gili Air is our favourite Gili Island. We spent two weeks on Gili Air and loved every day. The Island is quite small but not as small as Gili Meno, and it’s perfect for a family holiday and snorkeling.
Gili Meno is the smallest of the three Islands, and it is located in the middle. Meno is quite quiet and unless you are in love you may get bored quickly. Still it’s a great spot for snorkeling and surfing. We visited Gili Meno on two snorkelling trips from our mainstay on Gili Air.
In summary, we found Gili Islands more attractive than Bali itself. But first, you need to get there.
How do you get from Bali to Gili Islands?
Gili Islands are often included in organised Bali itineraries. In case you are planning a more free- range trip, here is the information you need about how to get there from Bali on your own.
There are a few ways fo get from Bali to Gili
- Fast boat company
- Public ferries
- Private boat charter
- Plane via Lombok
- Private Helicopter Charter
Show a map here relating Bali Lombok and gili
Taking a Fast boat from Bali to Gili Islands
This is the most comfortable way to get to Gili Islands from Bali as well as the most straightforward option. The boats leave from various points in Bali, depending on which company you choose. Various boats will take you to Gili Air, Gili Trawangan or Lombok mainland. The most well known boat company is the Blue Water Express; it operates comfortable boats with modern facilities including TV and cushy seats.
On a fast boat to travel to the Gili Islands from Bali, the sea crossing takes approximately 2.5 hours. But you should factor in the time it takes you from your hotel to the port, which may well take a whole day (and most boats leave in the mornings ). For this reason, the first thing you need to decide is your best departure port depending on where you are travelling from. Alternatively you might like to spend a day exploring Bali Island and sleep near the port.
Fast Boats Departures points in Bali
- Bali Padang Bai
- Bali Serangan Harbour
Sanur and Serangan harbour are located in South ?CHECK EAST OR WEST/? Bali so departure from there are good if you are stying in Kuta or if you have just arrived to Bali airport. If you are planning to visit Gili and you are staying in Ubud – the best port of choice would be Padang Bai. If you are in the North of Bali look for the fast boats from Amed.
Buying Tickets for Fast Boats
The best way to obtain boat tickets is via a tour agency especially if you are travelling as a big party. Remember, if you will be booking activities such as fishing, diving, and snorkeling, the boat crossing is usually included in the package.
The lowest price for a fast boat ticket is about $25 per person, inclusive of transportation from Pedang Bai – a small jetty in Bali, to Kuta. The initial price quoted will be higher, but some bargaining effort is expected.
For other places or ports in Bali, depending on your bargaining skills, you should pay between $25 and $35 per person, Including both the boat fare to Gill Islands and the transfer between where you are starting in Bali to a port.
You can also make your own way to the port to buy your ticket at the official buildings at every harbor in Bali. The prices are fixed, meaning you can’t haggle down, and this way will probably cost more by the time you have added the transfer cost.
Buying tickets online is fast and simple, and you can even find a discount.
Timing is an important factor when traveling to Gili Islands because the boats usually leave in the mornings between 8 am and 11 am. It is very rare to find a boat that leaves Bali in the afternoon. And if you do find such a boat find a boat late in the afternoon, it will be much more expensive – perhaps even unaffordable.
If you buy an open return ticket, you will have to confirm your return the day before. Quite often you may get problems as return boats can get full.
Our experience with Fast Boats
We thought the boat ride was fun. The cool sea breeze tempered the heat and we could choose between a shaded seat or a place in the sun. Our main advice is to minimise luggage. Otherwise many steps at the ports will make life harder.
Public ferries from Bali to Gili Island
The public ferry leaves Bali every hour but is the slowest means of getting to Gili islands. In fact the ferry doesn’t go between Bali and Gili, To use the public ferry you must take one five hour ferry from Padang Bai on Bali to Lombok, Then you will take a second four hour ferry to Gili Islands. Opt for this route only if you are really strapped for cash because while it is cheap (each ticket is only a couple of dollars) it is the saddest method of traveling to a happy place. Nine hours on the water on public ferries is no fun, even across waters as beautiful as these.
Getting to Gili Islands by Aeroplane
Although it might seem like the jet-set option, the aeroplane route from Bali to Gili doesn’t quite work out like that because the flights take you to Lombok and you still need to take either a 4 hour public ferry or a fast boat to Gili. The fast boats leave Lombok from both Senggigi and Bangsal Ports, and take between half an hour and an hour.
So, even though the flight itself is only half an hour, this doesn’t end up being the fastest or the easiest route from Bali. If you do choose this method of transport, (perhaps because you are leaving from Bali airport) , there are several domestic airlines to choose from including Garuda Indonesia. When you factor in the air travel, the boat ride, and the time you spend in between, you might take about 3 hours to reach Gili Islands.
Alternatively if you are travelling from Singapore and want to go direct to Gili without taking time in Bali, then Airline Silk Air flies 4 times a week from mainland Singapore to Seleparang airport in Mataram, Lombok. The days are Monday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
Getting to Gili Islands from Bali by Helicopter
If money is no object and you want to arrive in Bond style why not charter a private helicopter to take you to Gili Islands from Bali? Besides the price-tag disadvantage these helicopters only operate on Fridays and Sundays, meaning you have to limit your schedules to these two days. A private helicopter takes about 45 minutes from Bali to Gili islands, carrying up to five people. Price per person is approx. $1,400 – or more each if you have fewer people. The maximum load for both passengers and luggage together is 380 kg
If you are looking for an excuse to justify taking this route, just think of the bird’s eye photos of both Bali and the Gili archipelago you will be taking on the way. Remember to factor a visit to the hairdresser into the cost – helicopters are notorious for ruining hairdos!
Private Sail Charter around Gili Islands
This is another one for those with deep pockets. The lowest cost sail boat charters from Bali to Gili run from upwards of a hundred dollars per person for the trip, but they only sail with groups of twenty or thirty. Other private charter yachts of both traditional and modern designs are available to hire on a daily basis for you to design your own itinerary. For these boats and their crews, you will pay any price from $1,500 to $25,000 per night. So if helicopters aren’t exclusive enough for your tastes, hire a sailing yacht. Our view on the subject is that these boats look more beautiful when you are outside them that’s they do from inside. So the best way to enjoy them is to let someone else pay for the hire while you take the photos!
How do you get from Bali to Gili Islands – Conclusion
Our view, and the way we did it, is that the best compromise between cost and comfort is found on the fast boats. For the best in time and convenience choose your port of departure carefully depending on where you are staying, and plan for morning time arrival at the port. But however you get there, make sure to keep plenty of time for the slow pace of life on the islands and For exploring the beautiful clear seas between them.