Looking for that one place called paradise where you can relax and party at the same time? Then the Gili Islands might just be it for you. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for a place where you can just relax and perhaps doing some activities like swimming or yoga, or if you are trying to find a place where you can party the whole night long; for sure you can find the right place during your backpack trip or holiday on one of the three Gili Islands.
A magnificent blue ocean, beaches surrounded with palm trees and coconuts, tons of water activities, a vivid nightlife, yoga on the beach. What would you like to do on the Gili Islands? When I was there with my boyfriend we did – ehhh – actually almost nothing! We snorkeled around with turtles, had some drinks on the beaches, explored two islands and just enjoyed our time being there. It was fantastic. Although the islands do have some downsides in my opinion, it’s still definitely worth a visit when you are traveling around in Indonesia. You can absolutely have a blast, even with a small budget. I will tell you the exact budget you will need to have an amazing time around here!
The Gili Islands
Let’s talk about the islands a little bit first. The Gili Islands can be found close to the west side of Lombok, Indonesia. This small group of islands exists of three beautiful, small islands, all with their unique, own identities. The closest one to the coastline of Lombok, Gili Air, is the smallest one. This one is well known for having stunning beaches and a relaxed atmosphere. Gili Meno, the one in the middle, is the most quiet on. Here you can find just a few places to sleep, eat and drink. These two islands are perfect if you are looking for some peace and rest or if you want to do some relaxing activities such as snorkeling or yoga. Looking for the party? Restless souls are probably better off at Gili Trawangan, the biggest islands and by far the most popular one for holiday seekers, watersport fanatics and party animals. Go out for the night in one of the many bars along the coast, go diving or find yourself supping or canoeing around the island.
Transportation to the islands
To get to one of the islands is in general very easy. Although the islands are situated close to Lombok, most people will visit them from Bali, like we did as well. If you come from the airport or stay somewhere on Bali, you can book a boat ticket and pick-up together for one price. For that price people will pick you up at your accommodation and bring you to the harbor in Padangbai. From there you can take the boat to one of the Gili’s. Prices do vary a lot tough.
For a return ticket with the fast boat and pick-up in our hotel in Ubud (return to airport) we paid 450.000 IDR (€ 31,- / $ 34,-) per person. But you have to be aware that this is far from the best option. You might have to deal with a lot of waiting time and the boats, well, at least they were still working, let’s put it that way. Our pick-up was two hours late. Our boat was two hours late as well. Normally the journey would take you around 3,5 hours, but it took us double the amount of time. It didn’t bother us, just be aware that the cheapest option is not always the best option.
What I’ve heard (but not sure if this is true!) is that the most reliable companies are the ones who charge you above 900.000 IDR (€ 62,- / $ 67,-) per person. At least you will have a seat for sure, the boats are not packed and the company has insurance in case something happens. The most expensive company I have seen charged around 1.300.000 IDR (€ 90,- / $ 97,-). Quite a big difference between those prices!
Read as well: Budget Koh Tao: How expensive is the Thai bounty island?
If you want to travel even cheaper, you can also take the public ferry. This will definitely save you a lot of money. A return ticket with pick-up will be around 300.000 IDR (€ 21,- / $ 22,-). Or just go to the harbor yourself and buy a return ticket for about 80.000 IDR (€ 5,50 / $ 6,-). The boat journey will take about five hours, instead of 1,5 hours by fast boat, but for the budget traveler it can definitely be worth it.
Going from Lombok? Well, than it’s even cheaper! A public boat will just cost you around 22.500 IDR (€ 1,50 / $ 1,70,-) from Bangsal harbor. Be careful for hassles tough! Of course you can also take a speedboat or charter boat.
Transportation on the islands
Yes, you just arrived on one of the Gili’s! And now you probably would like to go to your accommodation first. Well, that will be a very cheap ride, because there is no traffic at all on the Gili Islands, except of horses (not on Gili Air) and bikes. So you have two options: go for a horse ride, which will cost you maybe around 45.000 IDR (€ 3,10 / $ 3,40), or just walk those few couple of hundred meters. The islands are not that big! And it will do you good after a boat trip, that’s for sure. Renting a bike doesn’t make much sense at this stage. By the time you finally got your bike you could have been at your accommodation already!
Due to the fact that the Gili’s are such a popular holiday destination, prices for accommodations are almost shockingly high compare to other parts of Indonesia. Which is – for most holiday seekers – actually still really cheap. The first night we booked a private room in a hostel on Gili Trawangan. The hostel turned out to be a nightmare. So the next day we moved to a bit more expensive, but so much worth the money hostel a few streets further away. The name was M Gili and it’s absolutely an awesome place to stay. For one night we paid 150.000 IDR (€ 10,- / $ 11,-) per person for a private room, with air-conditioning and pancakes or eggs as breakfast included. Dorm rooms were a bit cheaper and about 100.000 IDR (€ 7,- / $ 7,50) per person. It might be a bit more expensive nowadays, but I would highly recommend it. There is also a small swimming pool.
Are you looking for a luxurious accommodation on one of the three Gili Islands? Make sure you check out the hotel guide I wrote, with the 15 best bungalows and hotels on the Gili Islands. Otherwise, if you book an accommodation on Booking.com by using this link, you will get € 15,- of the price! Here you can find all accommodations on the Gili Islands.
Food and drinks
I love Indonesian food. For me it’s one of the most amazing kitchens around the world. But in my opinion it’s pretty though to find a good Indonesian dish on the Gili Islands. Most restaurants serve western food and even the Asian dishes they serve taste a bit westernized. The prices are also a bit higher in general than in other parts of Indonesia. Most times we had lunch and dinner in restaurants and on average rate we paid around 80.000 IDR (€ 5,50 / $ 6,-) per person for food and a drink. The cheapest lunch we had was 40.000 IDR (€ 2,75 / $ 3,-) per person, cheapest dinner 50.000 IDR (€ 3,50 / $ 3,75) per person. I bet there are a few dishes that are slightly cheaper. But if you want to have even cheaper food, you need to go to a supermarket (or try to catch your own fish!).
I think there was just one place were the food was amazing. And that was on the night market at Gili Trawangan. Every evening there is a night market next to the small harbor. For 60.000 IDR (€ 4,15 / $ 4,50) you will get two sticks with meat, fish or veggies and three side dishes, like gado gado, nasi goreng or one of the many other options they offer. Amazing food! Share a big bottle of beer next to it for 25.000 IDR (€ 1,75 / $ 1,90) and you will have the most amazing dinner party on the whole island.
There are so many activities and adventures to do around Indonesia and some great ones are on the Gili Islands. Looking for a cheap but amazing activity? Rent a snorkel set and go snorkeling around the northeast part of Gili Trawangan. Here you can find lovely turtles and renting a snorkel set will just cost you around 40.000 IDR (€ 2,75 / $ 3,-). You can also travel between the islands very easily. A return ticket will cost you around 70.000 IDR (€ 4,85 / $ 5,25). Are you traveling on a bigger budget? You can go paragliding for around 700.000 IDR (€ 48,50 / $ 52,50) or do a boat excursion for a couple of hours (prices vary between 250.000 IDR (€ 17,- / $ 19,-) and 450.000 IDR (€ 31,- / $ 34,-)). Or take a relaxing massage! Prices start around 100.000 IDR (€ 6,90 / $ 7,50).
Read as well: Turtle spotting around the Gili Islands
Going on a small budget (backpacker)
Hitchhike your way to Padangbai, get your return ticket for 80.000 IDR (€ 5,50 / $ 6,-). Then try to find a dorm room for around 100.000 IDR (€ 7,- / $ 7,50) or sleep for free on the beach. Buy a bottle of water for 10.000 IDR (€ 0,70 / $ 0,75) and some cookies for 20.000 IDR (€ 1,40 / $ 1,50) at the supermarket for lunch. Rent a snorkel set for 40.000 IDR (€ 2,75 / $ 3,-) and go for a cheap dinner with a beer in the evening for 50.000 IDR (€ 3,50 / $ 3,75).
You just spent a day on the Gili Islands for around 220.000 IDR (€ 15,35 / $ 16,50) average (excl. boat ticket).
Having a bigger budget (holiday seeker)
Arrange a pick-up and boat ticket with the fast boat to Gili Trawangan for 450.000 IDR (€ 31,-/ $ 34,-). Find a private room for yourself with a big, comfy bed in a hostel for 300.000 IDR (€ 20,- / $ 22,-). Then grab a lunch in one of the streets for 40.000 IDR (€ 2,75 / $ 3,-) and get yourself a bottle of water for 10.000 IDR (€ 0,70 / $ 0,75) at the supermarket. Go for a relaxing massage for 100.000 IDR (€ 6,90 / $ 7,50) and have a lazy afternoon with a big bottle of beer on the beach for 25.000 IDR (€ 1,75 / $ 1,90). Then treat yourself with some dinner at the night market for 60.000 IDR (€ 4,15 / $ 4,50) and finish your day with a cocktail for 60.000 IDR (€ 4,15 / $ 4,50) in one of the many bars around Gili Trawangan.
You just spent a day on the Gili Islands for around 595.000 IDR (€ 40,40 / $ 44,15) average (excl. boat ticket).
PS. Want to get a bit of Gili inspiration? Watch our ’60 seconds: The Gili Islands’ video! The prices in this article may vary cause of seasonable reasons or simply because things getting more expensive. Also the calculations between valuta may vary.
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