The Gili Islands sit off the coast of Lombok, just over from Bali, and offer a beach holiday without all the hustle and bustle of other areas. The Gili Islands are made up of three main islands called Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air, and each one offers something different for those travelling to this part of Indonesia.
The Gili Islands take some time to travel to and with that in mind they tend to attract those looking to get away from frenzied Bali or the main areas of Lombok. There is a strong backpacker culture here and the Gili Islands have traditionally attracted more of a European crowd compared to Bali which sees a wealth of Australian travelers. The islands do not have cars or even a police force, and so are really the place to come if you want stripped down island living and some of the best diving conditions in this part of Indonesia. Although the Gili Islands are not as popular as neighbouring Bali they are rapidly gaining a reputation as the ‘new Bali’ of Indonesia so expect them to get busier and more developed in the coming years.
The Gili Islands have fabulous beaches and are known for their wealth of water sports, particularly swimming, snorkeling, and diving. There are some nice areas to visit on the different islands and renting a bicycle and cycling around is one of the best pastimes here.
To travel to the Gili Islands you will first need to travel to Lombok or Bali and then make your way over from there. There are both slow and fast boats that will take you to the Gili Islands from Bali and Lombok.
Money can be an issue on the Gili Islands as access to ATMs can be unreliable. On the largest island, Gili Trawangan, there are a few international access ATMs available, and there are a few on Gili Meno or Gili Air. The ATMs on the islands can be unreliable and run out of money however so it is a good idea to bring cash with you to use during the duration of your stay. There are some money changers on Gili Trawangan and some agents on the other islands that will give you a cash advance on a card but the rates of exchange are not usually very good.
High season on the Gili Islands is January, July, August, and December, as you would expect in line with Western holidays. Due to limited accommodation options on the islands however hotels and guesthouses may be full during busy periods so you will need to book in advance. Rainy season is from October to March and it can be a little miserable at this time if you want to enjoy the beach but can’t due to lashing wind and rain. Other good times to visit are May, June and September when the crowds are fewer and the weather more stable.
When it comes to getting around the Gili Islands there are only a few options. One of the best is to simply walk on foot and all the islands can be covered in a single day. You can also rent a bicycle here which provides you with a quicker and easier way to explore, or you can hitch a ride in a horse and cart, the only form of ‘public transport’ available. If you want to travel between the islands then you will have to take a boat and there are both slow or fast boats available.
Due to the size of the islands food options are limited to what is available. This still means however that you can get some nice meals here and obviously there is an emphasis on fresh fish and seafood. Most restaurants set up barbecues in the evenings and grill the fish or seafood to you specifications. There are also a range of other options like small cafes that serve Indonesian food and some larger restaurants that also serve Western options. One thing to note however is that most of the food and drink has to be shipped in from neighbouring Lombok and so you can expect to pay up to three times the price for something similar in Lombok or Bali.
The Gili Islands are well worth a visit if you want to relax in a relatively unspoiled location with fewer crowds. If you enjoy diving then there are some great spots here, although there is not much to keep anyone here for longer than a few days. Many people come to the Gili Islands to lie on the beach for a few days and enjoy the peace and quiet before moving on to somewhere else.