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Gili Islands Travel Guide and Best Things to Do in 2023

gili islands travel guide

The Gili Islands in Indonesia are one of the most popular destinations to visit in the area and are particularly popular with backpackers and divers.

Located just off the coast of Lombok, Indonesia, this trio of islands consists of Gili Air, Gili Meno, and the most visited island, Gili Trawangan.

Today I’m going to share with you my top tips for visiting these beautiful islands on your next trip to Bali and Indonesia. I’ll also share with you the best things to see and do while you are there.

Gili Islands Indonesia – Which One Should You Visit?

Gili Trawangan beach indonesia
Gili Trawangan. Source:

You may be wondering what the differences are between the three islands, so I’ll take a brief moment to help differentiate them.

The most developed island is Gili Trawangan (also commonly known as Gili T), and I loved visiting this island! It is the perfect mixture of relaxing beaches and nighttime parties.

Not only does it have some of the best beaches in Indonesia, but it is also a great spot for completing diving courses if you are looking to get your Open Water certification.

Located between the other two islands, Gili Meno is the smallest island and is perfect for nature lovers or romantic getaways. Gili Air offers a very authentic Indonesian island experience and is an excellent option for adventure travelers who enjoy water sports.

How to Get to the Gili Islands from Bali?

How to Get to the Gili Islands from Bali

There are many different options for traveling from Bali to the Gili islands. These include fast boats, public ferries, planes, and even helicopters if you are looking to arrive in style!

I chose to use the fast boat service, which took about 90 minutes to complete the crossing. It departs from Padang Bai directly to the Gili islands, and leaves around 9:00 am each morning.

Public ferries are another option many backpackers use. However, this can take up to five hours as you must first travel to Lombok and change onto your next ferry there.

When you arrive on the islands, there are not really any real roads, so it’s unusual to see motorized vehicles. This is especially apparent in the two smaller islands.

Check Transportation Routes & Prices»

Weather on the Gili Islands

Weather on the Gili Islands

The best time to visit Bali and the Gili islands is between April and October of each year. These months offer the perfect climate on the islands.

Between November and March, the weather becomes very wet and sticky, making beach time much less enjoyable. If you are looking to snorkel or dive the visibility also becomes very poor during the rainy season.

May to September offers absolutely perfect weather with the lowest humidly.

If you are traveling on a budget, the most expensive time to visit is from mid-June to early September. I always recommend taking into account both weather and price when choosing the best time to visit.

Gili Islands Hotels and Resorts

Mad Monkey Hostel Gili Trawangan, Gili Islands
Mad Monkey Hostel

After deciding which island to visit, next up you need to consider where you would like to stay in Gili Islands. If you are looking to travel on a budget, I’d recommend staying in Gili Trawangan as there are some fantastic hostels there.

My Mate’s Place is an extremely sociable hostel, and I loved my stay there.

I also highly recommend Mad Monkey with its onsite pool and great bar.

Little Woodstock homestay is another great option on the island, with lovely rooms and a massive breakfast included.

On Gili Air, some great budget options include Cinta Palanta and Scandinavian Gili Air.

If you are looking to splash out a little more, consider Jago Gili Air or the Gili Air Lagoon Resort.

Finally, if you are heading to Gili Meno, consider splurging on the Avia Villa Resort or Las Villas Ottalia Gili Meno.

Best Things to Do in Gili Islands

Gili Meno snorkeling statues and underwater sculptures
Gili Meno. Source:

As I mentioned previously, one of the biggest draws in this area is the fantastic diving and snorkeling on offer.

Gili Islands diving schools are some of the best and most affordable in the area, so I’d highly recommend this as a location for doing a PADI course.

Gili Trawangan is the most popular diving schools, but all three islands offer courses.

The islands are extremely walkable, and I really enjoyed spending a couple of hours walking around them.

On Gili Trawangan, you can rent a bike, which will allow you to go anywhere you, please.

If you are only planning on staying on Gili T, an enjoyable day out is to take a boat to the other islands. Two times a day public boats leave to the other islands, and it’s nice to be able to experience them all even if you are just staying on one.

If you love water sports as much as I do, Stand Up Paddling is very popular here. Tuition and day trips are available and reasonably inexpensive. The southeast coast of Gili T is also a popular spot with surfers.

The highest point of Gili T offers amazing views of the other two Gili Islands, Lombok, and Bali. The viewpoint is in the south of the island and is a perfect spot for watching the sunset.

Even if Bali is degrading every year, is still worth paying a visit if you spend more time in Indonesia.

It has some of the best instagrammable spots in the world, the famous swing, good surfing spots, and amazing waterfalls. Don’t miss your Bali bucket list and start planning your next holiday.

One of the most unique activities you can do here is horseback riding on the beach. There are two great stables on the island; Sunset Stables and Stud Horse Riding Adventures.

If you haven’t had your fix of markets yet in SouthEast Asia, Gili T hosts a great daily night market. From 6 pm each day in front of the boat pier you can dine and shop at low prices.

If you are traveling on a budget, this is a great spot to have your dinner. You will be able to savor the delicious Indonesian cuisine here at very reasonable prices.

Nightlife in the Gili Islands

Ombak Bar Gili Trawangan
Ombak Bar. Source: TripAdvisor

If you are looking to party, Gili Trawangan is your best bet. The biggest parties take place in different venues each night of the week.

The nightlife here is HUUUGE and the parties here are the best. I also made a guide for 10 Best Vacations for Single Guys to Get Laid in Southeast Asia and Gili Trawangan is on the list.

Monday night, head to Blue Marlin, and then Wednesday nights are usually spent at Tir Na Nog (The Irish Pub).

Friday night party is best at Rudy’s, where I had one of the most fun nights of my trip.

If you enjoy live music, don’t miss the Sama-Sama Reggae Bar, where they have amazing bands each night.

Gili Meno is also home to another great live music venue, the Sasak Island Café.

Check the best nightclubs, bars and pubs in Bali.

Gili Islands Travel Tips

Here are a few of my top tips from my time spent on the Gili Islands:

      • If you are taking part in water activities, never underestimate the strong currents. Try to avoid doing activities alone, and if the water looks unsafe, try again another day.
      • Rent a bike to travel around Gili T – they are inexpensive and can be borrowed from many of the accommodations on the island.
      • Eat at the market to save money – instead of spending your money at western restaurants, enjoy local food at a lower price.
      • Invest in a filter water bottle. This will save you money and help the environment, as recycling is a big issue here.
      • There are a lot of drugs on Gili T. Be careful not to get your drink spiked when partying (which, in my case, it’s not a bad thing I guess 🙂 Indonesia is incredibly strict about its drugs charges. Check how safe is Bali for traveling.
      • If you are swimming or doing a water activity, keep an eye out for boats. They can creep up on you very quickly without you noticing!
      • If you are looking to relax on Gili T, avoid staying in the main strip. The clubs here are open until the early hours, so if you are looking to sleep well avoid this area!
      • If you are planning to relax, there are plenty of spas on the islands, at great prices. Enjoy a full body massage for around IDR 160,000.
      • Bring plenty of cash with you to last the length of your stay. There are some ATMs on the island, but in case they are out of order, you won’t be stuck.
      • If the weather is not good, prepare for ferries to be canceled for the day. This can be a very choppy crossing at times, so prepare yourself with seasickness tablets if you are sensitive to motion sickness.
      • Bring insect repellent with you. Some people find they get really bitten when staying on these islands!
      • Pack extra swimwear if you are planning to spend all day and night at the beach. Especially if you aren’t staying somewhere with laundry facilities!
      • Don’t travel without travel insurance. Ever. I’ve seen too much in my life and i would never travel without it again.

The Gili Islands are one of the most popular places to visit in Indonesia, and it’s easy to see why. The three islands offer something for everyone, whether you are looking for peace and quiet or all-night parties.

If your time allows, factor in time on every island and you won’t regret it. I enjoyed visiting all three islands for their unique atmospheres, and I will definitely come back next time I’m visiting Bali. You won’t regret adding these islands to your next trip to South-East Asia!