The Gili Islands are a group of three tiny islands off the northwest coast of Lombok. They are among the most popular tourist destinations in Indonesia. They are very beautiful and largely unspoilt; even the busiest, Gili Trawangan, has no motorised transport and is relatively peaceful (in places). There are a few ways to get to the Gili Islands, either from Bali or Lombok; the vast majority of people will get there either by a public ferry or on one of the many fast boat services.
Public ferry to the Gili Islands
Before 11am, you can catch a public boat to all three of the Gili Islands; after that, you will probably only be able to go to Gili Trawangan or Gili Air on the public ferry. The public ferry is by far the cheapest way to get to the Gilis from Lombok. Ferries depart from Bangsal, around 25km north of Senggigi. They depart at irregular intervals throughout the day, between around 7.30am and 4.30pm.
Some public ferries do go to Gili Air, but not all; you may have to get off at Gili Trawangan and charter a boat or jump on the twice-daily ‘island-hopping’ boat for the short trip between the Gilis. If you are heading to Gili Meno and you manage to get to Gili T before around 4pm you can get the ‘island hopper’ boat to Gili Meno. The island hopper makes a loop of all three islands twice a day, at 9.30am and 4pm.
Fast boats to the Gili Islands
The Gili Islands’ increasing popularity has seen a surge in the number of companies offering ‘fast boat’ services from Bali and Lombok to the Gilis and back. Many of these companies are perfectly reputable and this can be the best way to get to the Gilis. It’s also often more comfortable than the public ferry, and certainly quicker; from Lombok the journey takes around half an hour.
The fast boat companies are not well regulated and some have a bad safety reputation. Some companies travel in dangerous weather and oversell tickets so they can carry as many customers as possible. This is irresponsible anywhere, but especially the Lombok Strait, which separates Lombok and the Gili Islands. This is one of the deepest bodies of water in the world, and it can get very rough when the weather is bad.
Make sure you do some research and only book with companies with a good safety record and reputation. One good company is Gili Getaway, which offers a very comfortable service and has a good safety record. Most of the fast boat services travel to Gili Air as well as to Gili Trawangan, but not directly to Gili Meno. They depart from Senggigi on Lombok, which is a convenient place for most travellers.
Chartering a Private Boat to the Gili Islands
Indonesia, as the world’s largest collection of islands, is a seafaring nation. This means that whichever island you’re on, you won’t have much trouble finding someone to take you somewhere on a boat in exchange for a fee. This is also true of the Gili Islands. Chances are this will be an expensive way to travel, although obviously there’s no guarantee of the cost either way. However, you should be careful before agreeing to a ride on a private boat. There is no way of regulating this kind of service, and fishermen may decide that the money is worth the risk of heading out in dangerous conditions.
Getting to the Gili Islands from Bali
An increasing number of visitors come to Indonesia just to go to the Gili Islands. If that sounds like you, or you’re coming from within Indonesia, then going direct from Lombok is quicker, as you can go there straight from Lombok airport. Of course, many international visitors fly into Bali, or visit the Gilis after staying in Bali. If this is you, then it’s easy to get to the Gili Islands direct from Bali using the fast boat services.
Most, if not all of the fast boat companies begin their journey in Bali; in fact, some don’t stop in Lombok at all. Most of the fast boats depart from Serangan on Bali, which is easy to reach from tourist areas like Kuta and Seminyak. Some companies, like Gili Getaway, will include a pick-up from your hotel in the cost of your boat ticket if you’re staying in certain areas, and can offer it for an extra charge if you’re staying outside of those areas.
The Gili Islands are incredibly popular and one of Indonesia’s main tourist draws. The combination of beautiful beaches, wild nightlife on Gili T and serene atmosphere on Gili Meno all contribute to this. The islands are easily accessible from Lombok – around half an hour if you go with one of the many fast boat services, which also depart directly from Bali.
Have you been to the Gili Islands? Do you have any suggestion for travelling to the islands other than those mentioned above? Let us know in the comments below.