Your guide to Gili Islands-Three Idyllic Islands in Bali

 In Bali, Best Time to Visit, General, Holidays

Tired of the conventional Beaches in Bali and want to explore some unexplored waters? Then hop on a boat from either Sanur in South Bali or Amed in North Bali and discover 3 idyllic islands, The Gili Islands in Bali.

These three little islands off the coast of Lombok are now getting popular amongst holiday goers and it is not difficult to understand why. Just like the Beaches in Bali, the Gili Islands in Bali, Indonesia also have vivid blue waters, rich marine life, and dramatic sunsets exactly like the tropical postcards that you see. Added to that there is a ban on motor vehicles which further enhances the relaxed and unwind vibe of Bali. 

If you are looking to get away from the super busy action-packed beaches of Bali, yet want some of the feel of Bali then Bali Trip Packages can help you plan your Bali holiday away from Bali. 

The Gili Islands are an archipelago formed by three islands namely: Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air, belonging to the province of West Nusa Tenggara. The name “Gili Islands”  means “small island” in the local Sasak language. Bordered by dazzling white-sand beaches, turquoise waters, and reefs that teem with turtles and fish, most visitors revel in long days spent snorkelling the reefs, eating fresh seafood, and enjoying the spectacular views of these Islands near Bali

Which Gili Island to Visit- A guide to Gili Island


There is no Gili Island that is better than the other. Renowned for friendly locals and superb natural beauty, each of the islands have all the required amenities for tourists. Gili Trawangan is the largest and most popular of the three islands. It has a vibrant nightlife to keep you entertained once the sun goes down. With a wide collection of restaurants and bars, you’ll never be short of entertainment here. 

If you’re after a quiet getaway and looking out to spend your holidays just relaxing and unwinding, you can try Gili Meno or Gili Air. Gili Air is closest to the mainland and is the most populated of the Gili’s. Gili Meno is the smallest island and, with only a few hundred permanent residents, it has the most remote feel to it. There are plenty of hotels and restaurants built in keeping with the islands’ homely village atmosphere.

Suggested Read: Sunset in Bali

Gili Trawangan


Gili Trawangan is the most developed of the three. It has become a premier tourist destination with its pristine white sandy beaches and loads of gastronomic places to eat, drink, and party. Families, honeymooners, and backpackers are all well-catered for here.

Gili Trawangan or more popularly Gili T, is the largest of Lombok’s Gili Islands. Measuring 3 km long and 2 km wide, it has a population of only around 1500. The name Trawangan originates from the Indonesian word Terowongan (Tunnel) due to the presence of a cave tunnel built there during the Japanese occupation in World War 2. 

Once a backpacker’s haven, Gili T has undergone some dramatic changes over the past five years and now caters to a number of tourists starting from families to couples to young adults all seeking that tropical island experience. Aside from the laid-back beach culture, the main draw of the island is Scuba diving in Bali, with a number of professional dive centers offering courses. Watching the fishing boats passing through the channel between Gili T and Meno, plus the lack of motorised traffic still makes for the quaint vibe – but at night time Gili T turns a new leaf to a party-goer paradise.

You will find a wide array of options for accommodations which start from budget guesthouses to a large selection of mid-range beachfront hotels and also go all the way up to resort-style hotels and luxury villas. It is highly recommended to book your accommodation at Gili T in advance during the peak season which is from July until September. A  great range of bars and restaurants along the beachfront makes the island come alive with some great party scenes. Offering everything from local street food to high-quality international cuisine, along with some of the freshest seafood BBQs around, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

The best way to get around this small island is by renting a bicycle which will cost you around 50,000 IDR per day and will take you roughly an hour or so to cover the entire circumference of the island. The island does not have motorised vehicles, there is absolutely no traffic around here which makes cycling easier. The road is mostly paved on the east side but on the west side, you might have to get off your bike and push it for a bit since there are a few stretches of the road that are covered with loose soft sand.

Aside from biking around the shore, you can also explore the inland area and see how locals live and visit some of the best restaurants on the island. However, please bear in mind that unlike Bali, this island is mainly Muslim and doesn’t get as many tourists as Bali does. Respect their culture and be mindful of their ways and traditions and always be covered.

Gili Air


Gili Air is closest to mainland Lombok. It offers the best of both Gili T and Gili Meno,  making it a great option for both backpackers and families wanting to get away from the tourist crowds and immerse themselves in the local culture. The pace of life is slow here and endearing but like Trawangan there is plenty to keep you busy and entertained. With diving, snorkelling, and even some surfing during the day, to live music and parties at night. The divers and snorkelers find the waters of Gili Air very welcoming. Particularly the coral reefs make up for the most amazing snorkelling experience ever. The undeterred view of the sea, the sun and sand, and the sound of the waves can be the most soothing and soul-searching experience that you can ever ask for in any of the Gili Islands.

There’s a wide range of accommodations on the island to suit every taste and budget, whether on the beach or in the coconut palm groves. Dining options are also quite varied, with inexpensive local food to international cuisine being offered at the many beachside restaurants

Don’t miss the stunning sunrises over Lombok’s majestic Mt. Rinjani in the background if you’re willing to get up for an early breakfast while staying on Gili Air.

Gili Meno


One of the most sought-after romantic getaways of all time includes Gigli Meno. It is home to some of the best beaches in the archipelago. It is also the smallest and quietest of the three islands but it is as close as you will get to a true tropical island getaway. Sandwiched between Gili Trawangan and Gili Air, its stunning beaches and laid-back charm provide a great escape for honeymooners looking to get away from the crowd and wanting a romantic, secluded time and space in the tropical paradise.

The island is not crowded at all which gives enough privacy for couples. There are a handful of restaurants and limited lodging options to some secluded resorts and bungalows. Some of the notable tourist spots at Gili Meno include the Bird Park, Turtle Sanctuary, and the safest diving site even for a novice – the Meno Wall. You could consider touring the cities adjacent to the shore exploring the local flavours and oriental art and culture.

The nicest area to stay is the northwest corner of the island. There is a small concentration of good places to eat, great little resorts nestled in a coconut grove, and the island’s best Dive establishment (Divine Divers). The only drawback here is that you often get to hear the sounds of Gili T’s nightlife blowing over in the evenings.

A guide to Gili Island- Things to do

  • Watch the Sunset from the West Side of Gili Trawangan
  • Take a photo at the famous Gili Swings and Sea Hammocks in Gili T
  • Go Scuba diving in all the 3 Gili Islands
  • Visit the Gili Trawangan Turtle Sanctuary and Hatchery
  • Go on a Snorkelling tour around the three islands
  • Visit Gili Meno’s traditional Sasak village
  • Visit the Glenn Nusa Wreck engulfed in marine life off the coast of Lombok and the Gili Islands

Suggested Read: Lombok v/s Bali

How to reach the Gili Islands


There are plenty of options from Bali to Gili Islands that include budget-friendly public ferries to helicopters to even private charters.

Fast boats are available from Padang Bai, Amed, and Lombok. They mostly play early in the morning. The public ferries ply at an interval of one hour throughout the day but are very slow. You can also opt for the fast boats which take only 45 minutes to one and a half hours depending on the route you choose, public ferries take a good 5 hours on one side.

Private charters are obviously a bit expensive but it caters to an upmarket crowd that wants to experience a more suave travelling experience and discover more islands on their way.

Just like the private charters, some tourists like to take private helicopters to reach the Gili Islands. It takes 45 minutes to reach and offers the best aerial view of the archipelago. These helicopters are available only on Fridays and Sundays and ferry between Bali and Trawangan.

THINGS TO REMEMBER- A guide to Gili Islands

  • Don’t try to swim between the islands. The 3 Islands may not look that far apart but the currents can be very strong and unpredictable. There are plenty of cheap local boats to get you across.
  • Never sunbathe nude or topless and cover up away from the beach. Unlike Bali, Islam is practised here so it’s good to show some respect. It is also recommended not to walk in a bikini into the village. You can wear a sarong and a top instead.
  • When snorkelling or diving avoid touching the coral reefs or any other marine life. The Gili’s are a turtle heaven, but most of those species are endangered. Please respect their environment.
  • Malaria and dengue are found throughout Indonesia and although the risk is minimal in the immediate region, there are plenty of mosquitoes. Staying covered around sunrise and sunset and using repellents (DEET 50%) throughout the day and night will ensure your stay is safe and protected from bites.
  • Avoid locally distilled spirits such as Arak, as well as cocktails containing local spirits. There have been several cases of Methanol poisoning in 2012/13. Stick to beer and wine instead.
  • There are no cars, or any form of motorised vehicles to disturb the peace – getting around is either by ‘cidomo’ (horse cart), bicycle, or on foot.

Suggested Read: Fishing in Bali

Are The Gili Islands Worth Visiting?

The Gilis are very nice and definitely worth a visit if you have time. The beaches and waters there are nicer than Bali without the hustle and bustle of Bali.

What Gili Island Is The Best To Stay On?

The three main Gili Islands have different vibes. It depends on what you are seeking. If you want a quiet holiday then Gili Meno or Gili Air is your place to go. But if you also want to party and socialise at night, then Gili Trawangan is your destination. Gili Air provides you with both. So, choose your pick and enjoy your holiday in this tropical paradise.

Are The Gili Islands Cheaper Than Bali?

In general, accommodation costs in Gili are cheaper than Bali. The most popular accommodation option in Gili is budget-friendly homestays and guesthouses, which cost as little as USD $10-$20 per night. On the other hand, Bali offers a wider range of accommodation options, including luxury villas, hotels, and hostels. Food and dining expenses in Bali and Gili are relatively affordable. In Gili, the local warungs (small restaurants) offer extremely cheap meals for around USD$3-$5.

What Is Special About The Gili Islands?

When compared to Bali, Gili Islands offer much more. The 3 islands provide a laid back atmosphere away from all the touristy stuff that Bali is famous for. Gili Islands are famous for its turtle conservation and has a brilliant underwater experience for tourists. Apart from that, tourists can also enjoy scuba diving and snorkelling here in all the 3 Islands.

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